Note to teachers: In the lesson It’s an Indoor Excursion, Mate! students practiced their journal skills within the school environment. This lesson will take students into the outdoor areas around the school grounds.
Prior to this lesson you will need to find or take some pictures that illustrate the areas around the school that students will be observing and put together a PowerPoint to assist students in gaining ideas as what types of things they will observe.
I allow students a few days to document observations since they will need evidence to use in their final assignment. This is constructing a preliminary argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations (Performance Expectation MS-LS2-4), which students will continue developing during a unit on biodiversity.
I begin by having students discuss their challenges and insights with the most recent journaling experience, just as in the lesson It’s an Indoor Excursion, Mate! This allows students to build up their repertoire of problem solving skills and strategies to apply during field journal experiences.
Today we will be taking our investigation outdoors. You and a partner will be assigned to an area outside on the school grounds where you will pick a spot to observe for the next few days, rain or shine, so come prepared for the weather.
This time, while you are going to be making the same type of observations we have been practicing, you are going to be adding an element. Your main task is to construct a preliminary argument that addresses the idea that changes to physical/biological components to an environment affects the populations of life found there. You must support your argument with the data you have collected throughout this unit of study. There are two parts to this assignment, can someone explain what they are in their own words?
I write that phrase on the board and have several students explain what it means in their own words and write their answers on the board as well. By putting the assignment into “8th grade words”, the assignment becomes clearer to students.
Remember, keep the assignment in mind but you are not to be creating that argument during your observation time.
To help students hone their focus for their outdoor time, I go over the Outdoor Locations PowerPoint with the class. Each slide depicts a picture of a location that is similar to an area that surrounds our school. While looking at each image I have students respond to one or more of the following questions:
Don’t forget to use your other senses, we often focus just on sight but there is a lot of information gained through your other senses that will add to your data. Be sure to include both verbal and picture descriptions. You may include original sketches, pictures taken using your phone, and physical samples.
While out on the grounds, I monitor/prompt students to ensure they are on task and logging appropriate data. It helps to keep the locations used easily visible from all areas. Additionally, I ask groups to point out data from their journal that they might be able to use to create an argument that changing the environment affects populations and prompt them to think of ways they can collect additional data related to this question. I accept any answers, though most students will not have many ideas at this point (this is just to get them thinking about ideas).
In order for students to get ideas on how other students organize their journal entries and the type of information others are collecting, I have them participate in a sharing exercise.
Writing is a demanding process for students and teachers. While we want students to write, it is challenging to find the time to give students quality feedback in a timely manner. This activity allows students to get quick and meaningful feedback by doing what they do best, socializing! Students benefit from revising their work based on the feedback they received as well as the journals they reviewed.
As students look over the feedback they received, I remind them they will be returning to their location tomorrow, no matter the weather, and they should begin to develop their answer to the focus idea that changes to physical/biological components to an environment affects the populations of life found there. I instruct students to begin finding evidence within their journal that supports their answer and completing a CER chart using the Summative Essay Directions as a focal point.
After the final observation session, students are given time to write and peer edit their argument supported by evidence essay (SP7). With the help of my ELA teacher, I created this Peer Edit Checklist for the students to use to get feedback on their essay prior to turning in their final version.
Note to teachers: Following the second journal session outside, students will be given class time to write the rough draft of their argument using the CER chart they complete at the end of this lesson. Students will be given feedback but will continue to revise and add to this answer throughout a unit on biodiversity. See Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, and Example 4 for a variety of student responses that, while all great, approach the task from different perspectives (this is why I love student choice!).