Selecting the Research Community Topics

In thinking about how to foster and manage classroom research, we found it useful to look at how professional scientific research is organized. It is, in fact, conducted in the context of loosely defined research communities. Scientists may work on a project individually or in a small group, but they are in contact with many others at their own and other sites who are interested in similar issues and who share a common knowledge base. These colleagues provide ideas, stimulation, and critical feedback and relate a scientist's work to a broader context. 5C5E adopted the research community model because it reflects how scientists actually work and because it is an extremely effective strategy for developing and managing a classroom full of researchers.

The basic organization and philosophy of the research communities, as well as the specific science content, is based on what we have learned from two cycles of 5C5E Scholars, plus our later, shorter programs. Each 5C5E Community included 20 participating teachers and two leaders, one college faculty member, whose area of research became the focus of the Community, and one school faculty member, who was an expert in science teaching. In the shorter programs we found that 15 was the upper limit to the number of participants in each community.

The selection of the college faculty, which is described in detail in the section Recruiting the Teaching Staff, will determine the general topics of the Research Communities. However, it is useful to have some criteria for the research topics before you begin recruiting the faculty. Each Research Community topic selected should:

It is also important to select topics which encourage students to go outside but do not require students to leave the school grounds for extended periods of time - data collection must be easy and safe. Here in New England, many of our stream and pond projects simply close down (actually freeze over) for the winter.

We have included a detailed decription of our three Research Community topics. Your topics will vary with the expertise of teaching faculty and local interests.