Asking the Right Questions : Designing Your Own Inquiry Lab (Part 2 of 6)

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SWBAT formulate their own leading question, conduct relevant research, and develop the steps of a lab procedure through use of the scientific method.

Big Idea

Students will use earthworms as a basis for designing their very own inquiry-based investigation while they create, conduct and analyze their very own experiment!

Hook - Did You Know? Worm Edition!

3 minutes

This lesson grabs students' attention very quickly once they notice the worms that are crawling around my front demonstration counter!

In an effort to ease the tension for some of my more sensitive students, I will show a Interesting Worm Facts video clip that highlights little known facts about worms.  As a warm-up activity, I have my students record two facts that they found most interesting on their bell question sheet.

Then I will ask my students, "What do you think worms and the scientific method have in common?"  My answer of course is that EVERYTHING has to do with the scientific method!  This will be my transition into today's laboratory experiment.  

Direct Instruction- The Scientific Method Is More Fun With Worms!

10 minutes

One final review of the scientific method:

In a previous lesson, the students transcribed notes from a Scientific Method Power Point Presentation, reviewed the steps of the scientific method in a whole group discussion, and completed a reinforcement worksheet to practice the application of the scientific method's steps.  Students also completed the Wormbeat Lab where they followed a teacher-established procedure to determine the effect of cold water on the heart rate of a worm.  These prior experiences will set the stage for today's student-designed inquiry lab. 

Now that students are comfortable using the scientific method and are familiar with the process of experimental design, I will challenge the students to develop a thought provoking question regarding WORMS and create a detailed lab procedure with their lab groups. I have created this handout, Student Developed Inquiry Lab Investigation, to assist the student progress in writing their own lab experiment using the steps of the scientific method as a guide.

A great transition that I use for this activity is, "Now that you have investigated a teacher-designed experiment by completing the Worm Beat Lab, it is your turn to ask your own scientific question and develop your very own inquiry lab.  There are no questions too big or small to guide your inquiry.  Remember to be specific with your question, be thorough in your research, and be detailed in the steps of your procedure!  Follow the steps in the provided handout and let the scientific discovery begin!  Your Student Developed Inquiry Lab Investigation Handout should be completed by our session tomorrow.  You have today's class period and tonight to work with your group to achieve worm greatness!"

Video Reflections: Student Lab Groups at Work

2 minutes


Guided Practice - The Real Work Begins: Writing The Worm Experiment

37 minutes

I have created groups of 4 students each with the hope that the collaborative environment will encourage more creativity and productivity for the students.  Most of the time I have the students complete lab activities in pair, so the larger group will bring more energy and excitement to the classroom.

With the students in their lab groups, I distribute the handout, Student Developed Inquiry Lab Investigation, so that each student would have one for reference during the remainder of this multi-day project.  The worksheet will guide the lab group through each step of today's lesson, which is to research and write the procedure for their student-developed lab.  The students will have the opportunity to participate in their approved labs tomorrow.  

Inspiration: I have placed some of the worms in a lab tray on the front demonstration counter for groups to observe their activity.  There is no need for students to bring worms to their tables today since we are only writing the lab procedure in today's lesson. Students are invited up one lab group at a time to make observations in hopes of inspiring a guiding question for their inquiry lab.  Each group will rotate through in a timely manner so they can get back to their stations and begin their work on their group handout.

In preparation of today's lesson, I have reserved the department's set of laptop computers so that the students may use them to complete research as they begin creating their inquiry  labs.   Student groups also need to select one or two recorders/secretaries for the group to create a Google Drive Document version of the Student Developed Inquiry Lab Investigation document so that each group member can login and contribute their section if the group does not finish during the class period.  Groups will also share their proposed inquiry lab with the teacher via Google Drive, so that the investigations can be approved before the day of the labs.  Our District has created Google Drive accounts for each student and teacher so communication for group projects has been made much easier!

Students will work in their collaborative groups to develop their experiment's leading question, complete any necessary research on worms, and write a detailed procedure for their lab investigation.

I will rotate around to each of the groups to gauge progress and provide any necessary clarification or refocusing for the groups.  

I will also continuously remind the student groups that all discovery questions and inquiry labs are valid and will be accepted as long as safety precautions are followed, respect for the worm/live specimen is maintained, and the required materials are available in our classroom or local market.  I am purposely not providing guided questions for the students so they are left with the sole responsibility to develop their question, conduct their supporting research, and write their detailed lab procedure.  

The student lab groups remained focused and productive the entire period!  I was beyond pleased with the student effort and collaborative spirit in today's lesson!

Close - Clarifying the Worm Project and Assigning Homework

5 minutes

The student lab groups should be nearing completion of writing their student-inquiry lab procedure.  I will ask for a show of "thumbs" to determine the progress of the groups - thumbs up is that we are almost done and on the right track, thumbs to the side means that we are getting there but there is still significant work to do tonight for homework, and thumbs down means we need to stay after class to discuss our project.  

I will also offer my classroom to the students at lunch so that groups can come in and work on their lab procedure while it is still fresh on their minds.  

Make sure to have one group member create a Google Doc version of the Student Developed Inquiry Lab Investigation Worksheet so that each group member can each add their own edits to the group document for their homework assignment.  I will ask that the students share their document with me, so I can preview the lab procedure for safety concerns and live specimen handling before we begin the student-developed experiments the next day.  

In addition to finishing their assigned portion of the group Lab Investigation Worksheet on the Google Drive Document, students will complete this Scientific Method Review Worksheet.

On their way out of the classroom, I remind the students that at the end of their inquiry lab each student will write a group reflection of each member including a self-assessment to gauge productivity, attitude, and follow through on assigned tasks from the group.  The student self-assessment seems to encourage students to stay accountable to each other and increases their willingness to go the extra mile to ensure the project is completing on time.

In the next lesson, the student lab groups will be able to conduct their approved inquiry lab investigations.