This lesson falls just before the Christmas holiday and my students are beginning to get anxious for break and family celebrations. Because of this, I need to find an activity that will keep them focused on learning a little longer, while still incorporating some strong concepts. I look for something that entices my students and food always seems to do the trick. Learning about the alpine regions and the bears of those regions, allows me to bring in a bear candy that can be utilized as a science lesson. Gummy Bears fit this need perfectly.
This lesson takes two days to complete. Due to the nature of the lesson and needing time for a reaction to occur, it is critical that the lesson be done in a two day period. Some of the work has been integrated into the math portion of the day in order to establish foundational learning.
It also comes at the end of a unit on the Mountain biome. Within this unit, students have learned about the diversity of some of the plants and animals of the mountains. Specifically, the mountains of Washington State. This is due to the fact that my students are Washington State residents. Our Social Studies standards specifically lay out that students will be able to describe the mountains in the communities that they live.
While it makes sense that the mountains are a classified as a geographical category, they are also part of the world of science. When you look at both ESS1 and ESS2. Because of this, the theme of the Mountain biome was chosen to encompass many standards, both science and social studies.
This lesson does need some materials to make it work successfully. I do like to use materials that are readily available in most kitchens. I do this because there is always that child who will go home and try to replicate the investigation. They cannot do it if we are using materials they cannot find easily. I also make sure that the materials are safe and not harmful in any way.
I have done this experiment for many years and investigated many different brands of gummy bears. This year, I went with a brand new brand of bears.
Other materials that are necessary are:
kitchen supplies - baking soda, vinegar, water, lemon juice
materials - small cups, eye droppers, stirring sticks, rulers, measuring cups
I read the Gummy Bear Math book to the children and have fun showing them the pictures. This is great book that has engaging language and illustrations that are colorful and bright. The children are hooked into it right away. It is filled with lots of math skills that transfer easily over into the science arena (graphing, sorting and classifying) - 2.MD.D.10.
I explain to the children that we are going to do some work very similar to this work, but that we will take much farther than the book has. On my screen is a Gummy Bear Power Point that illustrates along the way, each step the children will take. I love using Power Points to break down my teaching, step by step. The visuals are helpful for the ELL students who may need that extra support in the picture to guide them as I am explaining or giving directions. As we progress through the stages of the investigation, the children can see readily on the screen what we are doing. Another reason that I really like being able to use the Power Point, is the ability to write on them with a Smart Board. Not only does this make for an added bonus, but I can even save the work and come back to it the next day.
Slide one shows the title of the investigation. As soon as the children read the title, their mouths begin to water and the noise level begins to rise in the classroom. I remind the children the gummy bears are our science investigation. Invariably, one child will pipe up and say, "And scientists, never eat or taste their work." A smile always spreads across my face at this comment. They remember well, earlier lessons from the beginning of the school year on Science Safety. I explain that there is always the possibility that eating could happen after the work has occurred. After all, we do know that our gummy bears are safe in this situation. And the excitement just continues to mount!!!
I show the children the Student Version of Work they will document their work and gather their data in. It is identical to the one on the screen; minus the color. I pass the packets out and we begin.
I have small cups with lids ready to go with 20 gummy bears in each cup. I have one per child. I choose 20, only because it is a nice round number and one that can be easily counted quickly by me and have the investigation easily set up.
This portion of the lesson takes place not during our science block of time, but during the math block of the day.
We look at slide two and it clearly says it is time to estimate. The CCSS have a standard for estimation. It does clearly state that estimation is to be used with measurement of length, this estimation is not length. However, students need to practice estimation in all facets of estimation in order to master the skill. Scientists make estimates all the time as well. They must rely on their estimating skills when they can not get exact numbers or data to answer their question.
I share with the students that we need to practice this skill of estimating, because we may have a time when we will not know the correct amount of something and we will have to be able to make that "best guess." This is one of those perfect times.
The children make their estimate and write it down on the documentation form in their packets. Because I really want to make sure that I am establishing for my students the deep connections between math and science, I take the opportunity to really tie in as many math skills and standards as possible. So I ask the children to let me know if they believe they have an odd or even number in their estimate. Again, I ask them to write down their prediction.
Once this preliminary work is accomplished, we can begin the cross over work into sorting and classifying. The children have become exceptionally good at doing this. Earlier lessons in the school year explicitly taught sorting and classifying and it has continually brought itself up in lessons to continue practicing the skill.
When the children have all finished this work, I ask them to place the actual gummy bear on to the graph itself. This is important for that the children have the opportunity to first graph their gummy bears with the real object. This allows an opportunity to visually see the number of bears they have in an organized way, rather than a pile that can be deceiving. Scientists must be able to measure and compare quantitative attributes (SP 5). By having the children physically line the bears up and then move to the symbolic phase of coloring each column in with the corresponding colors of the bears, the children are working to practice and refine this skill. I skip phase two of the graphing.
After all the children have completed their graphs, we look at Slide six on the screen. The children also have this page in their student booklets. I explain to them that I want them to use their own data to make comparison statements with their bears. I remind them that scientists must do something with the data they gather. Simply gathering it for the sake of gathering it is not helpful. They need to actually share their findings with other scientists (SP8). The sentence stems offer a chance to practice this skill.
