Thursday, June 11, 2015

What Do Scientists Do?

It seems so long ago that I thought of myself as a really good science teacher. One year I even taught Jr. High science before the days of Highly Qualified requirements. I kind of miss the days when you could really spend a lot of time teaching science. Now it seems (at least in my district) to be pushed to the back burner. Or we "integrate" it into our reading. But what that really means is we read about science instead of doing science. But we take quarterly benchmark assessments on science and our 4th graders take a high stakes science test. So, we still attempt to teach it and try really hard to do more than just read about science.
Our first science unit is about what scientist do. Our first science benchmark test is HARD. They have to analyze experiment idea and see what questions should be asked. They need to know about safety rules. And they need to know about how to display the data from an experiment. And, they have to know facts about random scientists that they wouldn't know unless their teacher taught them about those scientists... how many 3rd graders know who Alfred Wegener was or even Mae Jemison?

And, of course, no curriculum from our district addresses these standards with any sort of depth at all.
So I made this to use in my classroom. It will NOT be the only thing I use to teach these standards, but it's a little bit of something (rather than the nothing that I had last year)  What Do Scientists Do?

 We begin the year teaching students to refer explicitly to the text for their answers by using a color-coding system and 5W questions. This includes three different passages about the scientific method where students can highlight the answers in the text.

Then it includes a passage about lab safety that gives the students seven basic rules when doing an experiment.
Then an interactive notebook activity where the students are given different scenarios and they have to explain what they would do using the seven rules (and some common sense).

Finally, there's a passage about organizing data that explains four different ways scientists can displays their data- a list, a t-chart, a tally chart and a table.

 Then students do another interactive notebook activity where they are given a scenario and they have to explain which tool to display data would make the most sense in the given experiment. I tried to make both interactive notebook activities a little deeper thinking because they have to analyze the scenario and make a decision based on what they learned about the topic.

This isn't all I am doing with the students when we learn about scientists. There are some great experiments and things out there to showcase the science processes and the scientific method. And, I have a few more ideas as well.  These activities definitely won't make science more hands-on, but it will reinforce the skills before we get to the hands-on AND some of it integrates into our reading standards- which is always a bonus in our limited time frame.

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