Eco-regions of Texas Student-Led Conference

This time of year many teachers fall back on web quests, worksheets, and book work. Standardized testing is over and students feel like the pressure if off, like they can sit back and go unchallenged for the last three weeks. I beg to differ. Texas eco-regions is not one of their favorite subjects nor mine to be honest. I hail from California and learning about the geography and topography of Texas to me at least, is a dry subject. Pun intended. Texas being a large plain and desert region, for the most part, we are a very very large state. Last year as a team we had them color giant maps of Texas and create travel brochures, a glorified book report. The students thought it was boring, I thought it was too. It was a very mundane last few weeks of school. I wanted this year to be different. This year I have found my voice and stepped away from my team on a lot of lessons. This included.

Last Wednesday I showed a 4 minute video that summed up all of the eco-regions of Texas brief descriptions- quick being key. Then I asked two questions: Which one sounds the most exciting to you- where would you like to live other than Houston if you could? and How are these eco-regions unique? We talked for about twenty minutes. The conversation was awesome and they had a lot to say as most of them have traveled around Texas and lived here for awhile. They may not have been familiar with the eco-regions themselves but they knew where the major cities were and the climates etc. Then I had them draw a region from a hat. Each pair or group of three got a different region. Then I said: "I am an investor with a lot of money. I want a place in Texas to invest and build not only a company but a home for my family. "Sell" me your region. Tell me the outdoor activities, the environment characteristics, tourism attractions etc. How much rainfall, safety and weather concerns etc. Make me want to invest there."

The team who convinces me through a great presentation and "pitch" gets the prize- a king sized candy bar. One winner per class. This got them motivated really fast. I provided laptops and I-pads and off they went, researching, drawing, they even made name placards for their desks. No poster or visual required, but recommended to create a better "pitch." They had two full class periods to complete. Then today I put all my tables in a giant circle facing each other and each region took a spot, placard up, posters attached to the front of the table. Each eco-region had 3-4 minutes to "pitch" me their region. Some were fantastic, others lack luster but every group, GT, PreAP, and ACA all had a presentation prepared and practiced by today, and did their best to convince me to invest in their eco-region. It was so fun to hear them and see the other students strategize how they can convince me theirs is better. On Wednesday, tomorrow we have a guest speaker, they are going to have 30 minutes to debate one another and convince me they deserve to win the "bid." They have to do this using data collected from the presentations. Hard evidence to counter one another. Then I will choose the one I feel has the best to offer.

I can't believe how much fun this lesson has been. The engagement has been high and they are very motivated- candy will do that for anybody. But a lesson of patience, listening, selling and justifying has occurred and I know unlike last years project, this one they will remember.

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