During a science symposium Tuesday, Nov. 7, students in Kelly DiNatale’s Marine Biology class at Broadalbin-Perth Middle School presented their research on a variety of ocean threats, including coral reef destruction, overfishing, oil spills and acidification. The symposium was the culmination of the 10-week student-led elective course, which is new this school year.
According to BPMS Principal Wayne Bell, middle school students don’t have a lot of opportunity to take elective courses because so many courses are mandated by New York state. However, the school can squeeze 10-week courses – including Marine Biology and Outdoor Life, which is also new this year – into students’ schedules while also making sure students are taking the required courses.
The 10-week Marine Biology course, which is open to eighth-graders, invites students to take control of their own learning. For example, two weeks before the science symposium, DiNatale presented students with the theme of “ocean threats” and then let the students decide what topics they wanted to research and present.
“This is a self-motivating, self-directed class,” DiNatale said. “There have been times when the bell has rung and I’ve had to push them out the door. They have surpassed my expectations.”
A new group of eighth-graders will have the opportunity to take Marine Biology during the second quarter.