Saturday, September 18, 2010

Week Two –Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend

This week brought a lot of unexpected occurrences to the grade nine applied science class that I teach including an unprecedented number of new students which has put the total at 27 and over the tipping point, an ugly bullying incident, an allergic reaction (to boys’ cologne) and an exciting field trip up to the school’s roof to observe the newly observed solar panels (more on this next week).
1. Initiate and Plan
On Tuesday, I decided to engage the students by pulling out my bag of magic beads, aka beads that react to ultra violet light, and we investigated some of the aspects of scientific inquiry – starting with predicting. Each student was given what looked like an identical white plastic bead and as a large group we addressed the question; “Predict what will happen to these beads when we go outside?” Suggestions ranged from:
“They will melt.”
“They will disappear.”
“They will start to hop.”
“The colour will change.”
After this brainstorming session we went outside and stood with the beads on our outstretched palms for a couple of minutes of sun exposure. Of course, we could have done this in front of the classroom windows but this is an energetic class that benefits from controlled movement throughout the 75 minute period. There was a certain amount of excitement amongst the students as the colour change in their beads was almost instantaneous but naturally some were too cool to react much.
Here is a picture of what the bag of beads look like when exposed to UV light.

Upon returning to the classroom it was quickly observed that despite the fact that a variety of colours had occurred while we were outside everyone’s bead had now returned to its original white colour.
We then moved into hypothesizing. After a brief discussion of what a hypothesis was the students were each given a post it note and asked to jot down their hypothesis of why the colour change occurred. Random students were called upon to share their answers once the post it notes had been jotted upon. As the students shared their ideas I recorded the key word from their sentence on the board, ie. temperature, wind, sun, etc.
Next the students all brought their post it notes up to the board and stuck them under the appropriate category heading.

This gave us a quick visual of the breakdown of each hypothesis into the categories that had been determined by the students. From there it was very easy to count up the number of individuals who shared the same hypothesis. (This had also allowed for another opportunity for some controlled movement.)
2. Perform and Record
Next we moved into exploring which of these hypotheses were correct by doing some simple experimentation. Wind was quickly ruled out by the process of blowing onto the beads. Temperature was ruled out by holding the beads tightly in our fists while they warmed up. Sunlight was determined to be the correct hypothesis when one of the disengaged girls at the back of the room held her bead up to the window to use it as a mini telescope. Much to her surprise the colour changed and as soon as she exclaimed on this fact everyone else rushed to windows to confirm her report! (Resulting in a disengaged girl daydreaming at the back of the classroom became our science super star!)
3. Analyze and Interpret
Now that the mystery had been solved we reviewed how we had predicted, observed, hypothesized and experimented. Discussion of the importance of making a testable hypothesis, even if it ultimately proved to be wrong, ensued. Because we had so many lovely hypotheses categorized so neatly on the board we turned our attention into making a bar graph of them as a method of conveying the information without having to do a lot of writing.
This was my opportunity to lead them through the process of drawing a bar graph as a way of explaining the scientists’ ideas.

4. Communicate
As a final extension to our exciting day we discussed the use of having beads that changed colour in UV light. One of the girls quickly came up with the idea of making jewellery to sell at tanning salons’ that would be “so funky” to wear while you were in the tanning bed. Other girls quickly jumped on the designer bandwagon and shouts of: “bracelets, necklaces, belly button rings” were ringing out when the bell rang and I sent them on their way!

Coming next week: Our field trip to the school roof and the resulting photo-essays on solar power.

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