George Lucas Educational Foundation
Schools That Work
Integrated Studies

Sparking Curiosity and Solving Real-World Problems

See how students apply their literacy skills to explore science problems outside classroom walls.
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This is part of our Schools That Work series, which features key practices from Birmingham Covington School.

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Student: These hats are so annoying.

Teacher: Put some wood in there now and I think we're ready to go. Can you tell me what you see on that frame?

Student: I think I see nectar right there. I can't see very well.

Student: Ooh, there's honey, there's honey.

Teacher: Because of science literacy, our students are active learners who ask questions. They have a sense of curiosity. They're able to take that curiosity and go do something with it.

Student: Is that larva?

Student: Those are definitely larva.

Mark: At Birmingham Covington, we pride ourselves on interdisciplinary learning.

Student: These are responsible for fruits and vegetables.

Mark: Teachers wanted to collaborate to blend expertise in content, so we developed the science literacy to give teachers time to collaborate with each other and with kids, to identify a problem and go out and figure out how to solve it.

Tammy: Let's talk about the plan for the day.

The students found an article that talked about honey bees possibly going into extinction, and they said, "We should do something with this."

So Mrs. Roberts, she is going to work with all of the research teams. I'm going to come work with the presentation teams.

Pauline: Two teachers spend the afternoon with fifty-four students, totally blending their curriculum.

Tammy: So we'll have our honey, and--

So my expertise would be the science area and my teaching partner, she is in language arts.

Pauline: You guys are the research team. What's our responsibilities as a researcher? Yes.

Student: You need to like, figure out if it's a reliable source or not.

Pauline: The research team provides the knowledge and the content for the other groups to take action upon.

Each group of you has got a different article that you're going to read.

Max: Our article explained North Carolina being sprayed for mosquitoes with the Zika virus, but it killed off two million different honey bees.

Pauline: The first thing that we wanted them to do was pull out what they believed to be the key facts.

Student: The pesticide hasn't been used for a while, so that's pretty important.

Pauline: Then to think about who's the author, what's the source, what are the credentials?

Student: The first paragraph isn't really that important.

Pauline: We want students to be educated consumers of information.

Tammy: You guys want to label it spring, fall, summer, winter.

On the other side of the room, we had our action teams working.

We want them to learn while they're having fun.

They're trying to figure out a fun way to get people involved and bring awareness out to the public. Every student is on both a research team and on an action team.

Max: It helps to spread out the workload, so that we can get more things done, and inform the public easier.

Student: We really do not want the world to look like this.

Tammy: We want them all to be a part of, what could you do? And they have so many ideas. We have a product team working on candle making and honey. And our garden team is making what we call seed balls. They combine compost and clay and seeds that are bee friendly. Just by planting flowers in your yard, you're helping the bees.

Max: We also have a website that people can check out to inform themselves about the honey bees.

Tammy: The whole purpose is to educate, so they also have a brochure.

Gray: We want you and Ethan to be working on new information that we could be put on to our poster board.

Gray: We're researching and then putting it to use in presentations and posters, so we can present it locally.

Student: Because if bees did go extinct, you'd be a little hungry.

Tammy: They know that to be credible, that they have to be as knowledgeable as they can. The kids said, "We have to have hives."

Teacher: Okay, let's go have some fun.

Students: Yeah.

Tammy: We need to actually have our own bees so that we're helping.

Maggie: We are trying to repopulate the bees in Michigan, because they are dying.

Teacher: Shall we take a peek?

Maggie: Yeah, let's do it.

Teacher: Okay.

Student: Okay, someone grab it.

Maggie: We also want to learn more about the bees. It helps me, because I can see it and I believe it.

Student: I got some brood.

Tammy: The nice part about our science literacy class is that the students get to do anything they want. In science, I am bound by the state objectives I have to teach.

I actually see larva.

Science literacy, there's no state mandated curriculum. We didn't have to choose a topic that was fifth or sixth grade curriculum related. That's more powerful, because the students got to make those choices.

