by Elizabeth Harrison, Science Team Leader
All students in grade 11 participate in an annual collaborative group project utilizing the sciences called the Group 4 Project. The name comes from the sciences being categorized as Group 4 in the IB curriculum. At YIS, we offer Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Environmental Systems and Societies. According to the IB, the project is meant to "develop an understanding of the relationships between scientific disciplines and their influence on other areas of knowledge". Additionally, "the group 4 project allows students to appreciate the environmental, social and ethical implications of science and technology". This year, the project linked the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Growth and Sustainability Key Focus Area of our school's Strategic Plan to provide context and application for the students' work. The project addressed the question: How can we use scientific data to understand and address global goals?
Working from the premise that it is our collective responsibility to work towards a better world, and towards the targets set by the UN in Agenda 2030, we need an educated, aware global citizenry that can use data to recognize and address issues with effective strategies and techniques. The grade 11 students worked together in interdisciplinary teams to collect and analyze data in a park in Yokohama. We spent two days focussing on the scientific skills of collecting and recording relevant, valuable, and accurate data but also on collaboration and how to work effectively in teams. One of the key learning opportunities was for students to discover how much effort it takes to collect first-hand data and to analyze messy and disparate information. The students commented on how it was difficult to get scientists from different disciplines to understand the different measurement and collection techniques and how it required principles and persistence to collect accurate values with care.
The time limits for analysis and processing of the data were short, and there was pressure to produce a clear, pithy conclusion that could lead to an overall understanding of diversity, conditions and materials across the park. Students saw first-hand how choosing parts of the data to emphasize could affect opinions and lead to different conclusions. In the current global news climate where facts are not always clearly represented and we need to insist on verifying ideas represented in sound bites and short clips, students were able to see how their own hours of work could be reduced to short sentences, and to reflect on the impact of this.
Our strategic plan's key focus area of Growth and Sustainability states that student learning will improve when we act as responsible stewards of our environment. The grade 11 students have had a valuable chance to learn how science can and does contribute to our understanding of our environment and to our reaching the UN SDG goals.