We continue to dig into dinosaurs in this lesson. We've explored how scientific thinking can change over time, and applied that thinking in reconstructing dinosaurs. Today we are going to do formal research.
My students have engaged in a lot of online activities in elementary school, so they know the general guidelines for finding appropriate websites. That being said, students benefit from a quick classroom discussion prior to heading to the computer lab.
Some important points from out conversation include:
1) We should stick to .edu, .gov and .org websites, as they generally have reliable information
2) Stay away from basic website and blogs, as they mainly have inaccurate information or opinions, not facts.
Before getting into the structure for today's class, I like to project this image on the board. This helps students visualize the purpose of our research today, which is to research and collect more evidence which will be used tomorrow to improve our initial models. (Practice 6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions - Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.)
Students record the following in their science notebooks. This structures their research and helps me facilitate learning in a student-centered environment.
1.) Start by researching the anatomy of dinosaurs and names of bones.
Rationale: I want students to have a working knowledge of basic bone names. I certainly don't have them memorize the name, but they have a reference in their notebooks. I also allow students to create a Google Document that is shared with other group members. When they find an image, they place it in the document. We will then use Chromebooks in the classroom to access this information later.
2.) Students should then research the locations of various bones in different dinosaur skeletons. They should note any patterns that they find.
Rationale: They will be reconstructing their dinosaurs so I want them to base their decisions on evidence from many different sources.
3. ) Continue to research other animals, like humans, cats, dogs, lizards, etc. They note the locations of each bone and again try to find patterns.
This lesson is all about students questioning of their initial dinosaur skeleton models made on day 1 and then researching online to collect more data that will better inform their new model on day 3.
I explain that when scientists come up with new explanations for dinosaurs they are basing their changes on the latest research. Once scientists have new empirical evidence, they compare that to what they previously thought about the topic and alter their previous models/explanations.
Researching in class on computers basically models that process, only instead of waiting years or decades, we are simply using information that is readily available today. Students will then use this new information to decide if their initial dinosaur model needs to be changed and then base their changes on the new evidence that they've collected in class.
This process includes several Science and Engineering Practices, such as argumentation and communicating information. (Practice 7 Engaging in Argument from Evidence - "students should argue for the explanations they construct, defend their interpretations of the associated data, and advocate for the designs they propose.") & (Practice 8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information - Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence.)
This video demonstrates how students can engage in argumentation while researching different dinosaur fossils. The subtle conversation between these two students highlights the value of student-centered learning and how planning lessons that have a structure for students to follow can lead to valuable learning. It's also important to note that the student to the right immediately records his new findings into his science notebook. When they're turning around, they are referring to their initial dinosaur skeleton model to make comparisons.
Here are pictures of students working on their notes and Venn Diagrams.