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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Constructivist Study of Middle School Students’ Narratives and Ecological Illustrations


Using participant observation, we describe/interpret the results of teaching a constructivist unit that empowered students in narrative writing and illustration. Participant observation methods included daily note taking, pre-post questioning, and photographing artworks. We analyzed students’ stories and illustrations with borrowed and emerging categories and included students’ criteria from their final peer assessment called Critter Critique. Findings suggest they have misconceptions about the desert (an ugly place or has triangular shaped mountains). When narrating, students showed propensity to use first person narration and humor. They are fascinated with the predator/prey theme and snakes are their dominant desert creatures. When illustrating, some students used expression/projection; all used three or more spatial grounds; and many drew tiny details and secret places. Educators need to discuss with students life cycles in the desert, essential issues such as survival, their place in the preservation of this delicate and quickly disappearing wilderness, and the reasons why they should take care of the desert and its animals.

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