Answering Our Wind Questions

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SWBAT use a form to design and carry out an experiment to answer their own question about wind

Big Idea

Beginning to design a scientific exploration helps students to understand the scientific process.

Teacher Background

In the lesson, "What is Wind?" students brainstormed questions that they wanted to know about wind. This lesson allows them to use those questions to design their own scientific investigation. If you did not have your students do that lesson, you could begin with a brainstorming of what students want to know about wind. These questions would then become the base for this lesson in designing and carrying out the investigation.

This lesson will take 2 days to complete. The first day will be the design, and second day will be the investigation. 

Choosing A Question

15 minutes

I post the questions that students brainstormed in a previous lesson. I say, "the other day you brainstormed a list of questions that you wanted to find out about wind. See Brainstormed questions from the lesson What is Wind? Some of the questions may require reading and researching, others will require you to design an investigation to try to come up with an answer. Today you will work with one of your Buddy Wheel Buddies to choose a question that you want to investigate. You will then design a way to find the answer to your question. Tomorrow we will carry out the designs and see if we have been able to answer any of our questions. You will be meteorologists, or scientists who study the weather."

I have students look at their buddy wheels and we draw a number. Students quickly move to the person on their wheel who matches that number. Now I say, "I would like you and your partner to look at this list and choose one question that you both think would be fun to investigate and one that you can think of a way to try and come up with an answer. We have to be able to do the experiment in the classroom, or outside if the weather allows. You do not need to choose the question you gave us the other day. You may pick any question on the list, or if you and your partner come up with a similar question, write it down and share it with me and we will see if that would work as well.

Before you begin please read the I Can statement with me, "I can design an investigation to answer my question about wind." 

I waited today to present the I Can statement after students had heard my introduction. I wanted the I Can statement to serve as a way to reinforce my expectations about what they will be able to do today.

I give students about 5 minutes to decide on a question.

Designing our experiments

20 minutes

Once students say they have decided on a question I post the experiment form.pdf on the Smart Board. I post it because I want to walk students through the process step by step. This is the first time students have really designed an experiment on their own, so I want to make sure they understand the steps involved.

I hand each group a form and say, "today you will be designing an investigation to answer the question you have chosen. In order to do that, you will begin today by filling out the form that I have given you. We are going to do this together because this is really the first time we have tried to design our own investigation. Scientists design investigations to answer their questions and when they do, they have certain things they include in the design. We will use those same things today. Would you start by writing your names, the date and your question on the form. When you have done this look up here." I give students several minutes to complete this first step.

"What does the next part of the form say?" (Our Prediction). "Here I want you and your partner to think about what the answer to your question probably is. It is ok if you do not know the exact answer, most scientists don't when they start out and that is why they do the investigation, but they make a good guess about what the answer probably is. Would you do that on your paper. I have given you a pen and I would like you to write your prediction in pen." (The reason I ask them to write in pen is that students often want to go back after doing an investigation and change the prediction to match what happened. By writing in pen, students can not easily change the prediction and so they can see what did happen, and what they thought would happen, and begin to figure out why the two are different, which engages them in scientific thinking.)

"The next part of the form is the steps you will take. I have given you 8 lines, but you may only have 3 steps. You do not need 8. What I want you to do with your partner is to think about how you will investigate the question. What will you do first, second, third? See Explaining the experimental design.

Let me give you an example (I write on the form on the Smart Board as I talk). My question is why do some things sink in water? (Mine is not a wind question on purpose to keep kids from just copying what I do.) My prediction is that heavier things sink because of their weight and light things float. My steps are 1: get a scale and weigh 5 objects from around the room. 2. Place them in order from lightest to heaviest. 3: Make a chart of the objects with a space to show if each one sinks or floats. 4.) Drop each object in the water one at a time and mark if it sank or floated. 5.) Decide if only the heaviest sank.  Those are my steps and I tried to put them in order. I wouldn't be able to record if they sank or floated before I dropped them in the water. I also need my recording sheet before I start dropping the objects into the water because otherwise I might forget what I did.

You will write up your steps. If you write a step and then find that you should have put another step before it, just change the numbers rather than erasing it all and starting again."

I check for understanding and then circulate around to observe the conversations students are having and to help them if they are stuck figuring out what they might do. I give students time to complete the steps.

When everyone has recorded their steps I ring the bell and ask them to look at the back of their paper. It has a place for materials. I ask them to record the materials they will need to do their investigation. I point out that for my experiment I might need a cup of water, a balance scale, a rock, a penny, an eraser, a base ten block and a marble. 

Students have now designed their experiment. I end the first session here to give me a chance to gather the materials and meet with any groups who may have designed an experiment that would be impossible to complete in the classroom and may need help revising their plan. 

Carrying Out Our Designs

30 minutes

Carrying out the investigation is one aspect of the lesson that I know will encourage student engagement. If the question is theirs and the process is theirs, they will be involved in trying to answer their questions in a way that is much more engaging than if I just told them what to do.

I have materials prepared for each group before today's session begins. I have created a plastic bag of materials for each group. I do have 2 groups who have research designs and I have found appropriate websites and books for them to use in their research.

I begin today saying, "You all have such exciting investigations to do. Each one is different. I have prepared a bag of materials for each group. You will take your materials and your design and go through your steps one by one. There is a place on the back of your form for you to record what you see. For some of you this will happen as you go, and for others you may be able to record at the end. Some of you have also decided to create your own recording sheets so you will need to use those as you experiment."

(I do have a fan in the room to act as wind for those who need it.)

I give students time to carry out their investigations. See Answering the Question Can you feel wind in water? and Answering the Question Can you block the wind?. I circulate around to observe and to ask questions such as "how did you do this?" "Why do you think that happened?" "What would happen if you..." I want to encourage students to think about what they are seeing and to see how their investigation may or may not be answering their question.



15 minutes

I ask students to clean up their materials and to sit with their partners. I say, "there are 2 more sections to your science report. One is the conclusions and one is what you learned. Do you know what conclusions mean?" (I call on several students to share their ideas with us.)

"I want you to look at your prediction and question. Look at what happened during your investigation. Now see if you can make a conclusion about the answer to your question. Were you able to answer the question? If so what was the answer? Remember it may not match your prediction. If you could not answer the question, why do you think you still can't answer it? Take 5 minutes to talk to your partner and then fill in your conclusions." 

"Now I want you to fill in the last part of the form. What did you learn today? It might be an answer to your question, it might be something about the process you did, it might be something unexpected about wind. Would you fill in the last section about what you learned."

I will use the forms to assess how well students understood the process of conducting an investigation. I will also look at how well students were able to explain their thinking about what they did. The form is one form of assessment that will help me to evaluate what my students understand and what else I may need to teach about scientific investigations. 

I Can Statement and Closing

5 minutes

We end today's lesson by reviewing the I Can statement and giving a thumbs up if we feel that we were able to create an investigation and carry it out.

I end by asking students to share any thoughts they have about the process, about their experiment and about the answers to their questions. This helps to bring closure to the lesson.