International Student Collaborations – The Cubic Foot Project

Banyan Global Learning just facilitated another fantastic international student collaboration for Tsai Hsing School.  This month’s project was with the Menlo School in California, with whom we’ve planned several international student collaborations this year.

The first of these is the Cubic Foot Project, an idea that was hatched on an illuminating Menlo campus visit in September ’12.  There we found Menlo students to be thoughtful and caring, the staff to be motivated and innovative, the philosophy to be tangibly progressive, and the tech department to be well-funded and filled with supremely capable teacher geeks.  We feel truly honored to work with them.

This report is from BGL’s Teacher Steve:

Teacher Steve teaching via Distance Learning.

Teacher Steve teaching via Distance Learning.

The goal of the collaboration project was to have two classes on opposite sides of the globe answer the same scientific essential question: What kind of life can we find in a cubic foot of earth from our campus?

Each class was split into seven groups and each group was assigned to a partner group from the other school.  Each group then made a short introductory video and posted it to the project’s Edmodo page.  Edmodo has a format that is similar to FaceBook and is therefore a comfortable setting for students to have organic conversations.  This method of introduction was both easy to accomplish and a great way to break the ice.

Menlo & Tsai Hsing's Edmodo Page

Menlo & Tsai Hsing’s Edmodo Page after the experiment.

On to the experiment.  This being science, the students needed to follow the same procedures and control as many variables as possible.  The Tsai Hsing students first came up with a list of procedures that they thought could be used to answer the essential question.  These procedures were posted on Edmodo, at which point the Menlo students discussed the proposals, edited them, and sent them back to Tsai Hsing for final approval.

The final procedures were as follows:
1 – Find a place on campus.
2 – Record characteristics of place including the soil temperature, air temperature, moisture level of the soil, air humidity and the distribution of the trees. Use the following tools: shovel, plastic bag, cut plastic bottle, aluminum foil, wire net, light bulb, water pipe, microscope, and iPad.
3 – Measure one square foot with a ruler and dig down one foot with a shovel to get a full cubic foot of dirt.
4 – Transport the cubic foot of dirt in a plastic bucket to Biology classroom.
5 – Insert the dirt into a Burlese funnel to separate the organisms from the dirt. Run the funnel for 2 days before collecting the samples.

Burlese funnel

Burlese funnel

6 – Post a video of steps 1 through 6.
7 – With the help of teachers, classify the organisms. Post pictures and information on Edmodo as we go.
8 – Post a video of Step 7 once it is complete.

As students followed the procedure at their respective campuses they also posted results on Edmodo.  Each post consisted of a picture of the insect, the scientific name of the insect, one comment and one question for the partner group to answer.  Students on both ends then went through the posts, answered questions and commented about the similarities and differences between their findings.

Each small group then did a final reflection video answering the following four questions:
What was exciting about the collaboration?  What was difficult about it?  How did it feel knowing that students in another country were doing the same project with you?  What would you do differently next time?

Then, finally, they met.  The two schools got together for a town-hall style meeting via video teleconferencing (FaceTime). Each class asked and answered five prepared questions.  The students were nervously excited to share their conclusions about the experiment and even more so to ask more get-to-know-you questions of their new friends.  When they discovered a shared interest in dub step pop music, an impromptu dance party broke out at the end of the meeting.  It was truly an amazing thing to watch!

One student summed it up best when she said, “I felt amazed that we could learn about each other’s countries without searching the Internet or leaving the classroom. It was so cool to see people from across the world work on the same project with us.”

We look forward to continuing to facilitate these collaborations with Menlo and other schools.  If you are interested in a collaboration with Tsai Hsing or another school, please visit our international student collaboration LinkedIn group or

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