Mountain View fifth-graders get up close and personal with the Poudre River
Before the fifth-graders at Mountain View Elementary School took off for the summer, they were able to test the health of the Poudre River through a project-base learning unit.
“Project base learning is different than other group projects because it’s more student driven and looking at real life situations,” said Le Do, fifth-grade teacher at Mountain View. “The fifth-graders were presented with a problem. How do you evaluate the health of the Poudre River and its effect on Windsor? They worked with the high schoolers and Poudre Learning Center to solve this problem.”
Fifth-grade teachers Lisa Barton, Colleen Carey, Lucinda Orr and Do began planning for the Poudre River unit a year before the students started working on it.
“Our materials and time to plan this project was made possible by a Teacher Mini Grant from the Littler Foundation in Greeley,” Barton said. “The grant was for $2,500.”
Barton said the project was special because of the project-based learning aspect of it.
“The project was important because it was the first major project our fifth-grade team has taken on under the project-based learning delivery model,” Barton said. “We took what had traditionally been an end of the year walk/picnic and broadened it to include social studies, science, reading, writing and technology standards.”
Barton said it was exciting as teachers and as students to have the opportunity to not only see all of these standards-based connections, but to truly experience them by actually getting in the river during a field trip.
“We were amazed how many of the fifth-graders had very little experience getting their feet wet like this and were thrilled to see the deeper connections and understanding it gave them,” Barton said. “When we got back to school and put their learning into a presentation/project format, their learning and excitement for what they’d seen on the field trip was evident in the wide variety of ways they expressed it … and in the depth of their understanding. One parent who came to our Learner’s Showcase commented, ‘I can’t believe how much they learned and how well they’re able to articulate it. I was totally drawn in to several of the projects/presentations.’ “
Students worked on videos, tri-boards, presentations and other things to present to parents during the Learner’s Showcase on May 17 before school was out.
Hannah White, 11, said the project was worthwhile.
“It was really important,” she said. “I twas really fun. I’m glad we did the project.”
Ansley Kary, 11, said there was a lot of preparation beforehand.
“We had to prepare and learn to do the testing,” Ansley said. “We learned a lot more about the soil. It will help me later.”
Barton said as important as the “product” fifth-graders created were the connections made with several other entities in the area.
“We partnered with (teacher) Steve Cline’s GIS class at Windsor High School to learn how to use the GPS units and understand how maps and geographic location tie in with the Poudre River and the Windsor community,” Barton said. “We invited guest speakers/experts in the field to come talk to the kids about water, soils, atmosphere and plant/animal life from Larimer County Open Lands, the Department of Wildlife as well as CSU. Subsequently, several of these groups loaned us gear to use at the river (waders, life vests, etc.).”
Barton said scientists from the Poudre Learning Center in Greeley consulted with the teachers and then trained the students the protocols for all of the testing both at school ahead of time, as well as on-site the day of the field trip on April 12.
“Life vests were loaned to us by the Windsor Parks and Recreation Department and allowed for a day of water safety training both at school and then at the river,” Barton said. “Beyond all of these connections, it was our hope that the students would come away with an excitement and passion for this amazing resource we have right in our own community and inspire them to care for it and enjoy it long beyond our project.”
The comments from the students showed that they took the project seriously and that it was worth their effort.
“We heard multiple comments like, ‘I never knew about this place…’ and ‘I can’t wait to take my mom back here this summer,’ ” Barton said.
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