This lesson will need to be done on 2 separate days, with follow ups to observe the growth of the plants. The first day the students will create their designs. It will be necessary to review these and collect materials before the second day of the lesson. In the second day, students will attempt to carry out their designs.
This lesson should only be done if students have had previous work with following and creating experimental designs with support. If they have not, then it would be necessary to walk them through the steps of an experiment and to have them write the experiment with teacher support.
The Next Generation Science Standards include one of comparing how plants grow in sunlight and darkness, and this lesson supports that standard.
I post the I Can statement for students to read. It says, I can work with partners to design the steps of an experiment.
I say to students, "How many of you think you could design an experiment on your own?" I comment on how many students think they could do that. I say, "we have done a lot of experiments this year. Each time I have helped you with the parts of the experiment. I have given you a form with the parts recorded or we have made our plan together. Today I am going to give you a question and a blank piece of paper. You will work in teams of 3 to write up your experimental design. I want you to decide on the things that should be on your paper, and to write up your design. After you write it, I will check it and then you will be able to follow your own design to conduct your experiment. Are there any questions?"
I take questions from students, but I am careful not to mention any of the parts of the experimental design that should be on the paper. I want students to use what they have learned so far this year to create an experimental design. They will be able to work together to complete the assignment, and I will use it, as well as what I observe during this session, to assess their understanding of experimental design.
I count students off into 6 groups of 3 and ask them to quickly get in their groups and to make sure they have a pencil. Next I write the question on the board, "Can plants grow in dark and in light?" I say, "here is the question for your experiment. I am handing out paper and would like you to work together to create the design, or directions for doing this experiment. Thumbs up if you know what you are doing?" After I make sure that all students understand the directions, I hand them paper and then circulate around the room, listening to groups, taking notes, and reading what they are writing. I want to assess understanding of the process, as well as who is contributing to the process.
I am looking for students to include a hypothesis, materials needed, procedure or directions and a place for observations and conclusions. I do not expect them to remember the term procedure, but I should see a list of directions. I have not given them any of the headings because I want to see how much of the experimental design they have internalized. The first parts of the experiment
I give students about 15 minutes (or more if needed) to write up their designs.
After the groups finish,I collect the papers. At a later point I read through their designs to note if they have included the various parts of the experiment and to make a list of materials they feel they need. Student Work - Page 1 Student Work - Page 2 I collect the materials for the second day of the experimental design, the actual experiment using only their directions and materials.
If a group has been unable to create a design, or has not requested any materials, I will talk to that group individually and help them to complete a working design before the actual experiment day. I want all children to have a feeling of success with the process so I help those that are struggling after I review their initial attempt. For the groups that may not have every material listed, I let them figure it out as they start their experiment. I allow them to add the materials to both their papers and their experiments but I ask them to note why they found they needed an additional material, or step in the directions.