Category Archives: #Inquiry

GoogleEarth Engine Timelapse: Quick Lesson Plan

Here’s a quick lesson plan idea for tuning into inquiry using Google Earth Engine Timelapse*. It can provide a timelapse of change from 1984-present, based on satellite and aerial photos. 

Context

Ideal for: Individuals & Societies, Sciences, Interdisciplinary Unit

Global Context(s): Fairness & Development or Globalization & Sustainability

Key Concept(s): Change, Development, Interactions, Time-Place-Space

Related Concepts (I&S): Globalization, growth, resources, sustainability, causality

Related Concepts (Sciences): Environment, transformation, consequence, evidence

Tuning In

Find where we live and model See-Think-Wonder (Project Zero) on the timelapse from 1984-now. You might want to create a GoogleSheet with columns for each stage, to be shared with the class. Alternatively, get out some big whiteboards or butcher paper.

  • See: look for general outlines, specific landmarks, big developments, interesting changes. Then dig deeper – compare the start to the end, or look for evidence of significant events in the time period. Keep pushing the ‘see’ until ideas are truly exhausted.
  • Think: connected to the ‘see’ statements, note potential cause-effect relationships, sequences, consequences or other ideas. Keep going until this is exhausted.
  • Wonder: finally build on the ‘see’ and ‘think’. What questions does this generate? Categorize and rank the questions.

Finding Out

  • What lines of inquiry will you take to find out more?
  • What can be found out by students and what needs to be explicitly taught?
  • What unit-related vocabulary needs to be used and taught?

Approaches to Learning

Information Literacy

  • Access information to be informed and inform others
  • Make connections between various sources of information
  • Understand and use technology systems

Critical Thinking

  • Practise observing carefully in order to recognize problems
  • Interpret data
  • Draw reasonable conclusions and generalizations
  • Revise understanding based on new information and evidence
  • Formulate factual, topical, conceptual and debatable questions
  • Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
  • Identify trends and forecast possibilities

 

 

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*HT Twitter:

 

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The Environment is Interdisciplinary

Working with Eco Club and thinking about the complexities of the interactions, causes, effects and issues we need to tackle, I am often reminded of this Lovelock quote, from a 2014 interview in the Guardian. Perhaps if we can get interdisciplinary teaching and learning right in our schools, we can help students make the connections they need to truly understand the deeper causes of the problems they might need to solve.

For a more detailed post on how we’re trying to tackle IDU’s, please see my blog.

lovelock_teaching_mess_ibiologystephen

James Lovelock on the challenge of really teaching people about the environment, from this Guardian interview: http://gu.com/p/3zx4j

Can you solve this?

Have a go at this – pause at 1:30 and get chatting before moving on! Another great video by Derek Muller (@veritasium), and will be useful in discussions of the scientific method, hypothesis testing and the nature of science.

A no is usually more useful than a yes

Exploring Environments: Student-Designed Units & Hapara

Click here for a summary of our recent student-designed Grade 10 (MYP5) Environmental Sciences unit that we planned for students to design and implement. I used this project as my trial for Hapara, a GoogleDocs dashboard system. 

Hapara Dashboard: screenshot well after the project has finished, but you get the idea. Green = Bio, Orange = Chem.

Hapara Dashboard: screenshot well after the project has finished, but you get the idea. Green = Bio, Orange = Chem. Click on the image for the post about the project, including some sample documents. 

In summary, using this as a management tool allowed for a smooth and highly differentiated, student-led inquiry unit in MYP 5 Environmental Science. Find out more.

What are we really learning from practical work?

As we study science, a lot of our time and resources are devoted to implementing an engaging practical scheme of work. Are we really making the most educational use of this time, these resources and the opportunities that we have? 

Teachers all over the world use experiments and demonstrations to engage students in the concept being taught. But does this actually improve student learning? Two recent videos have got me thinking about this issue, and before you read on you should watch them both.

The first is from UK science teacher & communicator Alom Shaha (@alomshaha), half the brains behind the sciencedemo.org website. The video was produced for the Nuffield Foundation’s new Practical Work for Learning resource. He refers to a number of research papers in the video, and is also one of the leaders of the #SciTeachJC (science teachers journal club) twitter discussion group.

Do you recognise those labs and how do you use them? Do the labs we do really help us teach the concepts we intend them to, and how can we rethink (or at least evaluate) our use of labs.

The second video is from US Chemistry teacher Tom Stelling (@ChemistTom), on his “vRant” about students asking to “blow something up” and the dangers of ‘wow’ demos as distraction rather than education.

Note: this post rambles a bit from here on. If you want to know more, please read on. Otherwise, all the good bits were in Alom & Tom’s videos. 

Read the rest of this entry

Student Science Writers: Environmental Issues

As we finish our Exploring Environments student-designed units, students have published blog posts for the science communication assessed task. In this task, assessed for Communication in Science, they had to pick a case study or current news item of interest and direct connection to their group’s unit. Using guidance, models of good science writing, GoogleDocs drafting (and for some, pointers from professional science writer Andy Revkin), they wrote short articles on their case study.

