Sunday, February 5, 2012

P.E.O.E. on the Process of Drying Fruit

Have you used the Predict – Explain – Observe – Explain science process so eloquently summarized up by the Smarter Science student–friendly template? Also known as the P.E.O.P., this simple method really gets your students to think, and provides a means for you to access their critical thinking skills.
Recently I used the P.E.O.P. template with my grade nine applied students during an investigation into drying fruit. We had already studied the water cycle so the students were familiar with the term and process of “evaporation”.
On order to access their prior knowledge I initiated a class discussion into dried food. Our class is very multicultural but everyone had some form of dried food they were familiar with, most commonly dried banana, dried papaya, dried mango, raisins and beef jerky. Together we brainstormed about the “drying” process. “What happens when food is dried?”
 The analogy I used was, “What happens when clothes are dried?” The students were quickly able to extrapolate that if drying clothes means removing the water then drying fruit could mean the same thing. There was some discussion around the “juiciness” of fruit and whether the juice is just fruit-flavoured water.
The students worked in pairs for this activity. They had previously been instructed to bring in a fresh fruit or vegetable from home. Since half of the class forgot to bring something in the instructions were to pick a partner where at least one of you had a fruit or vegetable. The produce our class worked with included oranges, carrots, bananas, apples and celery.
Using the first square of the Smarter Science P.E.O.E., Predict, the students made their predictions by making an “If . . .then” statement in this format:
If my apple is sliced up and dried then it will . . .
The students were also expected to draw a picture showing what would happen.
In the second box on the P.E.O.E., Explain, the students had to explain WHY they had made their predictions. This is our first glimpse into their thinking process!
Once the first two boxes of the P.E.O.P were completed the students were instructed to prepare their fruit in whatever way they thought would be most suitable for drying. This caused some initial confusion: Should we peel it? Should we slice it? Should we cut it in half? Because the students are to take ownership of their learning my reply was consistently, “What does your partner think?” Eventually all of the pairs were able to take a risk and make a decision.
In the third box of the P.E.O.E, Observe, the students had to make some initial observations about their prepared samples. Although they were told only to rely on physical properties (those they could detect with their senses) the fact that I had put out our electronic balances that day allowed many of them to infer that recording the initial mass of their samples might be a good idea. Other observations the students made included colour, smell, and texture.
When the students returned to class on Monday they rushed to the windows to see what had happened to their samples over the weekend. Some of them wanted to eat their results right away! Pairs with differing types of samples were comparing their changes with no prompting from me. In fact, the students quickly weighed their dried samples and started calculating the amount of water lost without any top-down instruction. The learning just flowed. 
The students recorded their final mass in the third box of their P.E.O.E. as well as any other differences they observed.
In the final box, Explain, the students revisited their initial prediction (box 1) and stated if it was correct or not. They used the evidence they had collected to justify what had happened to their predictions. This is where their critical thinking skills are showcased!
Once again, Smarter Science had allowed the students to OWN their learning! How have you used the P.E.O.E  in your classroom?

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