Search NOVA Teachers

Back to Teachers Home

Arctic Passage

Ideas from Teachers

(Gr. 6-8)
To create a single model to support individual learning projects across three grade levels.

Walter Reed Middle School students have routinely been assigned individual research projects, frequently associated with Earth science in 6th grade, biographical study in 7th grade, and topical news event in 8th grade, progressing each year in presentation models that include written research report, visual presentation, and student-driven assessment or response. The Franklin Arctic Expedition, supported by outstanding materials from NOVA, provided my most successful interactive research project model to support all three grade-level individual student learning projects. I wanted, specifically, to broaden the topics from traditional volcanoes, presidents or rock stars, and Hurricane Katrina.


Day 1: Introduce individual research project requirements: supported topic of interest; research from primary and secondary sources including Internet, print, and in-person sources; written research paper describing topic with evidence and demonstrating applicable interest; visual support for topic; oral presentation of project with student-involved assessment. Brainstorm student ideas for topics.

Day 2: Librarian presentation of 'how-to' with oral introduction to Franklin Arctic Expedition.

Day 3: Commitment to topic, library survey of available information, note card demonstration.

Day 4: Show "Prisoners of the Ice" followed by discussion of the original expedition, varying interest over time, current interest today, including Dan Simmons' "The Terror", visual time-line of searches, specific to grade-level interest.

Day 5: Model of using maps as visual by tracking Franklin Expedition, creating a calendar of student completion time-lines, independent work.

Day 6: NOVA Web site interactive with teacher-provided road map, allowing students to explore supporting visuals, primary sources, and igloo assessment.

Day 7: Small group read-around of notes, plans, progress, and suggestions.

Day 8: First draft written report with resource page and assessment; visual plan due.

Day 9: Final completed drafts with visuals due; oral reports begin.

Assessment is based on a rubric provided and explained the first day:

Written report—50 points overall (15 sufficient research in three areas with note cards, 20 organization, writing structure including syntax and why reader should care, 5 points for spelling and grammar, 5 points for research page, 5 points for neatness)

Visual presentation—20 points (10 points support for written project, 5 points for originality, 5 points for clarity)

Oral presentation—20 point (10 points for clarity and completeness, 5 points integrating visual presentation, 3 points for time, 2 points for questions)

Assessment—10 points (6 points for covering topic, 4 points for accessibility for all learners)

Classroom Tips
The Independent Learning Project is intended to build independent skills in reading, writing, oral, and visual presentation of materials, research techniques, source material through guided instruction. By presenting NOVA's excellent resources on the Franklin Expedition, the students were able to see how a seemingly obscure topic (19th century Arctic exploration of a Northwest Passage) comes alive and its impact for today. Global warming was immediately brought up by students wanting to know if there IS a NW waterway today. Seeing the lost explorers artifacts drew students to look at their possible legacies. Abilities of the native Inuit brought out past knowledge of other cultures, including students' own families. Interactive reading and listening, along with the igloo assessment, encouraged use of technology as a visual and assessment tool. Student topics became much more personal, I believe, because the Franklin Arctic Expedition model was such a personal story.

Sent in by
Deborah Coltun
Walter Reed Middle School
North Hollywood, CA

Teacher's Guide
Arctic Passage

Support provided by