Inquiry Based Instructional Model
To intertwine scientific knowledge and practices and to empower students to learn through exploration, it is essential for scientific inquiry to be embedded in science education. While there are many types of inquiry-based models, one model that I've grown to appreciate and use is called the FERA Learning Cycle, developed by the National Science Resources Center (NSRC):
A framework for implementation can be found here.
I absolutely love how the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute for Systems Biology explains that this is "not a locked-step method" but "rather a cyclical process," meaning that some lessons may start off at the focus phase while others may begin at the explore phase.
Finally, an amazing article found at Edudemic.com, How Inquiry-Based Learning Works with STEM, very clearly outlines how inquiry based learning "paves the way for effective learning in science" and supports College and Career Readiness, particularly in the area of STEM career choices.
In this unit, students will first develop an understanding of the biotic and abiotic factors within ecosystems, the characteristics and classification of living organisms, and how plants and animals obtain and use energy to fulfill their needs.
Then, students will delve deeper into the NGSS standards by examining the interdependent relationships within an ecosystem by studying movement of matter between producers, consumers, and decomposers by creating models of food chains and food webs.
At the end of this unit, students will study ways that individual communities can use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.
Summary of Lesson
Today, I will open the lesson by watching a video and analyzing the plant kingdom. Students will then explore how different plants meet their needs by researching plants further using computers and a Google Presentation.
Next Generation Science Standards
This lesson will support the following NGSS Standard(s):
5-LS1-1. Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.
5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
Scientific & Engineering Practices
For this lesson, students are engaged in the following Science & Engineering Practice:
Science & Engineering Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Students will read and comprehend complex texts, obtain ideas, and describe how they are supported by evidence.
To relate ideas across disciplinary content, during this lesson I focus on the following Crosscutting Concept:
Crosscutting Concept 6: Structure and Function
Students will begin examining plant substructures and their functions.
Disciplinary Core Ideas
In addition, this lesson also aligns with the following Disciplinary Core Ideas:
PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life
The energy released [from] food was once energy from the sun that was captured by plants in the chemical process that forms plant matter (from air and water). (5-PS3-1)
LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
Food provides animals with the materials they need for body repair and growth and the energy they need to maintain body warmth and for motion. (secondary to 5-PS3-1)
Plants acquire their material for growth chiefly from air and water. (5-LS1-1)
LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
The food of almost any kind of animal can be §traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as “decomposers.” Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem. (5-LS2-1)
To add depth to student understanding, when I can, I'll often integrate ELA standards with science lessons. Today, students will work on the ELA standard, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.2: Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text. In this lesson, students will be using an electronic resource to locate details that support main ideas.
Choosing Science Teams
With science, it is often difficult to find a balance between providing students with as many hands-on experiences as possible, having plenty of science materials, and offering students a collaborative setting to solve problems. Any time groups have four or more students, the opportunities for individual students to speak and take part in the exploration process decreases. With groups of two, I often struggle to find enough science materials to go around. So this year, I chose to place students in teams of three! Picking science teams is always easy as I already have students placed in desk groups based upon behavior, abilities, and communication skills. Each desk group has about six kids, so I simply divide this larger group in half.
Gathering Supplies & Assigning Roles
To encourage a smooth running classroom, I ask students to decide who is a 1, 2, or 3 in their groups of three students (without talking). In no time, each student has a number in the air. I'll then ask the "threes" to get certain supplies, "ones" to grab their computers, and "twos" to hand out papers (or whatever is needed for the lesson). This management strategy has proven to be effective when cleaning up and returning supplies as well!
Lesson Introduction & Goal
I introduce today's learning goal: I can explain how plants with different structures meet their own needs.
Referring to the Roles in Ecosystems Poster, I explain: Remember that organisms have special roles in ecosystems. Producers use the sun's energy to make their own food. Then, the sun's energy can be passed on to consumers and decomposers.
Over the past few lessons, we've focused on the role of decomposers in ecosystems. Now, we are going to take a closer look at producers. In particular, we will be studying the role of plants in ecosystems and how plants get the materials they need for growth. Today, we'll begin our plant study by examining how plants are classified within the plant kingdom based upon their structures and how plants with different structures meet their needs differently.
Teacher Note: Although it is a pretty big jump to go from learning about decomposers to learning about plants, we will continue to reflect upon the role of decomposers throughout the rest of the unit. (The main connection that I want students to focus on is the fact that plants need nutrients to grow healthy and that decomposers are responsible for returning the nutrients in dead plants and animals to the soil, making them accessible to plants.) In addition, the anchor chart on decomposers will remain up in the classroom so that students can continually refer to and build upon this learning. Finally, the overarching posters that continually help build connections between decomposers, producers, and consumers include the: the Roles in Ecosystems Poster and the 6 Kingdoms of Life Poster. Due to continued review and anchor charts, students seem to make this transition with no problem at all!
I want to inspire interest in today's lesson and capitalize on student curiosity, so I show this powerful video. In particular, students love seeing inside a plant's leaf.
