Water Exploration uses a project-based learning approach to help students build a deep understanding about water science and critical water-related issues. All learning activities and resources are packaged into three modules, or Legacy Cycles. The Earth Science Literacy Principles provide the organizing framework for the lessons and activities in each Water Exploration Legacy Cycle. The three Legacy Cycles are Water Basics, Water-Earth Dynamics, and People Need Water.
Rollover each icon to discover how the Legacy Cycle works.
A Legacy Cycle is a way of organizing lessons and activities in extended inquiry projects that make use of computer technology, Internet resources, and social networking to engage students in a variety of activities that imitate the way scientists approach and solve problems—reading articles, brainstorming with colleagues, designing and carrying out experiments to test hypotheses, conducting campaigns to collect measurements and make observations, interpreting data, and publishing their findings. The three challenges that comprise each Legacy Cycle are nested and should be worked sequentially in order to enhance student learning.
Each Legacy Cycle challenge encompasses six stages, or categories of activities, through which students progress in order:
At any time, students may look ahead to see what's next, or go back to review information or revise work based on new learning.
The “Challenge” presents the task that serves to organize and drive activities; it also establishes the expected outcomes that will serve to satisfy the challenge. Having this information in advance motivates students to become fully engaged in the learning process and helps them to discern which information/activities are relevant to the task at hand.
Next, students move to the “Generate Ideas” stage, which requires them to consider a set of “essential questions” designed to elicit their prior knowledge about the most important concepts that are fundamental to the challenge.
The next stage, “Multiple Perspectives” introduces students to resources they can use to answer the questions posed in the previous stage. In Water Exploration, experts’ views are presented as online links to audio/video clips (presentations and/or interviews), scholarly and news articles, and films (short documentaries). Once they have answered the questions, students communicate their current knowledge on the topic to the teacher and classmates. This stage presents the opportunity for students to raise any questions that they may have and for the teacher to identify gaps in the students’ knowledge. Access to experts and scholarly materials is the part of the scientific discovery that is most often lacking in a classroom, where the teacher is usually the only “expert” in sight (Abernathy, 2008). “Multiple Perspectives” also helps to reinforce that real scientists visit the literature and consult with colleagues before they begin a project in earnest.
The “Research and Revise” section is the next stage; it most closely resembles a traditional classroom, with students being assigned a set of vocabulary words to define, focused labs and/or field investigations, homework assignments, and reading. Although teachers may have lab manuals and textbooks that serve as excellent classroom resources, in this stage we direct them to current, data-driven, tested online resources appropriate to the challenge.
After completing this stage, students advance to “Test Your Mettle" to take online quizzes and/or carry out other formative assessment exercises. The purpose is twofold. First, assessment allows teachers to identify misconceptions and gaps in students’ knowledge that must be addressed in order for the challenge to be properly met. Assessment helps individual students, or students working together as members of a team, to identify their own need for further learning. The Legacy Cycle structure permits students to revisit the different stages as often as is desired to correct errors or review information. While this opportunity to revise may be a new experience for many students, it mimics the approach taken by real scientists, who check and recheck their thinking as their research progresses before publishing their results (Abernathy, 2008).
The “Go Public” stage affords students the chance to present their learning to the teacher and the rest of the class as a project and is their version of publishing.
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