Kids love to be "real" scientists out in the field. In this lesson the students will observe live pollinators. They will also practice making and supporting a prediction by charting data. This activity involves a mini trip outside, like a visit to a garden or even a trip out in the schoolyard. Children will form hypotheses on what pollinator will be seen most often in a garden. In partners, they will observe and chart their data. Discussion will follow of why they made their predictions and how accurate they were and how they based their hypotheses based on past information.
NGSS/Common Core Connections:
By the end of the unit, students are expected to create their own plant pollinator. This lesson is part of a series of lessons that help teach the children about insect pollinators and their role in the environment so they will have the knowledge to help them with that task. They will carry out an investigation by going on a mini-field trip and gathering data. After they are back inside, they analyze their data and interpret their results. Then we talk about being able to back up your hypotheses with logical reasons which is part of forming an argument bases on documentation.
I try to get my student's interest piqued by starting with a question about past learning. I try to have them conjure up information learned from a previous lesson titled What Kinds of Jobs Do Scientists Do?.
Remember when we studied about all of the things a scientist does? Think back to the presentation we watched about all sorts of science careers. Remember you even got to choose which one you would like to be when you get older? Thinking about that, I would like to know who remembers what an entomologist studies?
A boy gets a look of delight on his face. I remember because that is the one that I picked. An entomologist studies about bugs!"
You are right! Great memory! How would you all like to be entomologists today?
My class cheered in sheer delight!
Well, we are going to do exactly that. Each of you are going to get a chance to be a scientist who studies insects. We are going out to our school garden and observe the critters that live or are visiting there. Is anybody interested?
YEAH! They shout!
I could hear all the BUZZ in the classroom about our new adventure! I knew this was going to be the bees knees!
I ask children to make a prediction which pollinator that they have studied (bees/wasps, flies, beetles or butterflies/moths) will be seen most often on a mini field trip to our native wildflower garden on school grounds.
Scientists make hypotheses based on information that they have gathered. You will be forming a hypothesis today about which pollinator we would find most often in the garden. You should base your hypothesis on knowledge that you have about pollinators. Think about what you have seen outside lately at recess or at your house. Try to create a hypothesis based on your observations. (see video clip --forming a hypothesis based on previous knowledge). What would your prediction be and why would it be that?
Then I would like you to discuss your hypothesis with your partner. If you are the listening partner, you need to be thinking does the hypothesis make sense? You might want to ask your partner why it is that they think that way.
Then I have them write their hypothesis down in the space provided on the tally chart.
Having a chat about forming a hypothesis is critical since children have trouble understanding the scientific process in general. They need to develop the skills of thinking like a scientist through explicit instruction, which in this case, is about forming a hypothesis. Talking about it with a partner helps them to think aloud and makes them really think about why they are thinking the way they are thinking.
I have also noticed that my students have trouble with backing up their thoughts with valid reasons. When asked why they think a certain way, they frequently say things like, "just because." Forming hypotheses and then being able to back up your thoughts with facts and knowledge of patterns of the past, helps them have a vital role in carrying out an investigation. It also helps them make sense of the world.
I have included 3 chart forms using varied levels of scaffolding. In the Pollinator Observation Chart 1, the names of the insect pollinators are filled in, Pollinator Observation Chart 2 leaves out the names, the Pollinator Observation Chart 3 does not have any labels. You may chose which chart best suits your children. See my reflection for my thoughts on which chart I should have used!
Then we go on a mini field trip to the school's native flower garden to tally how many of each type of pollinator we observe. (Note: I didn't have enough clip boards so some students just used a white board so they would have a hard surface to write on.)
As they are observing, I encourage quiet observation skills. I point out flowers that have easily seen parts that they have studied. I also point out some pollinators at the beginning of the trip to help get them started. Here is one of my scientists taking notes and using her observation skills to gather information, just like a real scientist! This is an active part of the gathering data for an investigation--all on their own!
Once we were back inside, we discuss the children’s observations. Have the children refer to their tally charts.
Scientists form hypotheses that help guide their investigations. After an investigation, they check to see if their results match their hypothesis. Sometimes their hypotheses match, and sometimes they are incorrect. They do not have to match! Scientists find out all sorts of information either way.
I would like you to take a look at your results. Count up your tally marks for each of the pollinators on the chart. Circle the pollinator that you saw the most of in our garden today. Did your hypothesis match your results? Please share why you think your ideas were correct.
