Scientific Instrument Recommendations for the SCL

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SWBAT recommend scientific instruments for the SCL based on their observations and trials.

Big Idea

Engineers summarize their data and observations when they make their scientific instrument recommendations to Ocean Explorers of the World.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

Students write to 'Ocean Explorers of the World' to recommend which scientific instruments to attach to the SCL and why. Then engineers support their letter with a diagram to explain where the instruments should be attached and why. Students refer to their observations and data to support their answer.

NGSS Standards

Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

- Systems and System Models  (XC 4)

Students recommend the scientific instruments to attach to the submersible model. Students explain where their instruments should be placed on the model based on observations on how well the system worked.

Science Practices

Developing and Using Models - SP 2

Students use a diagram to help explain where the scientific instruments should be placed on the Soda Cup Lander so that it can descend, land and ascend.

Analyzing and Interpreting Data - SP 4

Students analyze their data to recommend the scientific instruments for the 'soda cup lander', as well as where the instruments should be placed on the SCL.

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions - SP 6

Students use their SCL data to construct an evidence based explanation.

Engaging in Argument from Evidence - SP 7

Students make a claim about the effectiveness of using and attaching the scientific instruments on the SCL based on their data.

Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information - SP 8

Students write letters to 'Ocean Explorers of the World'  (OEW) to communicate their design ideas for the Soda Cup Lander.

Lesson Preparation

Make copies of the letter to OEW; one letter / team

Make copies of team task checklist; one checklist / team

Make a chart for group norms

SCL basic diagram; one diagram / team


Student lab books



Question for the Day

15 minutes

I start science with a question, usually written on the board.  This offers an opportunity for students  to consider today's topic before the lesson has officially begun. 

Students know when they return from lunch, we meet on the rug to read our 'science question for the day'. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: What topics should be in our letter to 'Ocean Explorers of the World'?

Before students discuss the question, I remind students of the letter they received from the Ocean Explorers of the World (OEW) when they investigated the scientific instruments for the SCL. I read the letter to the class, which is projected on the board.

"The 'Ocean Explorers of the World' would like to hear about your scientific instruments data and your results when you tested your SCL with the instruments. They are looking forward to your reply."

"Let's look at our question for today, and think about what we would need to have in our letter. Please read the question with me."

Usually I have the students turn and talk, but I want to make sure that we have time to discuss the elements that will be under each letter topic. 

Letter Topics - Scaffolding the Discussion

"Raiser your hand if you can tell us something that should be in our letter."

Students were able to tell me that the selected instruments should be named. 

- Recommended instruments

- Recommendations for where the instruments should be attached to the SCL and why

- How to release the SCL for best descent, based on trials

I present this last topic, because students learned in the last lesson that it was important to release the SCL a certain way if it was going descend.

" The Ocean Explorers of the World will need to know where to place the instruments. What could you send with the letter to help them know where to place the instruments?"

"Right, a diagram showing where you placed the instruments. In your letter you can explain why you chose to place the instruments in these places. Do you think it would help to have the diagram to look at while you write your letter? Turn and discuss."

Rather than I tell the students to make a diagram and this is why, I want their participation, to see this as their idea, to 'own the lesson'.

I call on students to share their thoughts.

Teams move to tables and add instruments to the SCL diagram.

"Alright then, seems like teams have decided to make the diagram first, to help you write your letter. Please move to your team tables. I will return your lab books and SCL picture so that you can add your instruments."

The student diagram becomes the graphic organizer for the letter they will write next.

Writing as a Team

40 minutes

While teams work on their diagrams, I encourage members to discuss why those instruments and why in those places on the SCL. I suggest more details can be added to their diagram after the letter is finished.

I give the students about 10 minutes to sketch their diagram, then I call teams back to the rug to go over the parts of the letter.

Teams return to the rug to view the letter frame.

"To help you write your letter, I have started some of the sentences for you."

I did not want to overwhelm the writers with the task of composing the letter parts. I want them to spend their time on stating their claim and supporting it with their observations and data.

I point out each section of the letter and explain what information their team should provide in the blanks.

"The information your team needs to provide is in green print. Where will you find this information? Right, in your lab books. I expect you to use your observations and data to support your decisions.

"Since each team will submit a letter, let's consider possible tasks each member could provide to help the team finish their letter. How can each of you help with the letter?"

Together we establish a 'task list' for the letter, which I write on the board.

I stress the importance that everyone helps to make sure that all parts of the letter are complete.

Here is a suggested 'task list' that I will want the students to consider:


Write a letter to OEW to recommend scientific instruments for the SCL based on your team's data and trials.

Letter Tasks:

1. write the letter sections

2. find the data in the teams' lab books that will help with the letter

3. say the sentences that your team member writes

4. read over the sentences to make sure they make sense

5. help spell words and look for capitals and periods

6. read the entire letter aloud to the team to make sure it makes sense

I take the time to articulate these expectations so students have concrete ways to participate with producing the team letter even they are not the ones writing the letter.

I also remind students of our group norms, which I move to a prominent place in the room:

1. listen carefully

2. share your ideas

3. stay with your team to help team members even when your part is complete

4. do your part to help the team

It is important to remind students of the norms, since I have some students that will disengage if they feel their part is over.

I provide students a couple of minutes to discuss how they will share the tasks. Then pass out the letter. I remind teams to refer to their data / observations and diagram as they write their letter.

After the materials are passed out, I walk around to make sure that all groups are getting started. Next I sit with each group to observe how they are working and ask questions about their recommendations.

Usually I will circulate around the room, rather than stay in place for awhile. I am choosing to sit with teams for this lesson because I want to be available to conference with the team as they work on their letter.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

I asked a few teams who had finished their letter to help the other teams. As I wanted the teams to have as much time as possible to complete the letter, I chose to let the teams work up til science time was over.

Teams who finished their letter turned in their letter, diagram and lab books. I directed the other teams to chose one of their members to hold onto to the letter and diagram. Each member was responsible for place their lab book in their science folder.

Teams who did not finish their letter during this time frame, got together over the next few days to complete their work.