Designing Safety Equipment
Lesson 12 of 12
Objective: SWBAT design a solution to a problem.
Throughout this unit, students have learned about the function of plant parts through observation, texts, and videos. Before the advent of the NGSS standards, many teachers would finish the unit at this point.
However, let's look closely at the NGSS Life Sciences standard for Structure, Function, and Information Processing:
1-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.
Understanding the parts and their interrelationships is actually just the first step! The standards then move towards a culminating engineering design. Let's break it down a bit further. First, we need a human problem to solve. I designed this unit with the text Jack and the Beanstalk it because it provides a human problem based on the question, "How can humans safely climb trees?"
In my initial brainstorming before the unit, I tried to relate plant parts to safety equipment. For example, the seed coats are similar to helmets and vine tendrils are similar to ropes. As I researched more deeply into what type of equipment it takes to climb (this is not how I normally spend my weekends!), there are even more options. Can you think of some plant parts that you could mimic for shoe spikes? How about a harness? Although ultimately my students will choose the equipment and plant parts to mimic, it is important as the teacher to have a few ideas in your bag of tricks. These ideas become suggestions you can offer, and if your students are anything like mine, they'll take the ideas and run with them!
To begin today, I review the T-chart from the previous lesson. At the top is our question, "How can we design safety equipment for climbing?" In the left column, we listed climbing equipment, and in the right column, we listed plant parts we might be able to mimic in order to make the equipment. At the end of yesterday's lesson, students picked which idea they thought was the best idea.
Next, I tell students that today we will draw a plan. This unit is taught in the Spring, so my students have completed design plans a handful of times throughout the school year (see those lessons too, here on BetterLesson!). At this point, rather than me giving them a rubric, students should be able to develop the criteria. Here are some questions I ask to help them think of all aspects that should be included.
What components will our design plans have?
If Jack was going to build this, how would he know what to do?
How will Jack know what he needs?
I want to move students towards these general criteria: a list of materials, a labeled diagram, and new this time around, step-by-step instructions for building. If you are teaching this unit or lesson and students are not particularly familiar with what makes a good engineering plan, definitely provide them with the criteria on a checklist and model, model, model!
In the previous lesson, students decided on an idea to develop, so today all students should be quick to get started. Here's one student's ideas and design from the previous day.
I play a transition song and students return to their seats to begin drawing and writing plans for Jack to make his safety equipment. I offer a few different writing options, and as you can see from the student samples, students chose both types based on their writing comfort level.
I chose to have students draw and label a diagram of their safety equipment and also to write step-by-step instructions for Jack to build it. In this way, students are working towards not only NGSS standards, but also Common Core Writing Standard 1.7, participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of "how-to" books on a given topic and use them to write a sequence of instructions). My language arts curriculum has a series of how-to texts that fell slightly after this science unit; and I used this format as an introduction to the how-to text.
I circulate as students work and check-in to make sure they are on the right track and keep them thinking about additional parts they could add to their plans.
Pacing is incredibly important in this lesson. Some of my students take a very long time to plan and are deliberate in their choices. Most (but not all) have learned to edit their work using a rubric or checklist. Today, early finishers will join a partner and share their plans. Mostly in math, when students finish written work at all different times, I use a strategy for finding a partner that goes like this: raise two fingers (like a peace sign), scan the room with your eyes, lock eyes with another friend whose fingers are up, make a goofy smile at one another, and go! Partners can then have a conversation about where in the room to meet.
Here are some of the step-by-step instructions to help Jack plan and build his equipment. Some of them are quite comical, stating things like "Step 4: Steal all of the giant's gold" and "make sure you don't hit your head."
- Student plan #1
- Student plan #2, check out Step 3!
- Student work #3
- Student work #4
- Student work #5
- Student work #6
- Student work #7
Early finishers are then able to partner read related books about plants and flowers around the room.
In order to allow as much time as possible, today the closing is short and to the point.
Friends, how were you an engineer today? How have you solved a problem?
Students will turn-and-talk to discuss their responses, and then some will share with the whole group. Then, I bring them back to the lesson opening by having them reflect, "How the the plan criteria help you design?"
After this lesson, I review all of the plans to see if they met the criteria. If not, I add another day of reflection where we peer review plans and then students get time to make changes before turning in a final product.