Showing the Ability to Take Risks
By Lisa Hegdahl
I just finished my first attempt at planning and implementing a Next Generation of Science Standards Lesson Series. While I never intended it to be printed in a statewide publication, I am reminded of the words of Stephen Pruitt, Achieve Senior Vice President, Content, Research & Development, in an address to California Science Educators in September 2014 when he said,
Since hearing those words, I have tried to apply them to everything I do regarding NGSS – including sharing a lesson series that is far from exemplar. While the lesson series does not always provide learning at the nexus of all 3 dimensions of NGSS - Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), Science and Engineering Practices (SEP), and Crosscutting Concepts - it does provide students opportunities to take control of their own learning and reflect on their learning progress. With that said, the intent of this article is to describe my planning and teaching process so that you may have the courage to begin a NGSS Lesson Series of your own, even if it is not perfect. If this article encourages just one of you to “be bold” enough to take your own first steps into NGSS implementation, the purpose of this article will be served.
It will help you to know that my school district is part of the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. As such, we are expected to forge ahead into NGSS Implementation with no Curriculum Framework, no state or national assessment, and no NGSS based support materials. However, as Early Implementers, we attended a 2014 summer institute that included participation in a NGSS lesson series. After using NGSS SEPs and CCCs to learn about energy and the water cycle, we engineered a Mars Habitat that would maintain a consistent temperature and create precipitation (read more - Next Generation of Science Standards: Jump Right In). I used that lesson series as an example when I began my lesson planning process. Also, with the support of my school administration, I have the liberty this year to spend 100% of my energy practicing and improving my NGSS planning and teaching paying particular attention to incorporating the SEPs and CCCs.
To begin, I needed a question that addressed a phenomenon. Ideally I wanted the phenomenon to lend itself to an engineering project. I wish I could give you a formula for how I chose the phenomenon. Honestly, it just came to me. Subconsciously, I was probably thinking about the Particle Model with which I started out the year and about phase changes which is the next topic I usually teach. I was also aware that CA NGSS 8th grade science has two performance expectations (PEs) in physical science that address energy. In the end, I came upon a question that was simple, included an engineering piece, enabled me to use some curriculum of which I was already familiar, and allowed me to explore a concept I had not taught before (but would ultimately be responsible for once NGSS is fully implemented). Although it would have taken me longer if I had included everything I thought of along the way, the lesson series as described here took nearly four months to complete.
Mindful of this article’s length, I have not listed everything the students or I did, but have included those I think will give the best overall picture of how I approached the series. Where it was clear to me that I was explicitly addressing one of them, I have used the following notations: SEP, CCC, NOS (understandings about the nature of science) and ETS (Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science).
Basic Concept Map for the Lesson Series[/caption]
On the first day, I introduced the question to the students - How do hot air balloons fly? After they watched a short video clip about the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque, NM, they wrote down their initial answer to the question in their journals. At the end of the lesson series, students re-visited their original answer and reflected on their learning (NOS).
Particle Model of Matter
Many years ago, I attended a summer institute at the University of California at Davis where I received a set of short lab activities and demonstrations that guide students to progressively gather evidence about the nature of particles in matter such as:
o matter as tiny particles (NOS )
o particle spacing in solids, liquids, and gases (SEP)
o spacing between particles (NOS)
o variations in particle size (NOS)
o particle movement (NOS)
o the effects of energy on particle movement (SEP)
Once completed, students have a model for matter that they developed from evidence and that they can use to help them predict how matter will act in different circumstances.
While adoption of the NGSS by the State Board of Education in the Fall 2013 means many teachers will be asked to teach content out of their comfort zone, many science education experts familiar with NGSS point out that NGSS content is not the biggest shift teachers will have to make during implementation. The biggest shift will be in how students are taught. Energy is one of those topics I have little experience teaching, but one I will have to take on once NGSS is fully implemented. The question of how a hot air balloon flies offered the perfect opportunity to practice guiding students in an exploration of energy. As an added bonus, energy is a NGSS cross cutting concept.
