Identify Desired Results
The primary goal of my ImagineIT project will be for students to see earth’s processes in their everyday lives and make connections to new science learning. Throughout the year, as students explore earth processes, they will see these natural processes happening around them every day on a microscopic to a macroscopic level. Students will go beyond knowing facts about the earth and will begin to approach their learning through the disciplined lens of a scientist. I have always instilled the idea that each of my students is a scientist, but I would like to deepen that idea to include understanding concepts and applying knowledge on a deeper level.
My big idea is: How can we use the art of processes in earth science to understand the scale of the universe? My project will serve to get students to begin to see their world through the lens of a scientist. I was inspired by the chapter “Minerals and Biomass” in the book On Looking: A Walker’s Guide to the Art of Observation in which the author takes a walk on a city block with a geologist. This chapter clearly illustrates the power of the disciplined eye in seeing our natural world in everything around us. The geologist is able to observe the process of weathering on city buildings and to see the effect people have on rocks by eroding stone stairs over time.
In his dissertation, Teaching for Aesthetic Understanding, Girod discusses a student who “thought about, noticed or sought out evidence of erosion in his life outside school”. It is just this aesthetic understanding that I want my students to achieve by seeing the art of natural processes through the lens of earth science. According to Gardner & Mansilla’s four-fold approach towards disciplinary thinking, the goal of the disciplined mind “is to instill in the the young the disposition to interpret the world in the distinctive ways that characterize the thinking of experienced disciplinarians—historians, scientists, mathematicians, and artists.”
The essential ideas for each of my units in 6th grade earth science are as follows:
- Studying Soil Scientifically: Nutrients move through ecosystems in a cycle.
- Rocks & Minerals: Rocks are very old and change slowly over time.
- Fossils: The earth is billions of years old and humans are just a small part of geologic time.
- Plate Tectonics: The earth has a slowly changing surface.
- Weather: Energy goes toward equilibrium
In order to develop this knowledge, students will begin to also see the art of the process of using the NGSS 8 practices of Science and Engineering. Students will begin to internalize the process and to apply it in various situations without a given procedure or set instructions. I want students to see the practices as a natural cycle that becomes part of the way they see and interpret their world. Schoolwide at Prieto, the middle school science teachers will work toward students developing science habits of mind by seeing and observing scientific phenomena around them.
I plan to continue to use science journals as the basic form of communicating knowledge by having students record data and their analyses of investigations, but I would like to expand on options for students to report their findings. In the past, students have used posters or slide presentations to report their findings for end of unit inquiry projects. I am interested in using multimodal composition such as collage, video, storyboard, animation and podcasts to incorporate technology in the sharing of scientific understandings.
Determine Acceptable Evidence
Introductory performances of understanding in my class often include Anticipation Guides and Talking Drawings to determine what students know prior to beginning a unit or investigation. For my first unit, Studying Soil Scientifically, I would have students create a Talking Drawing 1 of what they know about the nutrient cycle and by the end of the unit students would be asked to complete a Talking Drawing 2 which illustrates using words and pictures how their understanding of the nutrient cycle has changed. I plan to take students out on a walk to observe the school garden and surrounding field area and have them record their initial observations in a graphic organizer in their science notebooks.
Guided inquiry performances in this unit will include T-charts of data and observations of forest soil samples and desert soil samples. Analysis questions will be used to assess students understanding of their data and observations. Vocabulary illustrations of terms related to organic matter, nutrients and decomposition will be drawn and assessed to determine student understanding. Concept maps will be collaboratively created using keywords from the unit to demonstrate the relationships between terms and to begin to see the cyclic nature of the nutrient cycle. A mid-unit quiz will also be used to assess student understanding of key concepts. These types of formative assessments will be assessed through weekly journal checks using a 4 point rubric.
Students will be given a nutrient cycle song, sung to the tune of Farmer and the Dell, to practice and sing. One culminating performance piece will be for student groups to create their own nutrient cycle song using keywords from the unit and following a rhyming pattern. For the final culminating performance, student groups will again take the observation walk around the school garden and field. This time, equipped with iPads, students will be asked to find and take photos that represent various stages in the nutrient cycle. Students will also record their new observations using the graphic organizer format that they used at the beginning of the unit. Student teams will then assemble their images into a digital collage.
The pre-assessments and formative assessments discussed above will be used throughout the other units in the earth science curriculum. I do plan to incorporate a different type of multimodal composition product into my summative assessments at the end of each unit to assess whether students have gained a deeper understanding of the big idea about earth science processes. The nutrient cycle collage will demonstrate understanding of the process of how nutrients flow on the scale of an ecosystem.
For the culminating performance of the Rocks & Minerals unit, I will have student groups create a video using everyday materials to represent the different types of rocks and how they change through the process of the rock cycle. At the end of the Fossil unit, I will have students create a storyboard to show their understanding of fossil formation. For the unit on Plate Tectonics, students will create a stop motion videos to illustrate the processes of mountain building, volcano formation and earthquakes. At the end of the Weather & Atmosphere unit, student groups will create a podcast featuring a weather forecast and demonstrating an understanding of the processes involved in severe weather phenomena.
