Of Macroinvertebrates and Multiple Choice

Guess what??  I’m going on a field trip tomorrow!  (I know that makes me sound like a third grader, but I love field trips just as much as a teacher as I did when I was a kid.) 

We’re taking our 7th graders to the river to release the baby salmon that they raised from fertilized eggs in their science classroom. 

Then we’re putting on hip waders and collecting macroinvertebrates for a watershed survey.
And then we’re having a picnic lunch and lounging on the grass and reading our novels until it’s time to go back to class.   Now that’s my kind of school day.

My students have also been working on another interdisciplinary English-Science activity called the River City Project.  We’re participating in a Harvard University School of  Education research project to determine how video game concepts can best be adapted to engage kids in academic settings.  In this game, kids travel back in time to a 19th century river town where residents are getting sick.  Students work online in collaborative teams, use their 21st century research skills to gather data, form hypotheses about the causes of the illnesses, and design experiments to test their hypotheses.  Afterwards, they write letters to the mayor of River City explaining their conclusions and making recommendations to improve the city’s health. You can read more about the River City Project here.

I thought this was all worth posting because there’s been an awful lot of talk online lately about No Child Left Behind and the damage that high stakes testing has done to many schools.  It’s a huge problem — one that’s chasing many great teachers out of the classroom. (Read Jordan Sonnenblick’s heartbreaking SLJ column.

But there are also lots of teachers like

, whose recent post on testing reminds me to keep fighting the fight for authentic learning. 

We don’t test our kids to death at my school.  We don’t have them fill out bubbles in workbooks for weeks on end.  We read and write and think and question and get outside and learn.  I have faith that these kids are going to be critical thinkers and real-life problem solvers when they leave us.  And you know what else?  When it comes time to fill in the bubbles on the test, they do just fine.

9 Replies on “Of Macroinvertebrates and Multiple Choice

  1. Have a wonderful time on your field trip. My daughter is a third-grader and I have loved attending her class on field trips.

    Both my kids are at public schools this year, therefore, sadly, we have to endure lots of bubble testing. I SO envy you that your kids avoid it at your school. Are you in a private school? You’re not by chance at a Waldorf school, are you? How do you avoid the testing?

  2. I teach in a public school, in a small city school district. We don’t avoid the state testing – we just don’t let test prep take over our curriculum.

  3. Yay! Sounds like so much fun!

    I’m glad your school has been able to resist the pressure so beautifully.

    The crazy thing is that it seems most schools that do NOT teach to the test and do the kinds of things you and Cindy do, always seem to have students who do better on these kinds of tests overall. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why.

    Unfortunately, the curricula that teach to the test are BIG money and this is a billion dollar cash cow, so there are a lot of powerful people who don’t want to see it go away. Not surprisingly, one of the company investors/owners is Neil Bush. Funny how that works.

    Keep up the beautiful work!

  4. Thanks, Jo~ I know your family made a tough choice recently because of all this. I hope E is happy. He sounds like the kind of kid I’d love to have as a student!

  5. I helped my son with a macroinvertebrate study of the stream in our back yard when he was in third grade. They had to do an aquatic diarama and we asked if we could do a live one. We found sooooo many cool insects–caddis fly, cranefly larva–all sorts of cool stuff. We even got to watch a hatch on our back deck as a some of them went through the final metamorphosis in the tank!

  6. That sounds SO cool! He must have loved it. We released our specimens before heading back to school, but the kids still got a real kick out of seeing them.