Thursday, September 24, 2009

Which State?

The class: environmental science. The section: climate change.

It's day three of a three-day assignment. For the most part, the students have been on task. At the beginning of each period I tell them that if they get stuck, need help, or need a tie-breaker, I am available. But most of the time, I have to insert myself into the conversation when I hear students having difficulty.

I heard two students debating, so I went to investigate. They were looking at a map. The caption read: "As sea level rises, shorelines could shift inland many miles." The question: "Which two states would lose the most area if sea level were to rise by 3 m?"

The map had shaded area that would be under water if the sea level were to rise. Unfortunately, the map did not have any states labeled.

One student wanted to write Miami. The other student pointed out that Miami is not a state. This is where I entered the conversation. I agreed that Miami is not a state.

The one student had written Miami and New Orleans. He knew that Miami was in Florida, but he did not know which state New Orleans was in. Once I hinted that the name started with an L, he got it.

Now I was curious how the rest of the class tackled this question (as no one else had asked me for help). I found some interesting answers. For those that got it right, I had all sorts of interesting spellings of Louisiana. Florida they could spell. I got Florida and New Orleans. I got Miami and Houston. And I also got the United States and Mexico. Huh?

I don't think that they're stupid, necessarily. I think many just rushed through the assignment. For most frequently, that question was just skipped.

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