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Discoveries at Willow Creek

Elementary

Description

Discoveries at Willow Creek is based on a storybook approach that focuses the attention of young readers on the natural changes that take place in and around a creek.  On a second visit to Willow Creek, the GLOBE Kids characters discover why the creek looks different from their previous trip. They make observations, take measurements, and look for critters in the water. GLOBE Kids compare information in their journals from visits during two different seasons  to learn how that environment has changed.

Students will:

  •  use various objects in the classroom to experiment with nonstandard measurement. They will make estimates and verify them. Then, working in pairs or small groups students will use a ruler or a measuring tape to investigate various growing conditions for plants
  • learn how to use a magnifying lens as an investigative tool for making observations. They examine different objects, first without and then with a magnifying lens and compare what they see. They will then practice observing details using the magnifying lens.
  • be able to describe adaptive features of aquatic macroinvertebrates and their importance in the scientific study of aquatic environments. After learning about different species of macroinvertebrates, students hypothesize why they look the way they do. Then they observe them in an aquarium, a stream or pond.

This classroom resource introduces environmental education  to students at a very young age through the use of a science-based storybook featuring inquiry activities. The resource includes teacher background information, text and web resources and supplementary activities to be used as a comprehensive unit or individually.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Conducting experiments
  • Making observations
  • Recording information

Strengths

  • The resource allows teachers to meet curriculum expectations through engaging and environmentally-focused learning activities.
  • The resource and lesson plans are easy to use.
  • The resource contains good background information for the teacher and student.
  • The activities are age-appropriate and can be adapted for other levels.
  • The activities encourage students to share their ideas and personal opinions.

Weaknesses

  • Include opportunities for students to share their learning.
  • Need to include an age-appropriate action component.
  • Include some Canadian case studies
  • Include teaching of skills for students to take effective action
  • Includes some assessment rubrics

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        • Numbers represent quantities that can be decomposed into smaller parts.
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        • Repeating elements in patterns can be identified
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        • Science: Plants and animals have observable features
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        • Numbers to 100 represent quantities that can be decomposed into 10s and 1s
        • Objects and shapes have attributes that can be described, measured, and compare
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Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (1)

    • Appreciating the Natural World

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good
  • The resource demonstrates how environmental education can be introduced to students at a very young age through the use of science-based activities. The experiments allow the students to draw their own conclusions based on the information they gather in the classroom. Students are not influenced to any particular point of view.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Satisfactory
  • The resource addresses the environmental issues using an age-appropriate approach, but does not directly address the economic or social dimensions.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good
Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered
  • Any potential action activity is poorly developed
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Poor/Not considered
  • Students are not explicitly given an opportunity to clarify their own values.
Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
  • Not considered in this resource.
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Good
  • Opportunity for a class field trip to a creek or stream to make observations and do some critter dipping.
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Very Good
  • The activities are concrete and relevant to the lives of the learners.
Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered
  • Not considered in this resource.
Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good
  • The storybook and learning activities provide students with opportunities to engage in scientific inquiry at appropriate levels. Students raise questions about the world around them and gather evidence through many types of investigations and experiments.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good
  • Science
  • Math
  • Language Arts
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good
  • Students raise questions about the world around them by gathering evidence through investigations that include careful observation and by conducting experiments.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good
  • The resource recognizes that cognitive development as well as ability and skills of students in the K-4 age range vary widely. Kindergarten teachers will use the resource differently than will those teaching grades three or four. Teachers may choose an approach that best suits their students' needs.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good
Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory
  • Students work in groups.
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory
  • Reflection questions are inlcuded
  • Journal suggestions are provided
Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered
  • Not considered in this resource
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Poor/Not considered
  • Not considered in this resource.
Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good
  • A section entitled 'Further Investigations' offers suggestions to enhance the learning.
Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.