During this lesson, students will evaluate a project that they have completed, in this case a diorama to display the basic needs of a mammal of their choice, and then be recorded on video explaining their mammal's basic needs. This supports Science and Engineering Practice 8, evaluating and communicating information. Students have worked in groups of 3-4 students for this project and will remain in the same groups for this lesson as well. The evaluation and communication framework of this lesson come from the engineering design cycle that my class follows.
Students will also determine whether the evidence they have created in their diorama about the mammal's basic needs is relevant to the scientific question 'What are the basic needs of a mammal and how can we create a model of them?' This aligns to Science and Engineering Practice 7, Engaging in Argument from Evidence. This practice is essential to this lesson because students love to add unnecessary things to their dioramas - but they must be able to distinguish what the scientific needs are from their own desires!
*Student's finished projects
*Basic Needs Rubric (2 copies per student)
*Presentation Sign Up sheet (1 per group)
*Recording device of some kind (I use an iPhone)
To fully engage in evaluating their own design, students need to first understand what 'evaluate' means. It is tough for all of us to evaluate ourselves --we're a little biased!--but with young students it is even harder because they value the opinion of the teacher so much. So, to ease into this lesson, as a whole group we watch this video about marshmallow shooters that highlights the idea of a project not working, finding a solution, and then testing the design.
After the video, I say,
"We have already invented our model of animal habitats and their basic needs. Today, we are going to evaluate those designs, just like the kids did in the video. There are two ways that scientists evaluate their designs. One way is to check their own design and another way is to work with a peer and check each other's designs. We are going to do both today. First, you are going to use this rubric which is a way to record whether or not your diorama has everything it needs. Everyone is going to do this by themselves first. Let's look at it".
I display a copy of the Basic Needs Rubric on the Smart Board (you could do this on chart paper, too). I go through each step of it and show how students would color each box depending on if they could see the basic need in the diorama or not.
Then I say,
"You are going to evaluate your own diorama first. Even though you worked with a team, you are going to evaluate it first by yourself. Take about 3 minutes and look to see if it has each basic need and color 'yes' or 'no' on the rubric".
As students complete this task, I walk around and help my lower readers to navigate the rubric. After 3 minutes, I say,
"Now, you are going to help out a teammate. I am going to assign you a partner and you are going to evaluate their diorama with another rubric".
Students use a second rubric that is exactly the same to evaluate their partner's diorama. There is conversation during this time as students explain the diorama to their peers. This encourages dialogue about the content and also critical thinking about another person's work.
I take the partner rubrics and sort them for each group so they have additional information to use when thinking about their project. After the evaluations are completed, I say,
"Return to your own table and compare what you thought about your own diorama to what your teammates thought. You have the evaluations that your other classmates did, too. Look at those and see if they answered 'yes' to everything. Think about whether anything is missing from your diorama. The expectation is that there is a representation of each basic need for your mammal. That means there is shelter, food, water, air, and space in your model. Work with your team to see if you need to add or change anything, and then do it if you need to".
As students talk together and determine if they need to change or add anything, I walk around and help them to see what they are missing. This is not an assessment, so if I notice something they need to change I tell them and help them.
After the student have finished reviewing the rubrics, I collect them and we will add them to our science journals later. They serve as a reminder of the process of the engineering design cycle and we can reference them during our next STEM project.
As students complete the evaluation stage of the design cycle, their project is complete. Now, they are ready to communicate their design and ideas which is integral to scientific work and supports Science and Engineering Practice 8. I say,
"You worked very hard to make sure your models of the mammal's basic needs were accurate. Tomorrow, we will record video of you discussing your work so we can share it with other student scientists!"
We are now ready to communicate our ideas and share our work. But first, my students need to understand how to do a presentation - because they may never have done this before! I show this video that illustrates some presentation tips.
After the video, I ask students to think about when they watch a video that they enjoy and is interesting to them. I say,
"Raise your hand to tell me something that you think we should try to do as we present our work today that would make it more interesting for other student scientists to watch".
As the students give ideas, I write them on the board. After about 3-4 ideas, I say,
"One important thing I have learned about recording a presentation is to practice what you are going to say. In your groups, we are going to practice and figure out who will say which part about your project".
Now that students are ready to talk about their presentation, I say,
"Your leader will work to figure out who will talk about each basic need. The recorder in your group will write it down on the piece of paper I am giving you. Take about 5 minutes and work out who will talk about each basic need".
I give each recorded a Presentation Sign Up sheet and the teams work together for a few minutes. I help where conflict occurs to make sure everyone has an assigned job. It is important for students to write down which part they will do so that these conflicts are minimal and everyone is responsible for part of the communication.
Then I say,
"Now, as a team, think about what each person should say when it is their turn. I am going to come around and help you practice what you will say".
For the rest of the class period, I help students practice and then record each group talking about their work. As we Prepare for Recording, some groups take more time than others, but I spend about 6 minutes total with each group. The rest of my class either finishes their evaluations or writes a reflection of the process in their journals as we work. When they finish recording, I ask them to write a reflection in their journals about how the whole process went and how they felt about it, as well as what they learned. Here is one team's final presentation.
When everyone has been recorded and has written a reflection of the process, I invite them to share how it went. I say,
"What did you think of the STEM design cycle with this project? How did your project go?"
Reflecting on the process and our work gives us a chance to review the process and for me to find out what my students enjoyed so that I can include those components next time!
I post the videos on my classroom website and share the link with parents and families. I also show the videos to my students during class the following day so that they can celebrate their work!