Nature of Science - presentation

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Nature of Science in the Classroom:

Nature of Science in the Classroom

Cool Bombs:

Cool Bombs This presentation/demonstration/discussion is designed to show how teachers can bring the Nature of Science ( NoS ) into the classroom through an activity. It also hopes to demonstrate one way to approach science, this is not the only way. The following builds upon an expectation of the teacher’s knowledge around the NoS and 5E approach to teaching science: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate

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It is expected that through previous PD sessions, the teacher will understand that for the NoS : Understanding about science implies that students are asking questions about the science Investigating in science implies that through play/activities/simple models and questions that children are expanding their world of science Communicating in science implies students able to use age appropriate vocabulary about the science Understanding and Contributing in science implies students are first and foremost able to relate the science to their world and why they are exploring the science and then as they get older able to make informed decisions about the science as it relates to their world. Furthermore it is expected that teachers will understand that science in the classroom should be treated as if it is a verb, and more to the point an action verb, the only writing that should be done is done by the teacher – the students need to be doing the doing and then discussing what they are doing and what is happening.

Background:

Background In this presentation/demonstration/discussion the words in Blue would be the words that are written. The words in Red are those that help to highlight how the 5E approach is applied to this activity (I deliberately use the word activity of experiment as activity implies and action and the students soon learn that they get to do the actions of activities). Finally the words in Green are those to explicitly show how, where and what parts of the NoS are being addressed/incorporated/discussed/used.

Cool Bombs:

Cool Bombs Engage – the first step in 5E is to get the students interested in the activity, the use of a title such as this is more of an impact than saying ‘Chemical Reactions’ or ‘Citric Acid and B aking Soda mixture’ Explore – students now do the activity: Tell the students to mix 1 spoon of Citric Acid and 1 spoon of Baking Soda in a small sealable bag (for primary it should not focus on precise measurements, do they really need to concentrate on getting 1 tablespoon of each). I like to use small sealable bag as they are easy to handle and I can then have pairs of students doing this instead of most of them watching. Next add water to the bag to wet it – the amount is not really important, for younger students I just turn on the tap to a moderate steady flow and have them line up and hold the bag under the water while they say, ‘cool bombs’ and then next in line. Seal the bags, if they can, and see/hear what happens – small bags also means the popping won’t be so messy but if carpet in the room easy to do outside with a pitcher/bottle of water.

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Explain – student watch and hear what is happening and then figure out what to tell about it, also after the pop the students are told to hold the bag in their hand while they figure out what to say about what happened. This is where most teachers will say they do not have the content knowledge necessary to do science in the classroom, remember age appropriate – what are they saying and start there. What can they tell you, what can they describe, what are they seeing, hearing, and feeling (this activity gets three of their senses involved, the more of ‘them’ involved, the better). This will also direct the teacher to the depth needed in the Elaborate step of 5E

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Elaborate – here is where the ‘science’ can be brought out, or the explicit learning sought, but this really is just where the students get the missing information they need to better discuss what they just experienced. Even with very young children they can describe that the bag is getting colder, which also means they have a working knowledge of temperature (think about it, at what age do we tell children something is hot or cold). Children know the idea of temperature but more than likely not the spelling. So here is where I try to elicit the vocabulary from older students or give it to younger students. Modelling the use of questions, I ask them, “What do you mean it is getting cold?” I want them to tell me the word temperature. If necessary, “How can we tell if something is hot or cold?” Then I want, if possible, to get the word ‘thermometer’ from them as the tool we use to measure or find out what the temperature of something is.

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Thermometer - this is only the third word that has been written down so far. Now time to repeat the activity to back up the idea. This time I would use 2-3 spoons of each ingredient so the reaction last longer. Younger students under Stage 5 of Maths will more than likely not be able to read a thermometer but they can tell where how the material inside changes (i.e. room temp level to when it is placed inside the bag as the reaction takes place, the material drops/descends/lowers) – however older students can record the change in temperature and could then even graph the temperature versus time change. I would ask the students, “Do you know what it is called when something gets colder after you mix it?”, If not then just tell them we call this ‘endothermic’

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Endothermic - this would be the fourth word I would but up on the whiteboard. But I line up the ‘ therm ’ in endothermic with that of ‘Thermometer’ and try to get the meaning from the students “If a thermometer is used to tell the temperature of something and endothermic tells us the temperature is getting colder, what could the ‘ therm ’ part of these words mean?” Want them to give me the idea of ‘heat’ or give it to them if they are getting it. Further explanation for older students might be useful here with the extension vocabulary of ‘ exothermic ’ with the description of why do we put another log on a fire (want more heat to be given off, so exothermic = heat given off, heat comes out) to help them get the idea of endothermic = heat goes in, gets colder.

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Evaluate - here is where the NoS should be explicitly brought out, the students need to know that they are discussing the NoS and its impact on their learning. I would start with the obvious by asking them, “How did we use Communicating in Science in this activity?” I want them to be able to identify the words needed to describe the activity: temperature, thermometer, endothermic and possibly exothermic. They don’t have to spell them, this is the teacher’s job, they need to be able to say what they mean and how to use them. Then ask, “Who can describe how we Investigated in Science?” With practice they can tell how the activity allowed them to explore temperature and hopefully in a fun way (this does not use a simple model and may not even use questions that are needed to let them do the activity as the steps are short and easy to follow, but not an issue).

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Then I would ask, “How have we acted like scientist?” This gets them to discuss their Understanding about the science and what they got from the activity. The teacher, if at all possible, should be able to recall the questions they had about the science and show them the distinctions between them and those that are not questions about the science like, do we use a rounded spoon of or a level spoon of – these are not about the science. But questions about the science could be, ‘What would happen if we used cold water or hot water?” and ‘Would there be a difference if it was a cold, warm or hot day?’ And then finally I would ask, “Why did we do this?” The answer is not just because it was fun, students do need to have fun and experience the WOW factor of science, but they also must know the WHY factor, how has this impacted/affected their life and their world? If they can’t do this, then you gave them a great fun activity without any real learning. They will more than likely need scaffolding through this the first few times but then they will amaze you with the depth of learning when they realise it is all about them and not writing it up.

Summary:

Summary This activity can take anywhere from 15 minutes to well over an hour, students need to learn and be taught how to discuss their ideas and that science is a discussion class not a writing class. Once they get the hang of this, the discussion take longer and longer – but the learning gets deeper and deeper. I have done this with younger students (NE) and older students (Yr8) and it can work. With students this is generally part of a series of activities around bubbles: soap bubbles, cold bubbles (Cool Bombs) and then warm bubbles ( M onster Foam) so they can come to the ideas several times and have the chance to build up on what they know and add to it. Younger classes tend to turn this into a wall-display so they can visually be reminded of what the words are and how to use them. Older students tend to want to see if changing the concentrations or ratio of mixture affects the temperature drop or to see how low they can get the temperature (but can be all part of fair testing, or massive amount of graphical data depending on whether they need practice in bar, column, line graphs or pie charts, etc.).

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