Author: Jon Valasek and Sandy Van Natta
This module leads participants through the process of designing an experiment so that they can direct their students to do the same. First, participants are given a miracle fish and asked to make observations. Then, through a series of steps, they develop procedures to investigate the behavior of the fish. After discussing the components of an experiment, participants are lead through a second exploration, involving polymer spikes, where they make observations, collect data, complete graphs, and draw conclusions. As a final part of this module, participants discuss teaching by inquiry and develop a plan to implement what they have learned in their classrooms.
Estimated cost per person is $0.25
Miracle Fish: One per person. Order from www.orientaltrading.com by typing in the search block: "plastic fortune fish". The order number is SP-39/761 currently (8/05) $7.95 a gross.
Growing Spikes: One per group. Order from www.teachersource.com as "water gel spikes, GB-3" currently (8/05) 10 spikes for $2.50. or call JRM Chemical at 1-800-962-4010 and ask where you can buy Soil Moist clear plant spikes. JRM supplies stores like ACE Hardware but does not retail their products.
Plastic Bags: One per group. Closable sandwich bags that can hold a 250 mL of water.
Pickling or Kosher Salt: Enough to supply each group with one tablespoon of salt. Use pickling or kosher salt because it does not contain the additives of normal table salt and will not cloud the water.
Distilled Water or Normal Tap Water: as desired. 250 mL per group.
Electronic or Hand Balances: Enough to ensure timely massing of the spikes.
Metric Rulers: One per group.
Heat Source: Heating pad, window sill, lab heater, or chemical heat pack. The number needed depends on the size of the group.
Small Boxes: to isolate fish in darkness.
Oil: Mineral oil works well, use a small amount as necessary.
Notes to the Professional Development Provider (PPD) or facilitator will accompany each step in parenthesis when appropriate.
This stage focuses the participant's attention on a topic and poses a problem for the participant to explore in the next phase of the learning cycle. The facilitator pre-assesses the participants and informs them about where they are heading.
Assessment: Assessment is an on-going process throughout the learning cycle. The participant should have responded orally in the Engage stage as well as throughout the cycle. Check that observations (not inferences) are listed and participants pose the problem. (An observation would relate to the color, size, shape, or behavior of the fish. An inference might would try to explain why the fish is behaving as it does.)
In this phase, the participant becomes the center of the action as they collect data to use to solve a problem.
(Depending on what each group is changing, all factors listed above should be kept constant except for their tested variable)
Assessment: In the Exploration phase, the lesson provider can note whether or not the participant was following procedures, collecting and recording data, and working in a logical form.
In this phase, participants use the data they have collected to solve the problem and report what they did. At this time, the lesson provider can introduce new vocabulary to label what the participants have already figured out.
Assessment: During the explanation phase, the participant can be evaluated by being asked questions that assess the participant's comprehension of new vocabulary and concepts. Some hypothetical experiments can be proposed to check teachers' understanding of independent & dependent variables as well as controls. For example: ask participants to picture a simple wind-up toy. Ask them to think about what factors might affect the distance the toy can travel. The most obvious factor would be the number of winds given to the toy. Other factors might include the type of surface the toy is traveling upon and the angle of the surface the toy is traveling upon. If participants chose to test the number of winds, this becomes the independent variable. The distance the toy travels would be the dependent variable. Participants would want to control such variables as the type and angle of the surface traveled upon, who does the winding, and where the toy is placed for beginning and end measurements.
The participant can be given new information that extends what they have been learning in earlier parts of the cycle. The lesson provider can pose problems that students solve by applying what they have learned. Continue with a discussion of teaching by inquiry. Use information on the AGPA website to facilitate this discussion. This is also the place where participants should discuss implementation of this lesson in their classrooms. Use the lesson plan template and give time for the participants to complete this document and plan for teaching the lesson later.
Design an experiment that includes numerical data.
Note: Depending on your resources, select either to mass the spikes with balances or measure the length of the spikes with metric rulers.
(Scientists are concerned with an accurate and understandable way to present data derived from an experiment. Representing data in the form of a graph helps scientists examine results, reflect on findings, and communicate with others. Graphs communicate information quickly and identify trends and relationships that may not appear in a table. One of the best graphs for the data in this experiment is a bar graph that shows percent growth. To calculate percent growth, divide final length or mass, that was recorded at 24 hours, by initial length and multiply by 100%. ) Another way of calculating percent growth would be to take the final length (or mass) – the initial length (or mass) divided by the initial length (or mass) times 100%.
Have participants prepare a data table. Above is a representative set of data and below a graph of the data.
