Building and Testing Our Vanilla Plant Pollinator

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Objective

The SWBAT use the engineering design process to develop their ideas and bring their ideas to life. They will also test their ideas to see if their design was effective.

Big Idea

Our student engineers build their own plant pollinator design. Then they test it to determine its effectiveness. Life can be pretty sweet!

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

In the previous lesson, the students were challenged to create a vanilla flower pollinator.  They defined the problem, researched, got the specs and brainstormed a  plan for this challenge.  In the second part, Two Scoops are Better Than One, students worked with a partner to choose, then develop their plan for their vanilla plant pollinator.  

In THIS LESSON, the children will build their designs according to their plan.  They will each measure their pollinators.  Then as a group, we will test out their designs to check their effectiveness.  The students will record their data.

NGSS Connections/Common Core

The students are designing a solution to the problem that people have when hand pollinating the vanilla flower.  This solution will be in the form of a model of a hand pollinator.  After the model is built, the students will decide which measurement tool would be appropriate and measure their design.  The children will collect data and then analyze it to see if their hand pollinator designs were effective and well constructed.  Intwined in the process is the foundational skill that the shape and structure of an object is related to its function.

Materials

  • Pile of Materials--Ready For Action! --craft pom poms of various sizes, cotton balls, cotton swabs (cut in half--I wanted them to be challenged), sticky dots, toothpicks, straws, aluminum foil, wires, wooden beads, popsicle sticks, tape, pipe cleaners, newspaper, and anything else you can think would work well!
  • 1 tray per student pair (to put their "shopping" supplies in--see next section for an explanation).  I use the black trays from microwaveable meals. 
  • small funnel for putting "pollen" into the test tube
  • 1/8 c. flour for the "pollen"-- this will give you more than you need
  • 1/8 teaspoon measuring spoon (since these are hard to find, a 1/4 t. would be fine, too)
  • model vanilla flowers--see previous lesson; 1 per partner group
  • Vanilla Pollinator's Engineer's Notebook recording sheet--1 copy per student
  • Vanilla pollinator measure and test recording sheet-- 1 copy per student
  • Pollen Testing Paper for testing how much pollen was carried by the pollinators; I made it by glueing a flower shape onto a 6" x 10" black foamboard for durability but construction paper would work fine, too.
  • aprons and soda hats (totally optional but fun).  Since they are part of Ben and Jerry's workforce, I added this for fun.  They kiddos loved it, but it is not necessary!  I bought mine off of Amazon.com.

 

Engage!

5 minutes

Engaging students in this activity is so incredibly easy.  They are so anxious to start building their designs that they have been driving me crazy asking me, "When do we do science?" and "Is it science time yet?"

Guess what my Ben and Jerry workers?  It's time to build your pollinators!  Are you ready?  You have your plan chosen and developed, which was the most difficult part.  Now you are going to have to work together to build your design.  You should use your plan and diagram that you and your partner have created to guide you in building your model.

I pull up the website with an example of a real-life model on it (see link). Anytime you connect what they know with the "real-world," it increases their interest.

Before we start, let's review models.  Who can explain what a model is?  Why do we use them?  Here is an example of a model that scientist are working on right now to help them with exploration on the planet called Mars. 

 I want them to see that scientists in the real-world do things just like what they are doing, but of course in a different context.  Whenever I ground what they are learning into real-life, it becomes much more relavant and their interest level sky-rockets.  The idea that someone out there, not so different from them, is creating models just like they are is one of the strongest links I can provide for them in their learning.

 

Building Our Designs

20 minutes

I feel that anytime you give the students a design challenge, it should also come with time constraints.  Of course a sufficient amount of time, but not too much.

I tell the children that when engineers complete a task, they have to do it in a certain amount of time.  Just like them, we are going to have a set amount of time to finish the building of your hand pollinators.  

You are going to have 20 minutes to build your pollinator.  Just like a real engineer, you must have your hand pollinator built within that amount of time.   I call this time chunking.  What I mean by time chunking is I will tell you every 5 minutes how much time you have used and how much time you have left.  

