Reflection: Adjustments to Practice Citizen science, Student design - Section 4: EXPLAIN: Student-generated examples


While I would like to include examples of student work here, on the whole students struggled to generate examples incorporating both scientific method and engineering design thinking.  Most students could readily describe a science experiment or an engineering-design thinking challenge, but combining the two proved difficult.  This was valuable formative feedback for me and raised a number of questions about how and if to teach this connection again.  

I want students to become proficient at both ways of knowing, but I am wondering if an abstract, text heavy series of activities is the best way to accomplish this goal.  Might students be better served by reflecting on an activity that already incorporates both ways of knowing?  This was the question I explored in the development of my next series of lessons focusing on the Billion Oyster Project.  Students' inability to develop original examples pushed me to consider that perhaps starting with a model and then naming aspects of the scientific method and engineering-design thinking within that model would be a better strategy.  

After all, my big goal for this course is not for students to simply identify the abstract elements of science experiment or engineering-design solution.  Rather, I want students to become fluid in both ways of exploring the world through performing both kinds of work.  Might it be a better strategy for students to name what they are able to do after they are already proficient?   And if this type of lesson-a somewhat dry, abstract connection between the scientific method and engineering-design thinking-has a place in an environmental science curriculum, might it require a multi-lesson exploration?   

More than anything, the failure of this activity has pushed me to reconsider my own sense of what matters for my students to know and do.  Does it really matter if they are able to distinguish between the nuances of the scientific method and engineering-design thinking at the beginning of the year?  Or do I value students' participation in activities that allow them to practice the scientific method and engineering-design thinking?  

  When an activity fails
  Adjustments to Practice: When an activity fails
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Citizen science, Student design

Unit 2: Citizen science, Student design
Lesson 8 of 13

Objective: Students will be able to: 1) describe similarities and differences between the scientific method and the engineering design process; and 2) develop a model illustrating the complementary aspects of both processes.

Big Idea: This is the "thesis" lesson for this unit. Design answers the so what? and what now? questions students have about scientific research. How might we explicitly connect science research with design thinking?

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