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        OUR FEATURED RIP ™ -BASED STEM INQUIRY:

     Spilling Old Knowledge onto New Ways of Learning


         Kindergarten Students Test Their Hypotheses about Cleaning Up an Oil Spill
 

 

 

Teacher: Lori LoRusso

Students: 2 Kindergarten Classes

 

Kahala Elementary School

Honolulu, Hawaii

2002-2004

       

         Classroom Demographics for the Two Classes

  • My 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 classes each had 10 boys and 10 girls ranging from 5-6 years of age.
  • For both classes, almost all of my students came from white collar families of multi-ethnic backgrounds, but predominantly Asian, living in a middle- to upper-class community. No children from the 2002-2003 class were on free/reduced lunch, and only one student from the 2003-2004 class received free/reduced lunch.
  • Over the time period during which this guided inquiry was introduced to my two classes, the emphasis for my instructional practices was on individual rather than group work. Although I typically began instruction using a group activity such as the reading of a story or a group discussion, this was quickly followed by individual work including journal writing, drawing, and worksheet completion by students.
                                 

                        

     

                              

 

                    

 

  • The majority of my teaching of science came directly through reading books to the children. Occasionally, I used a "hands-on" activity such as the previous cleaning up the oil spill activity described here, but without the scientific inquiry.
  • This was the first time that my instructional practices would include my students developing their own questions and constructing their own hypotheses to be tested as well as conducting a research investigation that would test their hypotheses. Thus, I introduced scientific inquiry into my classroom through a previously used activity with which I was comfortable.  Here I describe the research investigation and results from my 2002-2003 class.
                           

                              

                                                                                Instructional Plan and Objectives                                           

 

  Purpose

  • Provide my students with the opportunity to learn and think like scientists using the entire process of scientific inquiry
  • Introduce the Research Investigation Process (RIP) model for critical thinking/scientific inquiry to my students
  • Provide my students with a strategy for learning and making decisions that will stay with them throughout their lives
  • Develop and reinforce many of the student skills

          needed in performing scientific inquiry

     
    • making objective observations
    • asking good research questions
    • teacher does not provide answers but rather facilitates how to find answers
    • teacher uses Socratic questioning to guide students throughout their learning
  • Stimulate student interest to learn about science by providing students with the opportunity to answer their own questions and test their own hypotheses about the natural world through investigation

   

                                Recording data accurately

                               

 

 

 Student Outcomes—Students will...

  • explore and understand characteristics of scientific inquiry using the Research Investigation Process (RIP)
  • observe the consequences of an oil spill on the environment and the characteristics of oil in water
  • record observations accurately and honestly
  • ask problem-centered questions
  • build tentative answers to one of the questions
  • use background information
  • design and conduct a study to test our answer to the question
  • record data accurately and honestly
  • evaluate findings and summarize what was learned about our tentative answer
  • apply their newly gained knowledge from our investigation to create solutions for cleaning up an oil spill

          

                           

           

                                                                                            Materials Needed

 

  • Books about oil spills and their consequences
    • Oliver and the Oil Spill -by Aruna Chandrasekhar
    • Oil Spill! -by Melvin Berger
    • Alaska's Big Spill -National Geographic
     

                                 

                              

 

  • World Wide Web Resources containing pictures of the consequences of the Exxon Valdez oil spill:               

        http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/gallery_gallery.php?

        RECORD_KEY%28gallery_index%29=joinphotogal_id,

        gallery_id,photo_id&joinphotogal_id(gallery_index)=171&

        gallery_id(gallery_index)=12&photo_id(gallery_index)

        =106

  • Chart paper for mapping socratic questioning responses and our products for the individual components of the Research Investigation Process (RIP)
  • Colored markers for writing and drawing on the chart paper.
  • Newspaper for covering our tables to prevent damage from the oil spill, food coloring, and procedures used in the investigation

 

 

      

 

 
  • Vegetable oil for making the oil spill
  • Green or blue food coloring to color the water
  • Clear plastic bowls to hold the oil spill and water
  • Plastic measuring cups with lines for measuring the oil collected
  • The follow tools determined by the students' hypotheses:

         

          -sponge

          -cup

          -spoon

          -piece of cloth

          -eye dropper

  • Data table for recording the amount of oil collected
  • Bar graph for determining whether the students' hypotheses were supported or not

 

   

                Exxon Valdez - grounded on Bligh Reef

 

  • Various materials such as straws; pipe-cleaners; cardboard; eyedroppers; string; colored pencils, markers, and crayons; tape and glue, etc. for creating and constructing models of oil spill cleaners
                                                                                             General Procedure

This was to be my students' first exposure to scientific inquiry and my first exposure to guiding them through the process. My plan was to ease my class and I into the inquiry, beginning at a point where both my students' knowledge left off and I had previous experience.

