Standards Addressed: The lessons in this unit meet NGSS standard MS-ETS1 - Engineering Design because they require students to consider a real world problem and then design a solution for the problem.
Students are asked to find a way to safely help frogs cross a road which requires them to take into account "relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions" NGSS MS-ETS1-1. Students present their projects to the class and "evaluate competing design solutions." At the end of the project we discuss the positive attributes of all of the projects to determine an optimal design.
This lesson also meets:
NGSS MS-LS2 - Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics as we review interdependent relationships in ecosystems and "evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services."
Students are asked to present and discuss their ideas with the class, helping to meet CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1.
The written portion of the assignment meets CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.4.
The lesson begins with a review of the criteria and constraints rubric created the previous day. I ask the students to review the rubric to make sure they understand the items listed and that they still agree with their previous decisions. I ask the students why it is important to create a set of criteria to see what they recall from the discussion the day before. If they cannot remember, I prompt them by asking if engineers or even construction crews follow guidelines. I then ask the students how those guidelines are created and why they are important. Ultimately, I want the students to understand that we have to find a way to objectively analyze their projects, especially since the project designs vary greatly.
I want to make sure that this set of lessons is more than just an opportunity for the students to work together to build something, so I walk the students through a prototype analysis that requires them to examine various aspects of the project, particularly the projects potential impacts on the environment and people. While the students have worked with a partner to develop the project, I have them work alone on the analysis. I do this to ensure that each student is thinking about the implications of his/her project and it serves as a good way to gauge whether or not the partners are on the same page about the project. Once the page is completed, the partners are able to share their responses.
I begin by reading the instructions and reminding the students that our lesson was designed with the NGSS in mind. I then read the questions one at a time with the students and allow them time to answer the questions. The first question was very difficult for the students, so we began by brainstorming some scientific principles. Once the students have recorded information regarding the potential impacts of their project, they use the rubrics they created in the previous lesson to assess their own projects. This assessment helps them identify areas in which they can improve their projects. In order to leave some time for modifying their designs, I had some classes wait until study hall to complete the last portion of the page that requires them to work with another partner set. Providing peer feedback encourages students to look critically at the work they are completing and helps to develop positive relationships between the students. It also gives them an extra set of eyes looking at the project.
This student example of a constraints rubric failed to include a description of why the student felt the project fit into each category. In this situation, I go back to the student and have a discussion, asking the student to explain how each selection was made. During this explanation, I am looking for the use of key vocabulary terms and use clarifying questions by asking the students, "What do you mean by...” and "Can you provide an example?”
Completing the constraints rubric when examining a classmate's project can be problematic for some students because they may want to give the project high scores and not think as critically about all aspects of the project. This video of a student completing a rubric provides an example of some of the prompting I use with students to help them more objectively complete the rubric.
After examining their projects in relationship to the criteria and constraints rubric, the students spend the next few minutes modifying their projects. During this time, I move through the room asking students to explain the modifications they are making and asking them to explain why they are making those modifications.
At the end of the lesson, I complete a quick update check with the students by taking a show of hands survey to determine how many students planned on making additional modifications. I also ask for volunteers to share their modification ideas with the rest of the class. I conclude the discussion by reminding the students that they will be presenting their finished projects the following day.