Spike Growth Graph
Assessment: During the final Elaboration phase, the application of the participant's knowledge to the new "problem" can be considered the "test". Have teachers discuss how they would use the steps they just learned in their own classrooms.
Teaching with inquiry can be defined as giving: "students ample opportunities to apply the reasoning and procedural skills of scientists while learning the principles and concepts of science along the way." Typically teachers use lab activities as a way to reinforce the concepts already presented in class. By changing an activity into an experiment, a student becomes more actively involved in the learning process as he/she forms a hypothesis, writes a testable question and designs his/her own procedure. Conducting an experiment is one way of involving the student in the inquiry learning process. However, most students, and many teachers, are not prepared to design their own experiments without some guidance through the basic steps. This activity is designed to aid participants/teachers in turning activities into experiments. Once the participant feels comfortable with this process, he/she can guide his/her own students through the same process and allow them to become more independent and actively involved in their own learning processes.
Content, Technology, and Professional Development:
Science as Inquiry: as a result of activities, in grades 5-8, all students should develop:
Physical Science: as a result of activities, in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of:
Standard A: Professional development for teachers of science requires learning essential science content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry. Science learning experiences for teachers must:
Standard B: Professional development for teachers of science requires integrating knowledge of science, learning, pedagogy, and students; it also requires applying that knowledge to science teaching. Learning experiences for teachers of science must:
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Module Lesson Time: 90 minutes to 2 hours
Since the water absorbing spikes need at least 24 hours to "grow", the presenter needs to set up one set of spikes in water and salt water solutions at least 24 hours in advance of your professional development session. These spikes can be used to gather data during your session since the participants' spikes will not have enough time to grow during your session.
No special safety precautions are needed. The "Miracle Fish™" can be replaced into its original plastic package and reused. The water absorbing spikes can be placed in the trash. The salt water can be poured down the drain.
Participants can be asked to take a simple activity they already do in their own classes and re-write it as an experiment. Due to limited time in your development session you may want them only to write a testable question and identify independent and dependent variable and controls. Have them write out a procedure and design a data chart if there is time. So that your participants do not have a difficult time coming up with an activity on short notice, you may ask them to bring 1 or 2 ideas of activities they already do in their classes with them to your session. Or, you may suggest an activity to them and ask them to re-write it as an experiment. For example: ask them to design an activity relating to friction and the movement of a toy car down a ramp.
Miracle Fish: This module uses miracle fish, which are made from a cellophane polymer that is very water loving or hygroscopic. ("Hygro" means water and "scopic" means to view or find.). When this polymer comes in contact with moisture from sweat glands in your hand it absorbs water on the side in contact with the hand and loses water through evaporation on the side exposed to the air. The moisture moves through tiny spaces in the cellophane by capillary action, similar to water being drawn up on a paper towel. The process of absorbing moisture from the hand and evaporation of moisture into the air causes the miracle fish to curl up. The lightness of the cellophane makes the fish very sensitive to air currents, which adds to the "dancing" effect. Because every person is different, the absorption/evaporation process happens at a different rate depending on the warmth of the hand and the amount of moisture on the palm.
Growing Spikes: Growing spikes are made from another polymer, polyacrylamide, that is classified as a superabsorber. Water diffuses in between the strands of the polyacrylamide causing the polymer to swell and hold water. The spikes may hold over 40 times their weight in tap water. These spikes are the ones used by gardeners to water and fertilize plants and are used in this module. The most familiar superabsorber is sodium polyacrylate, a polymer found in diapers. It can hold hundreds of times its weight in water, but this capacity is diminished when urine or substances containing sodium are in contact with it.
None available for this module.
Writing: Superabsorbers are found in diapers and water absorbing products for plants. They are found in chemical spill kits and even blood coagulation and disposal kits in surgery. They are also found as sealant like mortar used between cement blocks and in fiber optic cables to prevent water entering the cables. Participants may research the use of superabsorbers in products found in daily life.
Math: Participants may want to compute the volume of the spikes before and after absorbing water. They can then compute the % volume change. Line graphs can be used as well as bar or pie graphs.
When dividing participants into groups, try to be sensitive to gender, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Try to make groups as heterogeneous as possible.
None available for this module.
Sarquis, Mickey and Hogue, Lynn; Science Night Family Fun from A to Z, Terrific Science Press, Miami University Press, Middletown, OH, 2000. pgs. 81 to 90.
Taylor, Beverley, et. al , Teaching Physics with TOYS Easy Guide Edition, Terrific Science Press, Miami University Press, Middletown, Ohio, 2005, pg. 8.