How many migrations should my class follow? Which ones do you recommend for the grade level I teach? By unanimous agreement, teachers who participated in last yearÕs program advised new teachers to be cautious, noting that more can always be added the next year.
Here are our general recommendations. If you are teaching alone, do not undertake more than 2-3 migrations. For variety, select one migration tracked by satellite and one which students can observe in your region. In addition, the Mystery Class Project or one of the Spring Fever lessons could be included to help students see the connections between the life sciences and physical sciences. Note that your focus can be the progression of spring rather than the details of the migrations. The phenology lesson on page 117 explains how this can be done. Perhaps the most efficient way to broaden your studentsÕ exposure without becoming overwhelmed is to involve other teachers in your school. Suggestions for school-wide participation are provided on page 13.
Choose Your Focus
Explore the possibilities! As you review the lessons in Section II and the migrations and spring events in Section III, consider these things:
Timing and Duration of the Migrations Pay special attention to the timing of those elements you would like to include this spring. You will find Journey NorthÕs full spring calendar on pages 20-21. All News updates will be posted according to this schedule. Note the day of the week that each species and spring event is posted and the frequency of the postings. The lessons must also fit into the timing of spring. The recommended time to conduct each lesson is specified in the margin.
Grade Level and School Structure The structure of your school day is perhaps as important to consider as the grade level you teach. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of this project, it fits most easily into the self-contained classroom. In such settings the content can be integrated across subjects areas at any time during the school day. For this reason, most Journey North participants are at the 4th-6th grade level. ItÕs important to point out that this is primarily a function of school structure, not program content. The opportunities available for scientific inquiry are appropriate and valuable at the high school level, and many high school students are involved. At the other end of the spectrum, many teachers of early elementary grades adapt the program to their grade levels, focusing on backyard observations and other activities appropriate for young students. Thus, in making your decisions consider the amount of time you spend with your students and the subject areas you must teach as well as the age of your students.
Access to Internet Your studentsÕ access to telecommunications is an important factor to consider, but participation is still workable where only limited on-line access is available.
Clearly, students with full access to the World Wide Web can take advantage of this project to its fullest. The graphics and hypertext links available on the Web capture the imagination and allow students to follow their own interests. Students using the Web can access a wealth of Internet-based information that is directly related to this project. Good access also means students can work independently and the class can take on more of this project than is generally recommended.
Notwithstanding, teachers can build strong learning around even small pieces of live information. The lessons in this guide help make this possible. Some teachers participate in Journey North with no school access at all, printing reports at home and bringing them to class. Teachers who have overcome such technology barriers are encouraged to share their solutions with other teachers on the Teacher-Teacher Feature.
Make Your Spring Calendar
Once you have selected the migrations and spring events your class will follow, make a spring calendar. Use the dates provided on the full Journey North program calendar and include only those events your class will track. Many teachers have done this with their students as a decision-making and organization activity.
Expect the Unexpected
Now in our third season, weÕve come to expect the unexpected: Animals migrate later than anticipated, the batteries in satellite transmitters lose power or an unusually warm season changes the timing of events by several weeks. ItÕs important to remember that things will happen this spring over which no one has control. MurphyÕs Law and Mother Nature are sure to intervene with our plans. As a teacher with a classroom full of students we appreciate the inconvenience this can cause. Therefore, when plans do change we will try to help you turn these events into teachable moments. Research ideas, problem solving models and other alternatives and suggestions will be provided on-line. At the very least we will keep you abreast of developments by posting updates according the schedule.
While changes in plans cause familiar disadvantages, there are also advantages. Unexpected events can generate much enthusiasm in the classroom. Also, students are sure to gain an appreciation for the challenges scientists face in doing their work Ņa scientist can lose an entire yearÕs research in many instances. Patricia Freeney of Raymond, Maine, put it this way: ŌThough it made for creative last minute lesson planning, the fact that the things didnÕt always go as planned showed the students what itÕs like to work with real science. In fact, that is the best part of Journey North. The students are learning about things that are happening right now in their world. This is inherently motivating, just as the content of migratory animals is.Ķ