On Monday 24th October, students submitted their 3D models of an animal or plant cell. There were 16/20 students who handed in their cell for assessment. There were four students who 'forgot' their cell or did not have it complete. I discussed the reasons one on one and I gave each of them a deadline of Wednesday 26th October. The remaining four cells were submitted on the this date. The students had created the success criteria for this project, and part of the project they wished to present their cell to the rest of the class. This week, I spent the first single class in the computer room with our IT co-ordinator, setting the First Year students with a computer log in. All students presented their cell in the double class on Wednesday. I gave each student 30 seconds to present. I think this made some students feel relaxed and it challenged the students who had more to say.
In this final double class of the half term, after the student presentations, the students carried out their own investigations. I asked them to plan a Halloween themed investigation based on the knowledge and understanding they had gained so far this year. The students planned and carried out the following experiments:
1. To investigate what bread looks like under a light microscope
2. To investigate the conversion of chemical energy in a pumpkin into heat energy
3. To investigate if a pumpkin contains starch
4. To investigate if Halloween sweets have reducing sugar
5. To investigate if a pumpkin had protein
6. To isolate DNA from a kiwi (they had not covered this but these students had completed research and they had a detailed plan). This experiment turned out excellently and the DNA precipitated to the top of the beaker.
The students really enjoyed this experiment day. I think it worked really well to consolidate their learning. The lab was a hive of activity, with different experiments going on. Students were talking to each other about their experiments, explaining them and discussing what was working and what was not working. For example, there was not a large amount of energy in a pumpkin. All groups presented their experiments to the rest of the class. The students showed great interest in listening to each other, particularly in relation to the DNA investigation.
I collected up their scrapbooks that act as a reflection of their learning. The students assessed the cells as Exceptional, above expectations or meeting expectations according to the success criteria that we created. I will correct their scrapbooks by comment only and use a similar grading system - exceptional, above and meeting expectations.
Overall, I am happy with the teaching and learning on this new science adventure. I have learned and reflections more than I usually would, however, I have only cells, the microscope and food covered and I would normally have more content covered. I hope that this pace reflects deeper learning and engagement of my students. I did not give a written mid term test but I will give one after the mid term break.
Every year from day one I always have first years asking when can we blow something up. A lot of primary school teachers are putting a lot of effort into their science classes and the kids arrive expecting big things from big school. This year was no different, especially after showing them how the gas taps & Bunsens work.
"Sir can we blow something up?"
"Can we burn something"
"Let's do an experiment with fire"
My usual response is to distract them with other experiments that were prescribed by the old curriculum, not very innovative, but it's what I did.
This year with the new emphasis on Nature of Science I said "sure, why not", but before we did anything the students would have to prove there was scientific merit to the experiment. "Just to see what happens" doesn't cut it.
Over the course of the next few classes I gave 5-10 minutes to discussing possible options/ideas for experiments. Through group discussion we settled on vinegar and baking soda. A standard experiment that a lot of them had done in primary school, but I wanted them to take it further. Their homework that night was to research the science behind the reaction and think of what we could measure. During the class I had introduced the words quantitative and qualitative and explained the meaning behind them.
It took 5/10 minutes each from another two classes to settle on the design of the experiment, this involved very fruitful discussion on what we could measure (colour change, CO2 produced) how we could measure it (observation, circumference of a balloon) and what we would vary during the experiment (quantities and heat supplied). We discussed why it might be better for each group to carry out the same 2-3 variations of the experiment rather than everyone doing different ones, we examined the equipment available in the lab and tried to decide what we could use.
On experiment day I took quite a bit of control (they are first years after all) I decided the most accurate way to carry out the experiment would be the setup used for production of oxygen, but using a boiling tube with an arm instead of a Buchner flask.
I drew a diagram of the experimental setup on the board and got each group to come up and collect each piece of equipment as they needed it. We agreed to test 5g of baking soda with 10ml of vinegar first. We practised filling the graduated cylinder and placing it on the beehive shelf without any air inside, we practised stoppering the tube before we added the vinegar, having one student assigned pour and another assigned to stopper. We discussed what they expected would happen during the experiment and how they would read the result, most seemed a bit confused by this so I just decided to go for it.
I can't believe how well the experiment went, four of the groups ended up with roughly the same value for CO2 produced, some struggled with stoppering in time, others had spilled either the baking soda or vinegar during the process. I wrote all results on the board and got the average, we debated whether to include all results given things had gone wrong in some.
