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In the Zone: Where the Land Meets the Water

School: King Middle School

City/State: Portland, ME

Grade(s): 7

Format(s): Field guide: Natural science

Subject(s): Science and Technology, Visual Arts

Project Overview

This field guide to the marine organisms of the intertidal zone of Casco Bay was created by 7th grade students at King Middle School in Portland, Maine, as part of a Learning Expedition called, “In the Zone.” Students were engaged in scientific research at the school, on site in the bay, and at a marine aquarium. The full investigation included water quality testing, population research and charting, classification work, and consultation with local experts. The Learning Expedition involved all team teachers – science, math, social studies, language arts, visual art and special education.

Students went on multiple fieldwork research trips to the bay. Rather than download photographs of organisms from on line sources, students and teachers used wet suits and snorkels in the cold ocean water to collect and photograph the organisms in their natural environments. Those organisms that were difficult to find in the bay were viewed, sketched and photographed at the aquarium.

For the final product, each student chose a single marine organism to research, and was required to complete technical writing and illustration on that organism for a two-page spread in the field guide.

The final draft was edited and published at the school by students, and was sold by commercial stores and the National Park Service to inform tourists and local citizens about the organisms inhabiting the bay.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • The quality of technical illustration and technical writing is strong throughout the work
  • Sophistication varies page by page with student abilities, yet all the work is done with real care; it is clear that the work went through multiple drafts and revisions
  • A fine example of a local field guide with an authentic audience who would purchase and use the book
  • The preface of the book makes clear the authentic research of students, accomplished on site in the bay with snorkels and underwater cameras; it sets a high standard for fieldwork and research
  • The structure of the book allows for individual accountability within a group product
  • Highlights a format that allows the work of each student can be individually assessed
  • The composition, coloring, shading and detail in all the scientific illustrations give the book a coherent, polished look
  • A nice example of a descriptive preface, which helps orient the reader to the scope of the overall project

Relevant Resources

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write informative/explanatory texts that convey ideas and concepts using relevant information that is carefully selected and organized.
  • I can generate additional questions for further research.
  • I can determine the meaning of specialized symbols and technical vocabulary used in a scientific or technical text.
  • EL has not created long-term learning targets for WHST standards.
  • EL has not created long-term learning targets for WHST standards.
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