The best use of the WQS is as an integral part of an inquiry based curriculum unit. For example, the teacher might frame a study of water quality by creating a scenario in which the students testify before a state commission on land use and best practice management, motivating an initial class discussion with a news report on local non point source pollution. In an introductory activity, students plot the path that rain falling on the school campus takes to the ocean, describing the kinds of impurities the water might pick up on its way. The teacher guides the class in articulating a simple hypothesis relating water quality indicators to precipitation at station 0, the pristine forest. Then students use the WQS Tour to become familiar with the simulator interface and with concepts related to time series as they explore these relationships at station 0.
The Tour introduces the simulation interface and basic concepts related to time series. By scaffolding the initial planning and goal setting, the tour allows the student to concentrate on the current step (McGee, Howard, and Hong, 1998). Students proceed to examine time series graphs to determine how these indicators are related to precipitation. The scatter plot helps to confirm relationships glimpsed in comparing two time series. As they examine these graphs, students answer questions in the digital notebook designed to help them connect previous knowledge to the graphs. In a subsequent class discussion, students provide evidence from the tour to support or refute previously developed hypotheses. Then the teacher asks students to reconsider and refine their ideas about land use.
We have adapted the "Jigsaw" approach to team-based, cooperative learning (Aronson, 1978, Brown, 1992; Slavin, 1980); In our case we have used the technique to structure multiple learning activities required to understand the archetypal river system while supporting individual accountability during group work.
Students are first assigned to a "land use" working group. (Jigsaw#1) Their goal is to determine what changes to make to reduce the contribution their region is making to poor water quality at the outflow area. Thus, up to 5 working groups may be established (forest, agriculture, suburban, industrial, and urban). Each group uses the simulator to conduct a preliminary investigation of the assigned region. Then students divide up responsibilities by choosing one or two related indicators to investigate. Students leave their working groups to recombine within indicator groups (Jigsaw#2) where all the students studying phosphates, for example, come together to learn how their indicator enters the watershed and the problems it poses. They will consider how a variety of land uses effects their particular indicator through an understanding of the polluting agents that (for example) result in excess phosphates. This leads into a transition discussion that involves the entire class and focuses on the importance of runoff in causing high indicator levels. Students arrive at an understanding of how reducing runoff could help mitigate water quality problems.
Students return to their working groups with general information about their indicator and a basic understanding of the importance of the land use of each region in influencing the level of this indicator. The student who has worked with the phosphate group has discovered that fertilizers and detergents are sources of increased phosphate levels. Each member of the working group teaches fellow members about the mediating factors involved in rising indicator levels and the problems posed by this increase. The team decides on a mitigation strategy to implement and uses the simulator to determine mitigation outcomes.
During the entire group learning process, as students compare nutrient variation from one land use area to another and implement mitigation strategies, they answer associated questions and take notes in the digital notebook.
In the Jigsaw wrap-up activity, each group prepares a presentation for the "water quality commission" using text from the notebook and graph images downloaded from the simulator. The teacher leads the class in creating a concept map integrating the relationship of water quality to land use throughout the watershed, depicting the connections between various water quality indicators.
Although the discussion above focuses on use of the jigsaw technique within a single classroom, joining students from across the state or across the world together in multiple indicator expert groups would enhance the collaborative aspect of the project. The online expert groups paradigm is based on the Kids as Global Scientists Project (Songer, 1996) in which students join weather expert groups (clouds, precipitation, wind, etc.). This strategy is related to network learning circles (Riel, 1993).
Aranson, E. (1978). The Jigsaw classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
Brown, A. L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.
McGee, Howard, and Hong (1998). Cognitive Apprenticeship, Activity Structures, and Scientific Inquiry. In S. McGee (Chair), Changing the game: Activity structures for reforming education. Symposium conducted at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.
Riel, M. (1993). Global education through Learning Circles. In Global Networks: Computer and International Communication, L. Harasim, (Ed) Cambridge: MIT, 221-236.
Slavin, R. (1980) Review of Educational Research, Vol. 50, No. 2, Pp. 315-342.
Songer, N. B. (1996). Exploring Learning Opportunities in Coordinated Network-Enhanced Classrooms: A case of Kids as Global Scientists. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 5(4). 297-327.
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