Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM
THE MOONSNAIL PROJECT: HOW STUDENT COLLABORATION IN AUTHENTIC RESEARCH AFFECTS LEARNING OUTCOMES
The Moonsnail Project engages middle school teachers and students in inquiry-based geoscience by collaborating in our ongoing research on naticid gastropod predation. The project is an extension of Kelley and Hansens research on the fossil record of predation by shell-drilling naticid gastropods; student research is providing a modern baseline for comparison with our Cretaceous to Pleistocene results. The project began with a workshop on marine ecology and paleoecology in 2001, attended by 14 teachers from Alaska to Florida to New Jersey. Thirteen teachers (93%) incorporated the Moonsnail Project curriculum into their classes. Most teachers used the research question of how moonsnail predation varies with latitude as a theme to integrate biology, geology, paleontology, math, and language arts. Each class took field trips to collect beach samples of Recent shells, which required fundraising activities in which students participated. The childrens enthusiasm for the project increased parental involvement in the science classes, resulting in donations of money and equipment. In summer 2002, teachers and selected students attended a Moonsnail Project scientific conference to present their results. Students gave oral presentations describing their field area, methods of sample collection, and analyses of drilled shells. Results were tabulated by latitude and the hypothesis tested on the spot in collaboration with the students (the results did not support the hypothesis). Having the students present and compare their data provided a realistic and meaningful closure to their study and allowed us to model the scientific process (e.g. the role of falsifying hypotheses). Teachers reported that students worked to improve their grade point averages or did extra assignments as a precondition for involvement in the project. Several teachers stated that students who are apathetic towards their normal science work sheets took data collection and analysis for the Moonsnail Project seriously because, in the words of the students, science is important and scientists are counting on us. An at-risk student said that science is going to be my ticket out of here. All teachers reported that being involved in an authentic scientific study greatly increased their students motivation and responsibility for learning.