Friday, February 14, 2014

SNRAS helps Effie Kokrine students explore sense of place

Throughout the fall semester at Effie Kokrine Charter School in Fairbanks, eighth graders melded art and science by studying traditional place-based narrative.

Led by SNRAS instructional designer Zachary Meyers and local artist Klara Maisch, the storytelling project was funded by an Alaska EPSCoR Native engagement grant.

With a blend of traditional and scientific knowledge, the lessons helped students apply historical and ecological processes using multimedia tools to work with place names, bridging the generation and knowledge gap.

An example of the students' work.
“We introduced exploring storytelling about place as a prelude to a bigger project,” Meyers said. The Peirce Park Living Lab Project will create a place near the Effie Kokrine School that will serve as an outdoor living lab for citizen science, offering opportunities to learn and apply science, technology, engineering, math and the arts in a natural setting.

“We wanted to give them a foundation,” Meyers said. He and Maisch created the lesson plans and activities, which will be available to teachers on the OneTree Alaska website.

“This project allowed students to have creative license to explore place and the interconnected relationships among place,” Meyers said.

The students created altered books in Sheryl Meierotto’s 8th grade class, with an emphasis on learning Alaskan taxonomy, dendrochronology (tree rings) and haiku poetry. Meyers and Maisch then helped Sarah States’ classroom create handmade journals, where students learned how to make paper, interpret tracks in the snow, and explored ecosystem relationships.

Each lesson utilized science and art curricula to help students explore and express ideas. “This emphasized that there is more than one way to represent and share a story,” Meyers said. “We wanted to accommodate a broader sense of place by incorporating observational skills, botanical terminology and introspective thinking.”

Through working together all semester, the students began to open up to the guest instructors. “It took time to get where we needed to be,” Meyers said. “It was a good learning process for both the students and us. We both had to figure out how to share information.

“It was nice to challenge the cool factor that middle school students sometimes have.”

The project work area was the center of creativity.

A student's journal, focusing on the beaver in Alaska.

No comments: