Pollution In Our Town

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SWBAT create and conduct a survey about pollution in our community

Big Idea

Is there a problem with pollution in our town? How can we identify what that problem is?

Teacher Background

Today I want to students to engage in a group project that will produce a survey that they can use at home to find out about pollution in our community. I am hoping that students will be interested in discovering something about their own town and will see that this is a real problem that they can address, and not just something made up or meaningless, or a problem that only happens somewhere else. 

Using real world situations should help students to stay engaged in the project. 

This is the second in a series of lessons about pollution. I have already gathered information about students' prior knowledge and now that I know that they understand what pollution is, I want them to think about pollution in their own town.

I Can Statement and Introduction

15 minutes

I ask students to read the "I Can" statement with me. We read, "I can think of questions to ask my family about pollution in our town." 

I say, "today I need your help thinking of some questions we could ask your parents, and other teachers in this school about pollution in our town, but before we do, I am going to read you a story about 2 very little toys who wanted to clean up the pollution in their towns."

I read the story, "Edith and Little Bear Lend A Hand," by Dare Wright. This is a story that takes place in New York City in the sixties so it is at the very beginning of recycling. I want students to understand the lesson of the story so we can apply it to our own town (RL2.2).

At the end of the story I say, "What problem did Edith and Little Bear have where they lived?" (the city was dirty and Mr. Bear was going to make them move away) "Do you think they helped their city at all? How?" (they cleaned up the sidewalk and the air)

"Do you think there is any problem with pollution in our town?" (There will probably be mixed responses to this question.)

"What do you think might be the biggest pollution problem in this town? (I let students share their ideas). "Do you think your parents would say the same thing?" (mixed responses) "How could we find out what our parents think?" (ask them)

"Do you think we should all ask the same questions or different ones?" (varied answers) "Engineers sometimes ask people what they think in order to find out more about the problem. Do you think we could think of some questions to ask our parents so we could find out what the biggest pollution problem is in York, ME?"

"Ok then we will start by deciding what questions to ask. I would like you all to return to your seats and think of 1 question you might ask. I want you to write that question down and then we will share our questions and pick the ones that will help us the most in deciding about pollution in our community."

Writing the Questions

10 minutes

I hand out paper and say, "I want you all to write at least 1 question you might ask your parents about pollution in York. Remember we want to know what they think about the pollution in our town.  Maybe you got an idea from "Edith and Little Bear", or you remember a picture from our last lesson that you are curious about.  Can you think of a question that can help us figure out about pollution in this town?"

I give students about 5 minutes to write at least one question on their paper.

I have them work individually for this part of the lesson because I want to assess their understanding of what pollution is and how it may effect us. If they can ask a meaningful question, such as, "where does pollution in our town come from?" or "do you think that there is a problem with pollution in our town?" or "where in our town is there any pollution?"  I feel that they are grasping the idea that pollution is a manmade problem that they may be able to help fix. The goal of the Engineering Science standard ETS1 is to have students solve a real life problem through engineering. By doing this phase of the lesson alone, I am able to assess each student's understanding.

Defending Our Ideas

15 minutes

I collect the questions as students come to the rug. I say, "I am going to read all of the questions out loud. After I read the question you are going to do a thumbs up if you think it is a super question, a thumbs straight if it is ok, and a thumbs down if you don't think that question will help us find out about pollution in our town. I will tally the thumbs up for each question. I don't want you to tell us if it is your question right now, but after we pick our favorites I will ask you to tell us more about your question.

My goal with this portion of the lesson is to encourage students to think about what makes a question good or not so good. I am asking them to defend their ideas as a first step in having meaningful discourse about science. If a child can defend his/her question by explaining why it is important, they are taking a step beyond the "I like it," or "My friend wrote it," or "I wrote it." Often second graders use those defenses, but they are not helping the child to really think about the content. The questions here are based on what we have thought about, talked about and read about. I encourage students to refer back to these things as they defend their questions.

I read all of the questions and find the 6 questions with the most thumbs up. I reread each of those questions one at a time and ask if anyone can tell us why we should or should not include that question in our questions to parents. I encourage students to defend their feelings about why it is or is not a good question (still without sharing who wrote the questions so it is not a vote of popularity but a vote on the questions). Explaining Why the Question MIght Not Meet Our Needs to Answer The Big Question , Defending A Question I say, "think about the book we read, the pictures we looked at in our last lesson, what you may have seen on the beach, or even on the playground. How does what you already know help you to decide if this is an important question? Can you give an example of how this question helps us?" Learning to defend one's position is important in being able to have meaningful discussions about science. My prompts are the one thing that  helps students to think of real reasons why they should pick a question. I listen for them to make connections to what we have already talked about or seen, or to their own experiences and encourage those comments. For students who say, "I like it," I ask them to tell us more about why they like it or how it will help us learn about pollution in our town.

When we have decided on the final 4 or 5 questions, I tell students that they will be taking those questions home tonight and asking their parents to answer them. They will bring back their answers tomorrow for us to share so we can learn what people think about pollution in our town.

I type up the questions and send them home with a note to parents about answering them.Pollution Letter to Parents


5 minutes

I bring us back to the I Can Statement. I ask, "did everyone write at least one question about pollution today? Show me a thumbs up if you wrote a question. I want to praise everyone for writing a question and trying so hard to think of a question to ask. I know that we are only sending a few of the questions home, but everyone had a good question and all of them are important. It would be hard for parents to answer all 20 questions, but at least we have chosen some of the questions to help us out. I am proud of everyone's effort on this lesson today.