Performance of understanding expectations would be made explicit by providing students with clear guidelines prior to any assessment. According to Takayoshi and Selfe in Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers, learning becomes more relevant when audio and visual modalities are used. Students will be able to share their learning with their classmates. For summative assessments, students will be able to peer review other projects to provide feedback and I will provide feedback during work session periods using the rubric provided.
Plan Learning Experience and Instruction
I will be implementing my ImagineIT project at Prieto Math & Science Academy where I teach Earth Science to four sections of 6th grade students every day. Prieto Academy has a 95.5% Hispanic, 3.1% Black and 1% White student population and serves a 97% low income population with 40% English learners and 18% diverse learners. My students typically enter 6th grade excited about having science class every day and are very eager to learn. My science classroom comes equipped with a Promethean board, 5 desktop computers and 2 iPads. I am able to check out the 6th grade iPad cart approximately one time per week. My administrators are very supportive and encourage a school-wide inquiry approach to learning. We have an outdoor learning space, a school garden, a playground with native plants and compost bins. I have been able to coordinate a 6th grade compost crew each year to divert fruit and vegetable scraps from the cafeteria from ending up in a landfill.
I use Issues and Earth Science and Investigating Earth Systems curricula to guide my planning. Over the years, I have been able to incorporate many additional activities and resources into my Earth Science teaching and am excited to implement new ideas this year. My units are Studying Soil Scientifically, Rocks & Minerals, Fossils, Plate Tectonics, Weather & Atmosphere and Exploring Our Solar System. Students often struggle with interpreting the data and observations from class to reflect and analyze on what they have learned. Students are very engaged while investigating, but have difficulty expressing their understandings in writing. I am hoping that by incorporating multiple modalities throughout each unit’s learning activities that students will be better equipped to demonstrate their understandings.
- Student-centered, inquiry based model: I use a structured inquiry approach by systematically exposing students to new content that leads to and enforces the big ideas of the unit. Each day students are presented with a challenge question and an investigation that comes in various forms including: modeling, simulations, experiments, role plays or discussions. Students develop an answer to the challenge question by making observations, collecting data and analyzing their findings,. Each investigation builds on the next to delve deeper into the content by uncovering new understandings about natural processes rather than merely covering content.
- Models & Simulations: Since many earth science processes cannot be seen directly, because they happen inside the earth or they occur slowly over time, models and simulations are often used to demonstrate certain processes. For example, sedimentary rock formation is modeled using different colored, plastic chips to represent the the layering of sediments. Computer simulations are used for observing what happens at different types of plate boundaries.
- Lab Experiments: Students will conduct hands-on experiments in order to collect evidence to support their claims in investigations. For example, students will measure the amount of organic matter in a desert soil sample and a forest soil sample. Students will use the data collected to provide evidence to determine which type of soil would be the best for growing vegetables.
- Scaffolding: The large population of English learners and diverse learners in my classroom makes front loading of certain concepts critical at the beginning of a unit and for certain investigations. Showing a quick YouTube or BrainPOP video or providing an image for a new vocabulary word provides students with information that facilitates the understanding of new ideas.
- Project-based learning: Toward the end of each unit, students are given the opportunity to explore a topic of their choice. In the final investigations in the Fossil unit, students select a fossil that they will observe and research in order to identify what they think the fossilized organism was when it was alive. In the Plate Tectonic unit, students are asked to select a site for nuclear waste storage based on earthquake and volcano risk factors.
Throughout each unit, students will have the opportunity to use various modalities to express their new understandings of the art of process in Earth science. The nutrient cycle collage will be created using a digital collage maker like PicMonkey (https://www.picmonkey.com/collage). The compilation of visual images taken by students and found online will allow students to express their understandings of how nutrients cycle through ecosystems. Creating my own series of iImages from the Museum of Science & Industry was an exercise in getting me to look at the world through the lens of my ImagineIT project and will be an appropriate first project for my students in seeing the art of process.
The rock cycle video will be filmed and edited in iMovie using various everyday materials to represent sediment, magma and heat & pressure. I envision students being able to use materials such as Rice Krispies as sediments, chocolate for magma, books to exert pressure and hot plates as a source of heat to produce a video which will model the processes that change one rock type into another. Using concrete objects and planning how to manipulate them to show each change will create a deep and lasting understanding of how the rock cycle works.
A fossil formation storyboard will be created using a PBS Learning Media storyboard with PBS video clips and images. I see students being able to use this tool to share their learning about what their selected fossil was when it was alive and how it formed. Fossils tell a story about the past and what better way to share that story than to use a storyboard. In the past, students have shared their understanding by creating a slide presentation or poster, but storyboarding lends itself to the narrative of geologic time.
The plate motion stop motion video will be made using iMotion and clay to represent earth’s tectonic plates. I have students crash their hands together, slide their hands past each other and spread their hands apart to simulate the types plate motion. I am eager to see how student understanding will be deepened by using clay slabs or other objects and stop motion technology to illustrate the process of plate movement over time.
Finally, the severe weather formation podcast will be recorded and shared using Podomatic. Students will be able to use their voice and sound effects to discuss the formation of severe weather. For example, students could include the signature freight train roar of a tornado and explain the processes involved in creating the funnel. My hope is that using these technologies to demonstrate content learning will facilitate the process of my students seeing the art in natural processes around them.