Second Grade Seed Dispersal Engineers!
Posted: Monday, November 14th, 2016
by Nila Arensberg, Kristi Drake, Amanda Cloutier, and Pete A’Hearn
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…