Wednesday, October 16, 2013

PBL- Butterfly Gardens and How They Fit Into the New Standards

As a teacher you will soon be faced with figuring out how to implement the new Ohio education standards into your curriculum. The new standards call for teachers to use Project Based Learning (PBL) in which students undertake projects from the beginning design stages, through construction and, finally, to completion. PBL also calls for multidisciplinary learning, where students integrate multiple subjects into the project. WILD School Sites and their associated projects can help you meet these new standards. WILD School Sites or outdoor classrooms are locations that can be used by students, teachers and the school community as places to learn about wildlife and the environment.

So, how can a simple butterfly garden help with PBL?

First, let’s look at PBL. One essential element of PBL encourages students to develop the 21st century skills of critical thinking, collaboration and presentation skills. It also encourages students to collect data, research a project and work together to design a project. Then PBL has students incorporate feedback and revisions into their work to create a high quality product, and concludes with a public presentation to share with their community.

WILD School Sites consist of projects, like butterfly gardens, in which students, teachers and the community work together toward designing, building and implementing an outdoor learning area (Collaboration). To be effective, there must be a plan. Also, the site needs to be evaluated and inventoried for flora and fauna (Collect Data). Then research is needed and a plan designed for the site, including a budget and a timeline (Research and Critical Thinking). Next the plan should be presented to the school community (Presentation). After the plan has been reviewed, and possibly adjusted (Feedback), it can be then be implemented.

Do butterfly gardens fit into other areas of the new standards?
Sure! Obviously, the model curriculum is too long to reference each standard here; however, Project WILD and WILD School Sites are directly referenced in the Model Curriculum for the Science Standards. Teachers from other disciplines can also utilize the area. WILD School Sites are perfect for math (measurements and data analysis), language arts (research, presentation development), social studies (spatial awareness, mapping, community impacts), art and music (presentation development) as well.

For butterfly gardens, an obvious connection is the Grade 3 Life Science (LS) content statement referencing plant and animal life cycles that are part of their adaptations for survival. The life cycle of butterflies is well-known, but less often observed in its entirety. In addition, butterflies are species specialists, meaning each species of butterfly requires a unique and specific host, both as an adult and as a caterpillar and without those types of plants, butterflies cannot survive (Grade 1 LS: Basic Needs of Living Things and Grade 2 LS: Interactions within Habitats.) As habitat improvements are made to a site, butterflies are better able to survive (Grade 4 LS: Changes to an organism’s environment can be beneficial.)

What about Field Investigations?

Of course WILD School Sites, and butterfly gardens, are also great locations to conduct field investigations. Where better to conduct animal observations, habitat inventories or other investigations, than at an outdoor lab? These sites are perfect for conducting comparative field investigations (i.e., How many insect species can be found inside the butterfly garden vs. in the school yard? or How many butterflies are found in the garden at different times of the year? or Are more butterflies found in the garden in the morning or at noon?) Even complex correlative questions can be investigated in the sites (What happens to the number of insect species at the site as more plant species are introduced? or What happens to the number of butterfly species as different native plants are introduced to the site?)

A Final Thought

WILD School Sites provide opportunities, in their design and construction, as well as in their use, for students to apply learned concepts and to demonstrate what they have learned. This is also the premise for Project Based Learning. In addition, field investigations require students to observe and collect data and organize the results for analysis. WILD School Sites provide a perfect setting to develop these real world problem-solving skills. For more information about these projects or other WILD School Site projects, contact your district’s Wildlife Communications Specialist, or visit