Science vs. Engineering Project - Day 1

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Students will be able to devise their own science and engineering design processes to be used during the school year.

Big Idea

We can plan our own investigations using our own scientific method and engineering design process.


We are beginning the culminating project for my Introduction to Science unit, where the students are tasked to use the different learning experiences to create their own scientific method and engineering design process. 

This project is about developing the 21-Century Skills of critical thinking and problem solving as it requires the students to be able to organize, analyze and synthesize information to develop well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, and judging them against relevant criteria. They will need to consider different alternatives and the practical consequences of their decisions.

The students work in partnerships of their own choosing for the first three days, and presentations are held on the fourth day.  During this time, students are mostly working independently.

The links to the project will take you to the project page I created using WIX (a free website builder). You will also find the same documents as word documents so that you can modify them to fit your needs.

The project was presented very briefly on Day 1 of the unit, but it was not unpacked, nor did we go through a formal "need to know" phase. In this case, I wanted to expose the students to different experiences where they could build a solid knowledge base, so that the finished projects could be based on the activities and knowledge they acquired within their own thinking as opposed to what they could find in a textbook or internet research.

Unpacking the Project

50 minutes

I project the project website and "popcorn" read it with the students. I use this strategy to allow different students to participate without the tedium of having just one voice. This is about everyone being accountable for following along, and not just waiting for the conversation about the project to start.

I then hand out the project plan sheet and we work together to fill it out (at this point the students choose their partners). I then project the rubric and we use it to complete the plan.

I do a formal fill in of the plan for this unit thinking aloud every answer, so that the students understand how to work through an introductory document and rubric. Eventually the students will be able to do this on their own, but without this early scaffold, the students tend to never read the rubric and begin drafting a project that has very little to do with the requirements.

Each student must fill one copy of the plan sheet in. The partnership keeps one copy and they turn one copy in before the end of the period. This is not graded, I only keep one copy to avoid the inevitable "I didn't know we had to ..." or "I can't find my plan sheet so I don't know what else to do."

I then ask the students to identify the goal for today (first draft of poster) and get to work. I also mention that as I move around the room, I should be hearing conversations similar to the ones I heard during the different lessons in the unit: "I think we should include ____ because_____." 

Before they get to work, I also tell the students that I will hold a mini-workshop on the article commentaries the next day, and I am open to providing mini-workshops on any other area of concern they might have related to the project. In order to request a mini-workshop, they need to pose the question in writing and place it in my mini-workshop bin.

As the students work through their plans, they realize that they might need to modify some of what they have done (Just like real engineers!). Watch as a couple of student pairs explain how adding details to their plans makes things easier.