Socratic Questioning

We had just completed learning about various habitats and I felt that this was a good starting point to begin using the socratic questioning technique to assess my students on what they had learned and what they already knew about the topic we were about to begin. Questioning also enabled me to gradually direct the focus into our current topic--scientific inquiry and tackling the clean-up of an oil spill.

     

Questions asked and students' responses

  (Click on square at top right of chart to enlarge)

 

 

           Students Learn How to Make Observations

           The ability to make accurate and objective

           observations is very important to the scientist.

           My students began to practice making observ-

           ations of their environment prior to actually

           beginning the oil spill clean-up inquiry. I helped

           them to understand the difference between an

           objective and subjective observation. They labeled

           their observations of their environment according

           to whether they believed that they were objective

           or subjective. They also learned how to explain why

           they chose objective or subjective to label their

           observations.

 

                                         Students' observations of their environment

            Note: Words underlined in red were the

            reason for the students' choice of "subjective."

 

 

    

          

         The Old Knowledge

         Creating the oil spill was something I had learned

         about years ago during a professional development

         workshop and had previously introduced to my

         kindergarten classes. It involved pouring cooking oil

         on top of colored water. The clear oil can be seen

         floating at the surface of the water and simulates the

         behavior of oil following an oil spill in the ocean. The

         students task was to use a number of "tools" to see

         which would work best to clean the oil off of the water.

         The "old" activity involved hands-on learning, but not

         scientific inquiry, because no hypotheses were made

         and no data were actually collected. The students simply

         used each tool to try to remove the oil from the water

         and then decided which they thought worked the best.

         The New Ways of Learning and Assessing

         Applying the Research Investigation Process (RIP) to

         the oil spill investigation infused authentic scientific inquiry

         into this instructional activity shifting it from teacher-

         centered to student-centered.

         Students...

    • were led into making their own observations about the consequences of an oil spill on the environment
     
    • began asking questions about their observations
     
    • built their own hypotheses based on the background material including their own observations
     
    • tested their hypotheses
     
    • analyzed the results
     
    • discussed the results and made conclusions  
     
    • applied what they learned by designing and

    creating their own oil clean-up technique        

        

                  

                 Flowchart of the RIP for elementary students

                                  (Click on chart to enlarge)

 

          Prior to implementing scientific inquiry into my classroom,

          I had used the more traditional approach of assessing for

          knowledge after a lesson was complete. Using the RIP

          science education model, I began to assess more

          frequently through the use of questioning and began

          to use pre- and post-lesson assessment comparisons to

          look for change in my students' attitudes and knowledge

          about science. 

           

 

        

                  

                                   

 

 

 

                                                                             How We Did Our Research Investigation

 

This guided inquiry afforded my students numerous opportunities to develop and practice their writing communication skills.  As we covered each component of the inquiry process, I maintained a class summary written in my own handwriting to complement the students' work.

        Making the Oil Spill

        In addition to their being read to from the story books, my

        students made first-hand observations of the oil spill which

        I created for them in the classroom.

 

    

   Lori LoRusso (Miss Morris) rewrote the students' observations

 

    

                                 Students' observations

                           (Click on square at top right of chart to enlarge)

 

       Asking Questions

       My students asked questions while they examined the

       oil spill. They knew that oil spilling into the environment

       is not good for animals or plants. Using questioning, I

       was able to guide my students to the question of "how

       can we clean the oil off the water?" The students then

       made suggestions for cleaning up the oil spill. I then

       asked them which of their suggestions would work the

       best and that became our Research Question.

