Reconstructing Dinosaur Skeletons (Day 3 of 3)

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SWBAT: share, collect and use evidence to develop a new model that explains how their dinosaur may have looked

Big Idea

Scientists are always sharing their findings with the scientific community. This lesson gives students the opportunity to mimic these practices in class, so that they can recreate their initial models that are based on new evidence.

Sharing Our Findings

10 minutes

Each group may have a variety of research to sift through, so they should have a few minutes to make sense of what they've found.  

Each group gets a Chromebook, opens their research in a Google Document and shares their Google document with me.  I then project the document and ask each group to share their findings.  I give students an opportunity to look for patterns by comparing two different skeletons that they had in their research from day 2.  Patterns, an important Crosscutting Concept in NGSS, is a critical skill that can help students find similarities and differences between each skeleton.  The NGSS states: 

1. Patterns. Observed patterns of forms and events guide organization and classification, and they prompt questions about relationships and the factors that influence them.

Later, students will use this information to reconstruct their skeleton, based on the information that was shared with them. This practice mimics how scientists share information that is later used to recreate models or explanations.  Students will soon take their new information and argue how they now think the skeleton should look, based on evidence and reasoning.

The ultimate goal is for students to gather more evidence, modeling how scientists share information with fellow scientists.  

Once students have created their Venn diagrams that compare and contrast different skeletons, they will stand in front of the room and take 1 minute to share their findings.  As this is happening fellow students (scientists) will jot down notes in their science notebooks. 

This image shows examples of how students compared and contrasted, in order to find patterns in different skeletons.

Arguing New Meaning From Additional Evidence

5 minutes

I want students to make sense of what they have just heard from their peers, so I give each group about 5 minutes to continue their comparison and contrasting activity and discuss other ideas/observations that were just shared.  

Recreating Dinosaur Skeletons

40 minutes

At this point I want to see students using observations/evidence to support their decisions. (Practice 6 Constructing Explanations and Designing SolutionsApply scientific reasoning to show why the data or evidence is adequate for the explanation or conclusion.) 

The students have many sources to refer to, which you probably want to stress to your students, such as their Google Doc with their research from day 2, their Venn diagram that compares and contrasts two different skeletons, and notes from their science notebooks.

This video shows students effectively referring to their research (evidence) to defend their decisions. (Practice 8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating InformationGather, 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.)

As opposed to generating non-specific reasons, these students are developing their ability to use evidence in argument.  I am fairly confident that by the end of the year, they will have significantly improved their ability to do this and will need less structure from me.


After students have consulted their research it is now time for them to consider how they may want to change their initial skeletal model.  (Practice 2 Developing and Using Models - Develop or modify a model—based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.) 

Before setting them free, I ask them to look at their initial model and annotate any things that may seem inaccurate.  This enables them to think critically about their initial thoughts, which remember were not defended with evidence, in order to drive later conversations when cutting out and rearranging their new bones.  The key step will be for them to make each change to their skeletons using evidence from their research.  This image is a work sample of a group's annotations.

Now that students have had their initial conversation about how their model will change, they have to cut out new bones and then reconstruct their models.  I encourage groups to manipulate the bones on their desk, again developing their argumentation skills (Practice 7 Engaging in Argument from Evidence - Respectfully provide and receive critiques about one’s explanations, procedures, models, and questions by citing relevant evidence and posing and responding to questions that elicit pertinent elaboration and detail.)  

Once a consensus is established groups begin gluing their bones to the new paper.  I then require students to use evidence to defend any changes or aspects of the model that remains the same--not everything has to change in our models!  It may and probably will over time, but only after we have adequate, logical evidence!  

Here is an example of a group's annotations on their initial model (blue) compared to their second dinosaur model (orange).  Note how they are making an effort to substantiate the purpose of their research--not bad for just learning how to do this the other day!

 This is a sample of the final work products.  I used this rubric to assess their ability to use evidence to defend their new claims.

Sharing Our New Models And Supporting Our Changes With Evidence

10 minutes

Just as scientists share their findings at conferences, I want my students to realize that 1) science is never complete--we are always searching for answers about macro and micro aspects of various phenomena and 2) we always share our findings!  Sharing is caring--seriously.  Promote student sharing of ideas and findings--you will be amazed about the roads it takes you down.  My tip: follow those roads, even if--gulp--it interrupts your beautifully crafted lesson calendar.

I ask students to take 1-2 minutes to highlight the major changes that they made to their models and we then try to find patterns, if any arise.

Here is a video that shows students final poster with their initial and post model: