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San Diego Bay Field Guide

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Project At A Glance

Jay Vavra, Tom Fehrenbacher

Grade level, subjects:
Biology, Humanities, Mathematics; 11th Grade

Essential questions:
"How can we be better environmental stewards of the San Diego Bay?"

16 weeks

Students conduct an environmental assessment of the fauna along the intertidal zone of San Diego Bay. They publish a comprehensive Field Guide including scientific studies, creative writing, photographs, and histories of human development, industry, environmental measures, mapping and other changes to Bay. Student research is used by environmental agencies and other groups to help evaluate the health of the Bay and devise solutions to improve its ecology.

CA standards/domains:
Biology, U.S. History, American Literature, Pre-Calculus

Along with conventional subject-matter tests, expectations for critical thinking, planning and organization, problem solving, and presentation skills require ongoing project-specific performance evaluations though the use of journals, student reflections, rubrics, process analysis sheets, deadline completion check-offs, and culminating presentations of learning.

About the Author

Dr. Jay Vavra has been a science educator in community colleges and high schools for seven years. He has taught marine science to graduate-student and postdoctoral candidates for the National Science Foundation in Antarctica and for the Office of Naval Research at Catalina Marine Science Center. Dr. Vavra recently joined the Board of Directors of the San Diego Chapter of the Marine Technology Society.  He holds a doctorate from the Marine Biology program at USC.

Tom Fehrenbacher has been teaching English, United States history, government, economics, and social studies for 15 years.  He received his Bachelor's Degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame in 1975 and a Master's Degree in anthropology from San Diego State University in 1985.  He is credentialed in English and social studies with supplementary certifications in Gifted and Talented Education, Language Development Specialist, Language Arts Peer Coach, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs.

Though not an author of this project description, the team's mathematics teacher, Rod Buenviaje, was a partner in the project. Rod has taught mathematics at High Tech High since the school's beginning in 2000, developing projects that integrate mathematics with other subjects and that apply math to real world situations. Last year, in the development of our baseline study of the Boat Channel, Rod assisted in the compilation of the data collected in our biological investigations. In addition, his classes assisted in the Boat Channel study by completing an area map comparing topographical change over time.