Posts tagged ‘Science’

Think Like Scientists: Can You Balance An Egg on Its End?

“Great discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds. I may be given credit for having blazed the trail, but when I look at the subsequent developments I feel the credit is due to others rather than to myself.” Alexander Graham Bell

Guest Blog Post by Wayne Fisher, Elementary Science Specialist

There is an urban myth that the only day you can balance an egg on its end is during the spring equinox, which happened to be March 20th at 12:57 pm. Is that true and how can we know?   Here’s how:
Use the CL-EV-R model to engage your students in an activity where they try to balance a egg on its end.   CL-EV-R stands for Claims, Evidence, and Reasons and is a wonderful teaching and learning strategy to support argumentation in the Common Core as well as learning in science.
The short version of CL-EV-R is for students to make a Claim, gather EVidence to support the claim, and explain their Reasoning for why the evidence supports or does not support the claim.

CLEVER

Below is a 5E Lesson Plan: Can You Balance An Egg on Its End?
ENGAGE
For this activity, I suggest using a dozen eggs, one egg per group of 2-3 students. Explain to the students that you have heard that it is possible to balance an egg on its end only on certain days such as the Spring Equinox. Ask them to pair-share what they think about that statement (or claim). Ask them to talk about evidence they can gather to prove or disprove the claim. The response you are looking for is “let’s just try it today!”
EXPLORE
Hand out one egg per team of students, or even one egg per student. Have paper towels handy for that one egg that will roll off the table or desk and needs to be cleaned up!  Use the opportunity to talk about the effects of gravity! Allow students to try to balance their eggs.   Note – for every dozen eggs, about 25% will balance! Be prepared for the “ah-ah!” experiences students will have when several of them do balance their eggs! Record student results in a t-chart.  You may want to ask students to predict how many eggs out of a dozen will balance and how many will not.
EXPLAIN
Look at the class data.  How many eggs were students able to balance?  How does that compare to the student predictions? Why do some eggs balance and others do not?   (There is a reason that you can read about on-line). What does the evidence tell us about the claim that you can only balance eggs on the Spring Equinox?
EXTEND
Does it make a difference if the eggs are raw or hard-cooked?
Would we get similar results for duck, quail, or other types of eggs?  How about an ostrich egg?
Is it possible to balance an egg on its pointy end?  (I have been able to do that only once in the last 1472 eggs I have tested!)
If you freeze the egg would it be easier or harder to balance?
Challenge students to do the same activity with their parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc!  Take a picture and share! Include this activity as part of your school’s STEM Night of Science and Math Night. Gather other questions from the students.
EVALUATE
Take a picture of your students doing this activity and share on your school’s website.
In this lesson students are using all the 21st century skills. To integrate technology seamlessly into the lesson, you can have the students blog about the experience, create a presentation demonstrating their results such as using EduGlogster or creating a poll (poll everywhere or Google Forms) to gather the results from the class.

Let the Games Begin…Ecosystem Competition Lesson Plan

“Provide an uncommon experience for your students and they will reward you with an uncommon effort and attitude.” By Dave Burgess

I was recently asked about a Science lesson plan that I had presented on in the past called, Competition and I realized that I have never blogged about this lesson before. So I revamped and updated it to meet NC Essential Standards, Common Core, 21st Century Skills and added some Pirate elements. (If you are not sure what Pirate Elements are you need to read, Teach Like a Pirate and follow #TLAP on Twitter) This lesson plan is over a few days if you only teach science 45 mins a day, but can also be taught in a day depending on your schedule and flexibility at your school.

My Class in 2009-10 After the Lesson

Title:  “Let the Games Begin…” (For my TLAP Fans….doesn’t that sound so much better, then Competition) I would have this written on the board to help hook them.

NC Essential Standard: 5.L.2  Understand the interdependence of plants and animals with their ecosystem.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

Objectives:

–  Students will be able to give at least two examples of competition that takes place in a real world ecosystem through activity.

–  Students will be able to explain how and why competition takes place in ecosystems through activity.

– Students will  be able to explain ‘How can change in one part of an ecosystem affect change in other parts of the ecosystem?’

