The goal of this lesson is to have students identify ways that humans impact their local environment. Thinking about change over time can be very difficult for students and is a key concept in science. To help students experience success in their exploration of human impact, I scaffold the process by beginning the lesson asking questions that all students can connect to. As the lesson progresses, I gradually move away from personal questions and towards the broader, and more abstract idea of human impact on the natural world.
I begin the lesson by asking students to think about when they were just five years old. I ask them what they could do in school and what their lives were like. We brainstorm some ideas and record them on the board. I then ask students to list all of the changes that they have experienced since they were five. Students often list academic accomplishments (e.g. I can add and multiply now, or now I can read much faster) and sports-related changes (e.g. I can throw a fastball, run a mile in 7 minutes, etc.). I record all of these changes on the board.
I then ask my students to think about whether our city, our state, and our nation have changed in the last five years. Most students agree that these areas have all changed and can list some changes that have occurred.
I then ask the students to think about whether they feel the natural world changes.
I take time to record student examples and to gradually build up to the idea that the natural world, not just what we experience in a personal way, changes dramatically over time.
Next, I display three photographs of the stream site we have been studying in class. The three photos show the stream site in different times of the year. The photos show changes in weather, plant life, water level, water clarity, and site condition that occur naturally over time.
I ask students to record evidence of change at the stream site on the change over time assignment sheet. I prompt students to consider the plants, water, evidence of animal life, and weather when citing evidence. I ask students to record one paragraph summarizing the ways that the site has changed and to prepare to share their work with the class.
After each student has recorded their evidence on the assignment sheet, I ask students to share their thinking by reading their paragraphs aloud. I record commonalities on the board. The goal of this lesson is to have students understand that the natural world changes over time and that those changes can be documented. By listing commonalities in evidence stated by several students, the students will start to see the importance of sharing evidence with the scientific community.
A video of one student sharing her work can be found here.