biobugs book photoProject-based learning is defined by Jay McTigh (Buck institute of Learning) as when “Students work on a project over an extended period of time – from week up to a semester – that engages them in solving a real-world problem or answering a complex question”. This semester, ib biology juniors applied themselves to the specific challenge of creating a field guide to the flora and fauna of Rio state. A biological field guide contains real photographs, taken by the author, and detailed classification according to the established rules of taxonomy (putting living things in groups).

this means that no google imaging was allowed. Students had to organize themselves to get out there, and discover some and photograph living species. There were thirteen major taxonomic groups the juniors were asked to find, three of them exclusively aquatic. Many of them are difficult to classify, and require detailed observations, followed by critical thinking.

Each group also decided to specialize in a certain taxa (group of animals or plants). Choices ranged from wild orchids, to the domestic dogs of Rio (apparently the phylogeny of dog breeds in Rio is quite fascinating. For example, that Yorkshire terrier on the beach at Leblon is actually a modified sub-species of grey wolf; Canis lupus domesticus.

The end result of the projects gave testimony to the high levels of engagement of this extraordinary generation of EARJ students. Videos of reptiles crawling into the sand dunes at Prainha, colourful powerpoints of arthropods collected from the walls of the EARJ buildings itself, and even a coffee table book; formed part of a powerful set of work that can be viewed below.