The final step in this portion of the lesson is to allow the children to eat the gummy bears. This is a crucial step!!! If do not let them eat the bears, they will not forgive me!!! And of course, it is really yummy and fun.
As the students are slowly eating their bears, I move on to Slide eight. I ask them to read the question on the screen...."How does the size of a gummy bear change over night when it is soaked in water?"
I let the question hang in the air for a short time, maybe two minutes. The children are still eating away and enjoying the flavor of the bears. I ask them to "Stop for just a moment and imagine that the gummy bear has been soaking over night, would you still want to eat it?"
They stop eating and look at me. They don't have any background in this question and are not sure if they would eat it or not. I continue and tell them that when a scientist has a question they want to investigate, they have a good idea of what they believe might happen. I explain this is called an hypothesis. I ask them to think back to the lesson we did earlier in the school year. We used this word, but really did not discuss what it meant. It is time to dig into this word and it's meaning.
Slide nine has a sentence stem to help the children create their own hypothesis for this question. I ask them to turn to the page in their own booklet and we discuss what possible reactions we could see. Before the children begin writing and filling in the sentence stem, I ask them to think about the possible results. I wait for any responses from the children. I hear suggestions with all three of the possible outcomes (it could grow, stay the same, or shrink). I try to encourage the children to think of anything in their own experiences that may give them some indications of what they believe the outcome will be. This seems to spur them on quickly and they all have an idea and write down their hypothesis.
When I poll the children to see what their ideas are, I find that about half of the children believe nothing will happen and the other half believe it will grow. Some even base their ideas on the growing capsules they have bought at the store. While others explained that they believed it would like the growing butterfly we investigated at the beginning of the school year.
The children work to fill in their hypotheses and read them to each other. After this is done, I ask them to look at Slide ten. This shows the materials that we will be needing for this investigation. Because I have reminded the children about the earlier lesson in the school year, they instantly remember that we are going through all the steps of an investigation.
I explained to the children that when a scientist has a question they are investigating, they must gather information before they begin to work. One way they can do this, is to take photographs, but because we do not have cameras readily available for this project, we decide to sketch and measure exactly what we see. I change my screen to show Slide eleven. Which shows what the students booklet looks like so they know what page they will be working on.
Having the screen show what page the students need to be on while we are working is always helpful. Showing the visual is helpful to all those students challenged with language processing. They understand the science behind what we are doing, but not always my directions to get there. The power points can be very supportive in this area.
After sketches are completed, we read the procedure we will follow on Slide eleven. The directions are clear and easy. I read them to the children and find they have no questions. We have done several lessons by now and they are secure enough to trust I will have all the materials ready to go.
I pass out rulers and measuring cups filled with 2 cups of water. I leave the procedure on the screen throughout the process. I want the children to be able to refer back to it during the entire process. This allows me the chance to wander the classroom watching and observing teamwork and cooperative skills.
Before the children put their gummy bears in the water, they must measure them and record the data on their data gathering chart. I show them what this chart looks like on Slide 13. I show them where they data will be written and then change the slide back to Slide 12.
I purposely put 2 cups of water in each measuring cup so that there is half a cup of water for each child in the group. In math lessons, we have been learning about measurements and I am using this as a formative assessment to see if the children can measure out the water. They did not let me down. They did a great job. One group did have a very creative way of measuring that was not the practice that we have been learning. It did work, however.
Once the children have finished their work, we clean it all up and label each child's container with a sticky note and their name.
We discuss the concept that we may not observe any changes right away. We will check our work first thing in the morning when the children return.
When the children walk in to the classroom the next morning, I can barely contain their excitement to check their gummy bears. I bring the students the trays we kept the cups of water and bears on to each table. I use colored trays to match my teams colors. I color code everything in my class. I have found that it saves invaluable time for me.
The students are literally dying to get to the cups. Their eyes are huge when they see the results. And the comments begin to fly!!! The gummy bears have almost tripled in size.
We quickly get our rulers, balance scales and booklets out and the children begin measuring their gummy bears. Some of the children have a tough time measuring their gummy bears because they have absorbed so much water that they have fallen apart.
There was really very little the children needed from me during this part of the lesson. I was pleased that they were able to complete the entire process without much support from me. The children new how to measure, both with the ruler and the balance scale. They also knew to write the data in on their chart.
Slide fourteen was on the screen and ready to use as a starter for our conclusions. As the children had finished gathering all their data, we knew the final phase was to pull all the information together and draw some conclusions.
I had the children look a the screen and asked them to find the same page in their booklets. The sentence stems were familiar to the children, making it easy to explain where we were going with the finishing steps of this lesson.
The wording in the conclusion sentence stems was chosen purposefully. I wanted the children to practice sharing their findings. They are not practiced enough to do this without support, so the sentence stems are necessary. Because sentence stems have been used often in my lessons, the children did not find them to be difficult.
One difficult step they were not prepared for was the stem that asked for the difference between the two days data. I explained to the children that scientists need to be able to take their data beyond just the gathering phase. I reminded them they were very good at comparing and this was just another form of comparing. The beauty of this was that not only did it offer practice in SP5, but it also brought in MD.B.5 as well.