Problems In Our World

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SWBAT generate a list of potential problems in their world that can be helped through science.

Big Idea

Science can provide a basis for changes in our world. Students will think of a problem that they can suggest a viable solution for.

Background Information

This lesson is broken into several days. The first day is an opportunity for students to generate and defend their ideas about science. The second day is an opportunity for students to find out more about how others feel about the topic by generating and asking questions. The last day is a time for students to take all that they have learned from others and to think about a solution to the problem.

This lesson is a culminating lesson for a year of scientific inquiry and thinking like a scientist. It is a way for students to see that science can be used to solve problems. The lesson, over the 3 days allows students to share their ideas, create a model of a solution, and show that they can indeed think and act like scientists.

Getting Our Ideas

20 minutes

I begin today's lesson by inviting students to come to the rug. I say to them, "Do you think there are things in this world that kids can change?" (I assume they will say yes here but if not, I might mention a few things like people who can't afford to buy food, since they have participated in a school-wide food drive and are familiar with the food pantry and its purpose or trash on the streets.) "Can you think of some examples?" I write the list on the board.

When students have listed all their ideas our problem list.pdf I say, "Do you think that there is any way that science might help  kids to change some of these things and why or why not?"  I encourage students to have a discussion here and to build upon each other's ideas, or to refute someone else's ideas. I want to encourage students to be able to defend their ideas so I go back to the original student if other students try to refute what they have said, and give them a chance to explain their thinking.

When I feel that students have finished the discussion, (no other hands raised, or a lot of repeating, or students can no longer sit and listen to one another), I say to students, "we have heard a lot of good ideas about how kids and science might work to solve one of these problems. I am going to ask you to go back to your seats and pick one of these ideas that you think you might like to suggest a solution for and write down what the problem is, and why you would like to try to suggest a solution for it. I know that we may not be able to carry out the solution, but, we can suggest how the problem might get solved in a real way. We are not going to be inventing aliens or robots to come from space and fix things, but we are going to think about what we, as kids, using science might be able to suggest as a solution to the problem." 

Students often think that they will build a big robot to fix the problem, but I want them to think more about what they can really do, and how that might involve using some of the science we have learned. 

Choosing Our Topics

20 minutes

Once students have written down their ideas, I collect the papers and say to students, "I am going to read these ideas to you and then from our list I will cross out any ideas that were not suggested. Next we will listen to what people wrote and decide on one problem that we want to tackle as a class."

I go through the papers and check off any topics that were suggested. I cross out any with no check marks. Now we have a list of 8 different ideas. I am going to read you what people wrote about those ideas so you can think about which ones might be best for us to work on as a class. I read their ideas and then ask students if they have anything they want to add about one topic or another before we vote. 

Once all ideas are shared, I ask students to close their eyes and pick the topic that they think might be best for us to address. I read the topics and students vote. We narrow it down to 3 topics,The List Of Topics ask for any more comments on those three, for or against and then vote one more time. Each time students defend a topic, or explain its weaknesses, students are learning how to be better communicators in science.

We decide what our topic is and then I say to students, "in the next part of this lesson we will become investigative reporters. You will each have a chance to go and ask someone how they feel about this problem. You will ask someone here in the building, and also ask your families tonight. Together we will think of some questions to ask.

I ask students to work at their tables to generate a list of questions they might want to ask adults that would give us a better idea of how others feel about this problem. (It might be about misusing nature's classroom after school, letting cars drive too quickly on school grounds, etc.) I give them 10 minutes to generate their questions. I collect the questions at the end of the 10 minutes and keep them for the second day of this lesson.