There’s no point writing for an audience of one, so…

..here they are!

If you do visit and feel like posting a comment, remember that these are school students, and that your comments must be appropriate, constructive and positive.

Electronics Bathed in Blood & Destruction

Although George Monbiot’s fruitless search for an ethical smartphone has ended with the discovery of tin for parts being sourced through child labour on the Bangka Islands in Indonesia, it has turned up a lot of useful resources that could form great prompts for an MYP Sciences, Design and Economics inter-disciplinary unit on life cycles of electronics.

Some ideas that could be pitched at different levels for students:

  • What is life cycle analysis and what do we mean by ‘designed for the dump’? 
  • How can we create resources that help us appreciate what we have, rather than feeling the ‘need’ to pick up the latest and greatest?
  • Design a campaign or project based on one of the 8 R’s (below).
  • Analyse and evaluate the data in the Short Circuit report. Write a case study or investigative piece one one og highlight facts, issues, problems or potential solutions.
  • Collect and analyse community data on perceptions of need, rate of purchase and disposal of electronics. Do people know what is in them, where their dangers are and where they end up?

One of the resources shared by Monbiot was this fantastically detailed document called the Short Circuit Report, produced by the Gaia Foundation & Friends of the Earth’s Make It Better campaign. It is packed with information, data and images. One in particular stood out as a discussion starter on choices and design:

How would the 8 'R's change your approach to consumption and design? Please read the full Short Circuit report for this diagram in context.

How would the 8 ‘R’s change your approach to consumption and design? Please read the full Short Circuit report for this diagram in context. Click the image to view.

The Story of Electronics is another video introduction that might hook students into finding out more about these shiny gadgets that are permanently attached to our bodies.

For more resources and ideas, have a look at this Storify:

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 11.03.56 AM

GoogleTrends: Exploring Patterns in Search Data [DBQs & Inquiry]

 

GoogleTrends allows you to plot the popularity of search terms (since 2004), by geographical region or worldwide. This could be a great way to launch inquiry on a topic in science that has seasonal trends or patterns, and could be used to set up simple DBQ practice. It is limited in the linear presentation of data, and the data are search frequencies rather than scientific data, but as the patterns raise questions, they could be followed-up with searches for more valid sources and explanations.

In the example below, Frank Swain (@SciencePunk) had put in the search term “morning after pill” for the UK and found a peak every Sunday. An interesting pattern that could set up some discussion in class based on reproduction, behaviour, risk management, ethics, hormonal control or more.

“Morning After Pill” search term on GoogleTrends http://www.google.com/trends/

This could lead to a quick (though basic) way to set up some simple data-based questions or stimulus for exploration. Here is a plot for the search term “vaccine”. Think of the questions it might raise in discussion.

GoogleTrend Worldwide since 2004: “Vaccine” What DBQ’s could you ask?

 

What questions does it raise and how would it lead to further exploration? Here are some examples:

  • Why does it peak each October?
  • Why was traffic so high in 2009-10?
  • What do you predict for the coming year?

This leads into discussion of sources of information, accessing databases and the reasons for vaccines.

One neat feature is that you can add other search terms to the graph in the same time period, though it will normalise the data. Another is the ‘headlines’ feature that shows some popular news headlines near peaks. Yet another is the ‘predict’ feature that will model the coming year based on trends and patterns. “Predict” is often asked in DBQ’s, so this might make for some good questions. Here’s what happens when we add “flu vaccine”, headlines and the forecast:

GoogleTrends: “Vaccine” and “Flu vaccine”, worldwide, 2004-present.

From this exploration, you could move onto looking at flu trends, and GoogleTrends has special sections for tracking flu and dengue fever:

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This next one is a neat demonstration of what happens when you change the scale of the y-axis. In this case, the second dataset is added, compared to the original and the original becomes much less noticeable as a result. How many times do we tell our students to set appropriate scales on the axes and make use of the space to be able to see trends and patterns?

For another bit of fun, here’s one on “Genome”:

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Summary:

  • A quick, easy launching pad for inquiry
  • Develop simple DBQs easily
  • Does need to be supported by inquiry into more valid sources for the topic
  • Each graph is ‘normalised’ which could lead into useful discussion of the effect of scales on data presentation

 

The Sun’s Energy & Temperature Misconceptions

Here’s Derek Veritasium at it again, with two neat little videos. The first explores where the Sun gets its energy and the other shows a cool little demo regarding heat transfer. Enjoy!

15 year-old develops effective, cheap test for pancreatic cancer [TED Audition]

Wow. Here’s Jack Andraka’s TED Audition for a talk on his work developing a carbon nanotube and antibody-based test for pancreatic cancer.

Jack won the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award ($75,000) at the Intel International* Science and Engineering Fair for the same work:

Read more about him, his work and the work he built it on here on Forbes.com.

*Yup – you can have a go too.

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