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Project Brainstorming and Mind Mapping In this exercise you will use brainstorming to help you refine your general areas of interest to develop a more specific topic. This is the Identify a Problem part of the first step of the Scientific Method. Brainstorming is a process of spontaneous thinking used by an individual or a group to generate ideas without judgment. Brainstorming is a tool that will help you generate new ideas, as well as help you make connections between different ideas. To get started, think about one or two environmental issues that interest you. These can be topics you learned about on an EnvironMentors field trip, discussed in another class, read about in the newspaper, or are of personal concern to you. Once you have identified an interesting environmental issue, use one of the two brainstorming techniques below to help you develop a specific project topic idea. For both methods, be sure to turn off your “Inner Critic,” the voice inside that tells you something is a bad idea. You should be open to any ideas that come to you. Brainstorming Web • Write your environmental issue in the center of a large piece of paper, and draw a circle around it. • From that center circle, draw lines to connect other ideas that relate to your issue. • Allow one idea to lead to another, keeping them connected. • The web could have several layers, but check back to see how each new idea links back to your original issue. • Keep going until your web runs dry. Sample:

Zoos and Aquariums

Wildlife Protection

Endangered species

Loss of Habitat

Photo Log Digital cameras and/or camera phones can be great tools to help you identify some new things that may interest you about the environment. If you don’t own a digital camera and/camera phone, ask your mentor or Student Coordinator for help. Many times we may see things that we find interesting, but the passing moment happens all too quickly and we easily forget about them. Keeping a visual record of momentary glimpses of a bird, interesting looking tree, building, flower, car, turtle, cloud formation or anything you spot while on field trips or simply out and about in your community can be a great way to help you identify new found environmental interests that you may not have thought about before. Keep a running visual log of things, images, anything you find interesting in your community and environment during the month of October, and use this to help you focus in on your EnvironMentors Project Topic. You can enter any photos you take into the EnvironMentors Photo Contest (see Program Basics Section). Clustering • • • • • •

Write your environmental issue at the top of a large piece of paper. Underneath your issue, begin to write related ideas using only words and short phrases. Use different colored makers/pencils to record different ideas. Use both printing and cursive to indicate which ideas are main thoughts and which are supportive ideas. Don’t focus too much on organization, just keep generating ideas. As ideas start to form, you can cluster them together on your piece of paper, or link them by drawing lines between them.

Water Pollution

What causes water pollution? • • •

Chemicals Pesticides Trash/litter

Effects of water pollution • •

Kills fish and other marine animals Contaminates drinking water

When you have finished brainstorming, take some time to reflect on the ideas you generated. Are there any that are particularly interesting to you? Look for topics that might need further investigation. Choose one of your ideas to use in the next exercise. Adapted from Teaching English Language Arts: Brainstorming (

What You Know The brainstorming exercise helped you to identify an environmental issue you are interested in and feel needs further investigation. This activity will help you generate a Research Question, the Ask a Question part of the first step of the Scientific Method. In the table below, write down the idea you chose at the end of your brainstorming exercise in the space provided. Then make a list of everything you know about that topic. Next, list all the things you think you know (but maybe aren’t sure) about the topic. Finally, write a list of questions you’d like to ask about the topic. From your list of questions, write a draft research question.

Your general topic area:

Things you know about your topic area:

Things you think you know about your topic area:

Questions you would like to ask about your topic area:

Draft Research Question: