Plaid Pete's At Home in the Hydrosphere!

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SWBAT describe the distribution of water on Earth, and the role of water in Earth's processes.

Big Idea

How is water distributed on Earth? How do waves interact with the geosphere? Students construct a pie chart and investigate wave action.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth's Systems:  Earth Materials and Systems -  that 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 atmosphere to determine patterns of weather.  (5-ESS2-1); The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes:  Nearly all of Earth's available water is in the ocean.  Most fresh water is in glaciers or underground:  only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere.  (5-ESS2-2)  and the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System Models  - A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions (5-ESS2-1), and Scale, Proportion, and Quantity - Standard units are used to describe and measure physical quantities such as weight and volume (5-ESS2-2)

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 13 is 780 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 15 minutes.

The wave making activity is based on the Wind and Waves Activity from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 13

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 13

One large dish tub per team

One straw per student

One plastic lid per team (wave maker)

An assortment of rocks per team (Approximately 1-2 cups)


Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

I ask my students, "How many of you have ever been out in the Sound or the open ocean in a boat?"  A few students raise their hands.  I ask them to briefly share what that is like.  I tell them, "In our scenario today, Plaid Pete and his father, Mr. Parker, have set off on a whale watching trip out in Puget Sound."  I show them on a map where Puget Sound is.  I explain that it is an ocean inlet.  Although we live on Puget Sound, after the lesson on Natural Resources - I am not taking any chances by assuming they know this!  I pass out a copy of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 13 to each of my students.

I further explain, "As you read the scenario, be listening for some important information about the Hydrosphere - which will be the focus of our lesson today.  Oh, and you might also want to pay attention to which one of these two isn't happy about their experience in the hydrosphere!"  

Students Read the Scenario in their Teams

Students get busy with their highlighters so that they can read the scenario "Reader's Theater Style."  I tell them there are 3 parts - Plaid Pete, Mr. Parker, and a narrator.  Students happily read the script, with terrific phrasing, expression, and intonation.

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can describe the distribution of water on Earth, and the role of water in Earth's surface processes.

Language Objective:  I can produce and expand simple and compound sentences  [ELP.4-5.10]

Success Criteria:  I can complete a graph to show the distribution of water on Earth, and I can construct a model to describe the interaction of ocean waves (the hydrosphere) with the geosphere.

Guided Exploration

40 minutes

Introduce the Task

I tell my students, "Plaid Pete is right about the ocean and its importance to our planet.  I think in order for us to understand just how important Earth's oceans are, and how large a part of the hydrosphere they are, it is important that we create a picture that our brains can understand.  Today, we are going to create a special type of picture called a pie graph, to help us do this.  Pie graphs are a good visual tool to show comparisons."

I pass out a copy of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 13 to each student.  I point out the first column of the table lists the source of Earth's water, and the second column of the table lists the percent of total water that each category represents. I explain that these numbers have been rounded, so that is why if you add them up they don't exactly equal 100.   

Constructing Pie Graphs

I explain that when you want to construct a pie graph, you have to remember that the total number of degrees available in a circle are 360.  I explain that our task is to figure out how many degrees represent each 1%, because we have to make sure when we create the graph, we keep the relationship between the categories consistent.  

I show my students how you take the total degrees available (360) and divide it by the total percent (100).  This shows us that each degree represents 3.6%.  I explain that when we multiply 3.6 x the percent figure (e.g. 3.6 x 97) this will give us the size of the angle that will represent each specific category.  

We calculate the first three categories (Oceans, Glaciers & Polar Caps, and Ground Water), and we agree to round the angle to the nearest whole number (e.g. 347, 6, and 6).  We agree that drawing very small angles is difficult, so we split the remaining 1 degree between Lakes and Rivers.

Then, using a protractor, I model how to construct the first angle.  My students have limited experience with geometry, so they need a lot of support.  We construct the angles one at a time, and then label them.  My students are amazed to see just how much of Earth's water is found in oceans.  It is one thing to see it on a graph that someone else has constructed, but entirely different when seen through a graph they have constructed for themselves. This is one student's pie graph.

I tell my students, "Now that you can see just how much of Earth's water is contained within its oceans, let's do a little activity that will help us understand how the ocean interacts with other Earth Systems to transfer energy and affect processes that shape our Earth like climate, weather, and landforms."

Making Waves

I ask my teams to turn to the next clean page in their science notebook.  I copy the following question on the whiteboard, and ask my students to copy and answer the question.

What makes ocean waves?

After they have answered the question, I ask them to draw a "Line of Learning" with a green pen just below their answer.  I explain that they will come back after a bit and revise their thinking.  

I provide each team with a dishpan, a straw for each student, and plastic lid (wave maker). I tell my students to take turns in their teams and lightly blow across the surface of the water with the straw, noticing what happens.  I stop by each of my teams, asking them to comment on what they see.  Although it seems like a fairly simple observation, I know if they are not paying enough attention to verbalize what they see, making connections later about energy transfers will be difficult.  In this Video Clip, I am asking this team to comment on their observations.

Then, I tell students, "Take the lid - your "wave maker" and place it inside the tub.  See if you can create waves of a consistent height and frequency - that means can you make them about the same size and make them move across the water at about the same rate."

I write the following question on the whiteboard and again ask my students to copy and answer the question, drawing a "Line of Learning" below their answer.

Does the wave energy get stronger or weaker as it travels?  Does the height change?  Does the time between waves change?  What other patterns do you notice?

I ask my students to construct an assortment of rocks at one end of the tub.  I tell them, "Use your wave makers to create waves and notice what happens."  

I write the following question on the whiteboard and again ask my students to copy and answer the question, drawing a "Line of Learning" below their answer.

Did a transfer of energy take place?  If so, what was your evidence?  How can waves affect the geosphere?

I ask my students to quickly clean up and get ready to obtain some new information so that they can revise their answers.


15 minutes

Introduce Video

I tell my students, "I have a video from our friends at Scholastic that can give us some information about Waves that will help us add additional information and revise the answers you have previously written.  

I play Scholastic Study Jams:  Waves and Currents Video. 

Teams Discuss

After the video is finished, I ask my teams to turn and talk to discuss their answers.  I move between my teams, listening in on their conversations, prompting as necessary. I want to give my students the opportunity to discuss these concepts before I give them the prompt to go back and revise their answers underneath their "Line of Learning."

I have asked rigorous questions, so I allow my teams to discuss them as they formulate their answers.  In this Video Clip, I discuss energy transfers with one team.  The idea of energy transfer is a difficult idea for students to grasp, and this type of questioning assists them in connecting their Guided Exploration activity with the instruction that was presented in the video.

Coriolis Effect

Although this is a middle school concept, I think it is an important one to discuss, particularly with some of my more capable learners who need access to higher level concepts.  I project The Coriolis Effect In Action from How Stuff Works, and read it to my students.  We discuss the idea that the Coriolis Effect creates both curvature of winds, and helps to create surface ocean currents - reinforcing the topics we have been learning about.

This is one student's notebook after the "line of learning" was revised:

I tell my students that it is time to head over to our meeting area and take a look at some of our earlier predictions.

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Review Predictions 

I have previously identified a few of the predictions from our chart that deal with the transfer of energy in the hydrosphere.  I share those predictions now and we discuss and revise the thinking behind them.  

An example of a "True" prediction:  When there is a tsunami, I predict that it has something to do with the hydrosphere and the geosphere.

An example of a "False" prediction:  I predict that if spheres interact, something bad will happen. 

My students agree that they have learned a considerable amount in this unit on Earth's Systems!  They are ready for the next lesson that will have them review the concepts they have learned, and prepare them for the unit assessment!