Well, the GPS+Camera Pilot Project is completed now and while I am of course a somewhat biased observer, from my perspective it was an amazing success. Students in all three subject areas worked incredibly hard to conduct original research around our central question “How has Codrington Village changed over time?” and last Thursday presented their findings to their school, to community members and to Barbuda TV. They also compiled their findings into four videos: a Geography video, a Social Studies video, a Biology video and a short compilation of all three videos. The compilation will be uploaded today and the longer subject-specific videos soon after.
Geography students examined artifacts, sketched and photographed the historic site, interviewed community members and archaeologists, and examined a wide variety of primary documents from maps, to newspapers, to drawings, to written descriptions. We assessed the reliability of different primary sources using Time, Place, First-hand Knowledge, and Bias and cross-checked them with each other and with our site visits, interviews and artifacts. Each student then drew their interpretation of the castle and justified their interpretation based on the reliability of their sources and whether or not their information could be cross-checked with other sources. I was immensely impressed by the students’ work – I know many university students who would have a difficult time accomplishing what our 11-15 year-olds did.
In Social Studies, our students examined the historic site of Indigo Well and conducted six extensive interviews with former Barbudan Cowboys. The students’ started by examining secondary sources written about Barbuda’s cowboy past (and to a lesser extent cowboy present). Students identified gaps in our knowledge and, with minimal guidance from their teachers, identified knowledgeable people in their community and set up interviews with those key informants. Students practiced ethnographic interviewing skills using the guide produced by the Smithsonian Institute until students felt confident not only designing an interview, but asking follow up questions they had not previously prepared as well. In the interviews, we discussed Barbuda’s open range cattle herding practices then and now and why we thought this change had occurred over time. Some great stories emerged – be sure to check out the Social Studies clip in our collective video and stay tuned for the longer Social Studies video in the future!
In Biology class, students mastered their material so quickly that instead of using field guides about mangroves written by someone else, they created their own field guides specifically designed for Barbuda’s mangroves and created a video tour of the four types of mangroves found in Barbuda. They interviewed community members and Barbudan ecology experts to discuss both the mangroves’ ecosystem services and how human use of the mangroves has changed over time. Students took water samples and tested the water for PH, salinity and other indicators of water quality. In the future, we hope to have students regularly monitor environmental indicators (like water quality) as part of their year-round curriculum. Such opportunities would not only help Barbudan students understand their community better but could also provide useful, accurate information to help inform real decision making.
Overall, this pilot project exceeded our most ambitious expectations. Students mastered their skills and content in almost no time and were completing high quality original research in all three subject areas by the first week of the project. It was also very clear that these students are receiving an excellent, high-quality education from their teachers at Sir McChesney George Secondary School. All three of us are incredibly grateful for how friendly, welcoming, supportive and patient every single one of the teachers at Sir McChesney George Secondary School have been. It was a real pleasure working with your students and we hope in the future to get a chance to work more directly with all of you. Thanks to everyone and with any luck, we’ll be seeing you again in the near future!
Thanks again from the GPS+Camera teachers,
Dan McGovern is a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University. His research interests include the role of education in community-based climate change adaptation, Education for Sustainability, Place-Based Education, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Education in Emergencies, connections between Sustainability and Conflict, and community-based monitoring and research.
About UsThe Human Ecodynamics Research Center (HERC) at the CUNY Graduate Center is coordinating the effort of scholars in a formal research collaborative addressing crucial issues of sustainability, resilience, and the future of humans on earth. This blog follows the exploits of two of these projects: the GPS+Camera Project and a Brooklyn College GIS field school.