I am also going to give each group a  model flower so you can use it to make sure your design works.

Note:  I don't start the timer until everyone has their supplies.

At the front table you will find all of the materials that can be used for this project.  Take a look at your plans and the diagrams to see how you planned on building the vanilla plant pollinator.  Then take a look at your material list.  Your material list is kind of like your parents' shopping list.  Look at it to help guide you on what materials you need to complete your design (see photo of shoppers).  When it is your turn to shop, please bring your material list.  You can put the things that you are going to use for your design in one of these black trays.

This is all part of the planning process, which sometimes is so foreign to children.  When I equated what they are doing to using a shopping list, they related to the task since it was put into a context that they knew about.  

Here is a video clip of some of the shoppers and here is another one.  It is fun to see how their little brains are working as they come and gather their supplies.  Here's a look at the vanilla pollinators created by my students. 

After the children have built their pollinators would be a GOOD BREAKING POINT if you don't have time to complete this whole lesson in one day.

Explanation

10 minutes

Before we test their pollinators, I check to see if the children got the main part of the lesson, that the shape and stability of a structure influences its function.  

We are going to test your pollinators to see if they work.  What do you think your pollinators must be able to do for us to say that they worked?

A girl answers, "It has to be able to go all the way down and pollinate it."

Right.  It has to be able to go all the way down to the bottom to polinate it.  I am going to put some pollen in the bottom of the model vanilla flower.  So your pollinator must be long enough, like was said,  What else do we know about your pollinator?

Another boys answers that it has to be soft enough to get more pollen.

Ok it has to be soft to get more pollen. What else do you know.  It has to be soft, it has to be able to fit in the bottom.  What else?

A girl explains the characteristics that a pollinator must have in order for it to be effective.  Watch this video clip to see her ideas.  Note:  When she refers to it at the end, she is talking about the pollen.

Holy cow!  You have just said a lot of things.  Yes, you also have to be able to get that pollen off once it gets to a new flower. Thinking about what a pollinator has to do to be effective, how do you think we would test that our pollinators are effective?

The children offer several suggestions.  I lead them to the idea that the pollinators must fit into the model flower and they must go all the way down to the bottom.  Remember that understanding  idea that the shape influences the function is part of the cross-cutting concepts so it is essential.

Let's review how we are going to do this. You are going to have to put our pollinator inside of the model flower tube and bring it back up and then it has to be able to pass that pollen to another flower. How do you think that we can do that? 

 A student suggests that we should put it on the flower, take it out and lightly tap it.

I like the way she said lightly tap it. That is a great idea.  How many taps do you think would be a fair test? We need to be consistent since we want our results to be accurate.  If someone taps once and then someone else taps ten times, we would come up with way different results. So how many taps do you think we need to use to be able to check it out?

We then have a class discussion about it and vote for how many times we think it should be tapped.  The class decided that we should tap it 3 times to assure accuracy.  

So we are going to take the pollinator and dip it in the model vanilla flower. Then pull it out, hold it over the black paper flower and tap three times.  We are going to see how much pollen goes on it.  

Being consistent is an important part of science that the children need to understand.

So when we are testing you are going to also have to decide how much pollen would be considered to be enough. So we're going to have to decide together what we think enough is.  This is a model flower, I put my pollinator in, pull it out and tap three times.

I purposefully tried to get the Q tip as full of pollen as I could so they could see what a large amount is so they can compare it to the rest.  After I tap 3 times, I hold up the black paper so the children can see the amount of pollen left on the paper.  Judging by their reaction, they are impressed with the amount of "pollen" on the paper.  

Would you consider this a lot of pollen or just a little?  

The class concluded that the amount was a large amount.  Then I show them how we then take the black paper and tap it on the back over a garbage can to get the pollen off.  I repeat the process using varying amounts of pollen each time so they can get a feel for what we would consider a fair, medium and large amount.  Agreeing on what is a little, medium and a large amount together helps develop the idea of consistency, which is paramount in accurate testing.