      

 

    

    

                      

          A student writes about asking research questions

                                  (For a larger view, click on the picture)

     

Background Information

The main purpose for this guided inquiry was to begin to implement the process of scientific inquiry into the classroom as a critical thinking and learning tool. Thus, the background materials included a RIP chart (shown above), the criteria for each of the RIP scientific inquiry components, and RIP-based activities learned at a professional development workshop conducted by ANOVA Science Education. Other background materials included their being read and shown pictures from the National Geographic Exxon Valdez oil spill story and the internet WEB sites containing information about oil spills and their harmful effects on the environment.

 

             

               "Miss Morris (LoRusso) is reading a

               book to us about the Exxon Valdez"

                        (For a larger view, click on the picture)

 

 

        Building the Hypotheses

        •  Miss Morris asked us how we could get the oil off of the

           water so that we could clean up the oil spill she had made.

        • We said: "paper cup, eyedropper, sponge, cloth, and spoon."

 

        My students readily shared what they thought was

        the answer to the research question, "What is the

        best Way to Clean Up the Oil Spill?"

 

        Their responses included:

 

          spoon

 

  sponge

 

  eye dropper

 

  cloth

 

           plastic cup

 

 

 

  Student drawings of oil spill clean-up tools to be

  tested        (For a larger view, click on the picture)

 

  • The next day Miss Morris brought the things we said

     we could use to clean up the oil spill to class.

  • Miss Morris asked us to vote for the oil spill clean up

     tool that would do the best job cleaning the oil.

  • We voted  paper cup=3, eyedropper=15, sponge=1,

     cloth=0, spoon=1

Our class hypothesis was:

"If there is an oil spill and we try

to clean it up with a cup, an eye dropper, a sponge, a cloth, and

a spoon, then the eye dropper will pick up the most oil because it has a small tip."

 

         "We made a hypothesis the eye dropper would 

  pick up the most oil."   

                                                                How We Conducted Our Study to Test Our Hypothesis

 

        Method

       My students described how they conducted the oil spill

       experiment to test their hypothesis while I wrote down what

       they said:

             

  

       The class was divided into 5 groups of four students. Each group

       used all five of the tools to clean up the oil spill.

 

  

 

  

           "Miss Morris (LoRusso) set the tools on the table."

 

 

  

      "The Table 5 is doing a project an oil project about oil. Oil

      can spread around the world. We are using tools to pick

      up the oil."

                                   

 

         Using the Tools to Collect Oil         

        

           

   

    

 

                 "We are getting the oil out using our tools"

 

 

                                      Data Collection

       

                 Counting the lines on the measuring cup     

            

                             

   

    

            "I am writing the number of lines on the paper "   

                       

 

 

                        

                        

                                                                                                   The Results

 

To test the class hypothesis meant that my students would have to summarize the data.  I decided to try to teach them how to find the middle of a bunch of numbers by computing the median. The data from the 5 groups of students were combined and the median number of lines on the cup filled with oil was found for each of the tools.

     

       

       "We put the number in order from the smaller number to

       the big numbers. We circled the middle number."

                     (For a larger view, click on the picture)

 

  

    The calculated medians for the five tools showing the middle

    value of oil collected from the 5 oil spills.

 

 

 
  • The paper cup and the spoon scooped up the same

           amount of oil.

  • The cup collected 4 ml of oil.
  • The sponge collected the next most amount of oil.
  • The cloth collected the least amount of oil.

 

    

       "We counted the lines on the cup. Then we wrote the

       number on the paper. We found the middle number. We

       graphed the number.    (For a larger view, click on the picture)

 

 

                                                                                        Discussion and Conclusion

 

       Discussion

  • The eye dropper picked up the most oil.
  • Our hypothesis was that the eye dropper would work the

           best to clean up the oil spill.

  • "We made a correct hypothesis because the eye dropper

            collected the most oil. We think the eye dropper picked

            up the most oil because it has a small tip. It picks up

            more oil while the other tools picked up more water."

                 Problems and Errors

                 My students were able to recognize problems and errors

                 that probably affected the results of the experiment:

 

                  

  • Because of all of the errors, our results might not be correct.

 

 

 

                                                                               

                               

 

                                           

                                                       

             

                            Using the sponge to clean up oil          

         

                                                                                                The Next Step
 

Applying Our New Found Knowledge

I asked my students to use what they had learned in their investigation on oil spills to invent and build an oil clean-up model or technology that could be used to clean up an oil spill.  They were also asked to write a description of how their tecnology model works.

