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.