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What Will Keep the Fish Alive? Exploring Intersections of Designing, Making, and Inquiry Among Middle School Learners

Abstract

"We can see why educators are drawn to making; maker environments hold tremendous potential for engaging learners in both (a) building and representing their knowledge and (b) fostering opportunities for seeing the world in new ways. This potential reflects what our team of middle school teachers, university professors, and graduate students observed during a year-long project in which students built aquaponic systems while simultaneously asking questions about food, food systems, and sustainability. Their systems took a variety of forms, supporting everything from bluegill to aquatic frogs and growing a variety of flowers and vegetables. However, together we all also experienced struggle and moments of doubt. How much guidance is enough? Too much? How do we build knowledge and not just 'do projects'? How do we connect the doing and the building with our community? With the world? And, perhaps most practically, how do we fix what we just messed up?"

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