STEM Lab: Day 2: Soil -Communicate & Evaluate

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SWBAT analyze and discuss the results from their soil drainage tests with classmates.

Big Idea

We conducted the tests - What did we learn? What can we share?

Teacher Preparation

This is the second day of our STEM Lab on Soil Drainage and Retention. Click here for the first day! This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 1.E.2.1, Summarize the physical properties of Earth materials including soil and water that make them useful in different ways.

Today, we start by evaluating the results we got in yesterday's lesson. Student's tested 3 soil samples (clay, sand, and silt) to find out how many drops of water it would take before draining all the way through the sample. They also timed each test. Today, we are going to take those results and graph them and then communicate our results, like scientists.


*1 copy (plus extras!) of the STEM Lab - Data Analysis Graph per student

*1 Stem Lab - Communicate Partner Card per 2 students

*1 Look What I Learned paper per student (There are 4 per page - cut into 4!)

*Internet access

*Results from yesterday's lesson


10 minutes

Today, we work on the carpet together so that I can quickly transition from working on our own graphs to graphing as a whole group using the SmartBoard. My students have hard science journals (composition notebooks) that they use on the carpet. This also eliminates transitioning between desks and the carpet area today so that I can get as much in as possible!

I start the lesson with a quick review of what we did yesterday, and then jump right in! I say,

"Yesterday, we tested three soil samples: Clay, sand, and silt. What were you testing for?"

I want students to clearly articulate that they tested for the drainage, since we spent time talking about drainage and retention yesterday in order to understand the lab! If they do not understand those terms yet, I spend a few minutes explaining it again. It is really important that they know it now so that they can understand what the graph tells them in a few minutes!

As students tested the soil samples yesterday, they recorded the number of drops it took on the recording sheet I gave them, which was glued into their science journal. So, I say,

"Open up your science journal to your recording sheet from yesterday with your data about the water drops from your soil samples. There are two kinds of data that scientists can collect - quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative means they collected information in the form of numbers, by counting something. Qualitative means they observed and took notes. Most of the time, scientists do both! When we recorded this data, which did we use - quantitative or qualitative?"

Determining when to use qualitative or quantitative data supports science and engineering practice 5, 'Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking'. Organizing, representing, and interpreting data with three categories supports Common Core math standard 1.MD.B.3.

Once everyone is there, I show today's graph template on my SmartBoard and explain how write the numbers (counting by ones, twos, or fives, whatever makes sense with your classroom data) up the left side of the graph. Then I show how to take the number of drops from the first sample, label the first column, and graph the data. We continue with all three samples. Then we answer the questions at the bottom, using our individual data, and I help where needed. Analyzing data from tests supports Practice 4.

When we finish that part, I say,

"Close your journals. I want to show you another tool that we can use next time for graphing data".

Then I show this website with the 'Create A Graph' feature and walk through creating a bar graph exactly the same way, using one student's data. When we finish, I ask,

"How is this graph different from yours?"

I want students to understand that the data is the same, but this one uses technology and it could be 'published', the way we 'publish' our writing during literacy!

Uses data and graphing supports Science and Engineering Practice 5.


20 minutes

The final step in the Engineering Design Cycle that I use with my class is to communicate and I always have my students communicate in 2 different ways. For this lab, we are going to work in partner to communicate about what we learned first. I say,

"Turn knee to knee with a partner. The first way we are going to communicate is to a peer. Scientists do this with their peers to make sure that they can explain what they have learned. We are going to try it out today. So, I am going to give you and your partner each a card with a question on it. You are going to ask your partner the question, and then listen closely to their answer. When it is your turn to answer, try to give a detailed, accurate answer".

Although this part only takes a few minutes, it is important because it builds trust between the students and it also provides an opportunity for them to verbalize what they learned in the lab. I chose to have students complete this activity verbally instead of writing it down so that all students can really get their thoughts about the lab clearly articulated before moving to the final activity. Some of my lower students may not have been as successful if they had to write their responses, and it would have taken longer. Communicating and sharing information and ideas supports Science and Engineering Practice 8.

After everyone has completed their questions, I say,

"Now, the final way we will communicate is for you to do something new that we are going to try together. This is going to be a way that we communicate with your families. You are going to get a little paper that says 'What I learned!' and you can write the most interesting thing that you learned during this STEM Lab. Then, I will put them together into a report with a few pictures, and I will publish it on our website for your families to see!"

Recording information and ideas supports Practice 4, and this form of reflection gives students one final chance to really think about what they have learned - and it gives me another chance to assess what they have learned! I give students about 5 minutes, make sure their name is on their work, and then collect their papers. After I get them back, I put them together and make sure I get the report to the families! I can also print copies and send it to families that might not be able to access it online!

Wrap Up

1 minutes

To end the lesson, I say to the whole class,

"Turn to your neighbor and whisper which type of soil retains the most water! That's right - clay! Now whisper which type drains the fastest....that's right - sand! Now you are really becoming soil scientists!"