Materials:

Fruit Loops (or store brand)

Tape

Markers

Baggies (1 per student)

(Before activity the teacher will (TTW) need to spread fruit loops in a designated coned off area to represent an ecosystem outside area is ideal and more authentic)

Day 1: Engage/HOOK (#TLAP: I like to move it, move it”)

The students will review key vocab words such as food chain, food web, prey, herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, Predator, scavenger, procedures, consumers, decomposers by using ‘I have, who has game’ as TTW facilitate.

Exploration: ( I had this as a SmartNotebook File)

– TTW ask the students to choose an animal they want to be (deer, rabbit, fox, turkey buzzard, elk- without letting them know what the activity is) and write it on a piece of tape and put it on their shirt. [ Deer- Herbivore, Rabbit-Herbivore, Fox- Omnivore, Turkey Buzzard Carnivore]

– TTW explain they will be going outside in an area that is marked off as an ecosystem. There will be fruit loops on the ground.

– TS job is to collect fruit loops. When they are finished collecting fruit loops they need to leave the ecosystem. (Don’t time this, some students will collect a lot, while others will collect only a few and stop and some will only collect a certain color based on preference and that is okay)

– When the students are down, have them return to the coned off area of the ecosystem, they will need to sort their fruit loops in piles according to color. (Give them a few minutes to organize their fruit loops – I like doing this activity outside because it gets students in a different environment, moving and outside)

– The teacher will reveal what each color represents: (I usually bring out a chart paper and be Vanna White – Usually most don’t know how that is so it becomes a teachable moment 😉

Green: plants                                                  Blue: Water

Red: Predator Meat                                     Yellow: Shelter

Orange: Scavenger Meat                            Purple: Pollution

– TTW announce: Let the games begin….who will survive in this Ecosystems

– TTW explain if you are an elk, deer or rabbit you need to take away (put back in their baggies) the red and orange (meats) because you are a herbivore and these resource is not useful to you.

– TTW explain if you are a buzzard you need to take away green (plants). TTW also explain that if you are a buzzard you need to take away red as they are scavengers.

– At this point, “the game” really begins of who stays alive because now you make up situation such as the ones below.

– TTW say “For every purple (pollution) you have – it takes away one water or food source as it contaminates it. (Some may “die” at this point and they should go to the corner of the room.)

– TTW then say, “You need to have 5 waters, 5 food source, 5 shelters to survive the first round.” Those who “die” from not having enough resources go to one corner of the room. Everyone else puts the fruit loops they used in the baggies because those are used resources.

– TTW say to the ones alive, “You now need 4 water, 4 food source, 4 shelters.”  A few more will “die”.

– TTW then say, “The buzzards can take 5 food sources from someone next to them that is ‘dead’.” (This is because they would have more food sources if things die off because they are scavengers)

– TTW then say, “You know need 4 water, 4 food source, 4 shelters.”  A few more will “die”.

– This will go on until you have a few left or even just one. The process will show how competition between animals affects an ecosystem.

Day 2: Explanation:

Think-pair-share In their science notebooks, the students will “think” about what this activity represents and why. TTW explain that the students will work with their partner (pair) to determine how it works and be able to explain competition using the terms. Each group will select a spokesperson to explain their group’s explanation as to why this represents competition. (Share)

In groups, students will critically think about the essential question:  How can change in one part of an ecosystem affect change in other parts of the ecosystem?

The students will  research, collaborate and create a presentation of their choice to demonstrate the mastery of the essential question.

Teacher Notes:

– Competition between organisms exists in every ecosystem. Organisms are forced to compete against their own species and also different species in order to survive. The stronger and fit organisms have an advantage over those who are weaker, and they have a better chance of surviving.

– Competition between the same species is called intraspecific competition. Many birds of the same species compete for the best nesting grounds. In cases when food or water is scarce, members of the same species will compete for food in order to survive.

– Competition between different species is called interspecific competition. Different species often compete for space, food, or water. For example the lion and the hyena both compete for zebra.

Day 3: Elaboration/Reflection:

The groups will present their knowledge to the class.

Evaluation: For the exit slip I have students communicate their mastery individually to see what they have retained themselves. I do exit slip questions many ways see this blog post.

Exit Slip Questions: How does competition affect an ecosystem? Explain.

