Student Research in Action (Part 2)

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Objective

Students will analyze data in order to draw conclusions for student developed research questions to assess the impact of environmental/health toxins on the nervous system.

Big Idea

Student research in the classroom empowers students to understand or bring resolve to questions that attempt to understand the impact of health and environmental toxins on the nervous system.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

           Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. With this type of learning, students are not only active and engaged in learning but are inspired to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they're studying. And while PBL in the science classroom may serve to inspire a number of future scientists, research indicates that hands-on learning can also significantly contribute to students gaining the 21st century skills they’ll need as they develop into the next generation of business owners, innovators, managers, and employees. Among these skills are:

  • Scientific investigation: develop an idea, plan an experiment, conduct an experiment
  • Project management: manage a project and meet deadlines
  • Scientific analysis: keep a logbook, analyze data, create a chart or graph
  • Communication: write results, create a presentation board, present and discuss results

Incidentally, these skills are as critical to the success of those in the sciences as to those in financial services, healthcare, transportation, public service, and other industries. In essence, granting students the opportunity to partake in science projects or PBL opportunities not only enhance their understanding of content introduced in the classroom, but has the potential to prepare students for life.  

    A model organism is a species that has been widely studied, usually because it is easy to maintain and breed in a laboratory setting and has particular experimental advantages. Over the years, a great deal of data has accumulated about such organisms and this in itself makes them more attractive to study. Model organisms are used to obtain information about other species – including humans – that are more difficult to study directly.

    Caenorhabditis elegans  is a free-living (not parasitic), transparent nematode (roundworm), about 1 mm in length, that lives in temperate soil environments. As one of the first organisms to have their genome and nervous system mapped, C elegans have gained notoriety in the research community as ideal model organisms.

     In this short term project, students use the model organism C. elegans characteristics to assess the impact of environmental factors (BPA, Nicotine and Heavy Metals) on human nervous systems through the project based learning style. This lesson, the second (lesson 1) of a three day research process , brings students attention to the impact of data collection on their continued research investigations and/or efforts. 

Prerequisite Knowledge: It is recommended that students be familiar with the structure and function of a neuron, the concept of neurotransmission, the action potential mechanism, nerve cell structure/function, and general knowledge of C. elegans (see lesson) form & behaviors. 

Lesson Preparations:

 In the effort to prepare for this lesson, I make certain that I have the following items in place: 

a) Students' graded research plans example (from lesson 1). 

b) Student lab books.

c) Lab Protection Wear

d) Materials from the Edvotek's Envrionmental Toxicity Response to C elegans kit

e) Fisher Scientific Bisphenol A 5 grams

f) Fisher Scientific Nicotine Solution

g) Carolina Biological Culturing C elegans kit

h) Various hardware/support materials (electronic balance, weight bottles, graduated cylinders, distilled water, petri dishes, and micropipetters & tips) 

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

W.11-12.7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Standards Rationale:

      Keeping students abreast of current topics in science can be challenging if it doesn't fit into their repertoire of current affairs. When we however incorporate current science topics and research into our lessons, we can motivate students to learn and sometimes even change their attitudes about science. For instance, students who are exposed to current scientific research questions and methods discover that we live in a world with more questions than answers. Students can then apply their critical reasoning skills and creativity to discuss the scientists’ questions, design their own experiments, and test hypotheses which can be an empowering experience for student and teacher alike.

      Modeling is the process by which scientists represent ideas about the natural world to each other, and then collaboratively make changes to these representations over time in response to new evidence and understandings. It is intimately connected to other scientific processes (asking questions, communicating information, etc.) and improves students ability to recall scientific jargon through association. In the classroom, it is important that teachers engage students in modeling practices, to set the foundation of success in a lesson or instructional unit, or in this case a short term research project. In this lesson, modeling is used in concert with other science practices in the classroom to promote students’ reasoning and understanding of core science idea presented (animal models in research.) 

Review

10 minutes

Section Sequence:

    In this section of the lesson, students are given an opportunity to revisit their work and/or data from the first day of research and engage in an open class discussion about their findings and suggestions to their peers. This goal is to maximize students time on task by ironing out potential kinks before they move forward in their research. The section proceeds as follows:

a) Slide 5: Direct students' attention to the screen and ask them if any of the statements and/or question reflect their thoughts about their research at this point. Take individual comments and questions and provide other students the opportunity to address them before directly addressing them as the instructor. Give students an opportunity to share their expertise to build overall confidence of the group. Discuss until student inquiries are exhausted. 

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

W.11-12.7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. 

Explain

10 minutes

Section Sequence:

     In this section of the lesson, students are provided with an opportunity to reflect on observations made thus far in their investigations. And while this may not be applicable to all students (due to different procedural timelines), it helps everyone to reflect on what they have seen and what to potentially look for in their upcoming observations. This section proceeds as follows:

a) Slide 6: Direct students attention to the image on the screen and ask if they have made some notable observations in any of the anatomical features projected. Take responses from students.

b) Project the worm atlas (from camera icon) and ask the class to direct you through the site to explain some of the students's observations articulated. Focus mostly on the icons specific to the nervous system. Ask the class how some of the observed behaviors are indirectly associated with nervous system enhancement or interference of their applied toxins. Discuss briefly as a group.

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

W.11-12.7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Extend

60 minutes

Section Sequence:

       In this section of the lesson, my job is to give students a generic walk through of their independent (experimental) procedures in the effort to insure safety and maximize on task efficiency. This day, compared to the first day of experimentation gives students an opportunity & adequate time to collect data from their observations as well as set up additional trials if needed. This section proceeds as follows:

a) Slide 7: Walk students through the steps as projected, while announcing a stop and/or check point after each step. For example, after instructing students to don their lab ware, stop and visually check to see if everyone is properly robed. 

b) As students engage in their projects, circulate and talk students through any sticky points. Allow for them to think their way through obstacles, while maintaining the fidelity of their research plans. Encourage students to be creative in data collection methods. Cell phones are great examples of this. They make data collection accessible (see photos attached) to this tech savvy generation. 

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

W.11-12.7- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Evaluate

10 minutes

Section Sequence:

     In this section of the lesson, students are formally introduced to the details of their data reporting formats for their final project piece. They are also introduced to the project's rubric so that they can maximize on their scores while planning and preparing their choice of products. This section proceeds as follows:

a) Slides 8 and 9: Direct students to wrap their lab stations up and to focus on the information presented on the slide. Provide each student with a copy of the Neuroscience End of Year Project Guideline handout as you align their attention to the projected material. Share that they will report out their findings in their choice of 1 of 3 presentation formats. Proceed to read the various parts of the handout to class, while clarifying questions along the way. 

b) Provide Students with a copy of the Research Product Rubric and explain that they will transfer the contents of the research plan (already graded) onto their final product.  Tell them that they will be graded mostly on the remaining content that appears on the rubric.

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

SP7- Engaging in argument from evidence.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models