We then repeated the experiment but with 10g of baking soda and 10ml of vinegar. Almost all had an issue stoppering it quickly enough this time and all groups say a reduction in CO2 produced, but they saw from their tubes it was because a lot of baking soda was left over and they used the words "it hasn't all reacted".
I'm absolutely thrilled with the result and would definitely recommend it to others. Maybe not this exact experiment (although it does work nicely).
Week 7 Class 21 40 minutes
Correcting homework: The students were asked to write a scientific report of their investigations of the biomolecules in different foods. I asked the students to nominate themselves as Green (I have no blanks) - 3 students choose this colour, orange (I have blanks and I was not sure of parts of the homework- 14 students choose this colour) and red (I found the homework really difficult, I have many blanks or I do not have the homework done - 5 students chose this colour). I paired the three Greens with the three red students who choose red, they had completed the homework but they found it difficult). I recorded homework not done for the other two Reds and I followed school procedures for no homework. The oranges paired with another orange, and they had to 'ask three, before they asked me' to try and close the gaps in their homework. This part of the class lasted about ten minutes.
Task 1: Review of the homework
We recorded the strengths and weaknesses of the homework on the A0 whiteboard and one student summarised theses on the main whiteboard at the front. I explained Peer Assessment to the class and we discussed how it may benefit learning to assess the work of a peer. The students were asked to roam the room and put a wish for improvement on the reports, mainly based on the content we had summarised onto the main whiteboard. This worked well but there were a few things I would change. Firstly, the students did not read the wishes of other pupils and the wishes repeated themselves. We agreed as a class that this was not beneficial and that we would read comments when peer assessing in future. Secondly, comments not related to the assessment were beginning to appear on the work. I addressed this by class discussion. What is the purpose of the peer assessment? Would it benefit learning if we do not write comments for improvement? What is the purpose of science class? What is your role in the learning and development of your peers? The students agreed that comments that progress the work of another in a supportive manner is the only acceptable form of feedback. The 'Ask Three, before you ask Me' worked really well with this class and it reduced their reliance on the teacher as the main source of information. It encouraged students to collaborate and work together as a first port of call, rather than calling on the teacher first.
Task 2: The biography of biologists
The students remained in the same pairs from Task 1. This worked well as they were mixed ability- green with red, and oranges with oranges. I gave a handout with 8 biographies of biologists. Each biography had 5 - 6 sentences about the main achievements of the scientists and a photograph of the scientist. I asked the students to pick one scientist and to create a silent mime that the other students could guess who they were miming - similar to a game of charades. The students really enjoyed this and they were very quick to work together to create a mime. They quickly started asking me, 'can we practice?' This surprised me as with other presentations they were not as confident. I think I will do more silent mimes/presentations to get them comfortable standing up in front of the class, as some students were really struggling with speaking in front of the class. There were some funny/interesting comments when I handed out the sheet:
Is Conor McGregor a scientist? (when they saw Gregor Mendel!!)
Is Edward Jennifer a boy or a girl?
Each group presented their mimes and they other students had to guess which scientist they were miming. This was great fun and very well presented by all students. They really enjoyed it.
Homework: Using your research skills, choose a scientist from the page and create an interview with a biologist of your choice. The interview must have at least six questions. The answers must be at least two sentences long. Record the interview in your scrapbook. Based on the information, create a mime so that other students can guess which scientist you interviewed.
Week 5 Double Class 80 minutes
We have four 1st year science classes, and we have three science labs. The timetabling this year has all first year science classess scheduled at the same time. We have set up a rota for the labs and this week I was in the classroom for the double period. I decided that I would continue with the food tests and complete 3 out of 4. I planned for the test for starch, the test for protein and the test for fat. I will do the test for reducing sugar in the next single class when I have the hotplates in the lab.
When I arrived at the classroom, I was diverted to the Technical Graphics room, as there was a speaker in for TY in the science demo room (the tiered room in most schools around the country!). We set off for the tech graph room at the other end of the school, 12 A0 whiteboards, markers, one basin of water, the food test experiment box and 20 first years in tow. On arrival, a quick rearrangement of the room and a note to myself that there was a carpet floor in this room. We stored the drawing boards to the side of the room and rearragned the double desks into three groups. There were six students at each double table, split into two groups of students for the double class. There was no laptop in this room, but there was a projector. I asked the students to bring in four foods each, that they would be interested to test for food types. Inevitably, some students did not bring food samples, while other students asked did they have to test the chocolate as they would really like to eat it at lunch!!
