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Reflecting on this week’s Daily Do

By Korei Martin

Posted on 2020-04-18

Another Friday brings another chance to catch your breath (hopefully!) and reflect on the opportunities we provided students-as-scientists and -as-engineers to make sense of natural phenomena (observable events that occur in the universe and that we can use our science knowledge to explain or predict) using science and engineering practices

Last week, we shared a vignette in which young students and their families analyze and interpret data (science and engineering practice) to make sense of how wind moves big and small leaves around and why big and small leaves move differently (phenomenon). Today’s vignette is based on Thursday’s Daily Do, Why does the ice melt faster?, which motivates students to engage in science and engineering practices to figure out why an ice cube melts faster on one surface than another when both surfaces are the same temperature! (Maybe you’re motivated to do the same?) This vignette assumes middle school students have received packets with instructions for the task and have access to a cell phone that allows them to take and share pictures.

Student 1 and Student 2 are one the phone together. They have the directions for the task in front of them.

Student 1: OK, I picked aluminum foil from Group A and wax paper from Group B. 

Student 2: I’m using a pot and a piece of cardboard. The pot definitely feels colder than the cardboard. 

Student 1: So, group B objects are going to melt the ice cube faster. 

Student 2: Right.

Students 1 and 2 take two ice cubes from their freezer, place one ice cube on each surface and wait. They both notice the ice cube on the Group A object is melting faster than the ice cube on the Group B object. Each of them calls a family member in to look – they’re surprised that the ice cube is melting fastest on the object that felt cold. Student 1’s adult family member looks at the directions and asks them both if they measured the temperature of the objects before they started. (They did not.) They start again.

Student 1 measures the temperature of new pieces of aluminum foil and wax paper. Both students are really surprised the temperatures are the same. Student 1 asks the adult family member to measure the temperature and they confirm the temperatures are the same. Both students are puzzled. With Student 2 still on the phone, Student 1 repeats the investigation and once again the ice melts faster on the aluminum foil. Student 1 measures the temperature of the objects again and finds the aluminum foil is now slightly colder than the wax paper. 

Student 2: It has to be something with the metal. All of the objects in Group A are metal. 

Student 1: The aluminum foil got colder so the ice cube made it colder when it melted.

Student 2: How?

Student 1: I don’t know but we’re supposed to make a model to explain why the ice melted faster on metal objects – well, it says “Group A” – than the other objects. 

Students 1 and 2 find the model scaffolds in their packets and agree to call each other back in five minutes. They work independently to develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms. They take pictures and share their models with each other. The students discuss their models using the sentence starters the teacher included in the packet.

Student 1: I think the molecules from the ice transfers its coldness to the pot it was sitting on because it melted. 

Student 2: I heard you say the ice transfers coldness. I disagree because ice needs heat to melt. I think heat came from the aluminum foil because the aluminum foil was a little colder. 

Student 1: I heard you say the heat that melts the ice comes from the aluminum foil. What evidence is that based on

Student 2: Well, the ice cube melted and it needed heat from somewhere. The only thing different was what the ice was sitting on (analyzing and interpreting data to provide evidence for the phenomenon).

Student 1: OK, so I’m going to change the direction my arrow is going on my model to point from the metal to the ice cube. 

Student 2: I’m still not sure how heat is coming from the aluminum, but I know it has to. (Students beginning to develop the science idea energy is transferred out of hotter objects and into colder ones).

Student 1: Let’s just write “heat” next to the arrow for now.

The two students test pictures of their models to their teacher. The teacher texts back (group text to students who have similar models), “I see you have a new question – how is heat coming from the aluminum. Is there another word you could use instead of heat? Think about that in the next investigation.”

Later in the week, these two students are back on the phone to complete the task together.

Below you’ll find descriptions of every Daily Do published this week. As you visit each Daily Do or reflect on one you taught during the week, can you imagine your students virtually (low and high tech) collaborating with classmates to sensemake? How might you provide feedback to students to support their sensemaking? 

Monday, April 13, 2020 – How does a pandemic cause less CO2?

Daily Do April 13

How does a pandemic cause less CO2?