The oil spill cleaning models were built at home over a holiday break. Thus, many of the students received some to much assistance from their parents. When back at school, I had each student stand in front of the classroom to present her/his invention to the entire class and describe how it works.

     

                                   Oil Cleaner--by Nerisa

 

    

                The "ROC" River Oil Cleaner --by Hunter

 

    

                                  The Oil Girl--by Paige

 "The Oil Girl scoops the oil into the cup and then she dumps it

  into the bucket. The bucket washes the oil out of the water."

 

 

                                     Oil Vaccum--by Nicholas

     "One hose goes in the water and the other hose goes in  

      the oil spill truck. It sucks up the oil and water and it

     separates the oil from the water. The water goes back

     to the ocean and the oil goes into the truck and takes

     it away."

 

 

  

               The Water Vaccum Cleaner--by Christopher

     "The windmill spins which causes the oil to be sucked in

      The oil is separated from the water. The clean water is

      shot out of the spinner on top and the oil goes through

      the tube into the boat. It is used for the boat and other

      things (recycled)".

 

 

                                    Austin's Oil Cleaning Company

 

                         Fudoom--by Anonymous Student    
                           

                                                            

            

 

 

     My Suction Oil Machine                       Click to enlarge

            --by Lindsey                                                    

              

 

 

          

                                 Oil Catcher--by Kailee

NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS ADDRESSED

  • Science as Inquiry
    CONTENT STANDARD A:

    As a result of activities in grades K-4,
    all students should develop
    • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
    • Understanding about scientific inquiry

     

  • Life Science
    CONTENT STANDARD C:
    As a result of activities in grades
    K - 4, all students should develop
    understanding of
    • Organisms and environments
 
  • Science and Technology
    CONTENT STANDARD E:
    As a result of activities in grades
    K - 4, all students should develop
    • Abilities of technological design
    • Understanding about science and technology
     
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    CONTENT STANDARD F:
    As a result of activities in grades
    K - 4, all students should develop
    understanding of
    • Changes in environments

                                                                   HAWAII CONTENT & PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

SCIENCE Benchmarks Directly Addressed

Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.K.1.1 Use the senses to make observations
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Uses the five senses (i.e., sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste) to make observations about objects and events. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.K.1.2 Ask questions about the world around them
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Asks questions about objects, organisms, events, places, or relationships in the environment. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.K.1.3 Collect data about living and non-living things
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Participates in (group) data collection. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.1.1.1 Collect, record, and organize data using simple tools, equipment, and techniques safely
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Uses simple tools safely (e.g., magnifying glass, balance scales) to make observations about common objects in the classroom and uses simple techniques to record and organize data for analysis. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.1.1.2 Explain the results of an investigation to an audience using simple data organizers (e.g., charts, graphs, pictures)
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Participates in (group) data collection. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.2.1.1 Develop predictions based on observations
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Makes predictions based on observations about the world around him or her. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.2.1.2 Conduct a simple investigation using a systematic process safely to test a prediction
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Implements a simple procedure safely to answer a question or test a prediction that relies on careful observations (e.g., collects, records, and organizes data). 

  

                                                                    

                                      

 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.3.1.1 Pose a question and develop a hypothesis based on observations
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Brainstorms different types of questions and develops a question and hypothesis based on observations. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.3.1.2 Safely collect and analyze data to answer a question
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Safely collects and organizes data using tables, charts, and/or graphs to explain what happens in an experiment. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.4.1.1 Describe a testable hypothesis and an experimental procedure
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Describes a testable hypothesis (e.g., if, then, because statement) and an experimental procedure to test it. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.4.1.2 Differentiate between an observation and an inference
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Observes an object or situation and makes an inference from the observation, describing how they differ 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.5.1.1 Identify the variables in scientific investigations and recognize the importance of controlling variables in scientific experiments
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Identifies variables in a scientific investigation and describes why the variables need to be controlled. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.5.1.2 Formulate and defend conclusions based on evidence
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Presents findings and conclusions to classmates and answers questions using evidence from the investigation. 
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.6.1.1 Formulate a testable hypothesis that can be tested through a controlled experiment
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Constructs a hypothesis (e.g., if, then, and because statement) that is tested through a controlled experiment. 

