Project-Based Science

Grades 7–8
St. Mary School
Gilroy, CA

Major Objectives

  • Enable students to explain how all organisms, including humans, depend upon and affect their environment
  • Empower students to utilize scientific practices and understand the dynamic nature of science


Students began with a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium focusing on how organisms interact with their habitats. They then participated in a citizen science project called LIMPETS Rocky Intertidal Monitoring Program in which participants are trained to survey key invertebrate and algal species at established monitoring sites along the coast of California. All data is entered into the LIMPETS online database, which students can access to analyze and interpret their own data and data from other groups, including data from prior years by students in their own school. Students learn the purpose and value of using protocols, and contribute to a long-term monitoring project where the data they collect is used by scientists to monitor the health of California beaches. 

After this field investigation, students observed a model of our watershed and discussed how water from our school may get to the Monterey Bay. Students then read about factors that may contribute to the health of local creeks and determined what they wanted to investigate in their local waterway, Uvas Creek. The class developed, tested and revised their own testing protocols, which included water testing and comparing plant and insect biodiversity in areas populated with invasive eucalyptus trees to those under native live oaks and treeless, grassy areas. Students continue to participate in the LIMPETS Rocky Intertidal and sand crab monitoring activities using prior years' experience and data to make predictions, collect additional data and analyze and interpret that data. Students construct their own explanations and share with the class through discussions and other activities, using peer feedback to revise their explanations.

Notes from the Field

"Project-based science is a process for both the teacher and the students. None of us have the skills to pull it off seamlessly the first time. Give the process time and I promise you will be delighted with the results."