Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.
Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.
Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.
Summer has officially arrived! Time to grab a ball and head out into the yard, playground, or park to play. Kicking, catching, and throwing balls can be a lot of fun with family and friends, but did you know these activities can also help young children learn science?
In today's task, How do pushes and pulls help us play?, students and their families engage in science and engineering practices and use the thinking tools of cause and effect to make sense of science ideas about pushes and pulls.
red rubber ball or soccer ball (you can use a smaller ball if you are passing it around a circle)
poster or chart paper and markers (and easel if using outdoors)
Note: If you choose to do small group investigations, you will need one ball for each small group.
You might begin by playing a game of kickball or soccer with your students, or any other game that provides opportunities for students to move a ball in many different ways (starting the ball in motion, stopping the ball, changing the direction the ball is moving, and changing the speed the ball is moving). You could also sit together in a circle and have students pass the ball to each other across the circle. Do play a game where you can keep the ball (mostly) moving across the ground.
After you've been playing the game for a little while, say to your students, "Wow! We've moved the ball in so many different ways! Let's play a little longer. What are different ways you notice the ball moving? What do you wonder?" Continue the game.
Bring all the students together. Ask, "What are some of the ways the ball moved while we were playing the game?" Ask students to turn to a partner and tell them what they noticed. As you walk from pair to pair, help ensure both partners are taking turns talking. You might also ask probing questions like:
Ask students to share their own observation or a partner's observation about the ways the ball moved and create a class list. This list might include:
It is OK if not all of these ideas surface. You can provide additional opportunities for students to observe the motion of objects when pushed or pulled.
Record any questions students ask about what they observed, too.
Say, "How did we get the ball to move in all these different ways?" Ask students to share ideas with a partner. Your students might use gestures of kicking, throwing, and catching a ball to communicate their ideas with a partner. As you move from partner to partner, you might ask "How is a kick like a throw?" or "How is a kick like a catch with your foot?" or "How is throw like a catch?" Listen for students to use the words push or pull.
Bring the students back together. Ask the students who used push or pull to describe kicks, throws and/or catches. Ask students, "Do you think pushes and pulls on the ball can explain all of the ways the ball moved when we played our game? How might we investigate?" Students will likely say let's push and pull the ball and find out!
Put students in small groups and give each group a ball. Task each group to try to get the ball to move in all the ways on the class observed using a push or a pull (or you might give them one thing to try at a time, "Can you get the ball to start moving with a push or a pull?"). As you move from to group, ask students to show you what they've figured out. If students show you making the ball start moving with a push, ask them, "Do you think you get the ball to start moving with a pull?" (And vice versa.)
When you see that most of the groups have figured out how to use pushes and/or pulls to move the balls in all the ways observed, gather the class' attention. Ask, "Would you show me in your groups how to start a ball moving with a push? With a pull?" If a group hasn't figured out how to start moving the ball with a pull, let them watch another group and then try it.
Write push and pull next to the ball started moving
Continue with each observed motion on the class list. As you move from group to group you might ask questions like:
Students should be able to move the ball in all the ways observed using pushes and pulls.
After returning to the classroom, you might say, "Can you think of ways you use pushes and pulls at school or at home to move things like we moved the ball?" You could ask students to draw a picture of themselves using a push or a pull (model).
As you move around the room, you might ask,
Give students an opportunity to share their model with a partner. Make sure each partner gets a turn to talk.
Look back to student questions you recorded and ask students if we can answer any of them. You might ask, "Which question do you think we should try to answer next?"
Consider administering the formative assessment probe "Marble Roll" with students, which provides an opportunity to both assess students understanding of what pushes and pulls can do and also move their thinking deeper.
NSTA has created a How do pushes and pulls help us play? collection of resources to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking ADD TO MY LIBRARY located near the top of the page (at right in the blue box).
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