                                

Mathematics Benchmarks Covered or Directly Addressed
Topic

Measurement Attributes and Units

Benchmark MA.K.4.1 Compare and order objects according to length, weight, capacity, area, and volume
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Compares objects, physically or virtually, to each other (e.g., places two objects side-by-side to determine which is longer; picks up two objects to determine which is heavier; fills a liquid from one container to another to determine which one has more capacity). 
Topic Data Collection and Representation
Benchmark MA.K.11.1 Sort objects or people according to stated attributes .
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Uses words to describe location, size, color, shape, and concepts (e.g., same, different, fast, slow) in speaking situations. 

 

  There are no benchmarks for Standards 12 & 13  for this Grade/Course.

  However, the students in this kindergarten class identified the “middle

  number” (median) for their collection of data charted and used this

  information to evaluate their hypothesis.

Standard 13: Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability: DATA ANALYSIS: Develop and evaluate inferences, predictions, and arguments that are based on data
Standard 13: Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability: STATISTICS: Interpret data using methods of exploratory data analysis

 

 
Topic Measurement Attributes and Units
Benchmark MA.1.4.1 Measure with multiple copies of standard (e.g., inch tiles, foot-long lengths of string) or non-standard (e.g., paper clips, pencils) units of the same size
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Reports how many of the same unit (standard or non-standard) it takes to span the length of an object. 
Topic Data Collection and Representation
Benchmark MA.1.11.1 Collect and organize information using concrete objects and pictures
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Reports how many of the same unit (standard or non-standard) it takes to span the length of an object. 
Topic Data Collection and Representation
Benchmark MA.1.12.1 Interpret data using simple language (e.g., more, less, fewer, equal)
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Compares two groups of objects/people that are sorted by a certain attribute and makes a comparative statement (e.g., there are more students that like play sports than don't play sports). 

There are no benchmarks for Standard 13  for this Grade/Course. However, the students in this kindergarten class analyzed data to test their hypothesis and applied their results to decision making

Standard 13: Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability: DATA ANALYSIS: Develop and evaluate inferences, predictions, and arguments that are based on data

Language Arts Benchmarks Covered or Directly Addressed

                                             READING

Topic Vocabulary and Concept Development
Benchmark LA.K.1.8 Uses words to describe location, size, color, shape, and concepts (e.g., same, different, fast, slow) in speaking situations.
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) Uses words to describe location, size, color, shape, and concepts (e.g., same, different, fast, slow) in speaking situations. 
Topic Vocabulary and Concept Development
Benchmark LA.K.1.9 Use new grade-appropriate vocabulary learned through stories and instruction
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Correctly uses new words learned through reading and listening activities in various situations. 
Topic Understanding Text Structures
Benchmark LA.K.2.1 Use pictures and titles to make predictions about a text
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Previews picture books and discusses titles in order to make predictions before reading. 
Topic Constructing Meaning
Benchmark LA.K.2.2 Retell information from familiar oral or printed text
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Recognizes the important events or information and retells the facts or represents them in art, writing, or drama.
Topic Interpretive Stance
Benchmark LA.K.3.1 Retell familiar stories, using beginning, middle, and ending
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Retells the plot of a story heard several times and places events in chronological order.
Topic Literary Elements
Benchmark LA.K.3.2 Identify characters and setting in a story read aloud
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Names characters and setting in a story through various activities and assignments (e.g., retelling, drawing, drawing with words). 

 

 

WRITING

Topic Range of Writing
Benchmark LA.K.4.1 Write for a variety of purposes related to daily class activities and own life
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Uses writing integral to daily class activities, including writing full name and completing class forms and logs (e.g., signs an attendance sheet, records the weather, puts an event on a calendar, labels a picture, lists items).   
Topic Range of Writing
Benchmark LA.K.4.2 Describe familiar topics and convey thoughts, ideas, and basic information using pictures and phonetically spelled words
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Writes phonetically spelled words to describe familiar people, objects, books, events, or instructions. 
Topic Spelling and Hand Writing
Benchmark LA.K.4.4 Use phonetic spelling to write new words
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Spells phonetically, associating letters with sounds (e.g., kitn [kitten], wacht [watched]). 
Topic Meaning
Benchmark LA.K.5.1 Add detail to drawings and other products with simple descriptive words
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Adds descriptive words to simple pictures and pictures with text through ideas generated in various ways. 