I started by showing students a series of objects:
battery (in my hand)
tumble car (moving at a constant speed across a table)
wooden top (spinning)
Granola bar (in the wrapper)
domino (in my hand)
rubber band (stretched)
paper helicopter (falling and spinning)
vinegar and baking soda (combined)
Students sorted the items into 2 groups - those that have energy and those that don’t. Students collaborated in pairs, groups, and as a class sharing their thoughts and re-sorting as they considered necessary.[/caption]
Eventually, students gathered information from resources that included readings and video clips. As they gained more understanding, they not only re-sorted, but added additional columns to their data table to accommodate their new knowledge (NOS).
As a way to have students explore energy transfer, they watched several video clips of Rube Goldberg devices. Students listed the energy transfers they saw as well as the different kinds of energy the devices utilized. This would have been an ideal opportunity for students to build their own Rube Goldberg devises, however, time, my own inexperience with the topic, as well as wanting to stay focused on the hot air balloon goal, kept me from doing so. I did have students draw their own transfer of energy sequences.
Students began by drawing a representation of the particle spacing and motion in solids, liquids, and gases. In collaborative groups, they explained how solids change into liquids and then into gases. Groups also discussed how a gas could change into a liquid and then into a solid. Using a computer states of matter simulation, students saw how temperature affects particle motion and the structure of matter. Students also read about different kinds of phase changes and the difference between heat and temperature.
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We started with the question - Why do some things sink and others float? In their journals, students wrote their own answer to the question. About half way through the Bill Nye video about buoyancy, Bill Nye throws several objects into a pool to see if they sink or float. I gave my students the list of those items and asked them to predict which they thought would sink and which they thought would float. When they had finished with their lists, they watched the clip and recorded what actually happened. Students looked at the results and tried to come up with an explanation for what they observed (SEP).
Using Chromebooks, students accessed a density simulation to gather data about five materials that they ‘dropped’ into water. Once the mass, volume, and ability of the material to sink or float was recorded, students looked to see if they could find a pattern (CCC) within that data (SEP). Using the same simulation, they recorded the densities for the same materials. Again, they looked for a pattern within the data. Students noted whether or not they could change the floating or sinking of the materials by changing the mass or volume of the objects.
Students used data tables to discover that the density of an object can be obtained by dividing the object’s mass by its volume. That led to the d=m/v equation. This equation was used to make predictions about whether objects would sink or float in a liquid (SEP). Students also participated in several other lab activities such as finding the density of an irregular object and determining the relative densities of four different saltwater solutions.
Students watched a short video - NASA for Kids: Intro to Engineering. The video makes clear that, after identifying a need, engineers create a plan. After telling the students that their balloons could be made out of a dry cleaner bag, 6 straws, tape, and 5 birthday candles, the students created their own balloon designs (ETS), which they next shared in their groups of 4. Groups came to a consensus on one design that they would try and then they shared their designs with the class. At the end of the presentations, groups were allowed to revise their designs (NOS).
The following day students built their first balloon. As they attempted to fly them, students talked to each other about what seemed to be working and what they needed to change (ETS). The following day, balloons were re-built (ETS) and they were much more successful than the day before. (None of the balloons ever actually flew, but several skidded around on the floor about a 1/2 inch off the ground.) Due to the Christmas holiday, I was unable to give students a 3rd day to re-design, build, and fly their balloons.
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The Wrap Up
To culminate the lesson series, I again asked students “How do hot air balloons fly?’ They wrote individual answers in their journals. Then they collaborated as groups to come up with an explanation that they presented to the class. The following day, we revisited what groups said and together came up with a process that made sense based on what they knew about:
Particles in matter
The engineering of a hot air balloon
Formative and Summative Assessments
Assessments took several forms including:
Listening to student discussions
Questioning students individually and in groups
Challenge statements - students write in support or non-support of a statement to demonstrate their ability to apply their learning to a new situation
Observing the revisions students made to their journals after they acquired new information
Traditional quizzes (just couldn’t resist)
The summative assessment was a writing assignment where they explained how a hot air balloon flies while addressing the concepts of structure of matter, energy, phase changes, and density. Students were allowed to use the records they kept in their journals during the assessment.
I am confident that there are parts of this lesson series that some of you would have approached in another way whether due to your particular teaching style or NGSS expertise. I also, given the opportunity, would do some things differently. I hope to use what I learned to guide me as I develop my next NGSS lesson series that I began on January 6th. Regardless of where you are in the NGSS implementation process, my hope is that my experience will help you to be fearless as you move forward.