“I decided to incorporate the WHERE Challenge into my grade 8 science class. It was something that I wanted the whole class to participate in and so suggested making a magazine. The students thought that would be fun and following a discussion of all the objects we use in our lives, we broke the items into categories and each class chose a different category. I had one class study food (and its packaging), another did toys and the other did sporting equipment. Students then picked items from within these broad categories and were grouped together based on interest. Therefore in each class we had between 10 and 13 groups investigating different products. When the research portion was complete, students were given different tasks in their Language Arts class in order to produce the magazine.
I think there were many amazing facets to this project that I have not experienced with other projects I have done with students. First, in the research process, students were looking for information that was, in some cases, very hard to find. They would come and ask me and I would honestly tell them that I had no idea what a product was made from. This made students discover different ways of researching and solving their problems. Often teachers know the answers to questions, or students assume that the teacher knows the answer but that the teacher is just withholding information. In this case, they knew that they were the only people in the room who knew certain facts and they were very proud of this. Additionally, many students ended up phoning manufacturers to get help and came across difficulty in communicating and getting information. They quickly learned the meaning of ‘proprietary information’! Students discovered that they needed to formulate good questions that were specific and clear so that people would help them and give them information. In some classes students discovered that certain individuals in the class were very good at talking to people on the phone and getting the information they wanted. In this unique process, students learned about what their products are made of, where they come from and how the earth is integral to our lives.
The project was a huge success; students were consistently engaged, they were proud of being able to find information online, they felt very mature talking to individuals on the phone and they worked past many different kinds of frustration. In the end, each class worked in small groups gathering information and as a whole class to produce the magazine. This incorporated the understanding of our world, science and LA in a cross-curricular framework in which every student was a contributor. I will definitely have my classes work on this project again next year.”