                                                   

                              

ORAL COMMUNICATION
Topic Discussion and Presentation
Benchmark LA.K.6.1 Express ideas through simple activities (e.g., creative movement, choral speaking, show and tell, rhymes, poems and songs)
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Engages in simple drama activities in order to aid comprehension, develop vocabulary, and reinforce content through actions.
Topic Discussion and Presentation
Benchmark LA.K.6.3 Ask and respond appropriately to basic questions
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Forms and poses questions and responds to questions related to activities and topics. 
Topic Critical Listening
Benchmark LA.K.6.4 Follow simple oral directions, instructions, and explanations
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Follows simple directions and instructions related to classroom routines and activities (e.g., lining up to go to lunch, putting toys away in their proper place).
Topic Delivery
Benchmark LA.K.6.5 Use appropriate volume when speaking in various situations
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Uses a volume that enables all to hear but is not too loud when speaking in one-on-one or group situations. 
 
Topic Delivery
Benchmark LA.K.6.6 Use eye contact as a listening and speaking skill to focus attention on the speaker or connect with listener(s)
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Looks at listener(s) when speaking to help keep his/her attention and convey a message. Listens attentively by looking at speaker. 
Topic Meaning
Benchmark LA.K.7.1 Use personal experiences as a topic when speaking
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Talks about personal experiences in various appropriate speaking situations.
Topic Design
Benchmark LA.K.7.2 Present events in chronological order
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Presents events in chronological sequence when speaking.
Topic Clarity
Benchmark LA.K.7.3 Use appropriate words when speaking
Sample Performance Assessment (SPA) The student: Chooses familiar words and new words appropriately for a variety of speaking situations to effectively communicate thoughts and feelings.   

 

   
                                                                               Teacher Observations & Reflections

 

For the past several years, I have been trying to improve my science curriculum.  I wanted to include more inquiry-based activities, so I started patterning my lessons after the science fair format.  I still wasn't satisfied with the results, however.  Then I heard that a workshop was being offered that focused on the scientific inquiry process.  I became excited!  Finally, I would have some help on how to improve my activities. 

After attending the RIP professional development workshop, I decided to begin my classroom implementation of guided inquiry using the oil spill activity that I have taught for years.  My students and I always enjoyed this activity, but it was subjective.  The students would test the tools and tell me which tool they think collected the most oil.  Often, I had students debating over which tool was the "best."

I needed to figure out a way to make this activity more scientific and somehow collect actual quantitative data so that mathematics would be involved in my students' decision making.  Maybe we could collect the oil, but how?  How could my students measure (in a simple way) the collected oil? 

Once I understood the RIP scientific inquiry process, it was actually much easier for me to teach science.  And best of all, one research investigation even at the kindergarten level

covers almost all the scientific inquiry standards and includes content from the other three areas of STEM (technology, engineering, and mathematics).  It teaches students to make

 

 

observations, to collect data, and to report the results honestly. 

Using this inquiry approach 2-3 times per year will guarantee that you are covering all the scientific process standards and it will encourage your students to master those standards.  Furthermore, the other science content that I need to teach is covered in the background information section of the RIP process. Therefore, I can plan less and cover more standards.

Through the RIP, my students learned the inquiry process and enjoyed the hands-on activities at the same time.  What a bonus! I like this process so much I am trying to encourage our faculty to adopt it.  If kindergartners can do it, their students can too!

I was able to incorporate STEM through scientific inquiry into my instruction and address state and the National Science Education Standards all the while using the same favorite lesson I had used and enjoyed for years!

 

Based on student products and the pre-post assessments that I gave to the two classes discussed here, I am confident that my students really learned and were able to remember the concepts that I taught them through the use of the RIP guided inquiry. Equally important, my students developed an appreciation for learning through scientific inquiry and actually expressed that they enjoyed learning more this way than through books and discussions.

                                                                                    Student and Faculty Products

    

             

               Lori LoRusso presenting her class's guided

               inquiry to fellow faculty members    

      

      

      

       Lori LoRusso presenting her students' oil spill

       clean-up models to fellow faculty members    

 

 

 

 

         

                       The Drake--by Anonymous Student

         "The Drake puts a pipe in the oil then sucks it up. It keeps

          it in the boat. Then it takes the oil to the garbage truck."

 

                       

                  Presenting an oil clean-up model to

                  the class        

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