Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Science- What is a Scientist?

We love science.  We love teaching science to our kids.  We want our kids to be as excited about science as we are.  Over the past decade there has been a change in how we teach science.  The focus has shifted from teaching kids facts to memorize or regurgitate to a focus on what we like to call the "doing" of science.  We want our students to understand the processes of science.  We want them to act like scientists and explore like scientists.

We begin most school years with a science unit to develop background knowledge, encourage curiosity and a sense of wonder while focusing on the processes of science.
During our first lesson, we access their background knowledge.  We want to know what they already know about science.  We focus on what do scientists do and what do scientists use.  One of the books that lends itself to this topic is What is a Scientist? by Barbara Lehn

After the first lesson, we sit down and plan four or five science tasks that will enable students to act like scientists while exploring the different things that scientists do.  We start an anchor chart titled, "A Scientist is Someone who" and after each task added to our list.  The focus is on hands on activities and discussion so for these tasks, the students do not do any writing.  The richness of the discussions helps build their background knowledge.  We want to give our students lots of opportunities to be curious and to observe using their senses.  So that when we launch into our other science units for the rest of the year, they know what a good observation looks like and sounds like.

Science Task 1:  Bubbles-  Scientists ask questions and try new things.
Give each student a small plate with dish soap and water and a straw.  Allow them to explore.  Have them ask questions.  Give them challenges such as, "Can you blow one bubble inside the other?"

Science Task 2:  Cookie Mining- Scientists use special tools and dig for things.
      Bake cookies with lots of different ingredients.  Add things like raisins, chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.  You could add nuts if you have no nut allergies in your class.  Give students chops sticks, small paint brushes, toothpicks and a magnifying glass.  Ask the students to excavate all of the different items in their cookies.

Science Task 3:  Ooblek/Goo- Scientists explore the unknown and come to conclusions based on their observations and experiences.
This is the ever popular cornstarch and water potion that kids love.  Is it a liquid or is it a solid is the burning question?

Science Task 4: How many drops of Water Can a Penny Hold?- Scientists make predictions and do experiments.
Give partners a penny and a dropper.  Ask them to predict how many drops of water their penny can hold.  Before beginning, show the students how to use the dropper.  Often their predictions are way less than what the penny can really hold.  Have them do the task several times and see if they get different numbers.  Discuss why this might be. We find it helpful to have one person counting while the other is doing the experiment and then switching.

The key to these tasks is lots of discussion and debriefing afterwards so that they students can begin make the connection that these are the behaviours of scientists.  

We are always adding to our anchor chart, but here it is so far.

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