Modeling The Rain Shadow Effect
Lesson 13 of 16
Objective: SWBAT explain how the Earth's systems are interacting during the Rain Shadow Effect.
Inquiry Based Instructional Model
To intertwine scientific knowledge and practices and to empower students to learn through exploration, it is essential for scientific inquiry to be embedded in science education. While there are many types of inquiry-based models, one model that I've grown to appreciate and use is called the FERA Learning Cycle, developed by the National Science Resources Center (NSRC):
A framework for implementation can be found here.
I absolutely love how the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute for Systems Biology explains that this is "not a locked-step method" but "rather a cyclical process," meaning that some lessons may start off at the focus phase while others may begin at the explore phase.
Finally, an amazing article found at Edudemic.com, How Inquiry-Based Learning Works with STEM, very clearly outlines how inquiry based learning "paves the way for effective learning in science" and supports College and Career Readiness, particularly in the area of STEM career choices.
In this unit, students will study each of Earth's major systems: biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. In addition, students will investigate how these systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth's materials and processes by conducting research, constructing graphs, creating models, carrying out scientific investigations, and analyzing real-world applications.
Summary of Lesson
Today, students continue exploring the rain shadow effect by adding labels to their rain shadow effect models. At the end of the lesson, students reflect and apply their new understanding of the rain shadow effect by examining how the Earth's systems interact.
Next Generation Science Standards
This lesson will support the following NGSS Standard(s):'
5-ESS2-1. Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
Scientific & Engineering Practices
For this lesson, students are engaged in Science & Engineering Practice:
Science & Engineering Practice 2: Developing and Using Models
Student continue developing a 3D model of the rain shadow effect. They will secure labels (attached to toothpicks) to their models to help explain what the rain shadow effect is and why it happens.
To relate ideas across disciplinary content, during this lesson I focus on the following Crosscutting Concept:
Crosscutting Concept 4: Systems and System Models
Students analyze the components of a rain shadow effect model by examining the interactions of the Earth's systems (hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere).
Disciplinary Core Ideas
In addition, this lesson also aligns with the following Disciplinary Core Ideas:
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
Earth’s major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth’s surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the landforms to determine patterns of weather. (5-ESS2-1)
Choosing Science Teams
With science, it is often difficult to find a balance between providing students with as many hands-on experiences as possible, having plenty of science materials, and offering students a collaborative setting to solve problems. Any time groups have four or more students, the opportunities for individual students to speak and take part in the exploration process decreases. With groups of two, I often struggle to find enough science materials to go around. So this year, I chose to place students in teams of two or three! Picking science teams is always easy as I already have students placed in desk groups based upon behavior, abilities, and communication skills. Each desk group has about six kids, so I simply divide this larger group in half or thirds.
Gathering Supplies & Assigning Roles
To encourage a smooth running classroom, I ask students to decide who is a 1, 2, or 3 in their groups of three students (without talking). In no time, each student has a number in the air. I'll then ask the "threes" to get certain supplies, "ones" to grab their computers, and "twos" to hand out papers (or whatever is needed for the lesson). This management strategy has proven to be effective when cleaning up and returning supplies as well!
Now that students have learned about each of the Earth's spheres (biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere), I want to provide students with the opportunity to examine real-world applications using this new knowledge. For this reason, in the course of two lessons, students will research the Rain Shadow Effect, construct a model, and analyze how the Earth's systems interact during this scientific phenomenon.
Day 1: Yesterday, students began creating a model of the rain shadow effect by constructing a 3D model of an ocean, mountain range, and arid region (Rain Shadow Effect Without Labels). Then, students researched what the rain shadow effect is and why it happens.
Day 2: Today, students apply their understanding of the rain shadow effect by using their research to label their 3D models with rain shadow effect steps and key words (Student Rain Shadow Effect Model with Labels). Then, students discuss how the Earth's systems are interacting during the rain shadow effect.
Prior to today's lesson, I divided up three boxes of Modeling Clay onto four trays (Modeling Clay Trays) by cutting three blocks of clay into twelve pieces (Modeling Clay Cut into 12 Pieces). That way, there will be enough for each group to have one piece of clay in each color.
