These stations will help the students in answering the Essential Question for this unit, “How is energy stored and transferred through various systems in the natural world?” (Essential Question was taken from the NGSS). This lesson is a 3 day lesson as it connects to a variety of both Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Science Standards. The focus of the NGSS in this lesson is for students to recognize that models can be used to represent systems and interactions, including energy that flows in systems. Students provide evidence of potential energy by drawing diagram models of unobservable mechanisms that are storing energy at each lab station (SP2). In addition, students write a well developed paragraph as they engage in argument in evidence by supporting the claim that different amounts of energy can be stored in systems (SP7).
These standards are listed below:
MS-PS3-2 Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in a system.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.5 Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic.
CCSS.ELA-RST.6-8.6 Analyze the author’s purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.5 states that students should be able to analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic. In addition, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.6-8.7 states that students should be able to integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table. In this beginning activity, students will use science text to analyze the structure science authors use to create diagrams so that they will be able to effectively create their own during the lab rotation. On each student desk or table, provide examples of science text books and/or scientific articles. This could simply be a text book; although it could be any scientific article that you use in your classroom for any other unit. Articles could be found with a simply google search. The only criteria for the science texts you choose are that they include diagrams that include a title, caption, and labels.
Explain to students that one thing that scientific writers do is include diagrams within their writing that aid in their explanations. As a “Warm Up”, have students work with their table members to look at various diagrams throughout the texts. As they view the diagrams, have them brainstorm aspects of diagrams that seem to be common among the text writers.
Ask each group to offer one similarity they noticed between the diagrams for the whole class. Students often offer suggestions such as titles, captions, labels, pictures, and explanations. Confirm these ideas that all science writers use and introduce a new aspect, which is purpose. Say to the students, “Just as you read a write for different purposes, diagrams are used for specific purposes as well. When creating a diagram, one essential thing to do is to critically look at your diagram and ask, “Does it serve the purpose I am trying to convey?” The idea of identifying purpose is one that students need to practice. In my experience, this is one of the most challenging skills within reading, writing, and in drawing effective scientific diagrams/models.
After this discussion, rub a balloon on your hair or a student’s hair. Move the balloon at different distances from the head and have students offer observations about what they see occurring as the balloon moves. Present the students with the following scenario: A text book writer wants to explain that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system. How could the text book writers use this demonstration to create a diagram that serves the purpose?
On the white board, chart paper, elmo, etc. draw a diagram similar to the diagram included in the resources below titled, "Mini Lesson Beginning Diagram" which is simply a picture of my white board to start the mini lesson.
Let students know that this is a common diagram that students offer when presented with this scenario. As a class, evaluate the diagram’s effectiveness and edit it to make it stronger. Say, “As we evaluate this diagram, we have to keep the purpose of the diagram at the forefront of our minds.” Help the students dissect what the purpose of the text book writer is. In order to do this, you must help them break down the vocabulary. In this scenario, the purpose of the text book writer is to explain “when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system.” Ask the students first to explain what “arrangement of objects” means. With this question written on the board, elmo, chart paper, etc. write the meaning of this phrase above it. Then, help students dissect the word “interacting at a distance changes” in the sentence and again write its meaning above the word. Repeat the process for the words “potential energy” and “system”. Let students know that successful scientific writers often use this strategy of “marking up” a question in order to get to the purpose.
Evaluate the diagram. Start with the actual picture. Ask, “Does this picture serve the purpose?” Students may offer suggestions that lead you to change to the following picture. Students should recognize that the picture right now is completely missing the purpose of “distance changing” in the system. Next, ask, “Is there anything else missing?”. Students should offer suggestions such as a title, labels, and caption. As you edit the original, be sure to evaluate the purpose of the new labels, titles, and caption. For example, right now, the caption explains some science behind what is happening, but it does not serve the purpose the author is going for which is to show how distance affects how different amounts of potential energy are stored.
The final diagram may look something like the diagram included in the resources below titled, "Mini Lesson Finished Diagram" which is a picture of my white board after my class collaborated on editing the original diagram.
Ask the students to connect to the Essential Question by asking, "What are you supposed to be learning today?" Students should refer to the EQ that is posted on the board and in their Unit Plan when answering this question by saying something like, "I want to answer the question 'How is energy transferred through various systems in the natural world?'". Specifically let the students know that their learning target is, “I can describe and model situations in which different amounts of potential energy are stored in a system.” Explain that they will be going through a series of lab stations that will help them with this target. Direct them to make as many connections to this learning target as they can as they move through the lab stations. In addition, their focus is to demonstrate an understanding of how scientific writers utilize diagrams effectively.
Walk around the room and show students where each lab station is located and have them reference the procedures that are written under each station on their lab sheets. On Day 1, students will only get to 1 lab station. Have them complete the station and answer the question. I like to let them rotate themselves, but you obviously could assign groups and rotate them on a timer.
Here are some quick descriptions of each station:
Station 1 - Up in the Air - Students are able to make a paper clip seem to float in mid air due to potential energy!
Station 2 - Gaussian Guns - Students use magnetic potential energy to "shoot" steel marbles from a track. (Gaussian Guns can be purchased from online science stores. Can't buy a Guassian Gun? Simply drop this station. The 4 remaining stations are worth doing!)
Station 3 - Meteor Drop - Students create "craters" by dropping marbles from different heights to explore gravitational potential energy.
Station 4 - Tape Interaction - Students change the distances that tapes with static electricity interact with each other.
Station 5 - Spool Racers - Students create small elastic potential "vehicles" from spools of thread, rubber bands, and toothpicks.
As students work at their lab stations, check in with each group and help them connect to the purpose of the lab. Continually reference the learning target that is clearly labeled on the lab sheet and emphasize that you are assessing them on their mastery of this skill. So, as they observe each lab station, they want to keep this purpose in mind.
On a slip of paper, have students answer the question, “Draw a diagram that demonstrates that when the kinetic energy of an object changes, that energy has been transferred to another object.” Make sure students complete this independently.
I use this question as it is a learning target students have already learned about. You may use any question that asks students to draw a diagram related to a skill you have taught. Have students turn these slips in. That night, go through the slips, organizing them into piles of students that need the same help within the skill. For example, you may have a stack for those that are struggling with purpose, those forgetting labels/captions, those who need to be completely retaught, and even those that demonstrate understanding very well but could take it to another level by utilizing stronger vocabulary. On Day 3 of this lesson, you will meet with each individual group while the whole class works independently to work on each group’s specific area of improvement.
Allow students to continue to work through the lab stations and answer the questions. As you rotate between stations, continue to connect students to the learning target. For example, I might ask a group, "What is the purpose of this lab?" or "What are you looking for connections to at this lab station?". The "I can" statements are located right on the student lab sheet so they should answer with the skill that is identified on the lab sheet for that station. In addition, engage in continuous conversations about their diagram drawings. Ask students to show how their diagrams connect to the purpose of the diagram they drew.
Allow any student not completed with a station to finish and provide students with work time. Once students have finished their answers, students with a partner or small group should swap papers and peer edit. I find the skill of peer editing is clearly tied to understanding. Without being able to recognize what great writing aspects look like in other student work, students will not be able to identify it in their own. I like to use the phrase, “Put your finger on it”. I have students “Put their finger on” (Literally, they need to physically touch on the peer’s paper) the following:
Picture that is connected to the purpose
Caption that is connected to the purpose
Picture that is clear, and connected to the purpose
Here is an example of a student's work that you could use as an exemplar. Notice in each diagram, the title, caption, labels and picture serve the purpose of demonstrating that various amounts of potential energy are stored in a system.