Forum Replies Created
@Amy Hi Amy, you are very welcome! I, too, am trying to use iNaturalist data to support inquiry with my students (albeit in secondary school), especially since they have to do independent projects/investigations in from Gr. 9 - 12. I have found the "filter" function in iNat to be very useful for sorting through the database and allowing students to follow their interests based on taxa. Next time I think I would like to also supplement the iNat data with students own observations using a more friendly GIS method - using Google MyMaps. Here is a map I just made in less than 10 minutes of downloading the data from iNaturalist using the filter parameters: birds, observed from Jan - March 2020, Hong Kong region, threatened species, research grade. What I love about Google MyMaps is the flexibility to present your spatial data and represent it using colours and icons to show the metadata. I've used it with primary school students and they've found it quite intuitive too. How have you used this tool in your settings?
@Edna Hi Edna, I really like the idea of parental involvement, however it's been harder to get for my students (I teach in secondary school), and then there are the parent-student dynamics which teenagers usually want to avoid. Plus, with recent implementation of child safety laws, we've now can't use parental volunteers until they've done police conviction checks (which is an added obstacle when getting volunteers). I'd still love to see how we could get more school community collaboration and support!
@Kathleen Thank you so much, Kathleen - that is very kind of you to say. I'm a firm believer of "if I'm not excited about what's going on in the courses I teach, then neither are the students". This is what drives me to keep adapting and refreshing what I do in education. The pitfall is that my brain often doesn't "shut off" since there is always more to research, learn, try, observe (even when I'm out and about) and that eats up lots of my personal time. I've been very bad at the 'work-life balance' thing for all my 13 years teaching - haha!! How do you manage?
@Nini Hi Nini, Thanks so much for your feedback! I love sparks and can't help but think about my students' experience when they are in my class. I really work on the principal that "if I'm bored, then the students are bored", so I'm conscious of their socio-emotional state as well as their cognitive state whenever I'm working with them. As for the 'overdoing reflections' - I have seen many instances of reflections being demanded of students after every piece of work or every activity, and it gets tiresome and disingenuous. I think there is a time and place for reflections, and when done at the right times, can be very powerful. Some of the times I think that are appropriate may not be universal for all students, so I think we could differentiate reflections based on that too. For example, I've found reflection works well when a student:
- makes a discovery or has an 'aha!' moment
- arrives at/overcomes challenges in thought or process
- has an emotional reaction to their learning
There are 4 key aspects I make sure to do for inquiry-based project assessments:
- presenting a clear rubric of expectations: ENHANCE this exercise further by getting students to create parts or all of the rubric, and giving feedback for one to be finally used (this is an example of 'assessment as learning' as well)
- breaking the larger task into sections/stages of the investigation process with their own completion dates to reduce stress and help students manage their time and expectations: ENHANCE this by getting students to translate these dates into their own calendars and have them make their own self-deadlines based on how they know they like to work or struggle with working.
- have peer assessments & teacher feedback discussions along the journey, especially after a project section or two
- evaluate their process, not just their product: at 3 points along the inquiry journey, students should be completing reflections - (1) near the start of the process which would address their initial thinking and plan; (2) after getting the data and considering what factors have impacted their data and how, and what they could do about it next time; (3) after the conclusion of the report: drawing out changes in their learning from start to finish, and what they've learned about themselves as an inquirer and their process of doing inquiry (self-resiliency skills, motivations, etc.); this makes a natural and significant part of their process shows that their effort is just as valuable and encourages students to produce their best work. I give student agency over the form of their reflections, and keeping them easy to do is the best way to get authentic responses from students (often video or voice recording snippets for stage 1 & 2 reflections, teacher conversations and written responses for stage 2 and 3). For each reflection there would be prompting phrases or questions for them to focus on. Usually, I only formally evaluate the last rubric as part of the assessment for the inquiry project.
In my experience with secondary-school students in international schools, one of the most challenging experiences students have are:
- honing in on their own researchable question to inquire: I like to use "I notice that..." (with the older kids, rather than the "I wonder...", which seems to work better with younger students); because it already has some inherent thoughts about generalizations, perspectives, relationships, potential cause-and-effect directionality, assumptions, etc. --> all of which is great fodder for testing and the inquiry process!
