Our first step was to determine what kind of project we wanted to run. The coordinators and assistants from the three departments sat together with our scope and sequence documents to brainstorm when and where we could incorporate an integrated project. A number of ideas were slated, however, we decided to go with the Ecosystems topic from Science that could be combined with a selection of Maths outcomes. TAS already has 3 projects that they complete in a year, so they decided to make the project work, time would be taken from each one to allow students to complete a shorter, fourth project.
Next came planning and creating resources for the project. Myself, the assistant Maths coordinator and the TAS coordinator took on this role and it was great working with two other passionate educators who were willing to give anything a go. We didn't get much release time from school, so a lot of work was completed outside of school hours.
We started with the end point in mind - what did we want the students to achieve from doing this project? The students were going to design a new and improved zoo enclosure for an endangered animal that met it's needs in regards to adaptations, feeding relationships and its natural habitat. When we took last year's Year 8 cohort to the zoo, a few of us spent time brainstorming and talking to staff about how we could work towards our project. The day was very productive and helped us to really cement where we wanted the project to go.
The project kicked off on day one of Term 2 with all of Year 8 assembling in the hall. I spoke to the whole cohort about the project and what they would be doing over the term. We spoke about the excursion to the zoo being an opportunity for the students to see what the animals already have and how their work in each of their three subjects would help them towards creating their final zoo enclosures.
In Science, students completed a series of self-paced modules using a range of GSuite tools to learn about ecosystems and how animals interact with these ecosystems. These lessons helped the students to create a Google Site about the particular endangered animal that their group was assigned. The students had to research the animal's habitat and identify abiotic and biotic factors from these habitats that impact on the animals, find out about the feeding relationships the animals are involved in and create a public service campaign to help to convince the public to protect the animals. The quality of the websites the students produced was amazing. The use of Google Sites meant that the students could easily incorporate their creations in Google Drive into the site.
During weeks 5-7, students were given time in all three subjects to physically create their 3D enclosure model. Students were provided with a range of materials and were able to bring their own to help them to make their enclosures as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Students used the 3D printer to print a range of elements for their enclosures from seats for visitors to bird baths and feeding troughs. Students could also use the laser cutter to create other elements. Students used this to make trees or interestingly shaped 'glass' for the surrounding of their enclosures.
On Wednesday of Week 7 we held a STEM Showcase where parents were able to come and see what their students had been creating in these three subjects. Despite the shocking weather, we had approximately 150 parents come through and find out about our project from almost 200 excited Year 8 students. A range of staff members also spent time talking to students and the buzz across the 9 classrooms was palpable.
Feedback from parents and staff was that the students were able to articulate what they had produced and the process they had taken to complete their task. The students were able to take ownership and discuss their enclosures in detail as they had been the facilitators of their learning across all facets of the project. The students were passionate about what they had achieved and the general consensus from the night was that they would love to complete the same kind of project again in the future.
Our next step in our project is to gather feedback from staff and students and to work out where we want to take STEM in the future.