Student drivers, watch out!

    Here's the first "blog entry" submitted to the VS Project Bank by a Vital Signs participant! That someone is Madawaska middle school teacher Linda McDermott. Check out the blog entry she wrote about her own experience letting go and enabling student-driven investigations.... Go Linda!

Okay. No knotweed at the lodge. Back to the reason I started this--- getting kids to be more self driven and conducting more independent research. The super hard thing. Letting kids conduct student driven research. Augh.

I told them "now what?" Could they come up with meaningful, important investigations of their own, and be trusted to go out and conduct them? Together, during science class? Everyone started yammering at once.

So, as a result, we have several new investigations in the works. I tried to hold back on guiding except as needed. Next two days we will once more venture beyond the classroom, outdoors, and I hope and pray no disasters befall us.


One class is investigating the aquatic species up and downstream from the huge new concrete pad at the 2 year old boat launch. Kicknet and weedweasel...we'll wear old shoes. First dunking for me of the weedweasel and the kicknet, and I've never tried to do anything like this, uncharted territory.

A second class simply wanted to see some fat juicy knotweed thickets, so they are going to see if it forms dense enough clumps to completely fill a quadrat at the Subway restaurant in town. I assured them at this location they should find it. For comparison, others will place quadrats at locations with no knotweed and count the number of species.

Third class simply really had some places they were curious as to what species grew there. They were pumped up to explore some places they knew that had recently 'grown up so much that they didn't recognize it anymore'. I told them that was called secession. Yeah! They wanted to do/observe secession. Okay, so I let them make list of three places and have anonymous vote. I will check to see if their choice works out and if not they will go to a place I choose. I had them choose their own groups and pick one or two species of plants from the VS database to look for. I am certifiably insane, now tonight I have to go in and add new groups....and oh man. That is quite a bunch of kiddos. If they just go off and play hide and seek, I will Freak. Right. Out.

They all have homework assignment---bring in leaves from 20 species of tree. Use new knowledge of kinds of characteristics used to identify species, and make sure they have enough of a sample to id it, after harvest break they will use tools and id them. I will stick all the stuff in newspapers and press them until after break. Tess will have them create tree ID scrapbooks for lodge, in language arts, at least I think that's still on, I hope.

After harvest vacation we'll publish our new observations, finish work on our notebooks and make some podcasts. Or something.

I thought about investigating how to control knotweed. Some grows conveniently right in front of the school where I work, so I will ask the town manager whose land it is on, and see if we can do experiments there. If not or maybe instead or also, I have a grow lab in the lab, with grow lights and all. We could try planting a couple of seeds from the lovely bush out front and do some experiments in the lab, this way it can continue during the winter. But we have to return to our regular curriculum for second quarter.


I identify completely with the fear of letting the students loose and drive their own learning. Thanks for sharing your story and the interesting avenues the students chose and traveled. I'm inspired to get something like this going in the fall.