AFTER THE FIELDTRIP: USING STUDENT-CREATED VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES TO DEMONSTRATE AND ENHANCE LEARNING AS PART OF A MIDDLE SCHOOL PROJECT-BASED INSTRUCTIONAL UNIT ON ANCIENT LIFE
In this case study, a field-trip to the Cretaceous outcrop belt in central Kansas is the starting point for an eighth-grade, project-based instructional (PBI) unit on ancient life with the driving question: How did global changes in the environment over geologic time affect ancient life? Fieldtrip stops were chosen for their fossil abundance and to highlight evidence of environmental change during the transgressive phase of the Greenhorn cyclothem in the Western Interior seaway. Following a brief orientation, students were instructed to collect representative rock samples and fossils and to use their science notebooks and their cell-phone cameras to document observations in still images and video. Field-trip leaders circulated among the students to monitor progress, ask probing questions, and insure safety.
At school, groups of students used their Chromebooks to collaboratively assemble their VFEs in Google Maps following a rubric. The VFE assignment had two basic requirements: (1) Correctly use all terms in a short vocabulary list (such as, the Law of Superposition) in the explanatory text that accompanied each image or video clip in the VFE and (2) Relate a simple model of the nonmarine to marine lithofacies pattern discussed in class to observed vertical changes in rock type and fossil content associated with marine transgression. Once they completed their VFEs, students were given the opportunity to revise them based on peer group feedback. The final VFEs from the project indicated that most of the student groups correctly used the terms from the vocabulary list and the patterns of vertical change to correctly interpret local geologic history.