- giving meaningful peer feedback: the 1st step I want to support students with is recognizing their own value as a giver of ideas, thoughts, perspectives and voice, and how that fits in with peer feedback. The 2nd step is showing that meaningful feedback is thoughtful, respectful and helps to also shape the reviewers own way of thinking (since peer reviewing techniques is a form of assessment as learning, it works in both directions: for the reviewer and the reviewee). I use various rubrics, checklists or templates with varying degrees of detail (depending on the needs of the students), and tools/strategies to make the review process suit the type of project: (1) use of sticky notes, colour-coded highlighters, etc. for printed materials needing feedback; (2) "kaizena" or other voice-recording add-on tools directly commenting in Googledocs; (3) color-coded written comment functions in PDFs or Googledocs. The audience and strategy for sharing also varies based on the requirements of the project: peers in different grades, based on interest, even working in the wider teaching, parent and staff groups within the school, and on occasion, with the wider local and global communities.
I've used the iNaturalist database as it has so many species of wild organisms under one 'roof', and is a global database actively used in my region. It has become more popular due to the global City Nature Challenge (every April) and the knock-on Hong Kong Inter School City Nature Challenge (every November). With more than 44 million observations of almost 300,000 species (and counting!), it is an active database with great functionality to explore trends over seasons/time, categories of species, specific species, their threatened status and more, in their 'filter' search. Anyone, yes students too, can access the information that is shown spatially, with side tabs for additional observation data, but to download the data, you would need to sign-in (it's free). There is also a teacher's guide, video tutorials and more for further guidance, plus a forum for questions and discussions. Anyone can create a specific project (let's say if you are a teacher doing a lesson with a class) just for your biodiversity observation needs, and the observations made will be added to your project for easier analysis, but also to the overall iNaturalist database for all to see/use as well.
- investigations could include temporal trends and spatial patterns of particular species, or correlations between dependent species across trophic levels if studying food webs, etc.
- a fun thing to explore is the topic of "What's missing?" in various locations that have 'holes' in the data and consider why? These are often discussions that lead to factors about accessible research, human population density, technology, infrastructure, climate, etc., rather than the initial erroneous thought 'because nothing is there!'
- consider interdisciplinary investigations that use iNat data and layer it about human habitation patterns using GoogleMaps or OpenStreetMaps, or even Google Earth with 3D (if looking at bird sightings), or natural features like lakes, mountains, etc.
- eventually students can make recommendations about actions to be taken for species conservation or human development projects and engage with multiple stakeholders for tangible outcomes (e.g. discussions with district councillors, NGOs, etc.)
I work mostly with 15 - 18 year olds, so I like to start off with hooks or sparks that are one or more of these kinds of activities (depending on what is more appropriate for the topic):
- a prop related to the topic; something relatable or unusual doesn't seem to matter, they all get a good series of question-building happening
- controversial headlines from local/global news or magazine articles
- story time! : read a story out loud (high school students miss that from their primary school days!)
- field trip (in a different part of our campus or completely off-campus)
- graphic/visual prompts: photo/photo exhibitions, videos, 360-degree VR video experiences
- meeting/hearing from someone who 'lives and breathes' the topic
Just a note to Cornell Lab course organizers - all but 1 of the listed CitSci projects in Lesson 1 are geared primarily for North American audiences. Unfortunately some of the GLOBE projects don't recognize my location (Hong Kong) either, so that wasn't all that helpful. It would be great to add truly global projects in the list as well to cater to a wide range of people who would be keen to learn from the Cornell Lab.
- I used iNaturalist, as I've been using it for years personally and with students.
- Very few issues as it is a very streamlined app and the smartphone and web-based versions are very user-friendly for all ages.
- Learning outcomes: building curiosity about how much nature actually exists around them, their school, their home, feeling connected to a community of like-minded nature-curious people and with experts, which drives motivation to contribute; developing their own questions - some that could be answered by investigating the database within iNaturalist, beginning to recognize that observations wasn't just a 'thing that happens at school', but was a skill that extended beyond school walls, data analysis allows for deeper questions and follow-up action to be considered: i.e. conservation status and local action for certain species, opportunities for service learning with particular NGOs working on similar issues, etc.
