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Science like Sherlock

(Note: This post by Kelly Gaier Evans at Battelle Education is a cross-post from the Literacy Design Collaborative blog)

This summer we pulled together science teachers and Battelle scientists to create science and literacy instruction for the Battelle Education Literacy Design Collaborative Science collection. What was the output? Take a look in this sneak peak! The following includes a small selection of the mini-tasks that were created as a part of Battelle’s work to create a collection of LDC science modulesSign up to be notified when these prototypes are released.

#1 – Ask questions

'It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.' Sherlock Holmes Quote -A Scandal in Bohemia

If you are a fan of Sherlock you know you need to question everything! But how do we support kids in asking questions which can be tested? In the mini-task: Ability to Formulate a Testable Experimental Question, students learn to create hypothesis’s using every day examples and then draft an initial hypothesis for the content they are studying – in this case photosynthesis. Notice, in this mini-task designed for middle school students, the teacher has selected the dependent variable and students get to select their independent variable.

  • Created by Erika Reeves for her middle school controlled experiment module
  • Builds skills in asking questions, defining problems, and determining the meaning of key terms
  • Standards covered

#2 – Obtain Information

'Having gathered these facts, Watson, I smoked several pipes over them, trying to separate those which were crucial from others which were merely incidental.' Sherlock Holmes Quote -The Crooked Man

Once Sherlock has a question, he begins collecting the facts. As Battelle research scientist Kate Kucharzyk noted “One hour in the library saves you four hours in the lab.” In the Close Reading of Scientific Texts mini-task, students’ select important facts and pre-existing findings findings that help them understand how their questions have been previously answered. They also look for details that will help them design their experiment.

Photo credit: Battelle

Photo credit: Battelle

The teacher supports students through note-taking in which students identify major details in the text (the 5 W’s and H) and provide a short, 20 word GIST (summary) of the text.

  • Created by Kristopher Stevens for his middle school Controlled Experiment module
  • Builds skills in evaluating and communicating information
  • Standards covered

#3 – Construct Explanations and…

'Having gathered these facts, Watson, I smoked several pipes over them, trying to separate those which were crucial from others which were merely incidental.' Sherlock Holmes Quote -The Crooked Man

With additional information in hand, Sherlock can begin to develop a hypotheses to explain the facts. In the Identification of Variables mini-task, students pull out each variable from their research and write it on a post-it note with the corresponding citation. Students are then asked to find similarities from across their sources and to find any gaps that may exist.

notes cropped

This leads nicely into the Concept Map of Variables where students identify relationships between variables by mapping out the post it notes on a white board.

  • Created by Dorothy Sutton for her high school Data Analysis module
  • Builds skills in constructing explanations, designing solutions, and synthesizing information from multiple sources
  • Standards covered

… design solutions

In engaging students in the design process, we need to help them collaborate creatively to brainstorm many possible solutions. The Brainstorm Page models how to take part in problem solving with their peers through a “Yes and…” conversation as opposed to the “yeah but…” conversation allowing students to generate many solutions. Then, like Sherlock, students eliminate possible solutions using the Squirmy Science Decision Matrix. This decision matrix allows students to analyze solutions against the facts and information they researched.

  • Created by Claire Hampel for her middle school Design module
  • Builds skills in constructing explanations, designing solutions, and engaging in collaborative discussions
  • Standards covered

#4 – Plan investigations

'There is nothing like first-hand evidence.' Sherlock Holmes Quote -A Study in Scarlet

Like Sherlock, we must make sure students get to plan and carry out their own investigations. In the mini-task Identify the Goal of the Experiment students are supported in identifying the goals of their experiment.

  • Created by Erika Reeves and Kristopher Stevens for their middle school Controlled Experiment modules.
  • Builds skills in planning and carrying out investigations
  • Standards covered

#5 – Use Models

'It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.' Sherlock Holmes Quote -A Case of Identity

To communicate his ideas to others often you see Sherlock creating some sort of model. Models also help student iron out the smaller details. In the Detailed Design Drawing mini-task, students are asked to create a detailed drawing to demonstrate their full understanding of the selected design (prior to building) as well as to articulate why they’ve chosen this design.

  • Created by Claire Hampel for her middle school Design module
  • Builds skills in developing and using models
  • Standards covered

#6 – Communicate

'Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.' Sherlock Holmes Quote -Silver Blaze
Holmes reads and writes a lot. He always has a pen with him. Writing helps us to think and to communicate. There are many sections to write when communicating your research results. In this design mini-task: Writing the Details of the Design: Procedures, students communicate the details of their design solution and how they built and tested their solution. Students write up their procedures using their notes, data, and pictures collected throughout the critical design lab.

  • Created by Tamara Beilke for her high school Design module
  • Builds skills in communicating information, including through writing informative texts
  • Standards covered

Did you enjoy this sneak peak? The full prototypes are coming soon! Click here to sign up to be notified when these prototypes are released. The teachers whose work is featured above have each drafted modules to test the design of the three Battelle Science LDC prototypes. They are implementing their modules this fall. We will use their feedback to modify and improve our prototype design and then release it officially in the Battelle Science LDC collection. I hope this these mini-tasks create some inspiration for your class. Happy teaching!

Standards covered by Battelle Education Science Collection of LDC Modules

For Ohio teachers, these tasks help students build inquiry and application skills outlined in Ohio’s New Learning Standards for Science.

Module title Aligned to standards
Ability to Formulate a Testable Experimental Question– part of Erika Reeves’ controlled experiment module “What Factors Affect Plant Carbon Dioxide Production?” NGSS Practice 1 Asking Questions and Defining Problems

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY. RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6—8 texts and topics.

Close Reading of Scientific Texts – part of Kristopher Stevens’ controlled experiment module “Surf & Turf: Exploring Earth’s Uneven Surface Heating and Its Impact on the Environment” NGSS Practice 8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

RST.6-8.2 – Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

Identification of Variables and Concept Map of Variables– part of Dorothy Sutton’s Data Analysis module NGSS Practice 6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.

Brainstorm Page and Squirmy Science Decision Matrix – part of Claire Hampel’s Design module “Squirmy Science” NGSS Practice 6 Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

SL7.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 7 topics texts, and issues building on others ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Identify the Goal of the Experiment – part of Erika Reeves and Kristopher Stevens Controlled Experiment modules NGSS Practice 3 Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.7 Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

Detailed Design Drawing – part of Claire Hampel’s Design module “Squirmy Science” NGSS Practice 2 Developing and Using Models

RST 6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (Model).

Writing the Details of the Design: Procedures – Part of Tamara Beilke’s Design module “Catching Sun with a Donut” NGSS Practice 8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.2 – Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.

 

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