Student: We have some larvae and eggs.

Tammy: Our objective is that students would be able to take the skills that they've learned in our class and apply it to any problem.

Pauline: Science literacy is teaching our students to be curious about the world around them. With the problems they identify, they articulate how they want the community to help. So even as students, they are learning how to become effective agents of change. So it's bigger than just the science content. It's about helping to develop the citizens that we really hope our children become.

Student: Whoa, this one's heavy. We got a lot.

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Kyler Gale's picture

Dear Alexandra,
I had a little bit of skepticism as well when it came to thinking of implementing this in the class I student teach in. On the bright side was that I drew inspiration from this video in that there are ways to and topics you can use to achieve a high level of student performance. You just have to be attentive and see what things you could cover that would encourage students to try their best. I look forward to trying something like this.

Frances Vitali's picture

Jazzmin, keep that truth in the back of your teacher mind: 'you can do pretty much anything' and connect it to a standard(s). Remember, you drive the standards; not the other way around. As teachers, we adapt the standards to fit the needs, interests of our students and teachers. Science involves natural curiosity about the world around us. Why is it that when we learn it in school, all the beauty is drained from its natural wonders leaving boredom and lack luster engagement? Why teach anything if we are not going to connect it with real life situations, scenarios, and issues? You will change this in your own teaching!

myabeny's picture

I really liked this video it opened my eyes and really made me think because it was so cool to see the process. I loved the fact that they let the students pick what topic they want to learn about and that they were split into groups to do research and plan, as well as come up with ideas to help. My absolute favorite part was that they actually got bees for the students to take care of themselves and try to repopulate. One thing that I really thought about was they are doing really advanced work in the class. I liked how the teacher said she doesn't have to use standards for the science literacy class, so it give them more opportunities to teach what they kids want. The class looked super fun and I wish I could have experience something similar when I was in school.

myabeny's picture

I really loved the literacy project as well, it was so interesting to see it happening in the classroom. I think that is all we want as educators, to make learning fun and engaging for students so that they want to learn and enjoy it at the same time. I also think that it is true that you can pretty much teach anything you want as a teacher while still meeting and applying it to the standards. I never really mind standards because they help mold your lessons, as long as you hit them the word is your ouster as a teacher. I would really love to do something like this in my classroom with my students. I love that they picked bees because it is is a real issue that no one really talks about.

Micayla Kavanaugh's picture

I like this project, and the meaning behind it a lot. I think students learn the best through hands-on and getting to learn while doing. It's a stimulating and fulfilling process for the students, and these kids are getting all of that to the highest extent. I love that they ask "how can we help?" I think it puts the world into perspective for them and helps them realize there is so much we can do as a society.

Madison Dow's picture

I love how you said your vision is to get kids excited and involved in the real world! I think this such an excellent resource for learning because students are able to collaborate ideas and solutions together! Great insight about your teacher telling you that you can do anything you want and make your own standards. That is such an inspiration!

Madison Dow's picture

I absolutely loved this video and project. What better resource for students than the real world that they live in? The teacher so easily could've taught them about this in their textbook and had a test at the end. Instead students were able to collaborate and share ideas. Students were able to get out in the world, create a game plan, and then make a difference. Students were given authority in this project and able to teach themselves. I would love to do assignments like this as a future teacher.

Madison Dow's picture

I agree that this video was such an eye opener. This project is an excellent way for students to gain the most experience in their learning. It was so cool how students were able to be beekeepers themselves and solve the problem at hand! I will definitely use this in my future teaching!

AcademyofEd's picture

This is a powerful way for students to engage in their learning. I have always felt there is a huge need for choice in learning. When there is choice, there is power. Thanks for a great video!

Frances Vitali's picture

Project-based learning and inquiry based learning are powerful approaches for student learning. Insight of teachers who can connect students to real world and local issues is keeping it real and authentic in learning naturally! Thank you, Madison, and best wishes in your future classroom teaching!

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