Where Does My Stuff Come From? Part 5, Day 2

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SWBAT use an online tool to explore data of their choice and to frame new questions.

Big Idea

One step in conducting great research and developing a great argument is learning to ask great questions. Students take a step in that direction today.

Opener: Check in on Parts 4 and 5

5 minutes

We're back in the computer lab today, where students will return to the Trade Map web site to do some research of their own.  To get started, I ask each student to take out their work on the "Where Does My Stuff Come From?" project.  By now, everyone should have Part 4 complete, and they should be done with the first two pages of Part 5 of the project, which was the focus of yesterday's lesson.  I tell everyone to show me that these are complete, and I'll provide the next two pages of Part 5.  For anyone who is not up to date, I tell them to get right to it.

Work Time: More Analysis and Framing Your Own Questions

35 minutes

Today is the last class period in which students will work on the "Where Does My Stuff Come From?" project.  I describe the first two pages of Part 5 in yesterday's lesson.  In practice, I'll be helping some students put finishing touches on Part 4, while others still have a bit more to do on the first two pages of Part 5.  Most are ready or will be soon for the last two pages, and that's what I describe here.

Now that we're in the computer lab, all students can use WolframAlpha for themselves.  This will come in handy as students calculate a few more percentages at the top of page 3.  Then, each student will use the Trade Map web site to conduct some research of their own.  In my lesson about Part 4 of the project, there is a video overview of how Trade Map works.  

Using what they learned to do in that lesson, students can now look up trade data for the country of their choice and the product category of their choice.  I try to get everyone to pick a different country and product category from their neighbors, so everyone is doing their own work.  This lesson is a blast to teach, because it's high-engagement and I never know what kinds of questions are going to surface among my students.  At this point, most students are genuinely curious about trade relationships between countries, and they're always fascinated to go a little more in depth on particular product.

The final task is for students to write questions of their own.  If there's time, we might talk about how to answer these questions.  As a teacher, one of my biggest goals is spark curiosity in all of my students: to get them asking great questions, and to give them the tools to answer those questions.  So here, we're moving in that direction.  I can see what kinds of questions kids are asking, and then we can talk about how tools like Trade Map and WolframAlpha might help.

This part of the project is difficult for kids.  Included here are three examples of student questions, and you can see the varying levels of depth in each student's work.  My role is to surface the brilliant little nuggets of ideas embedded in each of these questions, and to work with kids to turn general, unclear questions into specific ones that might move their thinking forward.  

If there's a little extra time, I tell students to look up the country they've chosen, their product category, and their birthday on WolframAlpha.  It's fun to watch what they discover.

Debrief: Interdisciplinary Connections

3 minutes

With a few minutes left in class, I ask for everyone's attention.  I say that we're wrapping up this Statistics unit over the next two classes.  There will be a writing prompt tomorrow and a more traditional exam the next day.  I tell students to submit Parts 4 and 5 of the project if they're complete, or to finish these as soon as possible on their own time.

Finally, I ask students about the work they're doing in Biology and in Global History, and if any of what we've done today could help them with what they're thinking about.  On our brand-new 9th grade team, my colleagues and I are working to build new interdisciplinary projects, and our current step is just to explore connections between the work.  In Biology, students are assessing the advantages and disadvantages of different sorts of progress.  Each of them is choosing a modern phenomena - often in the form of a convenience or consumer product - and assessing its value.  I ask the class if knowing where stuff comes from might be able to help in their research.  In Global History, they're studying progress as well, and trade certainly plays a role in that.  My usual luck here is that a kid says something wonderfully compelling just as the bell rings, but really, that was the point of today's lesson: to leave with some open-ended questions and ideas, and to see where they take us.