Our focus in the previous eight lessons has been developing a biological understanding of the mangroves, through observation and data collection activities, and recognizing environmental roles of estuaries. Lesson 8 focuses on steps that can be taken to further students’ studies and provide opportunities for students to apply these studies. Research projects serve as the first step, and conference participation serves as the second step. This progression serves as a framework for students to continue their studies, creates opportunities to focus on particular areas of interest, and finally allows them share their findings and get critical review. This process provides students with experience that fosters development in a slew of different areas; such as public speaking, research strategies, networking, peer review, etc. These types of experiences empower students and serve as an integral part in their maturation process as they become young adults and begin to make their way in the world.
The following is a sample list of project ideas:
- Animal niche occupation and behavioral patterns
- Migration studies, particularly with regards to birds
- Climate studies
- Biogeochemical research, particularly with regards to carbon
- Mangrove distribution and growth patterns
- Societal studies related to estuary use
Projects can be adjusted to meet student’s academic levels and time frames. Ideally the teacher assumes the role of a mentor providing guidance, and students take initiative.
Conference attendance provides the opportunity for students to share findings with a larger audience. It also allows students to develop peripheral skills such as:
- Public speaking
- Presentation skills, such as PowerPoint
- Organization and time management strategies
- Addressing critical review of project and presentation
There is a tremendous growth potential for students who attend these conferences, and they can have an immense influence on interests students decide to pursue.
- Students will share research, findings, and solutions.
There are a number of different approaches that can be taken in developing a research project based on student’s abilities and academic progress. The scientific method should play a prominent role in project development. Sample projects will help provide direction and illustrate different styles and approaches that students can use in their projects. Students then develop their questions and approach with teacher guidance regarding parameters such as refining hypothesis question, time frames, data collection strategies. Below is a sample student presentation on mangrove ecology. This was a short film clip that was submitted as part of our groups presentation in the GIN conference in Escazu, Costa Rica;
Attending a conference and presenting research and findings is an excellent way to bring about culmination to a project. There are a number of conferences venues that can be found on the Internet, or you can create your own. The link below is to the GIN conference, it is a well balanced venue that had a large impact on my students.
In conclusion, I’ve included a reflection paper by a student who attended a GIN (Global Issues Network) conference in Escazu, Costa Rica to illustrate the impact these types of events can have on students.
April 29, 2013
If you would have asked me a week before the GIN conference if I was excited to go, I honestly would have said no. I had so much on my plate and I did not feel ready to accept a large role that required presenting in front of countless strangers. The time passed and every day I dreaded going to Escazu. When the time finally came, I forced myself to get into the mindset of “just getting through the weekend”. I did not feel prepared, but I couldn’t back out. I had to keep myself together, at least until Sunday came.
Throughout the long drive to the city, Mr. Baldwin had me practice my part of the presentation. He was willing to take the time to sit there with me and help me become more comfortable with my words. It was quite unsettling that he wanted me to forget about my verbose outline that I read off of and present what I knew. I went from reading my outline, to wordy flashcards, to flashcards with very few words on them.
I was still nervous, but I knew that I had to keep my composure and give the best presentation that I was capable of. Finally, the moment for Margo, David, and me to present came. We started and before I knew it, we were done. Our group received many compliments and the relief swept over me. I had finally done it, and by the looks of it, done it well.
If you ask me now if I am glad that I went to the GIN conference, I honestly would say yes. I learned so much and met so many different people of several nationalities who all had a goal, a dream. The weight that comes with the knowledge of the problems facing this world was heavy, but I was surrounded by people who wanted to make a difference, and more importantly, are making one.
- What would you say are the most important factors in completing a research project of this magnitude?
- If you could go back and change something in your approach, what would it be and why?
- How important do you feel the peer review of your project was? Explain.
Answers will vary based on student capabilities and student expectations.