The Sciences...Controlling Variables, Environmental Engineering/Water Filtration and Mixtures & Solutions. (also..Architecture and Engineering)Our units this year are designed to help students to learn the Scientific Method using an inquiry approach. The concepts taught in each unit are scaffolded to enable students to put these ideas into practice in succeeding lessons.So, for example, the modeled practice of starting an investigation with a curiosity about something, or a question, evolves into making observations. These observations then become part of a starting hypothesis. Once students learn how to form an hypothesis, stages of planning for experimentation are proposed, and once enacted, data is gathered.
Understanding the logic, sequencing, execution, and analysis of each experiment, or series of experiments, are very important concepts in our science units as is the core motivation...unbridled wonderment!!
Variables in ScienceTwo main goals for this unit are for students to: 1) understand the concept of a variable and 2) to be able to utilize The Scientific Method in developing inquiry-based experiments in order to clarify their ideas.Through student-designed experiments, they learn to identify expected behaviors from a given set of materials (e.g....a toy car with a ramp. Experience tells students that a change in the height of the ramp, the position of the car, the weight of the vehicle, the design of the vehicle, or the surface on which the car rolls, changes the outcome - which is the distance that the car rolls.Students, in groups, choose from a variety of sets of materials and design an experiment that yields an expected outcome. Then, they discuss the factors that cause that result and set about to change the variables in their procedure. In doing so, this allows them to extend the breadth of the expectations that they have in support of their hypotheses.Throughout this first inquiry process, students will be exposed to methods for recording their work via a brainstormed list of required entry types. In simple terms...what are we asking? What outcome do we expect? What materials ar we using to carry out our experiment? How will we go about carrying out our experiment? What data should we measure and record? What does the data tell us about the success - or the problems - with our ideas and our procedures? What illustrations/drawings should we make to document our experiment?In engaging with this first unit of study - students will become acclimatized to the processes of scientific inquiry, and to the expectations of how to carry out purposeful experimentation.
Mixtures and Solutions
This unit introduces the students to the understanding that mixtures and solutions are not the same. Students learn how to differentiate between the two by mixing or blending one or more common (and safe) chemicals by various means and attempting to separate them back to their original states using a wide variety of materials.
Students begin with simple tasks, recording their information via the Scientific Method (as described above) and transition to more complex processes to see if their ideas stand up to the test of scientific scrutiny. By the end, students are designing their own combinations to challenge themselves in identifying "if" and "how" these materials can be joined or separated.
Water Filtration: Pollution...and how to approach the challenge of potability with filter materials
Students are usually well aware of the issues of water pollution in our modern world. This unit seeks to help students to understand the real and pressing problems that water pollution causes, and to begin to think about ways in which they can be solved.
Our class is engaged by thinking about a given situation through a story that is introduced. They listen to the problems that a young girl faces:
Students then try to identify healthy and unhealthy environments and sources of pollution. They continue to build on their experiences of understanding variables and of the complexities involved with mixtures and solutions. Teams are created and are given opportunities to design water filters that can remove most - or all - of the impurities that are introduced into "compromised" water samples that are supplied to them (using safe, familiar, and common materials).
Once again, scientific learning practices are revisited, expectations reviewed, with an understanding that data and documentation are required components.