PlantingScience uses three core concepts recognized by the National Research Council to facilitate learning:
- hands-on, inquiry-based science
- peer-to-peer dialog and team learning
- mentorship support from topical experts
PlantingScience harnesses and shares a valuable scientific resource, our scientists' time, in order to reach out to teachers and students in a manner designed to take science to a new level. And the program is cost-free to schools and teachers.
Imagine a team of middle or high school students designing and conducting a research project as a means to better understand science and the scientific process. As the students conduct their research, they post data and information in real time to a web page. Their teacher leads the process and is supported by inquiry-based materials written to encompass core biological principles in keeping with national and state science standards. These materials support a clear understanding of how best to capitalize on the experience of hands-on science as a learning tool. Finally, add a scientist volunteering as a mentor to the team of young researchers. The mentor guides the students by posing questions designed to help them discover the answers they seek.
Now, imagine not one team, but thousands of teams, all working simultaneously on various research projects around the world.
Students use PlantingScience to share their experiences and build collaborative networks to solve problems. All of the information, experiences and knowledge are posted online and freely shared throughout the community, and with other students in schools around the world.
Yes, the program is international. A Dutch conversion of the platform is in use in the Netherlands (http://nl.plantingscience.org/). In the spring of 2011, we had Dutch and Florida students collaborating and running similar research projects. We're testing the concept of students from around the world collaborating on research, much like real scientists.
How does PlantingScience work in the classroom?
PlantingScience integrates science inquiry curricula with online scientific mentorship--and delivers both to your classroom via the World Wide Web. Our target audience is high school: Classrooms, Science Clubs, and other After School Groups are all welcome. Middle schools and colleges have also engaged in successful mentored plant investigations.
To get the most out of this experience, projects should run at least two weeks. During a PlantingScience session:
- Classrooms around the country explore standards-aligned major themes in biology, using plants as strategic learning tools.
- Students work in small cooperative groups to investigate a research question, with guidance from their teachers and scientist mentors.
- Teams brainstorm together and make team decisions about their research question, experimental design, predictions, and interpretation.
- Each team member keeps a research journal and records his/her own data.
- Students upload their research journals and discuss their observations and evidence along with their data.
- Students communicate with peer teams and scientist mentors about research ideas and progress.
- Plant science mentors facilitate student thinking and provide insight to what scientists know and how they think.
How does the PlantingScience online learning environment work?
PlantingScience software has been designed to support the inquiry process and scientific dialogue among students, teachers, and scientist mentors. The online environment makes student thinking visible and and provides rich opportunities for formative assessment. Through online dialogues and science journals, students develop scientific reasoning and communication skills. Scientists facilitate student thinking and provide insight into what scientists know and how they think. Students and scientists have opportunities to ask questions of each other. This dialogue encourages critical thinking, evaluating evidence, cooperative learning, and reflection.
Posting student work online for feedback can be highly motivating to students. All student work is archived on the server, so that students and teachers can browse completed projects.
An online forum for educators and scientist mentors enables them to easily exchange ideas and information; thereby enhancing their roles of facilitating student learning.
How to get ready for the PlantingScience online inquiry project?
- Divide class into teams of 3-5 students per team
- Collect materials not provided (e.g., 1 growth chamber per student for seed inquiry)
- Ensure that students will have Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint to prepare journals, graphs, and posters
- Ensure that students will have Internet access to upload their research and communicate with peers and scientist mentors
- Take the time to watch the Website Overview for teachers
What does PlantingScience provide to teachers before the project?
- Copies of inquiry materials (and links to these online resources)
- Pre- and post-test assessments
- Permission forms
- Login information for the secure web site
- Seeds for the Wonder of Seeds inquiry
What happens next?
- We will match your student teams with scientist mentors
- Your students will register and join their team on the secure web site
- We will introduce the scientist mentors to you via the teacher/scientist forum on the web site
- We will introduce the scientist mentors to your student teams via their web pages
- Prepare your students with background information on the topic and doing science
- Engage the students in the topic with an initial exploration (see suggestions in the Teacher's Guide)
- Encourage your students to post information and comments on the web regularly
Visit the Teacher's Page for more information on Site Security, Requirements, and FAQs for more information.
Please send questions, comments, and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
And then there is the Research
What you see on the web is but a tiny part of the overall program. PlantingScience is also an online education research project. We have collected over seven-years of student-mentor-teacher interactions, copious quantities of survey information, as well as student pre-post test results. This has allowed us to improve and adapt our systems in an efficient and timely manner based on real data and user experiences.
More importantly, our attention to data, testing (pre and post project), and our commitment to scientific rigor forms a base for research into online communities as an effective and efficient educational tool.