Closed school and non-essential businesses and official stay-at-home mandates have kept millions of people at home and across the globe. Will we be able to return to our once-familiar daily routines after the pandemic is over? Will we still want to? 

In this task, How does a pandemic cause less CO2?students and their families engage in science and engineering practices to make sense of the phenomenon of concentrations of greenhouse gasses decreasing as the world-wide spread of the coronavirus increases. Students then apply the science ideas they build to design an object, system or process to decrease their contribution of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. While students could complete this task independently, we encourage students to work virtually with peers or in the home with family members. 

This task was inspired by the the story, Satellite images show less pollution over the US as coronavirus shuts down public places, published by CNN on March 23, 2020. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020 – Why are the temperatures changing?

Daily Do April 14

Why are the temperatures changing?

Energy transfer can be a confusing subject for students and adults because of the way we commonly talk about hot and cold “moving” in our daily environments. In today’s task, Why is the temperature changing?, students and their families engage in science and engineering practices to begin to make sense of the science idea energy (motion) is transferred from hotter (faster-moving particles) areas to cooler (slowly-moving particles) areas. By working together, parents, teachers, and students can create a dialogue about energy transfer that is grounded in evidence. 

This task is adapted from Instructional Sequence Matters, Grades 6–8: Structuring Lessons With the NGSS in Mindand Instructional Sequence Matters, Grades 3–5: Explore Before Explain, by Patrick Brown, NSTA Press.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020 – How do we describe matter?

Daily Do April 15

How do we describe matter?

Bobby and Carmen have a problem to solve! They need to design something everyone at Engineering Camp can play with using only the materials they can find around the room. Will Bobby and Carmen succeed in using science and engineering to design a solution to their before lunch?

In today’s task, How do we describe matter?, students and their families engage in the engineering design process alongside characters in the NSTA eBook Properties Matter. The engineering design process is a series of steps engineers follow to solve a problem. You’ll notice from the image in the upper-right hand corner (click on image to enlarge) that the engineering design process is a cycle – engineers repeat the steps as many times as necessary to create a solution to a problem. (In the eBook, this cycle is presented in list form to fit the space.)

Engineers need science ideas to inform the choices they make as they imagine possible solutions individually and then plan a solution collaboratively with other engineers. Students-as-engineers in today’s taskfirst engage in science and engineering practices to make sense of the science ideas matter can be described by its observable properties and different properties are suited to different purposes.

Thursday, April 16, 2020 – Why does the ice melt faster?

Daily Do April 16

Why does the ice melt faster? 

We’ve probably all experienced the phenomenon of stepping from a carpeted floor to a bare floor and noticing our feet feel colder. (If you haven’t noticed, give it a try!) Did you ever stop to wonder how two floors in the same home (on the same level or story) could feel like they were at two different temperatures? 

Today’s task, Why does the ice melt faster?, provides and opportunity for students and their families notice and wonder about a related phenomenon – ice cubes melting at different rates on two different household objects from the same room in the house. Students engage in science and engineering practices to make sense of science ideas energy is spontaneously transferred out of hotter objects than colder ones and when two objects interact, energy can be transferred from one to the other through collisions (even when those objects are molecules). 

Today’s task builds on science ideas students make sense of in Tuesday’s (April 14) Daily Do, Why are the temperature changing?

Today’s task builds on science ideas students make sense of in Tuesday’s (April 14) Daily Do, Why are the temperature changing?

Friday, April 17, 2020 – Why is our fruit turning brown?

Daily Do April 17

Why is our fruit turning brown?

In today’s Daily Do, Why is our fruit turning brown?, families participate in a Dinner Table Discussion (see below) about the phenomenon of fruit (apples, bananas, etc.) turning brown.This sensemaking discussion has four parts: 

  1. Families raise the question “Why is our fruit turning brown?” by introducing the phenomenon of fruit turning brown. Students and their families observe apples (bananas, pears, and other “fleshy” fruits also work well) before slicing, after slicing, before cooking, after cooking, etc.
  2. Families ask students to explain what they currently understand about why they think fruit turns brown.
  3. Families prompt students to generate questions about why fruit turns brown.
  4. Families read an article together to find some answers to their questions about why fruit turns brown. 
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