| LeArnInG connec TIons
Scientific Inquiry, Technology, and Nature
as technology integration spe- cialists at Hatboro-Horsham School District in Pennsylvania, we wanted to build a curricular
environment that would foster critical
thinking and creativity. We embarked
on a path to create a hands-on learning experience for our fifth graders that would emphasize scientific
Our district owns 24 acres of land,
known as the Jarrett Nature Center
(JNC). The land has a wide range of
natural ecosystems, including a pond,
a woodland, a wetland, and a meadow,
offering a wealth of opportunities to
study the environment. Any type of
outdoor space that provides at least
one ecosystem can be equally effective.
Using project-based learning and
Understanding by Design method-
ologies, we posed to students the fol-
lowing essential question: “Why is it
important to preserve the earth’s natu-
ral environment?” We then gave them
a real-world problem to solve:
A builder is planning to remove a
part of the JNC. Your job is to re-
search and determine what effects
this would have on the natural
First, students paired up to create
questions that would launch their research. They posted their questions to
a blog and later discussed which ones
to pursue for their project. The questions that consistently appeared were
posted on a WebQuest for all fifth
graders to view. These were:
• What plants and animals (and other
living things) live in the JNC?
• What do the animals at the JNC eat
(the food chain)?
• What are the ecosystems in the JNC?
With the above questions in mind,
students divided into groups and ventured out into the JNC. One person
from each team carried a backpack
loaded with a NOVA 5000 laptop
computer, a digital camera, a magnifying glass, a microphone, and a timer.
Students worked in their teams to
make journal notes and document the
living and nonliving things in each
ecosystem of the JNC. Team members
took turns using each piece of equipment at each ecosystem.
Returning to their technology
classes, students then created multimedia tours using Photo Story 3. They
organized their photos, wrote detailed
descriptions, narrated their stories,
and used music to create a focused,
multisensory story about their trip.
We evaluated the multimedia projects
based on an 18-point rubric, which
stressed organization and structure of
the story as well as whether the ideas
were well developed.
Students continued the project by
researching one organism and its
related ecosystem at the JNC. The
students wrote persuasive
letters to the Horsham
stating their viewpoints
about the impact of a fic-
titious company, PaveItAll
Inc., bulldozing the ecosys-
tem they were studying.
By Kathleen M. Krupa and Carmela Curatola Knowles