Prairie View, Forest Hills students collaborate on invasive species unit
SouthWest News Media, 12/16/2014
Prairie View Elementary sixth-grader Artem Demidov said he was surprised to learn that Staring Lake has problems with invasive species.
It was one of many things he learned with other sixth-graders in the Mosaic gifted and talented program at Prairie View and Forest Hills Elementary. Mosaic teachers Leslie Lohan and Liz Dayton collaborated on an invasive species unit this fall for their students. Lohan teaches at Prairie View while Dayton is an educator at Forest Hills.
Artem said his favorite part was a joint trip the two schools took to the Staring Lake Outdoor Center this fall as part of the project. They met with Stan Tekiela, outdoor center supervisor, and checked Staring Lake for water clarity and identified organisms living in the lake to learn more about the lake’s health.
“What surprised me was that common carp was actually an invasive species. I just thought it was a regular fish,” he said.
According to the Eden Prairie School District’s website, Mosaic is a full-day gifted and talented program for fourth- through sixth-grade students, and is housed at Prairie View and Forest Hills.
“The program provides challenging curriculum at an accelerated pace while meeting the unique academic and social/emotional needs of highly gifted learners in a supportive educational environment,” the website said.
The program’s curriculum involves higher level questioning, thinking and and discussion.
“Students use 21st century skills throughout their school day with personal iPad and access to MacAir laptops, Chrome Books and polycom presentations with experts and one another. There is a focus on personalized learning, project and inquiry based learning, and guided studies,” according to the website.
LEARNING IN THEIR BACKYARD
According to Lohan, she and Dayton met over the summer to prepare fun and exciting units and their planning included making sure they pulled in all elements of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“We worked closely with Stan Tekiela at the Staring Lake Outdoor Center and the University of Minnesota to develop a program that would discuss the invasive species that exist in Staring Lake,” she said. “We felt that there could be no better learning than that in our own backyard. The University of Minnesota sent out two scientists as well as bringing along their research, equipment and extensive knowledge to help our students learn effectively.”
Lohan said while both classes covered invasive species, each took a slightly different focus. Her class focused on aquatic invasive species such as zebra mussels and common carp, and the ones that live in Staring Lake. Dayton said her class studied a wetland area around Forest Hills and focused on land invasive species such as phragmites and buckthorn.
Both classes studied how the invasive species were spread and the economics of fighting these organisms, Lohan said. Dayton said each class also held a simulated town hall meetings where students acted as different stakeholders such as farmers, environmentalists, city council members and residents.
During the unit the Forest Hills and Prairie View students did independent classroom learning through research utilizing existing DNR water study documents, the University of Minnesota’s findings and their own deeper questioning through collaborative groups. The classes went to the Staring Lake Outdoor Center on the same day, Lohan said.
“These students went with a tremendous amount of knowledge to the outdoor study and increased their knowledge exponentially,” she said.
Prayag Rajagopalan, Prairie View sixth-grader, said the outdoor center trip stood out because they learned about how much diversity is in Staring Lake, even with just the macro invertebrates.
Prairie View sixth-grader Faith Larsen said she was surprised that people didn’t do more about the carp earlier on. “I don’t see why they wouldn’t realize carp could damage the ecosystem,” she said.
Dayton said the culminating project for the Forest Hills students was to design something that could be considered a new organism that could be considered an invasive species or design something that would inhibit an invasive species. “They used all kinds of materials ... and they had to do a presentation to the class about it,” she explained.
Lohan said her class had to come up with a way to fix a problem with Staring Lake that they identified. “They had to create a true scientific schematic drawing and had to write an abstract to say [how] that project would work,” she said. “It had to be to scale. It couldn’t disrupt the entire ecosystem.”