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.
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