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October 8, 2014
by: Rachel Gunderson

Service Learning through Science

The Mosaic School’s Science course, Systems, begins with us starting the year off with a focus on Organization of Living Things. Students are already questioning the interactions between the many biotic and abiotic things around us. In preparation for a project where students create a better environment for living things, we are asking the question “What can cause a disruption in a system of living things?”  Researching and interacting with invasive species of Wisconsin is a local, tangible way to explore this question.

The Mosaic students started their exploration by generating and discussing the questions they have about invasive plants of Wisconsin: Where does the plant came from? How it was introduced to our area?  What does it need to survive? Is the plant useful for anything? What can remove the plant? What are the dimensions of the plant? How does it spread? What specifically does it do to affect other plants and animals? Can they be relocated instead of killed? When did this start?

One way that Mosaic students pursue these questions is through authentic interactions with the topic. Last week we connected our classroom questions with real invasive plants in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. In this service learning experience students acted as conservationists as they removed invasive Honeysuckle from the grounds of Mauthe Lake and Long Lake Recreation Areas. Flags that marked the bushes drove our competition to pulling over 120 plants over two days. The learning, however, came from our discussion about the power of place and the damaging effect of this plant, our analysis of how well small groups collaborated, and our questions and answers with the Naturalist from the State Forest.

Upon reflection, the students gathered their thoughts to provide feedback about being in a different place and physically removing invasive species. Students also reflected on how they will use their experience to enhance their writing about a different invasive plant. One student making connections wrote, “I think I will use the environment we were in to create a comparison to the environment my plant lives it”. Another student refers to how we were apart of the control method and wrote, “I may be able to use my experience with the honeysuckle with it comes to the control section of the paragraph and whether they are controlled the same or not”. This student describes the visual power, “ I now know what it looks like when a plant takes over.”  As we move forward, students will select one of Wisconsin’s invasive plants to research. And as students write their research papers, I will be challenging them to connect their experience in the Kettle Moraine to their selected invasive species.

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