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Technology for Learning
Observing
Many students find insects to be particu- views that kids need to build their con-
larly compelling once they get over the nection and sense of wonder at the natural
“eewww” factor, or in some cases because world; just an enhancement that you can
and
of it. The projects described in this issue add on to those experiences. Like most
suggest a few of the many ways you can things in education, it’s not an either-or
Measuring
enrich your science curriculum through question, but rather one of making judi-
creative use of insects. In this space I’d cious choices. your mentorship in guiding
like to share a few ideas about how you close observation can add to what your
insects
can leverage common technology tools to students notice on their own.
take your study further. A second use of imagery to help stu-
In my former life as an elementary dents develop observation and analysis
school teacher and now in my work at skills is in capturing time-lapse events.
by
an ecology center, one of the persistent In an earlier issue of Connect I suggested
challenges I’ve faced is how to support using photo monitoring to capture changes
B o B C o u lt e r
students in making good observations. In a in the environment, such as creek levels
culture filled with a glut of media, kids are before, during, and after a storm. This
all too often conditioned to give things a same basic approach can be used to cap-
quick, one-off view and move on. ture changes in insects.
Focusing techniques like careful, Many classes raise either painted lady
detailed drawing help some, but there or monarch butterflies as a means of
remains a challenge in attracting their studying life cycles. Back in the 90s before
attention to the nuances found in small digital cameras were common, I used to
details. This is particularly a problem if have a commercial poster in my classroom
you want to draw attention to certain fea- showing a monarch’s metamorphosis from
tures to develop underlying concepts like caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Now
how form and function are related. “How in the days of ubiquitous digital cameras,
does this proboscis help the butterfly?” your kids can easily make their own dis-
you might ask. Careful drawing will help a play.
student to know it’s there, but they may not While the quality of photography may
process the significance of what they are not be professional-grade, students will
seeing or link it to their growing under- appreciate that it is their caterpillar they
standing of adaptations that favor survival. are documenting. They can also take the
That’s where your role as the teacher lead in deciding how to take the pictures
becomes invaluable. (from what angle? how often?) and how
Bob Coulter is the direc-
to manage the collection of images. If you
tor of Mapping the Envi-
ronment, a program at
Camera work
have a class Web site set up, you can even
the Missouri Botanical
post these pictures online to promote dis-
Garden’s Litzsinger Road
If you have a camera you can connect to
cussion at home about what is happening
Ecology Center that sup-
a computer (such as a flex-cam), you can
in science class.
ports teachers’ efforts to project the insect you are observing onto a
As your students become accomplished
enhance their science cur-
large screen, and lead a class discussion of
photo monitors, they can take their skills
riculum through use of the
what they are seeing. With one specimen
Internet and Geographic
further in a number of ways. Within the
Information Systems (GIS)
as the focal point for analysis, you can
classroom, they can monitor other forms
software. Previously, Bob
bring students’ attention to key features
of life. If you have an ant farm, for exam-
taught elementary grades
much more effectively than you could if
ple, they could take regular photographs of
for twelve years.
everyone was looking at their own. This
the patterns the ants make as they tunnel
bob.coulter@mobot.org
isn’t to suggest replacing the close-up
underground. Out on the school grounds,
page 20 • Connect © synergy learning • 800-769-6199 • March/april 2010
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