Land and Water Snail Race- Ready, Set, Slow!

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Students will measure the speed of land and water snails on different surfaces.

Big Idea

Do land and water snails adapt the way they move?


5 minutes

I ring my chime to get the class’s attention and announce we were about to begin our last Science lesson about snails.  I ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’.  Once seated, I share “We’ve studied two kinds of snails.  What kinds?”  “Land snails”  “Water Snails!”  “We learned about the ways they moved around.  Take a minute to crawl around the room as if you were a snail.  Pay attention to the surface under youAs you crawl, talk about how it feels."  I purposely hold back on ideas where to crawl because I want to see if they thought to move off the floor or on to the wet area near the door.  While this could be an interesting (or not!) choice, I feel the learning opportunity would be worth it.

Whole Group Instruction

15 minutes

To keep better control and assure the safety of this activity, I keep it short.  After about one minute, I ring the chime and ask the students to return to their carpet squares.  I bring out The Snail’s Spell by Joanne Ryder to revisit.  I turn the pages to review the book and focus on the way that the child imitated the snail.  I pause on the pages that show how the snail moves on different kinds of surfaces like the ground and the different plants.  I tell the class “We are going to spend some time listing the things we know about where these snail moves.  The more we know, the better we can choose places to test their speed”.

When you pretended to be a snail, where did you crawl?  (“Hard floor”  “Carpet” “Chair”) “How did the surface feelSmooth?  Rough?  Slippery?  Was one easier to move on than another? Turn toward your partner and share your answers.”  My goal with this conversation piece was to help the students make the connection between the surface and the ability to move.  I give them about two minutes to share and ring the chime to reconnect with the group.  To facilitate the direct comparison piece of the lesson, we use a H-chart with sides labeled “Rough”, "Slippery, and “Smooth” that I hand draw on chart paper.  The goal was to find comparisons related to changes based on the surface a snail crawls.

We begin to record things we noticed about the ways each surface affected our ability to move.  Since Kindergarteners like to experience things kinesthetically, I connected it to the Hook above.  It makes a nice connection to the study of snail movement.  I begin with “How does a snail move?”  (“They have a foot that pushes them.”).  “How does a student-snail move?”  (“We wiggled on the floor.”).  “So the student and snail both used lots of contact with the ground to move.”  I add that to the chart.  “How does the surface affect the way you or a snail move?”  (“The floor was faster.”).  “So you moved faster on the smooth floor.  Did that make it easier? ("Yes") “Do you think a snail has the same experience?”  (“Ummm..maybe?”  “Yes!”  “I have no idea..I am not a snail.” Cue teacher laughing)  “Should we find out if the surface makes a difference to a snail’s movement?”  As each experience was shared, I collect the general opinion whether a surface was "easy" or "hard" and record it on the chart.  I end the discussion at two contributions to leave more for the small groups to brainstorm later in the lesson. 

Small Group Instruction

15 minutes

After the whole class finishes their comparisons, I told them “It’s time to continue this lesson with your table groups.  I need you and your neighbors observe the ways that both water and land snails move across different surfaces.  On your table will be two containers.  One will have one land snail.  The other will have one water snail.  Each table has three surfaces- smooth, rough, and slippery- kind of like our smooth floor and carpet- that the snails will move on.  These surfaces are designed to reflect some surfaces that the snail may travel over in their environment.  Our observations will illustrate how a snail changes their behavior to accommodate the surfaces they meet.”. 

I use the chime to dismiss the students back to their tables. Once they were seated, I said, “Our goal in this activity is to see how snails move on different surfaces- smooth (table top), rough (corrugated cardboard) and slippery (waxed paper).  A snail’s speed and effort will be measured by the distance they travel in a certain amount of time- how long it takes them to go from one place to another.  We are going to use our counting to time them.  The counting has to be done, slow and steady, together.  Let’s practice this kind of counting.”  I have the class use the ‘one second per number’ rule.  “One..two..three..four….that’s the pace we need to count to measure the snail speed."

Before we begin, I remind them of snail safety, pick it up “like a feather”.  I then go into the steps.  “First, you choose the surface that the snail will use to start on (either smooth, rough, slippery) and which kind of snail.  Next, pick up the snail and place it gently on the surface.  I’d recommend being fair and taking turns here so everyone has a chance to place the snail.  Then, you need to observe the snail and count how many seconds it takes them to go across the paper.  Last, record the number of seconds you observed the snail took to go across the paper.”  They can now continue this process and put the snail, one at a time, on different surfaces and time how fast the snail moves.

As it turned out, the timing part was not terribly successful. The students were basically having too much fun observing and discussing the snails to bother counting every snail on every surface.  We regrouped and decided to rank the surfaces (1, 2, 3) based on the speed.  The greater goal is to better understand how a snail could adapt the way it moves to better fit the environment and this variation served that purpose.  (A fun extension of this activity could be to put the snails on an actual ruler and see how far they get before they change direction.  I ran out of time to do this.).

After five minutes, I gave them a one-minute warning with the chime.  Once they completed their chart and put the snails back into the containers, they had another minute to have a brief discussion at their table to share ideas and observations.  I left this unprompted to see if any spontaneous learning would result.  As that wound down, I again rang the chime.  I asked the students to bring their chart when they return to their carpet squares to talk about our lesson and add their ideas to our class chart.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once the students were all seated, I began a brief discussion.  “What did you notice about the snails?”  “Did big or small snail move faster?  Why do you think that happened? ”  “Did you do anything to make your snail go faster?”  “Who had trouble making their snail go where they wanted it?”  There are almost unlimited things that we could discuss, so I keep it to the target skill of observing how snails move on different surfaces.  They add some useful realizations about the surfaces like the smooth surface wasn’t the most fast.  I let them know that expectations are helpful, particularly when experiments and direct observations help us refine them.