Dr. Connie Hodge, School of Clinical Educator Preparation Eastern Kentucky University-Corbin Campus, Connie.Hodge@eku.edu
Ms. Mary Lamar
Using the elements of nature to inspire children to learn creates an interest that is difficult to duplicate in the classroom. Nature provides a real life laboratory for learning. That was the educational opportunity created as a result of the Moore’s Branch that flows beside Corbin Middle School in Corbin, Kentucky. Real life, hands-on activities stimulated seventh grade students in Mrs. TeNeal Rice, Mrs. Coreen Rougeux, and Mrs. Latisha Bryant’s science classrooms at Corbin Middle School to inquire, investigate, initiate higher order thinking, and be engaged in the scientific study of a wide array of water related experiments.
Under the direction of Mrs. Sharon Ball, Mrs. Judy Smith, Mrs. Mary Lamar, and Dr. Connie Hodge, instructors at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), pre-service teachers worked with the middle school students in order to use hands-on, environmental learning and be exposed to experiences in order to learn about the local environment. The pre-service teachers are part of the Clinical Apprenticeship for Preparing Teachers (CAPT) program, a clinical model grant from the Council of Postsecondary Education (CPE). This program places pre-service teachers in the middle school for an entire year of clinical placement.
The middle grades and pre-service teachers introduced the project by explaining that Moore’s Branch flows beside of the school and feeds into the Lynn Camp Creek that flows into the Laurel River and eventually into the Cumberland River. They provided students with a history of the area and the ever-changing part that Moore’s Branch provided to the community. Through the use of a series of questions, the teachers asked the students to brainstorm and identify “secrets” that could be found in this body of water. In their cooperative learning groups, students identified different topics (i.e. effects of erosion, pH of water, water temperature variance, insects (life cycle), agricultural effects wildlife, etc.).
The NGSS science standard-MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem was targeted and the middle school and university pre-service teachers utilized the 5E Learning Cycle during the course of the project. The 5E model provided an inquiry-based process so that students could construct their knowledge through a sequence of learning experiences (National Institute of Health, n.d.). The components of the model lead students through this constructivist approach by using the five E’s (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate).
The students collected water samples, both upstream and downstream, in order to test the water to evaluate water quality. These samples were tested for pH, temperature, conductivity, oxygen level, and bacteria. Students visually inspected the stream bank for erosion, water clarity, and aquatic life. The students then used their experiences to develop projects about water systems, plant and animal life, and a history of the area.
With the assistance of the classroom and university pre-service teachers, the middle grades students researched and documented their findings in a poster display. Parents and members of the local community were invited to observe the “Mysteries of Moore’s Branch.” This event provided the students an opportunity to discuss their research.
How does the 5E instructional model promote active, collaborate, inquiry-based learning? National Institute of Health (NIH): Doing science: The process of scientific inquiry. Retrieved October 26, 2017, from http://science.education.nih.gov.
National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas. Washington DC: The National Academies Press.
NGSS Lead States, 2013. Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.