Middle School | Daily Do
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.
In today's Daily Do, Why can't I see the animals? students engage in science and engineering practices and use cause and effect as a thinking tool to make sense of the phenomenon of camouflage. Students figure out that this phenomenon depends on both genetic and environmental factors, which sets the foundation for continued exploration of ecosystem interactions and dynamics.
Begin by showing students a short video (below). Play the Octopus Camouflage video and stop it at 0:06. Ask students to share what they notice about the environment with a shoulder partner. Typical student responses include water, sand, and rocks. When students are finished sharing, resume the video and play until 0:22. Again, ask students what they observed. Prompt students to think about how what they observed might help the octopus. Have students share their ideas and record their ideas in a shared space.
Ask students if they think all animals can hide in plain sight like the octopus and have them share their ideas with a partner or in a small group. Next, tell students you have a short activity that will help them figure out more about animals that seem to blend in to their environment.
Project the "Can you see the animal?" slide show. As you share each slide, have students record what they notice and wonder about the animals and the environment in which they live.
Give students time to document their noticings and then have them share what they noticed with the whole group. Noticings may include:
Next have students focus on their wonders. Tell students to share them with their small group, and then prioritize the group's questions. Remind students their questions should be written as open questions; encourage them to work together to revise closed questions. Each group member should choose one of their prioritized open questions to share with the whole group. As students individually share, record their questions on the board or chart paper. Common student questions could include:
Guidance: Having students prioritize their questions in small groups allows students time to formulate and revise their questions from closed to open. This process also helps limit tangential questions or questions that could be considered inappropriate. To help students in this process consider using this Questioning Form.
Transition students to thinking about the patterns they are seeing in the class questions. Lead students to figuring out that some of the questions are focused on genetics and others are more about the environments where these animals are found. However, all of the questions ultimately focus on survival. In order for a population of species to continue to exist, enough individuals within that population have to survive and reproduce. This can only happen when the environment can provide enough resources.
Lead students to determine they have to figure out if it's the animals' genetics or environment - or both - that allows them to be seen or unseen.
Discussion Guidance: If students don't notice the patterns in the questions at first, surface prior learning about genetics and ecosystems by having students brainstorm around prompts such as:
Use these discussions as formative assessment opportunities to see what your students remember about ecosystem interactions, traits and an organism's ability to survive and reproduce. At this point it is not necessary to correct any misconceptions or incomplete ideas about these science ideas as they will have opportunities to change their thinking over the rest of the Daily Do lesson.
To find out more about how animals use camouflage to survive have students read one or both of the articles linked below.
Next, assigned one of the animals from the slides to each group. Have students develop a model to explain how their animal uses camouflage for survival. Before setting students free to work, facilitate a consensus discussion about what their models should include. Students should identify their models need to include:
Encourage students to include other components and interactions. When students have finished developing their models, ask groups share them in a gallery walk or short presentation. Have student groups record basic information about the animals and their environments. Also, encourage students to ask questions about the animals they are learning about.
Transition to evaluating what we have figured out about camouflage and the role it plays in survival so far:
We also think that:
Next, prompt students to think about how camouflage helps maintain the ecosystem. Have students work in small groups to think about the animal they researched and the role it plays in its ecosystem. If students struggle to make connections, prompt them to think about:
When groups have finished their discussions, have them share their thinking with the whole group to receive peer feedback.
Guidance: Use this Daily Do as a formative assessment to see what information students bring with them from prior grades and personal experience. As this task is designed to surface prior knowledge, guidance should be limited. Students should start thinking about all the different interactions their animal has with the other living and nonliving components in the ecosystem. Figuring out these big science ideas will eventually lead to a more robust understanding of disciplinary core ideas reflected in Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems (Life Science Standard 2).
Now that students have figured out some things about camouflage and how it helps in survival, revisit students' initial questions to see what can be answered and determine where to go next.
Students should recognize they can answer their questions that are more environmentally focused and basic questions about genetics within a population. For example,
Students should also have a clearer picture of ecosystem interactions at this point. Have a "taking stock" discussion to determine what students know and what they need to figure out next. Through the modeling activity, students should have figured out:
From here students could dive deeper into looking at more specific ecosystem interactions. For example students could:
NSTA has created a Why can't I see the animals? 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 (near top of page).
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