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 did COVID-19 cause environmental changes?, students engage with the phenomenon of environmental changes (e.g., less air pollution, clearer water, more animal sightings) caused by COVID-19 (shelter-in-place). Students read articles or watch videos showing some of the changes we have seen in the environment that have accompanied changes in our travel patterns. Encourage your student to ask questions and then research answers to those questions.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many changes have occurred. People are staying home and this has had several impacts on the environment. We may have seen reports on the news about decreases in air and water pollution, which causes us to think: Why did COVID-19 cause environmental changes?
Have you started to notice more animals visiting your neighborhood? Cleaner water in a nearby river, creek, or stream? Less haze in the sky? These are some of the things we will explore in today's task.
To introduce the phenomenon, show your student some images or video that have circulated in the news lately about changes in the environment since shelter-in-place ordinances have been issued in response to COVID-19.
Satellite images: Air pollution in India plummets posted by EarthSky
Satellite data show 30% drop in air pollution over northeast U.S. posted by EarthSky
Ask leading questions such as:
Encourage your student to share what they know (or think they know) about why these changes have occurred.
Ask them to "explain the science of why these environmental changes have occurred." Students may give many different reasons to explain why the changes have occurred, but the goal here is not to distinguish between right vs. wrong answers or ideas. Rather, we want to foster discussion about the "how" and "why" we are seeing these environmental changes (which will ultimately lead to making sense of how human activities impact the environment).
Assessing Prior Knowledge
Students may also call on knowledge from previous grade levels during this discussion.
All of these connections to ideas and learning opportunities at previous grade levels should be encouraged by asking follow up questions such as"Can you tell me more about that?" or
"How do you know that?"
You can say something like, "It sounds like we have more questions than answers. What questions do you have about why COVID-19 caused environmental changes?" Encourage students to ask as many questions as possible that are relevant to the discussion.
Common questions include:
Have your student read the accompanying articles and reflect back on what questions they were able to answer. High school students can engage in this activity independently. Younger students will need more assistance. After reading the articles, ask your student the following questions:
Have students create an explanation that answers their original question, 'Why did COVID_19 cause environmental changes?". There are several ways to elicit student explanations including:
You can also incorporate a prediction component that includes what they think might happen now that people have begun to move around more.
Guidance: Having students develop an explanation allows for them to think through what they have figured out to make deeper connections. As students engage in creating their explanations, they have time to think about and synthesis all the different pieces of information they analyzed throughout their research to figure out how it all works together. Many times in creating their explanations, students will come up with more questions.
Now that we understand more about how humans impact the environment, it makes us wonder about ways we can reduce our impact. Students can examine more changes in the NSTA Daily Do How Does a Pandemic Cause Less CO2?
NSTA has created a Why did COVID-19 cause environmental changes? 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).