What's Bugging You? Project-based Learning with Biology + Art

This is a guest post by educators and VoiceThreaders, Dr. Thom Tomlinson and Ashley Jo Allen.


We are a project-based learning, early college high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. Over the weekend of October 8th our beautiful city received a visit from the knave Hurricane Matthew. Matthew’s flood waters engulfed our school building, turning an award winning building into an uninhabitable wreck. There may be places where people would give up and cry about the unfairness, Vernon Malone College and Career Academy is NOT such a place.

The school district, community college and our business partners worked with our administration to create a plan for continuing our work. The plan resulted in our students being spread out over four different campuses within our county. Dr. Thom Tomlinson, our Honors Biology teacher and current Kenan Fellow, wanted to create a project that engaged and connected our kids, parents, and community during this time of transition. VoiceThread was the perfect tool to capture the oral and visual components of this project in a collaborative manner.  Students typically present their work to an authentic audience of students, teachers, parents, and community members.  VoiceThread provided us with the means to create a presentation from multiple classes and to share the work with students and faculty on all four campuses.

The What’s Bugging You? Project began as a hook to a unit on cell function and structure. Students seemed enthusiastic about the guiding question, “What microbe causes the most terrifying death?” Students researched various horrible manners of death by microbes and selected one for their research and art. Anyone who stopped by class witnessed students 100% engaged in this activity. Near the end of the project, students expressed concern for how they were going to share the work and receive feedback for revision. Silver Hawks learn to value the feedback of other students, the faculty and community partners, and rely on it to complete their final product. VoiceThread was our best option for overcoming geographic separation and allowing students to receive feedback. VoiceThread then became the platform for displaying their creative treatment of the driving question.


About the Authors

Thom Tomlinson, Ph.D. is a science teacher at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy in Raleigh, NC and a current Kenan Fellow. You can follow him on twitter at @tomlinson_thom.

Ashley Jo Allen, M.Ed. is an Instructional Technology Facilitator at Vernon Malone College and Career Academy in Raleigh, NC. Prior to this, she taught high school math and received her National Boards in 2010. Find her on twitter at @ashleyjoallen and you can follow Vernon Malone College and Career Academy here: @vernonmalonecca.