EDISON — The sixth grade hosted the fourth grade for a joint science project using technology in The Wardlaw-Hartridge School on Wednesday, Nov. 30. The project was created by fourth grade teachers Ellen Ritz and Ellen Colandrea, Technology Director Marc Spivak, and sixth grade science teacher and technology integrator Tom Gilbert.
On Monday and Tuesday, the sixth graders designed an animal in their science class; they were challenged to make a convincing animal with adaptations suited for its environment. Meanwhile, the fourth grade classes received photo-editing lessons from the school’s technology director, Marc Spivak. The two grades were brought together and placed in teams. Each sixth grader was assigned one or two fourth graders as technology experts.
They had to communicate effectively about their animal and collaborate to create a convincing website with pictures manufactured with their fourth grade team members. On Thursday, the groups split up again. The sixth grade worked on the website content, while the fourth graders designed the pictures. On Friday, the teams will be reunited to put the finishing touches to their websites.
While mapping the technology curriculum for Middle School, Spivak and Gilbert noticed the opportunity to combine an existing sixth grade science project with a new technology project Spivak wanted to introduce in the fourth grade. Spivak planned to teach the fourth graders to use photo-editing software to merge pictures, creating imaginary animals. They would then use these pictures to create websites.
Gilbert has had previous sixth graders create imaginary animals with a range of adaptations to demonstrate their understanding of how species evolve. In years past they have created posters of these animals, but the opportunity to utilize the photo-editing skills of the fourth graders was too good to miss, especially since the sixth grade had learned the basics of website editing with Karen Vrotsos, sixth grade English and history teacher, a few weeks earlier.
Not only does the project teach some exciting technology skills, but also it provides the opportunity for teamwork across the grades and develops the leadership skills of the sixth graders. In addition the goal of creating a convincing website allows the teachers to engage their students about the issue of reliability of internet sources. If these students are able to create a convincing website, can they really believe everything they read on the internet? As internet research increasingly replaces traditional research techniques, judging what is a reliable source is going to be a vital skill for these young people.
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