6th grade students from several classes at the Duggan Middle School, in Springfield, Massachusetts, created this field guide to a bog behind their urban school. Students were engaged in multiple fieldwork experiences to research the plants and animals that live in the Duggan Leatherleaf Bog.
What’s Happening in the Bog? contains written descriptions of the plants and animals found in the bog; each written entry is accompanied by digital photos, in the case of plants or a hand-drawn scientific illustration, in the case of animals. Each student worked on a single entry.
Through their investigation of the bog, students created a new way of thinking about a piece of land that had been locally known as “the swamp” or “the dump.” Students began to think about the bog as a resource – something to be celebrated and preserved – rather than an eyesore. They cleaned up the site of urban debris while studying it, and began to take pride in it.
The science teacher involved in this project had a background in biology, which facilitated a deep understanding of classification and identification of the plants and animals.
This product, which was inspired by other Expeditionary Learning field guides, played an important role in the growth of this school. Before partnering with Expeditionary Learning, Duggan Middle School was one of the state’s lowest performing schools, with a challenging and unstable school culture. With a new leadership team and partnership with EL, Duggan entered a period of steady growth and renewed self-esteem; in four years, test scores grew from bottom of the state to equal to state average. What’s Happening in the Bog? was the first high quality public product that was produced by students at this school. Students, the school as a whole, and the wider community gleaned much pride from this positive accomplishment. It was a key step in the rebirth of the school.
How This Project Can Be Useful
- Highlights the power of high quality, collaborative student work – building pride for students and the school – and the role this plays in changing the culture of a school
- Highlights an investigation of the environment in close proximity to the school, in which student’s impressions of the area were transformed
- Excellent examples of scientific illustration that went through multiple drafts. See page 44 of the Eastern Grey Squirrel and page 46 of the Bull Frog.
- Nice examples of crisp, clear descriptive writing
- Fills an existing need – field guide to a local bog
- Highlights a successful project involving a middle school grade level – students from multiple classes engaged in producing one product
Common Core State Standards
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