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 does some food disappear?, students engage in science and engineering practices and use patterns as a thinking tool to make sense of the phenomenon of digesting a graham cracker. Students have an opportunity to apply physical science ideas about chemical reactions and physical changes to develop life science ideas about digestion (the beginning of the science idea the body is a system of multiple interacting systems). This task has been modified from its design to be used by students, families, and teachers in distance learning. While students could complete this task independently, we encourage students to work virtually with peers or in the home with family members.
Before you begin the task, you may want to access the accompanying Why does some food disappear? Google slide presentation.
Why does some food disappear? is a stand-alone task. However, it can form the basis of an instructional sequence in which students coherently build science ideas about interacting body systems and physical change and chemical reactions.
As our collection of Daily Dos grows, you may find other ways to use this task to build a coherent instructional sequence for your students.
If they are available at home, have students grab a box of graham crackers. Otherwise, show Slide 2 and/or share the graham cracker student handout, and ask, "What types of food molecules are in a graham cracker?"
Students may identify what categories are listed in the nutritional label or list ingredients. If students list ingredients, ask, "How could we categorize those?" (fats, proteins, carbohydrates, etc.)
To motivate students to investigate what happens when they eat graham crackers, say, "I wonder what happens to all these molecules when we eat graham crackers. Does anyone have any ideas?" Accept all student ideas.
Show Slide 3 and tell students you are going to share food molecule data collected from the graham cracker (out of the box) and three parts of the digestive system - mouth, beginning of the small intestine, and large intestine (you may choose to point out these digestive system parts on the diagram). Share that students will use the Identify and Interpret, or I2 (I squared), data analysis strategy to help make sense of the data. Use Slide 4 to explain the strategy to students and then allow students to ask clarifying questions before moving onto data analysis.
Show Slide 5 and give students the Follow the Molecules student activity sheet. Help students orient themselves to the graph.
If students' productive struggle with the data is shifting toward frustration, go one step further:
Allow students time to complete questions 1-2.
Place students in small groups and then show slide 6. Ask students to first share with their group what they identified (what I see) and answer the following questions:
Next, ask students, still in their small groups, to interpret (what it means) the patterns they identified and to move toward reaching a group consensus.
Bring the class back together and engage the groups in a class consensus discussion. You might use the following prompts to help the class reach consensus:
Students will likely identify:
Students may interpret this as:
Students may ask:
You might say, "Many of us have questions about the carbohydrates - glucose, other complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Does it make sense to investigate these questions first?"
Show Slide 8 and tell students you found molecular models of glucose, starch (a complex carbohydrate), and fiber that might help explain why some of the carbohydrate amounts change (glucose and other complex carbohydrates) and fiber does not.
Ask students to turn to a partner and share what they have heard about these types of food molecules. Students may know that some foods, like bread or potatoes, contain a lot of starch; bread and pasta are high in carbohydrates, and/or fiber helps make you poop. Others may know that glucose is something that diabetics monitor and eating sugary foods or foods high in carbohydrates makes the amount of glucose in their (diabetics') blood increase.
Show slide 8 and share the Molecule Structure student activity sheet with students. Give students independent thinking time to observe the molecule structures and record similarities and differences between them. Then, assign students to small groups and ask them to share the similarities and differences they identified.
Bring students back together and ask them to share similarities and difference with the class. Students will likely identify the following similarities and differences:
Show Slide 9 and lead a building understanding discussion using the prompt: How could the structure of the different carbohydrates explain why some carbohydrates are digested (broken down) and others are not? You might use some of the following prompts to facilitate the discussion:
Students may say the large size of a fiber molecule might explain why our body's digestive system can't digest (break down) the fiber. Other students may focus on the smaller-sized glucose and starch molecules and say because they are smaller our digestive system has an easier time digesting them (breaking them down).
Ask students, "What else do we need to find out?" Students will likely say we need to figure out how molecules break down. (If students don't say this you might ask, "What does 'digestion' mean?" or "What do we mean when we say 'break down'?")
Consider navigating students to the Daily Do Why does the cracker taste sweet? to begin to answer this question.
NSTA has created a Why does some food disappear? 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).
The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.
This Daily Do is inspired and uses materials from the OpenSciEd Metabolic Reactions unit titled How do things inside our bodies work together to make us feel the way we do? OpenSciEd is an open educational resource that can be used by parents and teachers to implement student-driven learning.