And Then There Was One…
One more course that is! Wow where has the time gone? Just this time last year I was starting my endeavor with COETAIL as a grade 4 teacher in China. Now I am wrapping up my course as a grade 6 math/science teacher in Bahrain and a new mom. Time sure has flown, and I don’t want to waste any more so let’s get started!
I had no idea what I wanted to do with my final project just a few short months ago, but after being back in school for 6 weeks and getting a feel for my students, curriculum, and professional learning community, I think I have found a good seed.
During our first professional development 1/2 day, we were given time to start thinking about which unit we could take this year and make it into project based learning (PBL). I thought that this would be great to kill two birds with one stone and use my PBL unit for my final COETAIL project. So as I was reading through the science standards trying to get a grasp of them, my colleague came over (teaches 7/8 science) to see how I was getting on. After a very long conversation and a LOT of idea dropping, we started to develop the idea of my project/unit, Diabetes Awareness TED Talk with the guiding question of “What are the environmental and genetic factors affect diabetes in Bahrain?”. I choose diabetes because the rate is quite high here in Bahrain so that would make it more real for the students since it is in their community. Plus I had already started a list of individuals / organizations to contact as resources (Diabetes.bh, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, University of Bahrain, etc.)
I quickly got started making a poster to share my thinking with the whole group. After everyone was done we hung them up and did a gallery walk. That walk was great because I got some useful feedback to help me continue my idea and change my guiding question, “How do environmental and genetic factors affect diabetes in Bahrain?”.
Connecting With Others
Another colleague, Trina, is completing course 5 as well, so I wanted to run my idea by her to get some feedback since she knew the specific requirements for COETAIL. The meeting with Trina was very eye-opening as I thought I had a good idea to start, yet she helped me rethink some things so my project changed once again. Instead of pigeon holing myself into just diabetes, she suggested I open it up to autoimmune diseases. Also with branding it as a TED Talk would take time and since that is not on my side we are going to start our own version called Riffa’s Views.
What is my Plan Now
So my plan is to continue with the guiding question “How do environmental and genetic factors affect autoimmune diseases in Bahrain?”. I would also like a “So what?” part where the student can decide an appropriate action plan / next step (Do they just want to educate others about this autoimmune disease which is in Bahrain; Is there a way others can prevent it? etc.). I need to finish up my current unit in science before launching this. So in the meantime I need to work on my PLN and toss out my idea to other MS teachers for feedback, guidance and suggestions! I really want this to be a great unit. My coworker is excited about it as well because she has already envisioned on how she can build upon it with her grade 7/8 students.
My only concern is time. I won’t be able to launch this for another few weeks which will give me only a few weeks to teach before I have to start reflecting my final project. Hopefully I will have some good evidence from my students to share, but I will make sure to post final projects when they are done.
So in the end I am hoping that students will really be able to understand and articulate their understanding that all organisms are composed of cells, cells carry on the many functions needed to sustain life, and cells can be affected by environmental and genetic factors. It is my hope that the students will be able to find a connection locally or within their family to help drive their learning during this unit.