The Plant Kingdom
Returning to the 6 Kingdoms Poster from a lesson prior, I want to add on to student understanding of the six kingdoms of living organisms by analyzing the classifications within the plant kingdom. I invite students to get out their own Student Kingdom Posters that they previously took notes on (Student Notes on th 6 Kingdoms) and to meet me on the front carpet.
To help facilitate an overview of the plant kingdom, I created a Types of Plants Presentation to display while the students and I take notes on our posters.
Teacher Note: The overall goal isn't for students to memorize the plant kingdom categories and to be able to categorize plants based upon their structures. Instead I want to provide students with background knowledge on plants as they begin to explore how different types of plants meet their needs using a variety of structures (vascular system, leaves, flowers, roots, rhizoids, spores, seeds, etc.)
I begin by introducing the following vocabulary posters. Even though students have already learned the difference between prokaryotes and eukaryotes and the characteristics of plants, it is always good to put definitions down on paper: Prokaryote & Eukaryote Vocabulary Poster and Plants Vocabulary Poster. I know that prokaryote and eukaryote may seem a bit high level for 5th grade, however, I keep the definitions simple... prokaryotic organisms (bacteria and archaebacteria) are made up of simple cells that do not have a nucleus. The nucleus is the "brain of the cell." Eukaryotic organisms are made up of bigger and more complex cells that have a nucleus. I relate this to a fact that students learned about in their reading: 90% of the cells in the human body are bacteria cells. However, the cells are so much simpler and smaller than eukaryotic human cells that they would all fit in a food can!
Beginning with the first few slides, I explain: All plants are either vascular or nonvascular plants. I show students a few pictures of nonvascular plants: hornworts and moss. We discuss how nonvascular plants are simple and they don't have a vascular system (tubes to transport water and nutrients). Consequently, these plants are found in moist environments and they grow closely to the ground so that the plant can absorb water without relying on a water transportation system.
Moving on to the next few slides, we discuss how vascular plants, such as the palm trees or cosmos flower, have a vascular system to transport nutrients and water.
Seedless plants, such as ferns, grow from spores. I show students a picture of a fern with capsules on the underside of the frond. The capsules burst and scary spores out. I then explain how there are nonvascular seedless plants (moss, hornworts) and vascular seedless plants (ferns, horsetails).
Gymnosperms & Angiosperms
Then, we discuss the difference between gymnosperms (produces seeds, non-flowering vascular plants) and angiosperms (produces seeds, flowering vascular plants). I explain that most gymnosperms are conifers, which are cone-bearing evergreens (green throughout the year) and that angiosperms are flowering plants that can either be classified as monocots or dicots. '
I ask students: What do you notice about the number of petals on these Monocot Flowers? (usually has petals in multiples of 3s) What do you notice about the number of petals on these Dicot Flowers? (usually has petals in multiples of 4s and 5s) And what do you notice about the seed leaves of monocot and dicot flowers (Monocot Verses Dicot Seed Leaves)?
At the end of this time, our Plant Kingdom Poster is complete!
Here's an example of student work during this time:
In order to tie today's lesson in with the 5th Grade ELA standard, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.2 (Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text), I created and shared a Google Presentation (The Plant Kingdom Template) for teams of students to copy and edit. Students will work together to identify and organize information on each slide of this presentation. On each slide, I placed a main idea, such as "Leaves, stems, and roots are important plant parts," and provided text boxes for students to provide supporting details.
As a resource today, I shared the following link. Students begin scanning and reading for supporting details on pages 372-394. I make sure to model how to scan for particular information by using headings and key words.
I also model how to complete the first slide: Modeling The First Task. We discuss how to pay close attention to whether or not each detail truly supports the main idea sentence.
In the past, I might have asked all students to complete this assignment. However, I want to make sure students are collaborating and engaged in conversation with one another so I ask for two out of the three students on each team to grab a computer. I then ask teams to pull up the resource on one computer and the google presentation on the other computer. This also makes it easier for students to toggle back and forth between the resource and presentation.
Monitoring Student Understanding
Once students begin working, I conference with every group. My goal is to support students by asking guiding questions (listed below). I also want to encourage students to engage in Science & Engineering Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence.
During this conference, Plants Have Chlorophyll, I begin by asking: What is the main idea you are trying to support? The students successfully identify one detail that supports the main idea and another detail that does not. This is such an important skill that requires students to truly determine the importance of each idea.
Here, Nonvascular Plants do not Have Roots, I support the students by narrowing the text down to a particular paragraph. I then encourage the students to really slow down and think about what they are reading by asking, Does that detail support the idea that nonvascular plants grow closely to the ground? and Do you know how high 2 cm is? My goal is make this text more meaningful to these students!
Although all groups need more work time to complete this project, here is a Team Example of The Plant Kingdom presentation. I am really impressed with how hard students work to write complete sentences and to find the best supporting details possible. This assignment almost turns into a scavenger hunt! Tomorrow, we'll take the first 20 minutes of our science period to complete these presentations!