Having the children count up their tallies is an important part of analyzing their data and interpreting the results. They need to see which pollinator they saw the most of compared to the others so they can start forming their own analysis.
Hannah gives a a great explanation for why she her hypothesis was correct (backing up hypothesis video clip).
If not, let's take a look at why things might have turned out differently than you thought. Who had a hypothesis that did not match their results? Why do you think things turned out differently than what you thought?
In this video a girl made a hypothesis that did not match her results. I helped her make sense of why the two of them may not have matched. The important part of this lesson was not matching the hypotheses with the results, but rather being able to explain the reasons why things might have turned out differently than expected. Science is all about thinking and explaining!
Next I review some of the vocabulary terms which were immersed in our adventures today--entomologist, pollinator and hypothesis. Calling these terms out and reviewing them will help cement them in the children's minds.
You were very busy bees today, weren't you? You did some exciting and interesting work. We were citizen scientists today, just like the book that we read called "Citizen Scientist." You went to what we call, "out in the field," even though we were in a beautiful native garden. Who remembers what kind of scientist studies about insects?
A girl answers I know! It is an entomologist. I asked the boy that answered before if she was right. He shook his head yes.
I write the word entomologist on the board.
Yes, we were all entomologists. Before we went out and gathered information about the pollinators, we did one of the steps in the scientific design. We thought about something that was going to help guide our investigations. What did we do? Yes, we formed a question. What was that question?
A girl answers that we wanted to see which kind of bug we would see the most of. Yes, we wanted to see a special kind of bug that helps the flower. What do we call that kind of bug that carries pollen from one flower to another?
Yes, we call it a pollinator.
I write the word pollinator on the board.
Then we looked at the chart and made a prediction. What do scientists call a prediction that is based on events that have happened before?
Great job! We call that a hypothesis.
I write the word hypothesis on the board.
Do scientists just randomly guess what might happen in their investigations?
No, scientists base their hypotheses on information they already know. Just like some of you said that you thought we were going to see more bees because that is what you have observed on the playground. You've seen lots of bees on the playground, so perhaps we would see more bees in the garden. Claire mentioned that she thought we would see more butterflies since that is what she usually sees the most of in her garden. Again, she would be basing her hypothesis on what she has seen in the past which is exactly what scientists do.
Remember, sometimes scientist form a hypothesis, test it out and find out it was wrong. If it is wrong, scientist learn lots of information from that. They might look more closely at reason why it turned out the way it did and then go back and form a new hypothesis and test it all over again.
We wrap up the lesson by reviewing what we have learned.
To check your understanding, I want you to give me a thumbs up or down for the following statements:
Scientists are guided by their questions. (thumbs up)
A hypothesis is the same as the question. (thumbs down)
Scientists randomly guess at what might happen. (thumbs down)
When a hypothesis does not match the results, they just change the results so they can say they were right. (thumbs down)
Scientist learn a lot from an investigation, whether or not their hypotheses were correct. (thumbs up)
Through this easy check for understanding, I can tell whether the group understands the concepts quickly and easily. I am looking not just for the children who were incorrect, but also for the children who had to check what their neighbor was doing before answering themselves. If most of the children seemed to have learned the concepts involved, I BUZZ on to the next lesson.
When evaluating their papers I looked for a few things.
In this first student sample the girl backs up her hypothesis by telling us she sees them a lot and they pollinate so much. Then since her hypothesis was correct, she verifies it with a statement that bees and wasps are very big pollinators. In sample 2 , another girl forms her hypothesis based on the fact she saw a lot of bees today. Then she backs verifies her results by saying there are more bees and wasps in the garden area, so it makes sense but needs a bit more clarification.
The last sample shows a logical reason for thinking there might be more bees and wasps, since they are really busy. The hypothesis was not correct, which is fine, but the statement that there were more flies because they like to bite people did not make sense.
As I stated earlier, the important part of this lesson was not matching the hypotheses with the results, but rather being able to explain the reasons why things might have turned out differently than expected. I make sure to let the children know that loud and clear--the hypotheses DO NOT have to match the results!!!! Every kid seems to think that if they don't, they have done something wrong. That happens everyday to scientists, and they learn so much from it. You can learn as much from them not matching as matching. Science is all about thinking and explaining!