Friday, March 15, 2013

Classroom visit SOL15

Today I visited 7th and 8th grade science classrooms. The teacher and I had sent emails back and forth to select the date and topic for me to present. I offered map & compass or watershed mapping and the teacher suggested watersheds. As I prepared for the visit, I had a hundred questions that went unanswered. Then I realized it was almost impossible for me to judge the level of difficulty I needed. I think it is more effective when you know the students. At least it would be easier to focus the presentation. But that was not my situation so I prepared several bits of information.

I read a quote from Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac about home range. The premise is who knows more about the land: the owner or the wild animals who inhabit the land? Then I found out the students had walked around their schoolyard and mapped the direction for water flow.

I talked with the students about the vocabulary used to discuss watersheds and found the 8th graders had a good working knowledge of the earth science concepts. The 7th grade students were not as advanced so I changed my focus to be more general.

Last I had both groups of students go outside to use a topography model that helps with understanding of contour lines. I asked the 7th grade students to demonstrate a contour line along the schoolyard by lining arms length apart downhill.

I left an instruction sheet for the teacher to have students create a basic contour map to understand the progression of the intervals. I think the foundation has been established so the next visit can focus on learning how to read contour lines on a watershed map. I would like to work with the 7th grade students using a compass. Then I hope to use GPS units with the older students and have them mark waypoints along their schoolyard.

My first visit with them was short but it gave me a good idea of how to proceed in future visits if time allows. We may complete some of the planned activities on their field experience. Classroom instruction time is precious.


  1. It must be challenging to present to kids you don't know, especially in science where baseline knowledge is essential. But you were prepared and flexible, and it sounds as though you pulled it off. Bravo!

  2. Tara,
    Thank you for the comments. Yes, it is challenging, especially if I try to use my time as an extension of what they are already doing in class. As a former classroom teacher, I don't want to waste their time. Have a great Saturday.