Differentiated Learning via the neighborhood ecosystem (and the IMYC)

Activity 1: Data collection in our neighborhood canal region (I posted about the distraction we had that day).  Students recorded observations on sightings and evidence of living organisms in the forested area banking a canal across the street from our school.

Activity 2: Students constructed energy pyramids of our neighborhood ecosystem and generated an informational brochure on Google Docs that they then linked to the blog post they wrote on the topic.

Activity 3: A brain pop video and a game on making food chains.

Today, using their data from activity #1 and their learning from activity #3, students have been instructed to be thorough in drawing out food chains of our neighborhood ecosystem.  Once again there is instant energy in the classroom.   As I circulate I enjoy the enthusiasm, the focus, and the intensity that surrounds me. 

“Can we turn this into a food web?” a student queries as he holds up a marker that he has lifted from the already burgeoning web on his paper.

One student is holding his food chain poster in front of the camera adjusting the frame to capture the image “just so”. 

Several are further analyzing the data to find additional connections.

“How do I incorporate the decomposers?” a boy questions as he holds up his poster gesticulating how he imagines adding this important piece of information.

Two girls compare food chains to see if they can glean some ideas from each other. 

I survey the nearly completed food chains.  They are all so wonderfully distinct!  Language learners have drawn pictures instead of writing all the names. Left to right.  Top to bottom. Some with bubbles, some with squares, some with just the animal names and arrows. A few students have elected to actually create a food web of the multiple chains.  One student has succeeded in incorporating the decomposers.  The activity in itself has lent itself to differentiation. 

Then they eagerly capture an image of their poster to upload the picture onto their blog.  The posts are written and published.  “Class is over already?” one notes as she looks at the time.  It has flown by for me as well.

The International Middle Year Curriculum (IMYC) claims to be a “challenging, engaging, internationally-minded, concept-focused curriculum designed specifically for the unique learning needs for 11-14 year olds” through “making meaning, connecting learning, and developing minds” (1) My experience with this curriculum is that I have a lot of work to do with regard to creating rubrics, building in the scientific method, and scaffolding.  However, the overall outcome is, indeed, a differentiated, vigorous, and exciting learning experience. Any other IMYC experiences out there?

(1) "What is the IMYC?." The International Middle Years Curriculum. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://www.greatlearning.com/imyc/the-imyc/what-is-imyc>.