Doin' Science: Microwaved Water (Day 2 of 2)

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Students will be able to 1) understand the steps and process of the scientific method, 2) apply the process of the scientific method to various real-life phenomena and construct a valid conclusion (argument) based on evidence, and 3) evaluate the quality of an experiment, especially on the basis of reliability and validity.

Big Idea

Science, when used appropriately, can dispel myths that are not properly supported with solid evidence and sound reasoning. In this way, science can free an ever increasing technological society from ignorance and misunderstanding.

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson I want to introduce a simple reason why science is relevant to all people regardless of their occupation or inclination to the sciences (be it real or perceived). I am confident that all teachers at some point or other have fielded the question, "Why do I have to learn this?". Therefore it is incumbent upon me and you (and your colleague down the hall) to anticipate this and be ready for a defense of our chosen and beloved discipline! With this in mind, I have chosen to take on various myths and misconceptions surrounding the common microwave. This two part lesson introduces various ideas (some real and some myth) and together with my class, we investigate the claims and the evidence (of varying quality and quantity) used to back them up. We then look at a science fair experiment that attempted to use a controlled experiment to quantitatively and objectively answer the question, "Does microwaved water harm living organisms?" This then becomes a case study in the good, bad, and ugly of the scientific method. This twin lesson package lays the groundwork for what the process of science strives to be and what it hopes to avoid.

I hope you get some value from my work! Please find the more intricate details of this lesson plan there.

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

Click here for Part 1...

Entry Task: Provide a Post-It note for each student as they enter class. Remind them of the fact that they had become more well-versed in the fact and fiction of microwaves (yesterday’s lesson). Today’s focus will be on explaining the process of Cornell note taking and 2) evaluating the process of science, with a specific focus on the terms: validity and reliability.

Instruct students to write each term (validity and reliability) and a number line next to each on the Post-It note (ranging from 1-5). Direct them to self-evaluate their understanding of each term (1= poor, 3= some familiarity, 5=strong). Half-step scores (e.g. 4.5) are acceptable too. Tell them to set the Post-it note aside for later.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

40 minutes

Doin’ Science: Microwaved Water Lecture

1. Provide a copy of the Cornell note-taking template to each student. In my class I require a Composition Book (CB) in which all lectures (live and vodcast style) are to be written. This ought to include a table of contents (reserving the first several pages of the CB) including the date, title, and page number on which it begins. I grade each entry according to the attached rubric (which is glued into the inside front cover of the book so that it is clear to me, students, and parents how the student’s work will be assessed.)

 2. If done in class, proceed with the lecture. Note: you might find it helpful to preview the vodcast ahead of time to get a sense of what I have chosen to emphasize regarding the featured science fair project and then use it as is or modify the content to suit your needs and style! 

 3. As a matter of practice Cornell note taking requires students to keep track of main ideas in the left-hand column to organize their notes. This lecture has six sections, each of which is identified in the left-hand column of the lecture file. I habitually use this organizational scheme (with varying numbers of topics) to chunk the lecture into smaller sections that, I believe, is more student-friendly. We have all been in a lecture at some point or other and have likely asked ourselves, “When will this be over?” This gives landmarks for me to use to pause and take in questions that students may have. Oftentimes, I will pause after each section in order to ask basic review questions of students at random from each section to reinforce content that I feel is particularly important. Remember that repetition indicates importance and I am often surprised at how much repetition/repackaging/reinforcement is needed to cement the core ideas I teach. That said, the questions from the Doin’ Science: Microwaved Water lecture quiz can serve as the basis for these questions. In other words, you can have students pause and complete each question after each lecture section has concluded. Alternatively, you may wish to have students complete this quiz on their own for homework for the sake of time management.

4. Once again, it is relevant to note here that in my teaching context, all students are issued district laptops and therefore have no barrier of access to technology. As a result, my general practice is to assign the vodcast (and quiz) for homework on Day #1 and then we will discuss the concepts and quiz answers the next day in class on Day #2. 

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

10 minutes

1. Once the lecture has concluded, I direct my students to complete a well-written summary of their notes. It is paramount (in my mind) that students cognitively process by regularly packaging their learning in their own words and in the language that is more native to them and their thinking. In terms of growing in their metacognitive thinking, students ought to articulate what they understand well and what they are unsure of. In doing so, I can address these in a follow-up (either written comments in their CB or a conversation to clarify their question).

2. According to the CB rubric, students are guided as to how long the summary ought to be to earn a particular grade and how detailed it must be. If students submit work that does not meet a particular grade level (4, 3, 2, 1), I will provide specific feedback for improvement (such as missing formatting of the lecture or insufficient references back to the lecture notes) and students may revise their work for an improved grade.

3. I have found great success in this practice and in a very short time, students show eagerness in making improvements in their work (to move from a 2 to a 3 or 4 for example). Of course, this grading practice applies for all formative and even some summative work and it is the extension of the Habits of Mind introduced in the very beginning of the school year (such as ‘persisting’ and ‘remaining open to continuous learning’).

Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

Note: Depending on time constraints and student pacing, you may have students complete their summaries at home.