The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 27, 2000


Eighth-grade research: an integrated learning project

This year, eighth-graders in Carlisle will be researching ecological problems in a project that combines science, math, history, language arts and culminates in written reports and oral presentations at the Eco-Fair in June.

Eighth-grade teachers Rob Quaden, Jim Trierweiler and Paula Ewers presented the curriculum at the Carlisle School Committee meeting on October 17. Quaden explained that the eighth-grade research paper used to be a component of only the English class. The teaching team wanted to do something different that would incorporate the use of systems thinking and all of the disciplines. Over the past four years, they have developed the ecology research paper as a way to integrate skills from multiple disciplines into one project that also has a connection to the real world.

Trierweiler helps the students choose a topic that is a real-life problem. He encourages research on local topics, such as groundwater contamination, but said that some students want to tackle larger issues, such as nuclear waste disposal. A comic strip in the research guide that all eighth-graders receive suggests a research topic should be "not too boring,fairly simple" and something "your teacher knows nothing about." Once they have selected a problem, the students use systems thinking to develop a model, examine all points of view and attempt to solve the problem.

The project is an opportunity for students to incorporate all of the skills they have learned and to learn more, Ewers explained. They write the papers individually, but they also work with a faculty advisor in small groups. She noted that having all of the teachers working as advisors has created the opportunity for them to learn from each other, too. Ewers said she shared outlining and writing skills with the math and science teachers, and they taught systems thinking and science to her.

The research project is also used to introduce eighth-graders to the high school. The class travels to the Concord-Carlisle High School library to do some research so students can become familiar with the library there and see what the high school is like. Once in high school, students are expected to write many research papers, Trierweiler said. In eighth grade, they learn how to write a research paper, with guidance from their advisors, and they keep working on it until they succeed, he concluded.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito