Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 2, Jan. 2005
A collaboration between the Bryant Watershed Project and West Plains Middle School
Students can be told learning is fun, but students are smart. They aren’t going to believe class work is fun just because someone tells them it is.
Students know when learning is actually fun, and that fun usually shows up in the results.
You can’t watch “Macroinvertebrate Lunch” and not see that the students who produced it both learned and had fun.
A cross-curriculum collaboration between the Bryant Watershed Project (BWP), a nonprofit education organization in South Central Missouri, and students and faculty at West Plains Middle School, “Macroinvertebrate Lunch” is a Flash movie presentation about stream habitats and water quality. Developed over the 2002-03 and 2003-04 school years, “Macroinvertebrate Lunch” served as the pilot for ArtStream, a multidisciplinary approach to learning developed by the BWP.
According to the BWP website, West Plains students from art, science and computer classes at all grade levels made sculptures of macroinvertebrates (an animal without a backbone and large enough to be seen without magnification) and other residents of local stream habitats. Fifth-grade students designed storyboard cartoons, and seventh- and eighth-grade students recorded audio sound effects and narration for the movie, all of which was assembled into the final product by graphic artist Mark Giles. Eighth-grade students in video production documented the entire process by producing a movie about the sculpture workshop. Additionally, students learned about macroinvertebrate life cycles, the food chain, effects of sedimentation and other forms of nonpoint source pollution on aquatic life and how macroinvertebrates can be used to judge the health of a stream.
“My involvement in the Bryant Watershed ArtStream project taught me about ecosystems and the way waterways in our area work,” William Surritte, an eighth-grader at West Plains, said. Like his classmates, Surritte used a variety of software programs such as Quicktime and Spark Me, and learned about other programs such as Macromedia Flash. “I learned a lot from this project and really enjoyed working on it,” he said.
West Plains Middle School instructors involved in the project included computer instructor Pam Hessee, fifth-grade science instructor Lavada Mann, video instructor Jim Dill and seventh- and eighth-grade art instructor Kevin Smith.
“I feel that this is a great project to gain cooperative teaching across the curriculum, because art, language arts, science and math were all involved,” Lavada Mann said. “The importance of protecting our environment is brought to the attention of all students after completing this project. The research skills that were developed and the creativity shown by students were a delight to see. I enjoyed this project but the students loved it.”
“Macroinvertebrate Lunch” was one of several school projects featured at the 2004 Missouri Educational Technology Conference. “I loved going to the conference,” seventh-grader Kaley Vance said. “We showed the artwork we did and we also made a website which I think is very creative.”
According to BWP director Lois Reborne, partial funding for this pilot ArtStream project was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region VII, through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Volunteer time by the teachers and community counted for much of the grant match.
“ArtStream is now one program of a three-year grant project called ‘Our Watersheds, Our Homes,’” Reborne said. “The grant programs are designed to raise awareness about the causes and effects of polluted runoff in our Ozark topography.”
“We’ll do two ArtStreams this year,” Reborne said. “Students and faculty at Glenwood School, a K-8 school outside West Plains, are underway on theirs, with participation at several grade levels in science, math, communication arts and fine art—mapping their schoolyard, tracking rainfall and runoff and studying native plants.”
Soon they will be using their new technical skills to display their new knowledge electronically, just like the West Plains students who created “Macroinvertebrate Lunch.”
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