Students have difficulty getting enthused about classification. It would be great if we could step out of the classroom into the middle of the Daintree Rainforest or go diving on the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately the costs are prohibitive, the risk assessment astronomical and I do not think I could convince the English teachers it would be a good use of student time. Even a short trip to my local national park would be about 5 hours preparation for 30 minutes actual time on the ground after travel.
When looking at classification, adaptation, food webs and all those important biological concepts we are left with books, film, the internet, preserved specimens and our local environment. This year I decided to try something a bit different. Each student was asked to take a camera and photograph a plant on the school grounds. They had to take note of its location, size, any animals on/near and around the plant. We then created a shared OneNote notebook.
On the fist page was a large map of the school. We used Bing Maps but any map would do.
Each class had a section and each student had a page. On the map students were to put an X to show the location of their plant. This X linked to their own page where they were expected to have at least one photograph. I also encouraged them to have close-ups of the leaves, stem, flowers, seeds or specialised feature.
Students then went out to classify their plant and told us a bit about their plant including scientific name, common names, where it originated from etcetera.
Towards the end of the task we asked students to look through the other pages and link their pages to any other students who have the same species of plant.
Over time I hope to map the entire plant population of the school and include all fauna as well. We will identify local food chains and then develop a school habitat food web. The depths to where this can go are endless.
The shared OneNote will then be updated every year by each current year 7 class with plants that did not survive being documented with a different coloured X and new plants being included. The growth of the plant can be included so we can look at growth rates if particular species. I also hope we can include abiotic factors such as pH, moisture content and other mini climatic factors. The possibilities are endless. Please comment if you have any suggestions of how I can improve this task.