Beginning the Capstone Project

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Objective

SWBAT develop a project outline based on their understanding of a key structure of the nervous system.

Big Idea

This set of lessons helps students through the process of developing a project through which they can demonstrate their understanding of how sensory stimuli reach the brain.

Introduction

This lesson is part one of a three day activity in which students explore a topic of their choice in order to display their understanding of how the nervous system functions.  Completing a project of their choice provides students with an opportunity to be creative and focus in on an aspect of the nervous system that is of interest to them. 

In this lesson, the students are introduced to the guidelines for the project.  As part of this introduction, they brainstorm possible projects and create a timeline for project completion.

In the second lesson - Capstone Project Work Day - the students review their progress on the project and they spend time sharing their project with classmates in order to receive constructive feedback.

In the final lesson - Capstone Project Presentation - The students present their projects to the class and then field questions regarding how they completed the project and what they learned through the process of completing the project.

The following standards are addressed by this set of lessons:

NGSS SP6 as students are able to choose from a variety of options in order to:

Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

Construct an explanation using models or representations.

Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events.

NGSS MS-LS1-8 as the students create a project of their choice to demonstrate their understanding of how the senses respond to stimuli and send messages to the brain for behavior or storage as memories.

CCSS SL.8.5 as students use visuals and models to share information with the class.  

NGSS SP8 is also addressed as the students communicate their information.

Engage

5 minutes

As the students enter the room, they read the prompt on the board: Use a rubric from the front desk to assess your CER about neurons from yesterday.

In order to complete this prompt, students need to take out their Chromebooks and open the assignment from the lesson Spinal Cord and Neurons - Flipped.  The students are familiar with using the CER rubric (as introduced in Drawing Conclusions with CER), but I do remind them that they need to have a justification for each of their scores written in the Feedback section of the rubric.  I explain that the best way to include feedback is to provide examples directly from their CER into the feedback section.  

While the students work on their rubrics, I circulate through the room to read their CERs.  While I read, I check to make sure the CERs are not prompt dependent, that they include at least one example, and that students have written a Reason section.  If a student is missing one of those, I work with the student to improve the CER.

This video review explains the student CER and its accompanying student rubric.

Explain

10 minutes

While the students still have their assignment from the Spinal Cord lesson open, I have them refer back to the screenshot of their neural circuit.  I ask the students to share their completed circuit with the other members of their group and to compare and contrast the circuits.  This requires each student to explain his/her work while using science vocabulary terms and requires the students to look for patterns within their work.  Some groups chose to place their screenshots side by side to explore the differences and patterns in their work.  It may also be helpful to assign one group member to be the recorder and have him/her write notes or use a Venn diagram to record the group's information.  These documents can then be shared on the document camera within that class section or as a comparison for other class sections.  The documents could also be saved and used by students who were absent during the initial discussion.

Once the students have had an opportunity to review their work with their group members, I go around the room asking each group if every member used the same pathway.  At this point, the students do not yet know if it is "good" or "bad" to have different answers, so some of the groups are reluctant to respond that they used different pathways.  

Overwhelmingly, the students used different neural circuits to achieve the goal, so after each group has shared, I ask the students to think about what this might mean about the brain and neurons. I use a follow-up question asking if the brain can still receive and process information if one neuron is damaged.  The students agree that this is possible, so I ask them to explain why.  The students are quick to respond with our example of Phineas Gage and his ability to continue to function even though his brain had been damaged and he had lost neurons.  I then briefly revisit a discussion about brain plasticity from our lesson about the brain and refer to this exercise as a brief example of this process.

Explore

20 minutes

I transition the students from thinking about neurons in the brain to how the senses send information to the brain using neurons.  I do this by having the students use the moving neuron model from the previous lesson.  As we use the model, I have the students explain each of the neurons structures and its function.  I have found that this is a fun way for the students to review the information as it makes the information more concrete for them and increases recall in later lessons.

I explain that they will have an opportunity to work on a project of their choice to demonstrate their understanding of how the senses respond to stimuli and send messages to the brain for behavior or storage as memories (NGSS MS-LS1-8).

I open the Nervous System Capstone Project document on the SMARTBoard, so I can review it with the students. I begin by explaining that the students will need to create a project that will demonstrate their understanding of how the nervous system sends and receives information.  I review various project options with them by showing them examples of work created by previous classes.  I am careful to point out that the work by previous classes was completed using a different rubric, so the work they are seeing may not be an A using this year's rubric.  This provides an opportunity later for students to evaluate projects from previous years using the rubric they will be graded on.  I also remind the students that they are not limited to the project options I have listed, because I want them to be able to creatively express themselves while demonstrating their understanding.  I allow the students to choose a partner for this activity, but I do not require it.  At this point in the year, especially after the science fair, the students have a good understanding of their capabilities to work with a partner.  I point out the specific standards that need to be met by the project and we review the project rubric.  This rubric has two parts.  The first part is found on the second page of their project guidelines and the content rubric can be found online.

After reviewing the project, I have the students open the Nervous System Project Prep page.  I explain to the students that this document is designed to help them think about the various aspects of the project to help them determine a project idea that they will enjoy and that will help them meet the project requirements.  The students are expected to turn in this document, which provides me with more background into their thinking.  One of the key items on the document is the project timeline section.  As the students begin preparing to transition to high school, I want them to begin to focus on how best to plan their time in order to accomplish their work.

While the students work on planning their project, I answer their questions and help them narrow their project choices.  This individual time is vital as some students have very general project ideas while others are very specific.  Helping students determine their project without telling them specifically what to do is also important during this phase.

The creation of the capstone project addresses NGSS SP6 as students are able to choose from a variety of options in order to:

Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

Construct an explanation using models or representations.

Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events.

 

Wrap up

5 minutes

At the end of class, I refer the students back to the guidelines of the project and we reread the information as a class.  It needs to be very clear to them that they should be developing a project that includes information for how sensory information travels to the brain.