Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Using Japanese Lesson Design to Anticipate an Invasion on Maui: Students Study an Invading Ant Species and Learn about Environmental Unity, Evolution, and Integrated Pest Management

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Using Japanese Lesson Design to Anticipate an Invasion on Maui: Students Study an Invading Ant Species and Learn about Environmental Unity, Evolution, and Integrated Pest Management

Article excerpt

Native ant species do not exist on the island of Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Yet there are over 40 species of ants on the island. How did ants get there? Ants do not fly or swim, so they likely arrived on plants shipped to island nurseries or with travelers who did not suspect that they carried aggressive intruders with them.

One ant, the little fire ant (LFA or Wasmannia auropunctata), has recently appeared in the region, being discovered on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1999. Because of its recent arrival, no specialized predators for this ant have evolved in the Hawaiian archipelago (Reimer 1994). As a result, the LFA is a serious impending threat to Pacific biodiversity. On the Big Island, this ant is already so established that eradication is all but impossible. Now, the LFA is literally knocking on Maui's door. So far, the ant has not yet been detected on Maui.

We developed a lesson plan centered on this invading ant problem. We begin by presenting the following challenge to students:

   Today a biological threat is appearing on the island of Maui--the
   little fire ant (LFA), which is about as long as a penny is thick.
   This species is well known for a painful sting, seemingly out of
   proportion to its small size. What is the best way to go about
   preventing the spread of these LFAs?

This is an urgent question because in addition to being a nuisance to humans, there is a wider ecological reason for eradicating these ants. Introduction of LFAs in the Galapagos and Solomon Islands has led to a decrease in local arthropod biodiversity as LFAs both outcompete and prey on the local community. This aggression also contributes to the success of agricultural pest insects.

The invasion of LFAs provides an ideal story problem for a series of lessons designed in the Japanese lesson study (JLS) style. In JLS, a strategy popular in elementary math instruction, a group of teachers design a research lesson. One teacher presents the lesson to learners while the group observes student responses to the lesson. After the lesson, all study teachers convene to discuss and revise the lesson. Finally, another teacher in the group teaches the revised lesson to a new group of learners. This recursive, teacher-directed collaborative technique helps teachers strengthen conceptual and procedural understanding of learners (Chokshi and Fernandez 2004).

One element in the JLS approach is the design of the research lesson, called kenkyujugyo, which means a lesson that is the object of one's study (Fernandez and Yoshida 2004). Unlike a typical U.S. lesson design where the focus may be on solving a problem and coming up with a solution, kenkyujugyo focuses on the process of problem solving. Some students may not end up with a successful solution to a problem, but still benefit and gain conceptual understanding from going through the steps of structured problem solving.

Lesson design based on JLS model

For the class to consider feasible measures to curb the invasion of LFAs, lessons were designed to create interest in the topic and to stimulate creative scientific activity through collaborative work.

Using the Japanese model, our tailored lesson style includes five sections:

* Reviewing: Hatsumon

* Stating the problem and investigation: Shu Hatsumon

* Consensus building: Neriage

* Emphasis on blackboard practice: Bansho

* Summarizing: Matome (Andersen et al. 2003)

After presenting the challenge to students, a typical lesson then starts with a review meant to provide connections and cohesion between the learner's prior knowledge, former lessons, and the current topic. This phase emphasizes patterns and relationships between scientific concepts and the authentic problem under study. Scientific concepts are connected from lesson to lesson and ideas are built off one another. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.