Testing Our Designs

25 minutes

Since this is one of our first times testing out designs, I decided to do this altogether as an entire class.  The kiddos get out their Vanilla pollinator measure and test papers.  To begin, I go over the directions with the students to make sure they understand the task.

One partner group is going to come up front, explain their pollinator, dip it into the model vanilla flower, bring it out and then take it up to the flower on black paper and tap how many times? (3) Then we will look at your amount to decide if your amount is a fair, medium or large amount. So I need everyone to get out their Measure and Test papers from their folder.  (I wait for them to get their papers out).

First thing it says that you have to measure how long your pollinator is.  So what would you use to measure how long it is? The kiddos answer that we should use a ruler.  What unit should we use for our measurement? (cm or inches)

This is an important part of understanding and using the mathematic standard of choosing an appropriate tool for measuring.  Measuring objects is also part of the math practices.

Since we have been using cm in math class, we are going to use cm to measure our pollinator.  Remember to line your ruler up at the zero mark and then check to see where it ends on the ruler.

Just to be sure that everyone understands, I use a sample pollinator to model the activity. Then I show them where to write the  measurement down on their  paper.

I walk around and see that they are using their rulers appropriately.  A few need some extra reminders about starting at the zero mark.  

One of the groups came to me with a problem that they couldn't measure their pollinator because it was too long.  So I pose the question to the class.  I ask them what they could use to measure the pollinator that would be longer. 

They came up with the idea that the girls could use the ruler, mark it where it ends and then use it again and count how many more cm were used.  Or they could use a meter stick.  We have been studying measurement in math class, so this is a great tie-in.  

How long were your pollinators?  Which pollinator was the longest?  Which was the shortest?  How much longer was ________'s pollinator than _______'s pollinator?

The children answer these questions by comparing measurements to others in the class.  We talk about whose is longer or shorter.  We also figure out how much longer or shorter one is over the other.  This is great practice for the math standard of comparing measurements.

We are going to have people come up one group at a time.  They are going to explain their pollinator and dip it down inside of the vanilla flower take it to the black flower and tap how many times? (3).  Then we will work together to see what the results were.

Then when you go back to your seats you are going to record your results on your paper.  You are going to have to circle the answers to the questions like how well constructed was the pollinator?  Did it stay together after it was used?  

I go over each column on the sheet to make sure they all understand what to circle and what each one means.  Here is a sample paper.

Then the partners take turns sharing their pollinator, dipping it in and then tapping 3 times over the black paper. We hold up the paper and then discuss what we would consider the amount of pollen that is on the paper. I have to keep reminding the children about staying consistent.  Some students have the urge to continue past 3 (see reflection "Third Time is a Charm" for my thoughts about this).  

When some of the designs don't work out as intended, I make sure to remind the children that not all designs work out the first time. When designs don't work out, that's when you learn so much.  There have been so many things in history that have been created because it didn't work out the first time or even the second. 

Here are 2 video clips of student partners sharing their pollinator and testing it, clip A and clip B.  When they are done sharing they put their pollinator on a designated table.

I collect the aprons and hats.  The children put their papers inside their folders.  All is well in the land of Ben and Jerry. :)

 

Wrap-Up

15 minutes

To wrap this part of the unit up, we review the engineering design process.  I really want them to be familiar with the whole process to prepare them for future tasks.  It also help them understand the engineering standards of the NGSS.

Which part of the engineering design process did we use today?  Right we were building our designs and testing them out.

I hold up the Engineering Design Build and Engineering Design Test and Improve card.  

I continue to probe them to guide them in their new understandings about the process.

Was is hard sticking to a plan when you were building?

What problems did you come across?  

Were you able to recognize any problems and make necessary changes?

Was this process easier or harder than you thought?

Was your pollinator effective?  What improvements could you do to make it more effective or sturdier?

What do you think would be our next step in the process tomorrow?

Right, we will be working on improving our designs!  I can't wait to see what improvements you think of.  Nice job, Ben and Jerry employees!