Hi! My name is Alliyah Steele and I’m one of the ThinkSTEAM Student Leads for New York State. I’d like to share a unique experience I’ve had in my biology class this year, in which we learned about photosynthesis with the help of a real botanist.
What is Planting Science?
Planting Science is a computer based learning program. Within this program, students are connected to a real botanist and follow a specific curriculum. Students receive logins and each group has a workspace (on plantingscience.org) in which communication between group members and the botanist occurs. Students are encouraged to ask their mentor questions and request feedback. The program builds up to students creating a unique experiment within a group. Students first take a pretest to determine current knowledge and a post test to measure growth. These scores are taken anonymously and data is analyzed to determine the programs effectively.
The first stage:
Personally, so far I’ve had a good experience with the program. Our class studied photosynthesis using digging deeper. I knew little coming into the unit but learned more over the course. I found it helpful that we didn’t totally rely on the Planting Science Curriculum but also had normal class lessons. The planting science experiments we conducted allowed us to learn about photosynthesis from experience. Although, the labs often had very long setups.
Creating your own experiment:
At first, the “create an experiment” section seemed very intimidating. However, we did come up with an idea. I feel it was nice being in contact with an experienced botanist. At first, our group didn’t take advantage of this but soon were able to use this to our benefit. One of my few complaints would be the short lab time period (less than 2 weeks). I feel for this field of science, it is difficult to perform plant-based labs quickly. Our group was going to grow seeds but decided on pre-grown plants instead due to time restraints. I do like that data can be shared online with the entire group.
Effect on learning:
When the first photosynthesis quiz came, I felt pretty prepared but noticed that their was a lot of confusion in the class. I’m not sure whether to attribute this to lack of study, Planting Science, or the in-class lessons since these all impacted the overall understanding. I feel this is a very abstract chapter in general and that the lack of videos and other visual media may have made the unit harder to understand.
All in all, I feel Planting Science is a good idea and I’ve had a good experience participating so far (Our group hasn’t finished the experiment or taken the post test yet). It does have a few downsides but overall I think it was nice to do something a bit different than normal teaching.
Putnam Valley High School, NY Student Lead