Answer: Competition is when two or more organisms seek the same resource at the same time and they fight for the food/living space/and other resources they need to survive. It affects the ecosystem because of how the resources and organisms interact.

I hope you can use this lesson in your classroom, or a modification of it.

Bridging Coding and Common Core with Tynker

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” by  Michael J. Gelb

Tynker is a great new  FREE web tool designed to teach students computational thinking and coding skills. It is similar to Scratch but you don’t need to download and it works on multiple browsers which is great for schools that are bring your own technology (BYOT). It is easy to set up a class and only takes minutes.

What I like most about Tynker is it balances the left and right side of the brain while using 21st century skills. The students have to critically think about the challenge that you give them, collaborate with others and create using coding skills. Below you can see a screen shot of what is shown in Tynker once you have completed one. My challenge to myself,  so I could help learn coding, was to have at least 1 actor, 2 costume changes and a background.

tynker

You can give your students challenges that are similar or you can have them use certain coding blocks such as you must have 2 ‘if, then’ statements or you must use 1 coordinate grid code. You can also have them use different coding block themes for a challenge such as 3 events, 1 flow, 2 motions, 2 stage changes. You can also use it to help differentiate because you can assign different challenges to different students.

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 10.12.25 AM

Below the students challenge was a little different, the students had to reinvent the game ‘Pong’ so they could play it. There is a backpack button in the top right corner that also lets you store coding blocks so you can ‘favorite’ ones you like to use a lot or if you want to ‘steal’ someone else’s coding block to learn how to do it, you can. The possibilities are endless with Tynker and the students are having fun, problem solving and using many of the common core skills such as computation, angles, coordinate grids, physics, digital story telling, cause and effect and if, then statements and much more.

Gaming Image

You can create lesson plans inside Tynker along with using ones that are already created for you. You can also view other’s Tynler projects to gain ideas about how you want to use it in your classroom. When visiting schools recently, I have watched 3rd graders recreate the ‘mouse trap’ game. Fifth graders created interactive ebooks that explained force and motion. While in a 6th grade classroom, their challenge was to create a 1 min screen that had to sync 5 actors with music to the Harlem Shake.

Here you can see how Common Core 3.NBT is met with this project that is in the lesson plan section.

Math

I would love to hear how other educators are using Tynker in the classroom. Please share in the comment section. Below are some other articles about Tynker that have been in the news that also have great examples of how it can be used in the classroom.

Code Alert: Tynker Wants to Teach Your Child to Tinker With Tech

From Animated Animals to Algorithmic Art

Check Out This Learn-To-Code Platform Just for Kids

Girls and Science

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. Ralph Waldo Emerson

This week I was able to go into a lot of classrooms and teach science. It was magnificent seeing so many students having fun with science. They saying things like, “Science is awesome,” and “Science is my favorite subject”. These students had true smiles on their faces and enjoying learning which is every teachers dream.

But I was thrown off guard when a little girl wasn’t having a lot of fun. Of course I zoomed in on her and her giraffe. (Students were making giraffes out of clay to show how we need bones, as the clay wouldn’t stay up without bones. They would then add “bones” by adding toothpicks so the giraffes would stay up.) “Wow, I love your giraffe! Isn’t science fun, I love science,” I said enthusiastically as I watched her write her observations into her science journal. Her unpredictable response was, “Its okay, girls can’t really do science.” I was stunned. Who thought like this in the 21st century? Girls can do anything, forget that, no matter who you are you can do anything that you put your mind too. Of course, I got defensive to this little third grader and said a string of things such as, “Girls can be scientists, look at me, I am a girl and a scientist. Look at your classmates, they are all scientists. Anyone can be scientists.” She looked at me like I had ten heads and didn’t respond, not even a smile. I sadly, walked away and helped a few students that were calling me. Science was over so I left the classroom as they moved onto math but I continued to think about this little girls comment. How many other girls, still though like this? I knew this was a problem when I first started teaching but I really though that we had got past this stereotype.

Let’s flashback to me in high school, I HATED science. I thought it was a waste of time. I could care less about where rocks came from or what cloud type was in the sky. I didn’t think girls should do science. Not until college did I think science was okay and that girls could do it because it was my first real exposure to a female scientist. Then I was forced to really learn science due to the fact it became a “tested” subject. (Wow, look at that, something good came out of testing!) I took every class I could possibly take to learn the curriculum. It wasn’t until I took a graduate class on ‘Teaching Science in Elementary School’ that made me realize, I really liked science.