What students have taught me over the years:
- the energy that teachers bring into the room is a powerful source to draw from, especially when they are tired or not intrinsically interested in what the topic/activity/question that day is.
- the way teachers welcome or respond to a particular observation, question or contribution will determine the emotional reaction and teach students what is acceptable or not; and students pick up on response patterns that build open or closed class atmospheres
- taking some ordinary and making it extraordinary is a profound way to open minds (e.g. beach sand is partly made up of fish poop from underwater rocks they nibbled on earlier!! - this is a great one to reveal after spending some time doing a beach clean-up, or using sand for constructing shapes, during a coastal fieldtrip, etc., which prompts LOTS of great questions. And having a giggle is always a good thing too!)
- recognize that observations and questioning can happen anywhere: yes, taking students outdoors is always great, but if you can't take them out, use the campus, the classroom, the playground - doing I WONDER or I NOTICE or "WHAT, WHERE, WHY THERE, WHY CARE?" activities can be universally applied.
I agree - the not having a 'name' for the sound is an interesting discussion that I've had and it becomes a guessing game with gestures, noises and associations of other sounds that are similar. I think some students were challenged by that and started to focus on other sounds they did more readily recognize, while others really dug in to try to identify it, sometimes collaboratively, which cut into the noise! I would often have to remind them about the student silence side of the whole activity. With older students I've had them spread out further apart from each other, but with younger students along trails, for safety we did keep them a little closer (than the activity would actually warrant).
This time I decided to measure the noise using my Decibel X app on my phone (I use this for other fieldwork around Hong Kong), just to see what the averages and maximums were - it says it is still a quiet street. I beg to differ with all the construction nearby and the general urban buzz that permeates my space! Once you get in the mode to do this activity, it sometimes is hard to stop after the set amount of time because one's curiosity has been triggered and you want to know: (1) what else is out there?; (2) how frequently do I hear the things I've heard before?; (3) what do I recognize vs. what I don't recognize?; and of course, (4) what is that? and (5) why is the noise happening? When I've done this activity with students before, it has usually been in the country park areas, rather than amongst buildings, but this being Hong Kong, you can often still hear a variety of city noises that bounce up the hillsides, so students still mentioned construction or urban transport noises alongside bird chirps. I encourage them to consider distance and direction, and to try to represent them on their sketches as accurately as they can. Certain noises repeat and often in the same area, so I ask them to keep a tally of frequency. You can end up with quite a lot of data this way, and can be analyzed using some descriptive statistics too (depends on how analytical you want to get)! Usually it is with eyes closed for the first chunk of time, and then with the eyes open. Students recognize that it's helpful to start with just "listening" because it reduces the information overload, unlike with "seeing" - where there is lots to distract you. The listening first exercise helps to focus the second "seeing & listening" part of the exercise and they 'look' for the noise, rather than just look anywhere and everywhere. When I've done it with younger students (primary and middle school), it hinges on curiosity and questioning; with older students (high school), we layered it with mindfulness and well-being as well. If students are generally in the same area, it is interesting to also consider the similarities and differences in what the students picked up on - a great opportunity to consider consciousness/awareness and how it is linked to what we know. e.g. some don't 'hear' birds having different songs because they may not recognize these differences based on lack of experience or knowledge about different bird species. Or, sometimes the habitualization of noise means that some noises are really heard anymore. There is fascinating research on urban birds that have shown that they've adjusted the pitch of their songs to be higher than the background urban noise just to be heard (U. of HK ecology department research).
There are many benefits for incorporating so many aspects into the educational spheres in Hong Kong, but the most compelling is to have 'a reason' to conduct the investigation in the first place that is relevant to the students' lives. Sometimes it is about satisfying an internal curiosity, but most often the satisfaction comes from contributing to something bigger than oneself and having a positive impact on something. I would like to tap into intrinsic motivations and curiosities, and with the range of CS projects, the capacity to build collaborative or co-created CS projects with the help of various NGOs and experts locally and globally (one of my goals is to build a database to bridge the gap between experts and public/teachers/students) and with access to technology (including DIY and Maker-culture), our imagination is our only limiting factor to support some incredible experiences possible for our students! I've written about things related to this (in a 3-min read on Medium) from the perspective of my colleague who has been one of my greatest allies while bringing citizen science into our curriculum: "Exploration + Education + Citizen Science = Students as 'Agents of Change'.
