Test Solution Project (#1 of 5)

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Students will design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.

Big Idea

Natural resources are precious and finite. It is important for students to be aware of environmental issues in their own backyard and imagine feasible solutions to problems that threaten them.

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson...

Students will propose two different strategies for improving the condition of an environmental problem in Washington State (both wildlife and human inhabitants) and explain methods used to test (evaluate) how well either solution might work.

I hope you get some value from my work!

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

10 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How can I develop a classroom culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity, and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration?

To begin, this is not the first occasion (this year) that this challenge has been identified and worked on; it is simply an extension and a deepening of the narrative of science as exploration. The inquiry and analysis skills that students employed while learning about the enzyme-mediated reaction of photosynthesis is now redirected at this unit's exploration of macro-scale phenomena. 

We live on an incomparable planet. Our country is exceptional in so many ways and my home state (Washington) is home to incredible natural resources, biomes, and aquatic ecosystems. Do my students realize this??? I hope so because stewardship over these precious resources starts with a passion and appreciation for what we have.

Think, Pair, Share: To begin the this project I prompt my students to consider the prompt “What do you love about our great state (Washington)?” After sufficient think time, I show this video to generate more ideas for student teams to discuss their individual thoughts and then I will facilitate a brief class discussion related to the prompt.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

40 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to persevere and grapple with complex tasks?

The emphasis is on "support" and "complex tasks". This performance assessment is borne out of a desire to meld two high-leverage goals. First, in my home state (WA) the mandatory high school science exam requires that students are familiar with the structure of a "test solution" writing prompt which, when compared to the NGSS, looks an awful lot like Goal HS-LS2-7. So the combined product is more in-depth (and also more interesting and rigorous) than the state prompt and ties a national and state level objective together in one nice little package.

In light of the complexity and requisite higher-order thinking, students need a bit of scaffolding in terms of direction, instruction, and resources (documents, online databases, etc.).

Here is a summary of how I emphasize the elements of the overview of the Test Solution G.R.A.S.P. project:

Essential Question: the open-ended and broad focal point for students to keep an eye on.

Project Outline: Years ago I learned about a slick way to package performance assessments that encapsulates the main components of the task. Where possible, I like to employ authentic (or nearly so) contexts for students to wrap their minds around. This follows the G.R.A.S.P. acronym and can be described as follows:

-Goal: What is the big picture for students to strive toward?

-Role: In a team context (such as this assessment), students ought to know exactly what the division of labor is and where to draw the line between responsibilities. In this assessment, I have followed the basic format of a case study I discovered online wherein the authors actually researched and published a "test solution" style proposal. These include students addressing:

1. Introduction

2. Investigation & Analysis

3. Management History

4. Resolution

-Audience: In order to be as authentic as possible, I tried to align the task to the real McCoy; that is the state Department of Ecology. My state's website is very robust and gives many examples of how actual research is conducted and, with the CCSS standards I am trying to continually implement, using textual evidence and technical reports is always a good route to take.

-Strong Verbs: Design, Evaluate, Revise (see HS-LS2-7 language)

-Product: Where possible I like to provide choice to students in order to give them a sense of ownership and influence. Who doesn't like choice? More often than not, when I open up the box for students to add their contribution, the project takes on a much richer and more creative flavor than if I had provided no input power.

Extra Bells and Whistles...

-Criteria: What assessment is complete without a rubric? I supply my students with this project overview Test Solution Project (mirrored with the G.R.A.S.P.).  

-Timeline: Beyond the G.R.A.S.P. strategy, I want to clearly outline when work days will be scheduled, when they need to be ready for peer evaluation, and when the final edit is due.

And last but not least, most individuals can get overwhelmed when looking at a big 'ole project and even looking at the more narrowly focused individual role; no less for adolescent students! Therefore, I provide this SMART Goal Tracker tool to keep track of what must be done and how far along the process they are to completion.

Note: Link here to see a given student (whom I call "Student A") recording her progress by the end of class on day #1.  _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

In sum, three significant scaffold resources are now in place for students to go forth and design, evaluate, and revise!

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

5 minutes

Whip Around: Having discussed the direction that the "conservation management team" will go for the project, the spokesperson will describe the environmental issue that will be researched.

Here are some student responses from this year's groups:


-Toxic threats


-Land pollution

-Greenhouse gases


Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

Each member is to complete their necessary research in order to submit to the team Editor for final editing and submission to instructor by the due date. Any work not completed toward completing the day's SMART Goal needs to be done at home.

Link to Day #2...