Non-Trivial Aspects of the Project Sequence in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium that May Be Overlooked

5 Oct

Safety is the #1 top concern underlying all else discussed in this curriculum. Yet, understanding human nature, being as it is, may also help us better understand how safety may still be easily ovetlooked in the excitement to desiign and assemble an aquatic ecosystem or amazing ecosystem component. SAFETY is not trivial! Please be safe.

Next, no one disregards the issue of money for long. It is absolutely nontrivial. So before addressing other issues suggested by the title of this post I’ll take a moment to address this wild elephant sitting in the middle of the room – money.

Above and beyond almost all else (e.g. safety), first and foremost in our desire to provide the highest quality educational environment for every student, we must apportion funds. Thus, a detailed curriculum budget must be determined. And while we cannot forsee particular design/build ideas that each group of our highly challenged and motivated students will work on, a thoughtfully detailed general budget cannot be overlooked by anyone wanting to implement this (or any) curriculum successfully. I am sure many readers, upon first consideration of Beyond the Classroom Aquarium utter a comment something like “this is way too expensive.” And I understand their concerns….

Perhaps a percentage of readers who first view this curriculum are not turned off by potentially high curricular expenses. As a teacher myself, I often wondered what I’d do if I had a unlimited budget. So I developed my own vision of a dreamland budget “plan” and called it: Beyond the Classroom Aquarium.” In reality, I never had a “great” curriculum budget but with my plan in mind, I wondered too what measures i might take so that i could still provide all my students with a fabulous learning experience – all year long. Thus, one page in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium, is dedicated to helping educators organize their project mindset and devise a workable budget for their own teaching/learning setting. Fundraisers, donations (corporate or personal), grants, university students seeking internships, asking for help, etc. may provide money, materials, equipment and/or personnel to assist with curriculum implementation.

Once a teacher determines a budgetary plan for implementing this curriculum – from the first day of school, and forward from then – will be well served by considering non “big item” yet nontrivial curriculum ideas like those described below.

Although many projects require intense amounts of design and assembly from students, there is actually NO expectation of specific DIY “expertise” (plumbing, electronics, woodworking, coding, etc.) from the teacher. However, general project management skills that involve timely requests for assistance from local (expert) tradespersons (often though not always disguised as parents) are overidingly essential! I believe that without recognizing the need for help and using communication skills to request help, most teachers attempting to guide students through these projects, in one school year, will probably be less than 100% successful.

Defining space within each unique classroom to be dedicated to aquatic ecosystem space (including some space for storage…) and mapping it out (conservatively) is an important aspect of the curriculum. Ensuring that student designed and assembled systems fit the lab layout map (footprint) and systems in it is an important aspect of the curriculum that is essential for student success in subsequent design and assembly activities, not to mention ecosystem productivities.

Building (& framing) structures upon which ecosystem components will be placed is also easily overlooked but as with all of the best’ infrastructures’ just because they blend into the background does not in any way diminish their contribution to the end product. Strong and balanced foundations are essential to safety, successful function and esthetics.

Including routes for plumbing and wiring in the map design are essential and must not be placed as an afterthought. As essential components of the ecosystem infrastructure well placed routes will enhance system safety, maintenance – access – function and esthetics.

From the earliest projects, the curriculum also emphasizes the importance and power of team and group decision making and a healthy practice of critiquing activities.

From the first day of class, other super important features of the curriculum that may not be apparent include: introductory art, vocabulary and observational “mindset framing” activities; reinforcement of the aquatic ecosystem space as a field trip environment; actual field trip events; the range of assessment activities at the end of each project (useful for educators who desire ways to differentiate projects and assessment activities/projects in order to best meet learning needs of every student); AND correspondingly individualized and competency based math activities.

I conclude here. I believe countless interwoven and underlying features of this Beyond the Classroom Aquarium curriculum (such as those mentioned here) dramatically increase the power and effectiveness of this sequence of enjoyable learning activities. Indeed, Beyond the Classroom Aquarium is far more than just another aquaculture curriculum produced by experts with big budgets (often grant funded) and unlimited space and time. This is a curriculum for my real world classroom teacher colleagues and kids. I believe you really can do this, with a little help from your friends 🙂 .

Gravity flow water circulation
A Beyond the Classroom Aquatium project; a broodstock larval rearing system

One Response to “Non-Trivial Aspects of the Project Sequence in Beyond the Classroom Aquarium that May Be Overlooked”

  1. gabychops October 15, 2020 at 5:52 PM #

    Thank you for your interesting post, Also, many thanks for reading and ‘liking’ Discoveries.

    Joanna

    Liked by 1 person

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