Today’s Contributor: Kavita Karandikar. She teaches 8th grade Science and IPC at Bailey Middle School. This is her 6th year teaching Science.
My high school education was in India where Science curriculum is usually limited to Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Earth Science comes under the subject of Geography. I had not taken any classes in Geography after my 10th grade. So, when I started teaching Science at Bailey, the most difficult and boring topic for me was Plate Tectonics. I did not feel prepared with the content or the delivery. It took me a couple of years to feel comfortable with the material and then I started thinking more about how plate tectonics can be taught in a more meaningful way. After all, we know more about the other side of the solar system than about our own planet in some ways.
I teach plate tectonics as a story. As a part of the story I ask my students to plot volcanoes and earthquakes. In the past my colleagues and I have used a map of the world to plot the latitudes and longitudes of volcanoes and earthquakes. Our students used to get so tired with the plotting part that they wouldn’t have energy or time to find the pattern, which really was the crux of the lesson.
As the CIC I started exploring Google Maps for this lesson. I used BLEND, google docs and map customizer (google map to plot multiple locations) to create the assignment of plotting earthquakes and volcanoes. I have been using BLEND every week for many kinds of assignments and assessments. Some students liked BLEND right away and some kept complaining about why they had to type the assignments instead of writing them. The volcano assignment won over all these students as they saw how easy it was to plot all the points and how they could manipulate the map to see patterns.
Some of my students had never used google earth or google maps. I realized that despite having the technology at their fingertips, they were largely unaware of basic geography. I let students play with the maps for some time so that they would get a handle on what they were looking at. They also toggled between the map view and satellite view and we discussed the specific information they would get with each view. Here is the screenshot of a student’s screen:
Ring of fire and the mid -Atlantic ridge show beautifully in the maps. My students understood without me telling them that most earthquakes and volcanoes appear at plate boundaries. Then the students turned in the assignment on BLEND along with the snap shot of the map. Speedgrader makes it easy to grade assignments like this one. All in all, it was an enriching experience for my students and me.