In the previous unit students met several scientists. In this lesson they have the opportunity to meet an engineer. An engineer is a scientist, but is often considered in a field of its own. I want students to have the chance to see that an engineer is a scientist, but he/she works more with solving a problem that humans face than with studying the natural world and its phenomenon.
By meeting with an engineer students have a chance to make connections to their talks with other scientists and they have a chance to see some of the differences in the job.
This lesson is an ending lesson for this unit on engineering design, but it is also a way to tie the first two units together and to understand how vast a field science really is.
Students have had several experiences with meeting scientists and they have had opportunities to act like scientists in the first science unit this year. In order to provide an informal assessment of their understanding of what scientists do (which I also gathered during the lesson I Know What A Scientist Does), I have decided to let students work with their buddy wheel buddies to choose 4 good questions that they would like to ask the engineer. I want students to generate their questions based on their understanding of what scientists do. This shows me their level of understanding of the job of a scientist. It also encourages engagement with the scientific content (what is engineering). If the students are passive listeners of the answers to my questions, they may not bother to pay attention, but if they have written the question, get to ask it, and then hear the response they are more likely to remain engaged in the process.
I begin today with, "In a few days we will have a visit from a special kind of scientist. He is an engineer. Can anyone tell me what an engineer might do?" (I let students share their ideas about engineers. Some might have parents who are engineers or they may think about the things we have been doing to design a way to clean up pollution in our town.) When students have shared their ideas, I say, "what I would like you to do today with your Buddy Wheel Buddy is to talk about what you might like to find out from this engineer about his job. Think about all you just mentioned about engineers. Think also about our pollution project when we were engineers ourselves, and try to come up with 4 good questions to ask. I will give you about 15 minutes to talk with your buddy. I will give you each 4 colored cubes. When you share an idea put a cube in the center. When the next idea is shared, add a cube to the tower. When you are done you will be able to see if each person has shared their ideas. Are there any questions?"
Students have buddy wheels in their desks and they are familiar with my drawing a card and calling out a number. They look at their wheel and then go find that number buddy to work with. They have also used talking cubes before several times. These are a way to see who has shared an idea because each student has a color and when they share they put their block on the tower. If the tower is all one color, they can see that the other person has not shared. The blocks encourage all children to contribute to the scientific discussion.
Students move to work with their buddies and I circulate around the room, listening to discussions, encouraging groups to check their block towers, asking clarifying questions and supporting students who may have trouble staying focused by having them check the tower to see if it is their turn to share.
I ring the bell when most groups have 4 questions on their papers. I ask them to come to the rug and sit next to their buddy. I ask them to bring their questions and a pencil.
When everyone is seated I say, "Now we are going to share questions. Some of you may have the same question as another group so if you hear a question that is the same as yours (or means the same even if a word or two is different) I want you to check it off on your paper. When it is your group's turn to share, share only one that has not been shared already. I will jot them down as you speak so we can all see the questions."
I call on each group to share their favorite question with us. I write it on the easel and ask for a thumbs up if students in other groups had the same questions. I remind them to put a check mark next to that question.
Depending on the student's ability to listen, I will ask for a second favorite and third favorite question and finally if there are any questions we didn't address. If the group is having too much difficulty listening, I will collect the papers, and glance through them quickly and say, "I see many other good questions here, but because everyone shared their favorites already, we are going to work with those." If I see an amazing question that no one shared, I might say, "I have a favorite too as I glance through your papers, and it is…."
When we are done I look at the questions with the students and we read them together. This encourages students to stay on task with me as we make sure we know what our questions are. I ask if they think this is a good set of questions to ask our engineer. We agree that these questions will be the ones we ask our visitor when he comes.
Today we will meet our engineer virtually. I have given the students a copy of the individual questions. I had typed them up and then asked for volunteers who wanted a question. I handed out the questions to students. If I had too many volunteers I would double up and let 2 students ask the question together.
I gather students around my Smart Board (I have already done a trial run with the engineer to work out technical difficulties and avoid disappointments.) I say, "today our engineer is waiting to tell you about his job. He will talk a little about what he does and some of the tools he uses. When he is done you may ask the questions you thought of. "
I introduce the engineer. He talks about his job for 5 - 8 minutes. When he is done I invite students to come up 1 person at a time to ask their question near the computer so that he can hear them. We work our way through the class so that everyone has a chance to ask his/her question and get an answer.
We thank our engineer at the end of the sharing.
In order to relate this lesson to the previous unit on what scientists do, I ask students to help me make a Venn Diagram. I create 4 large circles outlines before beginning and label one with each science visitor to our classroom, and his/her job. I display the circles with overlapping centers on the board. I say to students, "I want you to help me think of what we learned about our scientists, what jobs they do, where they work, the types of tools they used, and anything else you can remember. I will write them down under the correct scientist, but if you think what you mention is true of more than one scientist, I will put your idea where the circles overlap to show that it applies to more than one scientist . Can you think of things about our scientists that I might write?" I let students make suggestions and we decide where to put each idea. Ideas include uses a microscope, works in a lab, works outside, uses special tools, looks at animals, observes things, figures things out, builds things, takes things apart, etc.Comparing Different Scientists
When we are done I ask children to look at the display. I ask them, "do all scientists do the same thing?" "Do they use the same tools?" "Do they work in the same places?"
I let students make observations about what they notice about our scientists.
As a way to assess student understanding of what an engineer does, and to teach a lesson in manners, I end today's lesson with a thank you letter.
I say to students, "I would like to send our engineer a thank you letter from each of you. He took his time to share with us about his job, so now I would like you to say thank you. I am going to hand out a letter form. I want each of you to write the date on the line at the top when you get your paper and then wait for directions." (I know that the letter format is not always easy for students to follow so I walk though the set up slowly.)
"Ok, now that you all have the date, I want you to copy , Dear Mr. ______, on the greeting line of your paper. Don't forget to use an upper case letter for mister, and for his name." (I wait for students to complete the greeting.) "Now I want you to copy Thank you for telling us about your job. on the next line of the letter." Again I wait for students to complete this task.
"Now you will finish your letter by yourself. I would like you to tell Mr. _______at least 2 things you liked about talking to him, or 2 things you found out. Where will you put your name?" (At the bottom). "Right, you should sign it Your Friend, and then put your name after that. You will have about 15 minutes to finish your letter and if you want to add a picture you may do so. If your letter is done early, you may look at some of the books about engineers that I have on the shelf."
I move about the room helping with spelling, reminding students to be neat, and asking questions as students complete their letters and before I send them to the engineer, I review them to get an idea of their understanding of his job.