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. 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."
Other standards addressed by this lesson are CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.1c,d and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.8.5 because the students will give presentations in which they use their models to explain their ideas to their classmates. The students are also expected to be active listeners and ask questions about the project. The lesson will conclude with a discussion of the positive attributes of all of the projects to determine an optimal design.
The lesson begins with a review the problem we are trying to solve - frogs being killed while crossing the road. I ask the students if other animals are impacted by similar issues and they are quick to respond that many times deer cause accidents on the roads near our school. This brief discussion helps to refocus the students toward our task because sometimes the students get so wrapped up in building their models that they lose track of the task at hand.
Before the students begin presenting, we spend time reviewing the objectives of the project by examining the summative assessment rubric as well as the criteria and constraints rubric. I ask the students to describe the characteristics of a good presentation. They respond that it is important for the speakers to speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard by everyone. I also remind the students that they should use their models to demonstrate how their idea works. In addition to discussing the characteristics of good presentations, I also review my expectations of the students as active listeners. I expect the students to ask each other questions after each presentation and to engage in meaningful dialogue as they respond to one another. Since this is the first project in which students have the opportunity to participate in such dialogic process, I remind them to think back to the types of questions I asked them while they were building their models. I also remind the students to be respectful of one another when they ask each other questions and give responses.
Students are randomly selected to present their projects. They show their classmates their model and explain how it works. The audience is then encouraged to ask questions about the design. Generally these questions are focused around the types of materials the students would use in real life or are clarification questions. The students are also expected to complete an analysis of at least four of their classmates' presentations using the Frogger listening guide.
Once the presentations are finished, I ask the students to share their thoughts regarding the most realistic and effective solution to the problem. They decide that a tunnel or overpass for the frogs is the best solution. I then share with them the last slide of the Frogger SMARTboard presentation* which includes an article regarding a tunnel that was built in Germany as a solution to their problem. When reading the article, I emphasize the fact that even though Germany was having financial issues, they felt it was important to create a tunnel to preserve wildlife.