I live in apple country and my community is very dependent on the apple. It is a leading commodity in our valley. There is not one person in my community that cannot tell you what their favorite apple is. Using this concept and the "favorite" apple of classroom taste test is a natural way to incorporate a lesson on gathering data and analyzing data.
The night before the lesson, I go to my local grocery store and buy some apples. I chose three varieties of apples that I know the children will be familiar with, but not necessarily have tasted.
I have the apples sliced into bite sized chunks and in bowls. I don't want the apple slices to be too big. I want the slices to give the children just enough to taste and not get caught up in the eating. If the apple is too big, they tend not to focus on the taste, but the eating.
This lesson may not appear to be a direct inquiry lesson because it really is more about the gathering of data and analyzing that data after the taste test.
The community I live in, grows some of the best and finest apples in the world. We are known worldwide for the fruit we grow. Everyone has their favorites and the children are no different.
"I know you have all eaten apples before. Today, we are going to try some new varieties of apples you may or may not have tried."
I don't explain to the children that we are going to choose a favorite or preferred flavor just yet. I explain to the children that I have three different types of apples I would like them to try. When I say the word "try" they all go crazy.
"But you have told us not to ever eat anything in science."
"Yes, you are right, I have told you that. But this time, it will be ok. This is one of those times when we won't be able to gather the information that we need to gather if we don't taste the apples."
I have my apples slices and cubed before the children were in the class. I want to make sure that I am making the most of teaching time with the students and prepare as much ahead of time as possible.
When all the children are seated at their table teams, I pass out one apple variety to each child. I explain to them to eat it slowly. Try to think of all the things the apple reminds them of as they are eating it. Anything that comes to mind to offer them connections that may help to describe it later.
Once this apple has been tasted, I bring the second selection to each child. I make sure that I leave a small amount of time between tasting. I want to ensure that the apples each have the opportunity to really make an impression on the taste buds of the children. When this step is completed, we move on to the third apple and repeat the same process.
Once the children have tried all three apples, I ask them not to say anything to another student. I don't want them to influence each other if at all possible. It is a good opportunity to explain bias in an investigation. Of course, remembering that the children are only seven it is hard to completely protect against this, but is sure is a great beginning.
I explain to the children that I want to capture their ideas and reminding ideas in words. I bring out the "Farmer in the Dell" chart. They are familiar with the chart because we have used it many times in the other curriculum areas this year. This is fun way to practice building sentences. Students practice singing sentences to the the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell" hence the name of the strategy.
I tell them that having strong words to help us describe our ideas will help us as scientists. If our descriptions are not strong in descriptions, then we will not be able to communicate our findings to other scientists.
We work with the nouns first and the children choral call all the nouns they can think of to describe the apples they have just tasted. After nouns, we move to the verbs and then the helping verbs. We finish with the adjectives. This is the funnest column because the children have such an active stake in the tasting.
Once the children had the chance to try and taste of the three varieties of apples, I tell them to close their eyes and visualize which apple tasted the best to them. I then give each child a sticky note shaped like an apple. (I purchased a stack of them at my local office supply store).
I instruct the children to write their name on the apple. Nothing more, just their name. I call each table team one at a time, to bring their apple and place it on the graph. I explain that when we put our apple on the graph it needs to be placed in a tidy column. Not a random jumble. I remind them about our brains liking that organization and if we gather all our data in a jumbled mess, we will not know how to analyze it.
The children are excited to place their apples on the graph and see what happens. One concept that is very important to stress to the children is that this is not a contest. Right away, I hear comments like, "Oh! my row will win." A misconception that young children tend to have when using graphs is that it is a contest to see who has the most. It is important to dis-spell this idea quickly. Otherwise, the children will struggle to understand the importance and value in utilizing a graph to document data.
After all the children have an opportunity to place their apple on their favorite variety, I explain to them that to be a true scientific graph it needs to have a few elements that make it authentic. We discuss that need for a title. The title tells other scientists what the data is measuring. We also discuss the labels, again a tool that helps other scientists know what distinctions to make in the labels. And finally, we discuss the need for the values. Without the values, we do not know how to quantify the data. I like to use this language with the children. They love the sound of the big words and it offers a chance for them to begin to use them in their speaking vocabularies. The more children have chances to play with the scientific vocabulary, the easier it will be to assimilate it into their reading and writing vocabularies.
Once all the work was completed, I wanted to show the children how to read the graph and make comparison statements. Being able to make these comparisons actually are difficult for the students, because they do not always have a strong understanding of the math concepts that go behind them.
Looking for any patterns we may see in the information on the graph is important. This is one way scientists can begin to make sense of the world around them. (SP5)
I explain to the children that scientists have to be good at math along with being good in science. I like for the children to see and understand that connection of so many skills in science. Science is so engaging and exciting for students. Showing them how easy the other subject areas can be with the use of science, is a great way to entice some of the struggling learners to keep pushing themselves.