Inquiry Based Instructional Model
To intertwine scientific knowledge and practices and to empower students to learn through exploration, it is essential for scientific inquiry to be embedded in science education. While there are many types of inquiry-based models, one model that I've grown to appreciate and use is called the FERA Learning Cycle, developed by the National Science Resources Center (NSRC):
A framework for implementation can be found here.
I absolutely love how the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute for Systems Biology explains that this is "not a locked-step method" but "rather a cyclical process," meaning that some lessons may start off at the focus phase while others may begin at the explore phase.
Finally, an amazing article found at Edudemic.com, How Inquiry-Based Learning Works with STEM, very clearly outlines how inquiry based learning "paves the way for effective learning in science" and supports College and Career Readiness, particularly in the area of STEM career choices.
In this unit, students will study each of Earth's major systems: biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. In addition, students will investigate how these systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth's materials and processes by conducting research, constructing graphs, creating models, carrying out scientific investigations, and analyzing real-world applications.
Summary of Lesson
Today, I open the lesson by reviewing yesterday's Biome poster and introductory video. Students then explore the major biomes on Earth using online resources. Students reflect and apply their new understanding of biomes by creating a Google Presentation.
Next Generation Science Standards
This lesson will support the following NGSS Standard(s):'
5-ESS2-1. Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
Scientific & Engineering Practices
For this lesson, students are engaged in Science & Engineering Practice:
Science & Engineering Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Students read and comprehend scientific texts to obtain and communicate ideas about the major biomes on Earth.
To relate ideas across disciplinary content, during this lesson I focus on the following Crosscutting Concept:
Crosscutting Concept 1: Patterns
Students organize and classify information on each of the biomes based upon the factors (precipitation, temperature, plant/animal life) that influence them.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
In addition, this lesson also aligns with the following Disciplinary Core Ideas:
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
Earth’s major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth’s surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the landforms to determine patterns of weather. (5-ESS2-1)
To add depth to student understanding, when I can, I'll often integrate ELA standards with science lessons. Today, students will work on meeting CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.7: Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently. In this lesson, students will be using multiple resources to locate key information involving an environmental issue.
Choosing Science Teams
With science, it is often difficult to find a balance between providing students with as many hands-on experiences as possible, having plenty of science materials, and offering students a collaborative setting to solve problems. Any time groups have four or more students, the opportunities for individual students to speak and take part in the exploration process decreases. With groups of two, I often struggle to find enough science materials to go around. So this year, I chose to place students in teams of two or three! Picking science teams is always easy as I already have students placed in desk groups based upon behavior, abilities, and communication skills. Each desk group has about six kids, so I simply divide this larger group in half or thirds.
Gathering Supplies & Assigning Roles
To encourage a smooth running classroom, I ask students to decide who is a 1, 2, or 3 in their groups of three students (without talking). In no time, each student has a number in the air. I'll then ask the "threes" to get certain supplies, "ones" to grab their computers, and "twos" to hand out papers (or whatever is needed for the lesson). This management strategy has proven to be effective when cleaning up and returning supplies as well!
When planning this unit, I found that NGSS standard, 5-ESS2-1 was quite complex: Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact. In past years, I would have taught an entire unit on just one of the spheres.
Therefore, constructing lessons that would provide students with an in-depth understanding of all four systems within a single unit was the main objective. For this reason, I chose to use teacher anchor charts throughout the unit to immediately provide students with background knowledge on each of the spheres. This way, students could then build upon this knowledge base as they explored each sphere further (and deeper) on their own. The posters remained up throughout the unit so that students could continually refer to and apply their knowledge of the spheres when studying real-world applications later on.
During yesterday's lesson, Biosphere: The Earth's Biomes (Day 1), the students and I created a classroom anchor chart to introduce the biomes on Earth: Biome Map. Today, students will expand their understanding of biomes by completing their own research on the biomes.
Lesson Introduction & Goal
I introduce today's learning goal: I can create a presentation to describe the biomes within the biosphere. I explain: Today, we will continue studying the major biomes on Earth, but first, let's watch the video from yesterday to see if you can identify some of the biomes featured in the clip. At this point, we watch the video clip below once more.
During the video clip, I pause throughout the video so that students can identify biomes: Class Identifying Biomes in Video. The Biome Map hangs on the wall to the right of the video. Students frequently refer to the poster to help them classify the biomes in the video. This is exactly why anchor charts are such a powerful tool in the classroom!
Google Documents & Links to Resources
Each of my students has a google email account, so sharing documents that can be edited by students is quick and easy! At this time, I share the following presentation, Student Research Template (in Google Presentation format) and I email students the following resource links:
I explain: Today you will be working in groups of two. Students know that this means they will work with their elbow partners (the student sitting right next to them). I then ask partners to show me which partner is a #1 and which partner is a #2. Students know that I expect them to do this quickly and without talking. Setting this expectation ahead of time saves instructional time.
Today, one partner will be in charge of the resources while the other partner will be in charge of taking research notes in a Google Presentation. I ask both students to grab their laptop computers from the cart. I then ask #1 students to copy the presentation, Student Research Template, in order to make it their own editable version. I ask #2 students to open the above resource links in tabs. This way students can evaluate the resources and decide which one they are most interested in studying first.
When students are ready, with the resources on one computer and the Student Research Template on the other: Students with Computers Side-By-Side, I continue: Today, you get to continue your research of each of the major biomes on Earth. Using the provided resources, you and your partner can take bulleted notes on each of the biomes. Turn and talk about what you are most interested in studying... the amount of precipitation each biome gets... the temperature... the plant and animal life... or maybe interesting facts.
In no time, students begin examining the resources and determining important information! I can tell that having built some background knowledge yesterday with the Biome Map poster, students are excited and interested in researching the biomes further!
Monitoring Student Understanding
Once students begin working, I conference with every group. My goal is to support students by asking guiding questions (listed below). I also want to encourage students to engage in Science & Engineering Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence.
Here, Desert Conference, the students explain what they've learned so far about deserts. To encourage higher level thinking, I ask the students to think about why deserts lack plant and animal life. One student explains that it is "super dry" in the desert. I also ask them to explain the meaning of nocturnal. This is because understanding vocabulary is one of the number one ways for students to gain access (and understanding) to complex texts.
The majority of groups were able to finish their presentations today. As students finish, they team up to share their presentations with each other. Here's an example of student work during this time: