Materials: plastic race car track, Hot Wheels cars, blocks, tape, timers, science notebooks
The students will gather on the carpet to start the lesson. The class will work in teams of two and three and conduct an experiment to learn about energy. The students will build two different size ramps and test to see which object can get down the ramp the fastest. This lesson will continue to introduce the students to concepts of the scientific process.
This lesson is important because it is another lesson that allows me to scaffold the introduction to the scientific process. The scaffolding allows me to focus on teaching specific components of the process.
NOTE: Our district in transitioning to the NGSS. Although we are implementing some of the units this year, I am still required to teach units that have now been assigned to other grade levels. This unit is one of those units that has been effected by the shifts in grade levels. I continue to teach this unit because it focuses on the National Science Standard (k-4) B. "As students describe and manipulate objects by pushing or pulling, throwing, dropping, and rolling, they also begin to focus on the the position and movement of objects."
It is important that students understand that "the position and motion of an object can be changed by pushing or pulling. The size of the change is related to the strength of the push or pull." Establishing this knowledge base will prepare them for 3rd grade when the NGSS requires them to apply concepts of force and motion into their learning (3-PS2).
I start by discussing the concept of energy with my the class. I want to create a working definition for our vocabulary chart. I show the students this video.
"I want to start the class by watching a quick video. The purpose of this video is to help us create a definition and gain an understanding of the term energy. When the video is over, we will come up with a definition and add it to our vocabulary chart."
I want the students to understand that energy is the ability to do work. When an object has more energy, it can do more work, such as move faster. When an object has less energy, it will not move as fast or efficient.
"Today you are going to be scientist and conduct an experiment about energy with race cars and ramps."
"We are going to now conduct an experiment in teams of two and/or three. Before we can start it we need to build two ramps (a tall ramp and a small ramp). Each team will need to use 4 pieces of track, a small block, and a large block. You can also use masking tape to tape the track to the top of each block. When you are finished, you should have one tall ramp and one short ramp (see photo)."
I am choosing to have all of the teams build the ramps first. This way they can see them before making their hypothesis. I can also make sure that each team doesn't get stuck on this part of the task.
"You are now each going to use the Car Race Lab Report to complete the experiment. Let's look at it together."
I will then walk them through each part. They can confer with their teammate as they answer each question. This experiment has two purposes. The first is to learn about energy and momentum. The 2nd is to continue to introduce the students to the different components of the scientific process. In this case, the students are focusing on hypothesis and drawing conclusions.
Before they work with their teammate, I make sure that they understand how to build the ramps and what the purpose of the test is. I have included 2 videos that capture each of these conversations (How to build the ramps & What are we testing).
The NGSS expects students to have the opportunities to plan and carry out investigations (SP3). In this scenario, the students are taking part in an investigation and learning several of the steps involved int he scientific process.
"I would like each of you to meet me on the carpet for science circle. Please bring your lab report and a chair. You should make a circle on the carpet. I want to ask you a question to start the discussion today. How did a taller ramp cause the car to go faster?"
Even though the answer to this question is at the bottom of the lab report, I did not point it out in the previous section. I am not worried if someone read it and/or points it out. I will just ask students to explain what it means. I want the students to have an example of a conclusion and wanted it on the paper for future reference.
I am looking for students to indicate that the taller ramp causes the car to go faster. I will see if they relate it to the effects of gravity and that it has farther to fall. however, I will not mention this if it is not brought up. I will wait and see if there is a connection in following lessons.
"I would like you to put today's date and focus in your science notebook. Today's focus is "energy." I want you to draw two sledding hills in your notebook. One should be a fast hill and would should be a slow hill. I want you to label your hills as fast and slow. I then want you to tell me why a sled would be fast on one hill and slower on the other."
I ask the students to apply a different scenario to the same concept because I want to see who they explain their reasoning.
I insert the lab reports in each students' science notebook. I want them to have these for reference in regards to having an example of the scientific process. An anchor chart for this process will be developed in a future lesson.
It is my goal to have the science notebooks be seen as resources and that students will start to refer to previous work (in them) as needed.