Deconstructing a Science Unit

For the last five weeks, I have been running an inquiry unit in a Grade 3 classroom as a cover teacher. Having to jump into a class mid-year adds additional limitations to a unit, but I left the 6 weeks feeling refreshed and sharp.

Like jumping into an ice lake, I imagine.

 


Central Idea

Extreme weather phenomena impact individuals and their communities

Teaching Note: I broke “phenomena” down into two concepts. A phenomena is an event that is both unique and difficult to understand.

 


Lines of Inquiry

  • Scientists investigate extreme weather in different communities
  • Climate change impacts extreme weather
  • People advance technology to prepare for extreme weather


 Where did we do our learning?

We compiled our digital resources on our class’ Weebly and also activated the classroom as the third teacher. I will get photos of the finished product in my next post.

 

 

Here is a breakdown (by week) of this Unit of Inquiry:


Week 1

We started our new unit of inquiry. The kids already showed a solid understanding of different types of extreme weather but had an thirst for more knowledge and experience. We tore through a number of helpful resources on our Symbaloo, and some students added some of their own to the class Padlet.

We immediately confronted the burning questions focused on how weather occurs and how people prepare for those events. Many of the kids wondered about lightning, so we have started a focused study of lightning, including a balloon and spoon experiment!

The children were fascinated by the diversity of extreme weather phenomena around the world, and we played a few different disaster scenario games to better understand how scientist learn about weather and decide on emergency procedures.


Week 2

In the second week of unit inquiry, we are reflecting on what we have learned about the features and emergency preparation procedures for many different types of extreme weather. Grade 3 combined their knowledge of different extreme weather and natural disaster scenarios to create PHENOMENA: The Extreme Weather Game.

Much like the children’s game Shipwrecked, Phenomena is a call and response game. These are the call and response pairs designed by students.

We will be practicing the call and response pairs to help us remember how to prepare in different scenarios. Hopefully, we will be ready to demonstrate by Showcase! Come play with us!


Week 3

During Week 3, Grade 3 strengthened their conceptual understandings of the information gained in Weeks 1 and 2. This was a great week of experimentation and exploration.

The children expressed an interest in learning about different survivors, so we focused on the harrowing story of Winston Kemp, a man who just wanted to save his pumpkins. The children then spent time independently learning about other people who have survived extreme weather events.

We also discovered a box tornado simulator that we then constructed in class for Showcase. Luckily, we were able to complete some of the tornado simulators by Showcase. We had originally planned to play Phenomena, but Showcase was a rainy day.


Week 4

In the fourth week of inquiry, we tackled some complex subjects, specifically the topic of climate change and Earth’s atmosphere. We read a NASA book that explained the basics of what an atmosphere is and discussed the children’s burning questions. The Grade 3 kids made strong connections to their Grade 2 space unit, and already understood that the atmosphere protects the planet from meteors.

To learn about how the atmosphere helps balance temperatures on Earth, we conducted some outside experiments and digital experiments using a helpful atmosphere simulation. We learned that sunlight carries heat and light energy. We also learned that greenhouse gases hold heat.

The kids were able to connect rising greenhouse gases with warmer temperatures on Earth.

We ended Week 4 by looking at some new technologies that are trying to help people prepare for the more extreme weather trends in the future.

 


Week 5

In this last week, Grade 3 brought our unit to a close by reflecting on what we have learned and pursuing actions that show our understanding. We conducted interviews and created posters showing how we can organize our knowledge to create a better conceptual understanding of the challenges people face with climate change and increasingly extreme weather.

One of the types of technology we looked at that could help people coping with heat waves was the EcoCooler.

Since the temperature shot up to 30°C this weekend, I’m sure we’ll be grateful for having these EcoCoolers come Monday morning!

Middle School Hosted Math Fair 2017

To celebrate 2017 and a brand new year of learning, the middle school math students designed versions of their in-class math activities for the youngest students at DESK.

To prepare for their first ever Math Fair, the Middle School made connections between what a child ages 3 to 6 might be learning and the following middle school concepts:

  • Ratios and Proportionality
  • Operations (Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division) with Variables
  • Geometry

The kids played happily until they had to back to their classrooms to get ready to go home. The middle school students enjoyed the enthusiastic reception to their self-designed math games and activities. Community events like this one help the children at DESK bond through action and learning. We at the Middle School look forward to hosting more subject-specific events in the future!

 

The middle school students were able to conceptualize, design, create and execute their math games effectively within a short time frame. Each child received 10 Doneillies (Mr. O’Neill’s Money) to play at the various booths.

 

Moving right into the spring term, the Grade 6’s started off strong with their experiential study of the human management of resources. We began with a provocation to ignite curiosity and provide inspiration for inquiry.

Originally an economic theory, the Tragedy of the Commons refers to the phenomena that occurs with shared resource systems–people acting alone will tend to act in their own interest and against the common good.

To bring this to life for the learners, we played “Tragedy of the Commons.” This is a game where players manage a pile of tokens (resources) in the center of a table. A collection of 5 tokens can be traded for a treat. In the original version of the game, there was only one rule: Any tokens left in the center after one round is doubled. Each round lasts 10 seconds.

The first game lasted one round, with a few kids managing to snatch the majority of tokens to the chagrin of the class. The second game sparked a dialogue between students about how to better manage the tokens in the center; some learners wanted to let the pile double over a few rounds and then evenly divide resources among the students. Despite initiative to act in a way that suited the greater good, game after game ended with a few token-rich snatchers and some unfortunate token-poor players.
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As the Grade 6 kids grew more frustrated with the gameplay, they tried a game without the aggressive Grade 7 students. In a smaller group, the students made and held agreements about letting the tokens increase over time. At the end, though, it was still every person for themselves.
To give the learners experience creating management policies, we suggested they devise their own rules for another version of Tragedy of the Commons.

Autumn Jeopardy

It certainly doesn’t feel like Fall anymore here in Okayama, but here’s a fully loaded Autumn Jeopardy Power Point for your class!

The categories include: Guess the Monster, Fall Activities, Fall Food, Put It In Order, Monster Quiz, and Spelling. The focus of the game is to practice reading comprehension, spelling (changing katakana to English) and to expand student’s understanding of fall holidays in the United States.

Pick it up! Put it down! Strip it! Make it yours!

Click to Download!