Project Spotlight: Valle de Oro

April 24, 2017

nex+Gen Academy

Teachers: Laura White and Michael Steele

Course: Environmental Science & Statistics

Grade: 12

Driving Question:

1. What is necessary to restore this land to a more historic ecosystem?
2. How can we quantify the biotic and abiotic changes occurring in this anthropogenically-altered ecosystem as we actively restore it?
3. How can we interpret and then communicate our findings in an accurate, meaningful, and coherent manner to scientists, land managers, and the general public?

Project Snapshot

The Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is an urban wildlife refuge in Albuquerque, NM, whose mission is to restore the land back to native wetland and riparian forest, while educating and involving the community. nex+Gen seniors work with a mentor throughout this project as they engage in authentic learning in science with a particular project focus (project foci range from small mammals, plant community, environmental engineering, land management, macroinvertebrates, hydrology, and soil science).

Student Products

-Written products were decided upon by each team (varied widely, but included forms such as lab reports, proposals, and websites)
-Presentation to 7th grade life-science students
-Presentation to 11th graders (posters)


Teacher Reflection

This project is the first project that our seniors do, and sets the tone for our class – authentic, student-driven projects rooted in environmental science in which students are project designers and learn how to manage their time, their process, and are then expected to communicate their findings to a variety of audiences (i.e., land managers, scientists, and community members). By working with project mentors, a great deal of student learning occurs outside in the field, doing science. Students collect their own data and then use statistics to make meaning of it. Data and final written products are shared with the Refuge Manager, and help inform future work and decisions made about regarding the refuge.

Teacher rubric sample

Student Reflection

“We like the amount of choice given to us in this project (project focus, written product, final exhibition audience and format)”
“I learned a lot from my project mentor”

Community Reflection  

-We received very positive feedback from the 7th grade classes (including students, teachers, and parents) our students presented to in November 2016
-All project mentors have agreed to work with us this next school year (2017-2018)
-Two teams of students were invited to present their work at a symposium held at the University of New Mexico in March 2017

Projects Spotlights allow a glimpse into the great projects that are taking place in New Tech schools across the country. To learn more about Project-Based Learning or the New Tech Network, please contact us here.

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