Special Guest Blogger, Andrew Bigelow – Instructional Coach

How do you start primary and become extraordinary?  This is the project title and driving question that DeKalb New Tech WorldBio students have been addressing for the past four weeks.  In order to attack this question students were tasked with two key benchmarks during the project.  The first included an impressive integration of Biology and World Geography content as students first identified a megacity (over 10 million in population) from around the world.  With their megacity chosen, students were then challenged to create analogies relating 17 organelles and parts of a cell to various parts of their megacity.  Did you know that the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro is the mitochondria of the cell in that it acts as the cell powerhouse involved in all things energy?  How about in London where the Queen acts as the cytoskeleton that provides a shape and structure for the cell?  What about Buckingham Palace serving as the nucleus of London as a monument to government recognized around the world?  These are just a few of the many analogies created by students as they fused both Biology and Geography content into an engaging opening benchmark.  As a student who loved Social Studies but not so much Science, I could not help but think that I would have enjoyed my experience much more through an engaging content integration such as this during my own high school experience!  

As if students were not busy enough with their cell megacities, benchmark two challenged students to participate in the creation of a DeKalb County placebook focused on “trends” and “tributes.”  Students were first invited to a think tank attended by 14 community members  with extensive insight into the history and people that molded DeKalb County.  Using GIS software, students created presentations ranging from music venues, places to eat, wifi hotspots, and even Poke stops throughout DeKalb County.  Tributes to DeKalb County highlighted the contributions and lives of Gordon Buehrig and EL Cord.  The GIS maps created by WorldBio students will become a placebook for DeKalb County that can be housed for future individuals to learn more about the history of and what DeKalb County has to offer on the journey to “Starting Primary and Becoming Extraordinary.”

The final presentations were made at Eckhart Public Library before community members and representatives from the original project think tank.  Throughout the presentations students referenced the project title and driving question to “Start Primary and Become Extraordinary” multiple times as they showcased their learning of megacities, GIS software, and DeKalb County.   Some students hinted at a new interest into possible future work with GIS and career options while others appreciated the challenge of relating cell organelles to parts of a megacity.  These takeaways for students will undoubtedly provide enduring understandings for years to come made possible through this authentic and unique project based learning experience.  As one community partner mentioned at the final presentations “Geography offers a way to tell a story.”  This time that story included the history of DeKalb County, megacities around the world, and cell structure in a way that will be useful far beyond the last four weeks of study.