I begin by having students share the question they wrote down during our observing worms lesson. By starting with something they are already curious about, the investigation becomes student led, which increases buy in and increases their desire to find out the answer.
I then tell them they will be designing an experiment to learn more about some of their questions, and I let them know I have been in contact with the vermicomposting expert that I purchased the worms from, and she is very interested in our findings.
I ask them what makes a science experiment, give them a moment to think and have them discuss with a partner before calling students to share with the class.
I'm looking for a scientific question with a variable and outcome, a hypothesis, procedures, and materials, which I will list on the board. I don't expect they will remember all of these things, but rather than just tell them, I'll ask what resource they could use to find other parts of an experiment, guiding them to refer back to their science notebooks.
I ask students to think of a scientific question about the worms that they could test within the following constraints:
Within each table I assign each person a number based on their position, 1, 2, 3, or 4, which stays their number until I change the seating chart. Because I know I have some strong personalities that are still learning to invite others to participate, I structure this discussion by having person 1 begin, while everyone else listens. After a minute, I tell them to switch, and the next person shares. I'll have the discussion go one more time around, 30 seconds each so they can each share their new ideas.
After this structured discussion, I tell them to come up with an experimental question at their table that they all agree to. I remind them that they may need to compromise by meeting in the middle or offering up some kind of trade, like getting to choose or do something. When they think they have a good question, they write it on a whiteboard, and come show it to me. Once I approve of their question, they each write their question, procedure, and materials in their science notebooks.
I ask each table to share their scientific question with the class so that we can understand what they will be studying, and give the class an opportunity to ask the group three questions. This may help them consider something they hadn't thought of before, or it will give them practice communicating their scientific understanding.
Finally, I have one person from each table turn in their science notebooks, both for formative assessment purposes like usual, but also because I need to make sure their procedures make sense, and that I have the materials they will need for their experiments.