I'm completely biased about how awesome UC Davis is: I did my undergrad in Geology there, and almost chose to do my PhD in citizen science there too! Ok, back to the question. I wish to model all of them because they are equally important. 1. Positioning Youth As People Who Do Science: Even though I don't teach science, I feel like 'doing science' is actually about building the capacity for inquiry and the confidence to investigate a phenomenon. I apply this in geography (in topics like environmental sustainability, urban environments, quality of life, etc.). This also instills a sense of independence and open-mindedness, because CS project answers/conclusions aren't often "google-able" and it takes some critical and creative thinking to find answers. These are transferable skills of value across disciplines, and students of any age can appreciate this mindset. I would do this more by creating opportunities for mini-investigations throughout my topics based on their own issues of interest. 2. Frame the World Locally and Globally: I would actually put the 'local' first, and then the 'global' because so often in international school education (where I've taught) we look beyond our own neighbourhoods and consider the big, often-used case-studies that have caught media attention, but forget to recognize opportunities closer to home. This can then expand on opportunities for experiential learning, place-based learning, project or challenge-based learning addressing issues that are arguably even more relevant to students because it's about their place/school/neighborhood/culture, etc. If projects involve addressing local issues, then this is where some tangible impact can be measured (measuring it at a global scale is rather difficult in the time frames of schools years/terms/lessons). But this isn't to say that recognizing one's place in the global context is not as important - it is very important. The key lesson about how one's actions impacts others is one of the most important values to teach in a variety of contexts and disciplines. This applies in social sciences as well as the natural sciences. 3. Attend to the Unexpected: Being ready for the unknown and being comfortable in that space allows for honest reflection, motivated inquiry and open-ended discussions. It is often hard to build time for these in regular lessons because of the need to cover curriculum (external examination pressure, etc.) though I do often go down these types of tangents to see how far the students want to go, but I find that field trips and field experiences provide easier opportunities for this. Otherwise, in order to try to 'make time', I would try to use online tools to garner ideas and discussions that stemmed from unusual discoveries in the classroom. It takes skills to recognize when these 'teachable moments' can be grasped by teachers and students alike, so I would like to support my students more in being able to follow a line of thinking, with peer feedback, modelling and reflective discussions.
The main CS projects (all have had field components to them) I've used have been:
- "CoastalWatch" created by our local WWF NGO in Hong Kong to measure coastal biodiversity and marine waste in a Grade 9 interdisciplinary geo-science project for the last 5 years.
- "iNaturalist" as an introduction during our annual 'GreenWeek' and environmental club/Roots & Shoots club events (for students in Grades 4 -> 12) to consider urban biodiversity and ask questions about biodiversity abundance, seasonality, habitats, etc.
- a community mapping project (just used Google MyMaps for plotting and sharing the data spatially) that identified various needs of community stakeholders through interviews and observations, analyzed the plotted data, considered potential solutions, and presented them to district council members (all done in one full day) - this was done with students in Grades 6 - 8.
- "CoralWatch" measuring the health of corals during a snorkelling activity (as part of a larger geography field trip) in a particular bay that was impacted by agricultural run-off, human recreational activities, nearby mangroves, etc., using a colour chart, and comparing it with previous data from the same area to study coral health change over time (with Grade 12 students).
- always do a recce trip with the teachers to determine feasibility of the project in that field location (especially if you plan on using any tech like smartphones, etc.)
- break the methodology down to clear instructions and give roles to students doing data collection in groups
- depending on time, you could rotate roles so students can experience learning related to the various data collection roles
- practice the methods/data collection with students (even a mock set-up in the classroom is fine) before doing the real thing
I don't teach science, but instead teach physical and human geography (which includes some scientific topics leaning towards geology, climate, etc.). However, there is just as much inquiry potential in geography as there is in science (I like to dream wide!). The most complex project, which I would say is an 'open inquiry' type, is the extended essay project for Grade 11 students (16-17 year olds), which for geography requires students to:
- come up with their own investigation question
- develop a protocol or method to gather data to answer the question
- use statistical and visual analytical tools,
- develop their conclusions based on their results
- evaluate their methods and determine ways to improve their studies considering any limitations or factors that impacted their investigation process.