January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Second Grade Seed Dispersal Engineers!

Posted: Monday, November 14th, 2016

by Nila Arensberg, Kristi Drake, Amanda Cloutier, and Pete A’Hearn

It’s time for the big test! Which seeds will stick to the animal’s fur?

It’s time for the big test! Which seeds will stick to the animal’s fur?

Second graders had worked hard on their engineering designs to make a lima bean that would be transported by sticking to an animal’s fur. The used wires, tape, Play-Doh©, staples, paperclips, foil, and paper to make their seed dispersal attachments.

This was the highlight of a lesson designed and taught by a team of second-grade teachers in Palm Springs Unified School District as part of the California Next Generation Science Standards K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. Our team used a lesson study process, designed by the K-12 Alliance, called a Teacher Learning Collaborative (TLC). As a team, we know that in elementary school, and especially early elementary, we need to find the strong connections between science and the Common Core standards. We set out to design an engaging lesson that would teach science and provide students with opportunities to engage in speaking and listening, writing, and reading.

Our team had worked on second grade physical science earlier in the year and we were eager to try our hand at the second-grade life science standards. We decided to focus on the needs of plants and used the conceptual flow tool to get our heads clear about what concepts, practices, and crosscutting concepts would belong in a unit about the needs of plants (if you’ve been to a CA NGSS Rollout you have experienced this tool and process).

Turns out, there is a lot of content for this topic. Plants need soil and sunlight, water and air, but they also need help from animals by assisting with pollination and dispersing seeds in locations where they will find the right conditions for growth. We planned for students in this unit to think in terms of Structure and Function and Cause and Effect. They would make models and conduct investigations as a way on understanding the concepts. After getting clear on the three-dimensional content, we focused in on this Performance Expectation for the lesson we would design:

2-LS2-2: Develop a simple model that mimics the function of an animal in dispersing seeds or pollinating plants.

Image source: http://pgtnaturegarden.org/2012/09/droughts-arent-all-bad/

Image source: http://pgtnaturegarden.org/2012/09/droughts-arent-all-bad/

We tried to think about a good way for students to demonstrate their understanding of seed dispersal. We studied various curricula and resources to look for ideas. Nila came up with the idea that we could have the students try to design a seed structure that we could test with a stuffed animal to see if it would stick to an animal’s fur. After testing the designs, students could practice writing an argument about whether their structure was successful or not. Now that we had a good idea about where the lesson was going, we could design a sequence that would lead them to the seed test.

We decided to engage the students with the phenomenon of a dog covered with seeds. We asked the students to talk to a partner about why the seeds stick to the dog. We were hoping for responses both about the structure of the seeds (Structure and Function) and the idea that animals help to move seeds around (Cause and Effect). We had follow-up questions planned if students didn’t address both ideas.

Students observing seed structures.

Students observing seed structures.

Then it was time to let kids explore some real seeds. We gave the kids some desert seeds to study under a hand lens and then also gave them cotton balls that they could use like an animal to “walk” over their seeds and see which ones would stick. The hand lenses allowed them to closely observe the structures that functioned to allow the seeds to stick to the cotton balls.

Students using sense-making notebooks.

Students using sense-making notebooks.

Science notebooks were used for drawings and written descriptions of the seed structures. We had some students share their notebook entries using the document camera. Students shared structures like hairs, spikes, hooks, and fuzzies.

Now for some reading to help reinforce the idea. We chose a short passage about how seeds travel and grow that expanded the idea about seed dispersal with other means like ending up in animal scat and being carried on the wind. Students recorded new ideas from the reading in their notebooks to show their understanding of both the hands-on exploration and reading (explain).

Now it was time for the engineering design challenge as an elaborate! We showed students the lima beans and showed how we would test their designs by walking the animal over their seeds. The lima beans sure did not stick! We also showed kids the materials that would be available for the building.  Students began by brainstorming designs in their notebooks.

They could choose to work with a partner or on their own. Once they had a design idea, we gave them materials to start building.

These seeds stuck!

These seeds stuck!

Then finally the big test. Seeds were sorted into a pile of those that worked and those that didn’t. We then asked students to write a claim in their notebooks about whether their design worked or didn’t and support it with evidence.

As always in a lesson study, we teach the lesson as a team debrief the lesson by examining student work for evidence of the lesson’s effectiveness. This debrief informs changes to the lesson that are warranted. One change was obvious: don’t include balloons in the materials. They don’t work but are way too exciting for second graders not to want to use. Their inclusion just distracted from the designs. We also shortened the reading to the essential pages of the book.

Analysis of the student work revealed a bigger concern: the claims were poorly written and the students didn’t really have any idea of what evidence to use. We decided that we needed to include a class discussion of what worked in the designs and what didn’t. This was done by sorting the seeds under the document camera and having a class discussion. We charted ideas from the discussion on the board. We also provided sentence frames (Table 1) for the writing to help students with the types of evidence that would support a claim.

ngss-ei-oct-16-table-1

We taught the lesson a second time and could see from the designs and the student work that the adjustments had a big effect. The students walked away with a deeper understanding of seed dispersal, structure and function, design, and using evidence. As teachers, we learned a lot about how an NGSS lesson could incorporate engineering into science learning. We also reinforced what we already knew – in teaching, little changes can make a big difference!

Nila Arensberg is a 2nd grade teacher at Bubbling Wells Elementary School, PSUSD, a Teacher Leader in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Kristi Drake is a 2nd grade teacher at Rancho Mirage Elementary School, PSUSD, a Teacher Leader in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Amanda Cloutier is a 2nd grade teacher at Bubbling Wells Elementary School, PSUSD, a Teacher Leader in the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and a member of CSTA.

Pete A’Hearn is a K-12 Science Specialist in PSUSD, a Project Director for the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative, and the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

Science Assessment Update – Alternate Pilot Item Available

Posted: Thursday, January 26th, 2017

California Alternate Assessment for Science Training Sample Is Here!

The training test for the California Alternate Assessment (CAA) for Science is now available on the CAASPP Portal CAAs Web page! This training test is the same type of embedded performance task (PT) that will be administered during this year’s pilot CAA for Science. Designed to be administered one on one, the training test PT is nonsecure and for use in preparing for the pilot CAA for Science.

The training test is aligned with the grade five California Next Generation Science Standards but can be used by students in any of the tested grades to familiarize both educators, students, parents, and stakeholders with the testing format of the pilot. The CDE is preparing a letter for LEAs to use to inform parents about this innovative test and the availability of the training test. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.