Task 1: Design an experiment to test for starch.
Student worked in groups of 3. I set my stopwatch to 8 minuites. I reminded them to make a title, list your apparatus (I highlighted the spelling of this as from correcting their scrapbooks this required correcting), write your proposed method, design a results table, leave a space for your conclusion and draw a labelled diagram. I questioned them: What might make a fair test? What is a control? What substance is readily available to you, that you know does not contain starch? Do most animal/plant products contain starch? What do you think? What substance is available that is not derived from plants or animals? It took students a long time to discover that water could be their control. I resisted telling them and it was difficult. There were light bulb moments and cheers as students realised it was water. This part of the class generated quite alot of noise at times. I am not sure whether it was more noise that in the lab or whether I was more conscious of the noise as I was in a different part of the school with other classes nearby. Some students had tested food for starch in Primary school, however, they did not design and experiment and the nature of experimental design is new to them. I think that this was a good experiment to ask them to design as they had some prior knowledge. They also came up with designs which were not viable but which allowed me to pose questions to deepen their understanding. For example, one student suggested crushing the food in the mortar and pestle, adding water to make it a liquid, draining the liquid through a sieve and he wanted to see if he could see the sugar particles in the sieve because starch is a sugar. I asked him a few questions: Do you think the sugar/starch particles are big enough to be trapped in a sieve? Do you think you could see them if they were? Finally, as a scientist, if you could see the sugar/starch, is that proving that they are sugar/starch? When you say sugar, do you mean carbohydrate?
We have chosen a textbook, Catalyst. We chose this book as it is based on an enquiry approach to teaching science. The students will purchase an ebook only and we will have 24 copies of the book in each lab, should the teacher wish to use it in class.
After ten minutes, students presented their title, apparatus and method to the class. Each group was given a spotting tile, mortar and pestle, droppers, and iodine dropper bottle. The groups carried out the test for iodine on four food types. They discovered the colour change. They learned that the colour change is the result. They learned that a conclusion is explaining why this happened - because starch is present. They also realised the importance of water as a control as they said they could look back to see the original colour and compare.
Task 2: To design an experiment to test for protein
I allowed them to discuss and debate their method on their whiteboards for five minutes. It was interesting that most groups decided that Iodine was the chemical they would use again. When I questioned them on this, 'if you used Iodine to test for protein then how do you know the difference between the test for starch and the test for protein?' They realied there must be a difference chemical reagant used. At this point, I informed them it was called Biuret solution. I gave each group a dropper bottle of Biuret. They straight away said 'ok it is blue so that colour change is blue -> __________'. All groups tested four foods for protein using a mortar and pestle, dropper and spotting tile.
Task 3: To design and experiment to test for fat
I began this task in the same way. I asked them to design the experiment using the headings. The students were more confident at this stage and I think designing the three experiments in the same double was hard for them but it helped them to apply and think through the scientific method many times, while working as part of a group. It was difficult for me to allow them to discover the method and I really had to resist telling them!!
There are personalities emerging and disagreements are beginning to appear, where certain students are asking to move group and they realise who they like to work with and who they work well with. This is something I will need to think about and monitor. I think mixed gender groups, and pre planned mixed ability groups will be implemented strictly from here in.
In this taask, the students applied their knowledge that water should be used as a control and that it 'dried out and left no mark'. They also noticed how the brown paper 'went see through' and 'didn't dry out' when compared with the paper that they put water on. They recorded their result and their conclusion.
I thought of this on the spot, as I think being in a different place and with the move, I felt they were unsettled. I used a simple strategy today which I explained near the beginning of the class, when I realised that I needed it. When I out my hand up, all students must stop what they are doing, face me and put their hand up. This signalled I had an instruction or something to say. This worked well for me today and all students responded well to this.
I will assess their knowledge and understanding by grading their experiment reports by comment only. I am interested to see how they write up their reports.
1. Write a scientific report for the three scientific experiments that you designed in Science Matters experiment book.
2. We stuck in the learning intention: 'Conduct investigations to find out the biomolecules present in different foods' Write a reflection in your scrapbook on your experiences of designing and carrying out the experiment - refer to the key skills that you applied and the learning intention in your reflection.