My first year, I taught science and I always heard girls say, “Science isn’t something that girls should do. Or Science is hard.” This is when my passion for science kicked in. I was determined to change these girl’s minds and get them to realize they could do anything. I started teaching Camp Invention and making sure I taught hands-on science all the time.

I became an advocate for science and inquiry learning. I needed to get other teachers on board. I started small by teaching teachers how to use science notebooking and getting them to buy into its importance on my grade level. I started directing Camp Invention (http://www.invent.org/camp/default.aspx) at my school. My first year we had over a 110 students sign up, awesome I thought, students loved science. But when I looked at the ratio of our numbers there were only 20 girls. The following year our numbers grew and we had 120- 30 were girls. I decided to start coaching Science Olympiad during the school year. The first year only a few girls signed up but the next year we had a few more. Girls were starting to participate in science during class time more and more as well. We were making progress. The next year, we had had two weeks of Camp Invention because so many students signed up. Out of the two weeks, only one of the weeks we had ½ of our total participants were girls. This past summer we had the same amount of boys, as we did girls, both weeks of camp! I felt that girls were learning they could “do” science; after all the data was proving that from the interest in Camp Invention and Science Olympiad.

Then why was this student still thinking that girls couldn’t do science? I started thinking about what I could do to help promote science for girls. What female scientists did I know of, I couldn’t I think of any right away!! I decided this weekend to research girls and science. I wanted to make sure we were moving forward and that I was doing my part as an educator to help all students, including girls, love science. I created a link on my website called, “Science for Girls” to help provide girls with science sites that are girl friendly, positive and encouraging. I became conscious I need to continue to be an advocate as my “job” was not done. http://jillthompson.cmswiki.wikispaces.net/Science+for+Girls%21 As much as I have helped improve students love for science, I realized I still have a long way to go. I’m glad that this little girl brought this problem, back to my attention.

“If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off. . . no matter what they say.” Barbara McClintock (American Scientist. Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1983.

Passionate About Science Notebooking

“The teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil to learn is hammering on cold iron.” Horace Mann

This week I taught a science Professional Development for elementary teachers in my district on incorporating Science Notebooking within the science curriculum. It got me thinking about why I started embracing Science Notebooking a few years ago.

It wasn’t until I decided to get my masters in Curriculum and Instruction at Winthrop University that I started to have passion for science. Professor Dr. Linda Pickett inspired me beyond words. She was so passionate about science. She made every class fun and engaging. I realized that I need to do a better job of teaching science. I wanted my kids to love coming into my classroom as much as I loved going to Dr. Pickett’s class. I taught all the other subject with enthusiasm, why hadn’t I with science.

That year, as I had taken her course over the summer, I decided I was going to implement Science Notebooking. I researched Science Notebooking and at that time there wasn’t a whole lot out there about it. I made up what expectations I felt were best and what rubric would best meet my high expectations and I launched Science Notebooking. I am not going to lie, I hit many bumps that year but I could see the difference in the student’s interest in science and summative test scores.

That summer, I tweaked my expectations, rubric and launching process and got the rest of my fifth grade team on board. That year our kids loved science! We started doing a lab every week, we were having fun and learning! Then I met Wayne Fisher, who also inspired me to be a better science teacher. (Wayne is our district level science coordinator.) His workshops and professional developments made me stronger. He introduced me to the 5E learning cycle and much more. He helped me to realize that what I was doing in my classroom not just with Science Notebooking was important. He got me started in teach professional developments across the district on many science topics which then turned into also doing other types of professional developments such as “Using Data to Drive Instruction.’

Now when we are at recess the students are ‘talking science’ by describing clouds, rocks and Newton’s Laws. They are always wondering, exploring and asking questions. What more could you ask for! This brings me back to the quote that I started off with. We need to inspire in order to get results and I believe Science Notebooking inspires the students because it is something real scientists do! On my blog scroll is a link to my website where I have resources for starting Science Notebooking. My hope for this blog post is someone will read it start Science Notebooking in their classroom and motivate more students to embrace science!

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