As a previous biology and ecology high school teacher, traditionally students would create posters and pamphlets with information about an ecosystem that they researched. The production of those artifacts took place during my student teaching and private school teaching days and I felt there needed to be upgrade in product. I decided that in my STEAM:Gaia class, I’d integrated computer science into an environmental sustainability class as students learned about how ecosystems function. After learning about the components of an ecosystems, how energy is transferred, and how species interaction with each other, student had to research biomes and apply what they’ve learned to this research.

Scratch Team - YouTube

After the research phase, student had to learned a web program called Scratch. Knowing that this class isn’t a computer science class, I wonder how you might include learning basic programming to communicate one’s knowledge of how an ecosystem works.

Unfortunately, I didn’t use any structured programming lessons but I show them some basics just enough to get started. Much of the tutorials on the Scratch website provided most of the resources that our class needed to get started as I didn’t want to overwhelm students in looking at the nitty grittiness of block programming.

As a result of their work, there were able to plan out their Interactive Tour of their Ecosystem by paper prototyping prior to producing. On the paper prototype they drew out the sprites, text, buttons and with every button they were able describe what each button did. They also scripted out their narrations as well.

Once the paper prototype has been completed. They took the next 2 week to produce a work in progress ecosystem tour enough for it to be workshopped by their peers.

Once it’s been workshopped. students finalized their Interactive Tour. Below are some samples from our class.

Learning Moments

Though STEAM:Gaia is not a coding class, STEAM:Gaia is a space where student not only build sustainable solutions but also communicate and express their ideas through different mediums. For many Gaia students, they’ve never done programming outside of Hour of Code let alone programming to produce and express their ideas. During this pandemic, I was craving to hear their voices in their tour as they hide behind a block box in zoom muted. This was another avenue for me to actually hear my student talk as they synthesize their information.

If I were to change up this project. I would still keep the Scratch component in because Scratch is a feasible program to learn in a short amount of time. Though it is important for students to learn how to research, I wonder how this project would look if they constructed their own ecosystem and explain how their constructed ecosystem functions. More thoughts on that later.

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