Earth and space, with flavourings of the chemical, physical and biological contexts, unexpectedly and expected, through the Nature of Science, dominated the teaching and learning throughout January. I did not have time to post after each episode in January, however, I will provide a synopsis below of the past 14 classes with my first year science class. The first week of January was dedicated the the BT Young Scientist competition. Portumna CS won the Junior Technology category, with second year students Roy Flaherty and Gavin McGinley, demonstrating their creativity, innovation and coding skills in the culmination of a fantastic archade, with over 10,000 games from the 1970s and 1980s coded onto one machine with a raspberry pi. We are very proud of all 17 students who competed at the RDS, well done Roy and Gavin..... we are not only good hurlers in Portumna!
I began the earth and space contextual strand by setting an assignment to the students. I asked them to design a model of the Earth-Sun-Moon System. I purposely asked them to build the model at the beginning of the strand, as I wanted them to develop the model throughout the strand, as their knowledge and understanding developed. As a science department, we are developing our written, flexible subject plan on a shared document on onenote. We assigned Learning Outcomes to each other and we are developing the 1. Cognitive, 2. Psychomotor and 3. Affective learning domains which we weill cover in first year, under our chosen Learning Outcomes for first year. In Physical Education teacher training, it is commonplace to develope cognitive, psychomotor and affective learning intentions. Initially, I did not relate this to the undertstanding, skills and values language used at the JCT CPD day, however, I did some research online and when I found the document below.
The following table illustrates a section of our Earth and Space plan.
Task 1 : The earth, the sun and the moon
I will outline the experiences of the teaching and learning during the implementation of this plan. Plans must be reflexive and we have added two additional columns to the right hand side: Teacher reflections and Student feedback. This correlates nicely with our School Self Evaluation and saves us time, making the SSE real, valuable and do what it is supposed to do - improve teaching and learning through reflection, not written in a folder for the sake of ticking a box.
We reduced LO1 in earth and space to investigating the relationships between moon, asteroids, comets, plants, stars, solar system, galaxies and space for the purpose of First year study. Our cognitive learning intentions were:
The Psychomotor intentions were:
The affective learning intentions were:
I carried out a variety of active learning (speed dating, ambassadors and marketplace - Paul Ginnis ), model based investigations, enquiry investigations and design tasks to provide learning experiences for the learning intentions outlined above in our collaborative department plan.
Students worked in pairs to examine a photograph of the earth from space. I asked them to answer questions on the task card in the gallery below titled: 'How Big?' This was designed to engage the students in the topic of Earth and Space, while simultaneously challenging all students.
I provided each student with a definition card, with a new term from earth and space. They had one minute on the countdown timer to learn their definition. We completed speed dating in the aisle of the science lab. I set a countdown timer to 4 minutes. When the buzzer sounded, they have their new partner and they must return to a bench and pair up with this new partner for Task 3.
I provided students with AGREE or DISAGREE statements. They wrote them on the magic whiteboard paper, which sticks to the wall by static electricity. They wrote agree or disagree beside each statement and we will refer and edit these opinions as they negotiate their learning in this scheme of work.
'What is the centre of the universe?
In groups of three, students took a sticker and assumed responsibility for a role. The roles were: the earth, the sun and venus. I darkened the lab as much as possible. The sun held a torch (the light on a mobile phone would work here too), Venus held a plastic foam ball and a pencil. I gave the students a task card explaining this activity. I set a countdown timer for urgency. I rotated facilitating discussion and engagement. I had a student teacher observing this class and I also used the 'hands up for silence' technique throughout, as explained in an earlier post. This technique works really well for classroom management during active learning. Firstly, to model and earth centered system: earth stands still and the sun and venus orbit the earth staying close together. Earth watches the ball held by venus and draws diagrams of what the ball looks like at all four locations.The students repeated this with the sun centered system: sun stands still, while earth and venus orbit, earth takes small steps while venus takes large steps. Earth watches the ball held by venus and draws diagrams of what it looks like at all four locations. The students found this activity very difficult, and I did come close to abandoning, however, one group got it. The students in this group figured out the key concept of how earth and other objects in the solar system move. I asked this group to demonstrate to the rest of the class and to explain the concept to them. The students demonstrated and explained the key concept very clearly to their peers. I asked all students to repeat the task and I asked the three students who had successfully navigated the task to rotate as peer teachers during the re-take! This worked really well, and I would use it again. I think it is very important to: 1. Allow time for difficult times for the students, 2. Choose a successful student group to demonstrate - this gives belief to the other students that they can do it too and they also explained it in the vocab of their peers and finally 3. Don't be afraid to do a re-take and to allow successful peers to fulfil the role of peer teacher.
The students created an envelope foldable. They drew an image of the sun on the centre. On the inside tabs, they drew the position of the earth for each season. The students glued their foldable into their scrapbook. They completed it for homework. We peer assessed the foldable we a post-it and 2 stars and a wish. The students choose and set the criteria for the creation of the foldable.
'Back to Back' for the earth's orbit of the sun. The students sit back to back and describe a labelled diagram to their partner. They are not allowed to look or point at their partners whiteboard as they draw. Change and repeat with a similar but different image of the earths orbit of the sun. Repeat with a pair vs pair race for drawing the diagram. Finish with a partner vs partner race.