Lesson Introduction & Goal
I introduce today's goal: I can explain how the Earth's systems are interacting during the Rain Shadow Effect. I explain: Yesterday, you and your team began making some incredible models of the rain shadow effect. Can anyone tell me why, as scientists, we would create a model? Having discussed this before, one student recalls, "Models allow us to investigate something that happens in the real world without having to go visit the actual location." Another student adds on, "Yeah, sometimes things are too large to bring into the classroom so we have to make a model."
Today, you will use your research from yesterday (Rain Shadow Effect Notes) to complete your rain shadow effect models by adding labels using clay and toothpicks!
At this point, I explain how to construct labels for the rain shadow effect by cutting out Rain Shadow Effect Cards and Taping the Cards to Toothpicks. Here's what the labels will look like: Cards Taped to Toothpicks.
I pass out a copy of the Rain Shadow Effect Cards (on card stock paper) and 18 toothpick (placed in a dixie cup) to each group of three students. Teams begin cutting out each of the cards.
As students finish creating labels for their models, I refer to the Modeling Clay Trays on the counter. My students can hardly wait to get their hands on this clay! In fact, I can already see a few finger impressions where students just had to touch the clay as they walked by earlier!
There are four colors of modeling clay that you can use to secure your labels to your rain shadow effect models. Turn and talk: How might you use each color of clay today?
I walk around the room and watch students read some of their labels and begin categorizing them. Proudly, I observe most groups utilizing our color-coding system on the Earth Systems Poster from the beginning of the unit and discussing how they could use green to secure labels that have to do with the biosphere, red for atmosphere, blue for hydrosphere, and yellow for geosphere.
When students have come up with a plan, I ask one student from each group to get one piece of clay in each color (along with a paper towel to handle the greasy substance).
Monitoring Student Understanding
Once students begin working, I conference with every group. My goal is to support students by asking guiding questions (listed below). I also want to encourage students to engage in Science & Engineering Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence.
- What patterns have you noticed?
- Why do you suppose ____?
- What have you found so far?
- Has your thinking changed?
- What evidence do you have?
- How did you decide _____?
- What conclusion can you draw about ____?
- How does the _____ (sphere) impact the rain shadow effect?
- Can you explain why you placed _____ (label) here?
As students finish their models, I ask them to:
1. Take turns using the model to explain what the rain shadow effect is and why it happens.
2. Discuss: How would the rain shadow effect change if we didn't have a... biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, or geosphere. (Discussion Question)
Here, Students Placing Cards on Model, students explain where they placed cards and why. I am reminded of how powerful it is for students to use a model to support their thinking.
During this conference, Supporting Vocabulary Development, I support students with science vocabulary by calling attention to new words, such as leeward side, windward side, and prevailing winds. Vocabulary development is key to developing precise explanations.
Here, Students Discussing Interactions Between Spheres, the students discuss how the Earth's spheres all interact during the rain shadow effect by constructing theories based on what they already know. A misconception that these students seem to have is that rain is squeezed out of clouds due to increasing air pressure. I continue to remind students that the air pressure decreases as you move upwards in the troposphere.
All groups completed were able to finish their models during this time. Here's an example of a completed model: Student Rain Shadow Effect Model with Labels.
Reflect & Apply
Now that students have built meaning and understanding by observing, questioning, and exploring, it is important to provide students with the opportunity to apply and share their findings. For this reason, I invite students to observe how all of the Earth's major spheres interact during the rain shadow effect while observing the following picture.
Teacher Note: This activity supports NGSS standard, 5-ESS2-1: Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
Each of my students has a google email account, so sharing documents that can be edited by students is quick and easy! At this time, I share the document, Rain Shadow Effect & Spheres Response (in Google Documents). Students grab their laptop computers and copy the shared document to make it their own editable version. Many students use the Earth Systems Poster for inspiration.
To expose students to a variety of ideas, I ask volunteers to share their responses out loud:
Here are a few examples of student work during this time: