Deter the Skunks

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SWBAT design a solution to a human problem caused by skunks.

Big Idea

Learn all about why skunks spray and allow students to engage in creating a solution to fix the problem.

Setting the Stage

Next Generation Science Standard Connection

This lesson relates to Science Standard K-2 ETS1-1, because my class gathers information about why skunks spray. Then they design a solution that can solve the problem of getting sprayed by a skunk.  Creating a scenario is super engaging and exciting for students, so I tell the class a hilarious story about how I got sprayed by a skunk. But, I also share the dangers that skunks can cause humans, so the students really understand why they are causing such a problem. It also seems to really make the students seem to have a purpose.

In the lessson students also communicate the information they learn from text, and explain their solution which connects to SP8. I continue to engage students in practicing communication skills. They present their solution and justify how it will work based on evidence from the information they learned in this lesson. Now we have included SP7 is about justifying your argument using evidence from information they gained in the text, and SP6 is about creating a solution.

Lesson Overview

I find that having a consistent flow of transitions really helps my students persevere through a lengthy and complex lesson. So, we begin in the lounge where I try to assess my students prior knowledge and motivate them about the lesson. Next, we move to the desks in the center of the room, which are in groups of four for the explore, explain, and elaborate section. The last transition is to the lounge and this is where the students present their solution, evaluate their peers' solution, and practice their speaking and listening skills.


10 minutes

This is the time when I try to excite my class and assess what they already know about skunks. It is very engaging for students to share their knowledge if they actually know about skunks. Students seem to learn more from each other. Plus I can determine how much support and explanation I am going to need to provide if I know how much my students already know when we start the lesson.

So, I say, "We have been learning about problems that animals cause humans and today we are going to design a solution to a problem caused by animals." But first, "I need to know what you already know about skunks and why they spray. So, please tell your partner anything you know about skunks." I also have the lesson image on the board since some students may not know what I am talking about. Plus visuals are super engaging to students. As my students talk I listen an this is when I informally assess what they know. I have video showing how I stop the class from talking:fun ways to stop discussion. Then I allow the students to practice speaking, listening, and communicating by sharing their conversations with the class. 

Next, I share my story that really happened to me. "When I was a little girl I lived in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. There was not a gas station for at least ten miles, and it took an hour to get to a Walmart. We had several dogs and they lived out doors. The night before Halloween came and I set my costume, a cowgirl, on the stairs before I went to bed. This made it easier for me to get ready fast. Then I woke up the next morning and smelled a little odor that seemed like skunk spray. I didn't worry because we often smelled skunks in the country. Then I went to school, and all the kids said they smelled skunk. Well the teachers smelled skunk spray too. Guess what, I smelled like a skunk all day. So, skunks can cause a real stinky problem for humans. Apparently the dogs ran a skunk under our house, it sprayed, and the odor remained on me for days."

Then I add, "Hopefully today you will learn why skunks spray, and you will design a solution to help humans deter skunks." To reinforce the standard I chant the goal with the class as they move to their desks: I can design a solution to humans getting sprayed by skunks.


20 minutes

This is the section where I try to expose my students to the problem by reading them a text that explains why skunks are a problem to humans. (The spray stinks, is hard to remove, can burn your eyes, temporarily blind you, and they carry rabies.) I chose a text opposed to a video, because I want to teach my students to find evidence in a text. Also, if I write a text then I can include the specific content I want my students to know, and I can leave out any confusing or distracting information.  Another reason I like using text is that the students can highlight their evidence, and they actually have a document with the correct spelling and information available if they need support when recording their notes.

I have a video: complex tasks that explains how I help my students persevere through this lesson. I read aloud, give each child a copy, and I project the text on the Smart Board. I track on the board, so some students can watch me, but others just track on their own. On the third reading the students are to highlight any reason that shows why skunks can be a problem to humans.

Then they need to write their notes in their science journal in the form of an illustration with labels, words, or sentences. These options are ordered from least to most complex. I give the class a choice, because I have so many students at different working levels.



20 minutes

Now the students communicate what they learned to their peers by talking to their partner. I say, "Tell your partner any information you learned about why skunks are a problem to humans." Then I listen to assess what they students know, and I walk around and look at their notes. I also have to monitor and check in with groups that appear to be inactive. So, when I see a group not talking or looking at each other I just go to their table. Then I say, "So, why are skunks a problem? What do they do that is bad? Is that in your notes? Would you like me to write it, so you can copy it down? Do you need me to write it with a highlighter, so you can trace it?"

After the partner sharing, I ask for students to share their conversations aloud. Then the students need to add anything that is relevant or in the text to their notes if they don't already have it.  This is a great way to check and see if my students understand the information, but it also helps the students learn from each other as they share the information they learned. As the students share their knowledge I record the notes on the board as a model.


15 minutes

Now it is time for my students to collaborate with their partner to create one design that solves the problems caused by skunks. So, I know that first graders need monitoring, and I walk around to listen to them talk. If I see a group that is not working or thinking I just stop and start a conversation. Usually once I get them talking we are fast on the way to a design. So, I ask, "What could you make that would keep skunks away from humans? What might scare skunks away or deter them?"

After ten minutes of designing as a illustration, notes, or sentences I stop the class and show them some things that are already in place to help humans keep skunks away. Then my students get about five minutes to add to or modify their design.


15 minutes

At this point the lesson is winding down and I want to assess my students learning, but I also need to give the class an opportunity to present their solution. In addition to presenting the students are practicing their speaking and listening skills as they listen to their peers and then give their peers feedback: peer evaluation. The feedback is either agreeing or disagreeing with the presenter. The students also need to give their peers evidence from the text that supports their thoughts.

I assess the students using a spreadsheet as an assessment. There is a column for a solution based on evidence used in the text and accurate peer evaluation. I find that students are reluctant to comment, and I simply beg. "Come on guys. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with the presenter? Will their solution work, and why?"

I am looking to see that the students create a solution and defend it based on evidence learned in the lesson. The solution needs to be realistic, and help prevent human contact with skunks. Hopefully, they will think about ways to keep skunks away from people. I also expect several students to provide academic feedback and use evidence from the lesson to support their reasoning. In addition, I want my students to have confidence, speak loud, and enunciate their words, so we can understand what they are saying.