'What causes eclipses?' The student work in pairs with a light source and a plastic foam ball. The ball is the moon and the light is the sun. The students head is the earth. The students sit or stand so the moon covers the sun. The students were asked to identify the phases of the moon.Their partner observed and recorded the shadow on the whiteboard. I choose the most successful pairs to present by rotation and placing a sticker on the best board. I asked the students to hold up a green, orange or red card. I paired the green with orange and I went in a group with the reds. We repeated the task in these groups. I assessed the students again and we repeated the task again until all students felt they could display a green card. I asked all stuents to individually explain the concept on the mini whiteboard (A4) and to hold it up.
'Back to back' with solar eclipse and lunar eclipse diagrams. Speed dating definitions with old definition cards and new eclipse definiton cards. The students make the cards on coloured card, we store them and add to them, for each speed dating round. This builds the knowledge of definitions in a fun, interactive, social learning environment.
The students read a report on Tidal Barrages. Tides are based on the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. Students were asked to research and report on what they would do if they were to build a tidal barrage. The success criteria included: applying the scientific method, location, detailed explanation with diagrams in relation to how the sun and the moon would affect the barrage's energy production.
Task 9 - The Solar System
'How does rotation affect shape?' What happened to the shape of the solar system as it spun faster? The students used modelling clay and made a small, round ball. The students placed the ball in a small, plastic jug and tied a piece of string to the jug. The piece of string was 1m long. Find a clear space in the room and whirl the bucket around your head for 1 minute. I set a countdown timer and I made sure the students were very spread out - only three groups could complete this at any one time, for safety. They lowered the bucket and observed the shape of the dough. I could not believe the results of this task - so much so, that I asked the students to roll the clay into a perfect ball and to show it to me before the whirl! They repeated it again. It gives fantastic understanding and shows the off spherical shape caused by the gravitational influence. The students now understand why objects change shape as they spin and the influence of gravity on the shape of the solar system.
Students made a venn diagram in a foldable book. They researched and compared the inner and outer planets. They also had to print a photo of each planet and write one sentence about it in their scrapbook.
Task 11 - How do the densities of the inner and outer planets differ?
This was my favourite task, since beginning the teaching and learning journey of the new science specification. I enjoyed this task because it incorporated NOS, the physical, earth and space and chemical contextual strands, in a framework of enquiry for all, most and some learning attentions across the three domains of learning: cognitive (understanding), psychomotor (skills) and affective (values). The inner and outer planets differ in physical properties or make up. I modelled the inner planets with a metal ball (I screwed the metal ball from the top of the ball and ring for heat) and I modelled the outer planets with an ice cube. I introduced the SI units for mass and volume. I gave the students the formula for density. I asked them to work in pairs for one minute, with a countdown timer, and one pair figured out g/cm3. We had used a Newton Metre when designing the Zipline in December 2016 and this was useful as I could remind them of Weight and the difference between mass and weight. The students worked in pairs and each pair/bench had: an electronic balance, graduated cyclinder, basin of water (as we have no running water), metal ball, ice cubes, overflow can, weigh boats. I set the students the task of calculating the mass, volume and density of the models of the inner and outer planets. I did not show them how to find the volume or the mass or how to use any of the instruments. As it was safe to do so, I allowed them to investigate and make mistakes until they discovered how to use them and how to record. I facilitated by questioning groups on:
teacher -how is this a fair test?
student-we are repeating it three times and calculating and average
teacher - is that the best table you can construct to present your data? is there a better way?
student - improves it a bit, but not much
teacher - go and look at the tables of other scientists in the room and see if you can improve your table based on their tables - don't just copy one - take the best from what you see and make it your own.
teacher - oh no, the ice is floating - how will you calculate its volume? Why is is floating? Did the metal ball float?
student- I am going to wait for it to melt and record the voume by how much the water rises.(I was very impressed by this!)
Meanwhile, other students had their ice cube in a weigh boat and they were melting it at the radiator. They did not ask me could they go to the radiator. There is a climate of trust that students are free to move and complete safe tasks of their choosing as long as it is related to the scientific investigaiton at hand. I can get the class attending using the 'hand up' technique. I questioned the students at the radiator, that perhaps they were losing water molecules to evaporation. This was interesting as they replied saying 'no we are not, sure its not boiling!' I questioned them further, and asked for the water cycle in everyday rivers and sea, is the water boiling? 'oh yeah' they replied. The students know that I will always immediately want a solution via problem solving and I am finding that the more we go on in the year, they want to get in there with a solution before I even get to ask! ' I will take the mass again, after it melts, before I measure its volume in the graduated cyclinder!'. This overlap with Physical Observables was a valuable moment for me as a teacher, to realise the importance of the overlap of the contextual strands, to develop a deeper understanding of concepts. I think it is important to remember that not all students will go to the same depth but that they all go deeper than they were before, rather than deeper than other students! This is something I am emphasising to the students, I want them to better themselves everytime, rather than trying to better the person beside them, in this way it removes competition allowing them up to help each other to improve and to focus on the process of learning as the most valuable outcome rather than the product. The students wrote up the investigation in their scrapbook by observation, hypothesis, apparatus, experimental design, results, and conclusion. The conclusions were very good and they explained how the densities of the inner and outer planets differed. They had all calculations complete in the table and they paid more attention to detail on the SI units than First Year students in previous years, when teaching SI units as a standalone topic. I will definitely be used this investigation again. The students created notes, foldables, diagrams and recorded learning reflections in their scarpbook. The students completed an open scrapbook test on the following two questions:
1.Sketch and explain two figures: The earth on an axis and the earth if it were not on an axis.
2.Both asteroids and planets orbit the sun. All planets are spherical, but most asteroids are not. Explain why.
I corrected these questions by comment only marking. I asked the students to write an action-based response to my comment.