Introducing the Process of Investigative Science Using Worms

Author(s): Linda Akiyama

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Elementary School (K-5), Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5

Subjects(s):

Biology/Life Science

Topic:

Characteristics of living things

Big ideas(s):

A living thing can sense and respond to changes in its environment.

Science progresses by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations.

Scientists share their findings with other scientists to create a shared body of knowledge.

Vocabulary words:

Before lesson: damp, soil, basin, investigation, second hand on a clock
During lesson: testable question, prediction, procedure, data, conclusion,  environment, sense, respond

What you need:

Overhead projector, investigation plan sheet overhead(see attachment), copies of filled out investigation plan sheet overhead for each student, sentence strips with definitions of sense, respond and environment.

For every pair of students: Materials may differ depending on the experimental design that the class comes up with.

One option:one basin, a paper towel the length of the bottom of the basin, one dark colored construction paper to cover top of basin, water sprayer, one earthworm or night crawler,scissors, tape, measuring tool to measure amount of water.

Grouping:

Part 1 - Whole class when planning investgation.

Part 2 - Pairs when carrying out investigation, collecting data, and drawing conclusions.

Setting:

classroom

Time needed:

Part 1- 30 minutes

Part 2 - 40 minutes

Author Name(s): 
Linda Akiyama
Summary: 

Students are introduced to the process of investigative science through a guided inquiry activity. Given a testable question and materials, students as a class make predictions, and design an investigation with guidance from the teacher. Then in pairs, students do the investigation, collect data, draw conclusions, and discuss ways to improve on the investigative design.  After this activity, students will be able to develop independent investigations in this and other subject areas.

Students learn that a living thing can sense and respond to its environment.

Prerequisites for students: 

Students should be able to use a clock to know when a specific amount of time has passed.

A prerequisite to teaching this lesson is to teach the previous lessons in this unit.

Unit: What is Life and How Does a Living Thing Respond to Its Environment?  (http://www.seplessons.org/node/769)

Lessons in this unit are:

1) What Do Living Things Have in Common?

2) Living or Non-living?

3) Introducing Cells

4) Introducing the Process of Investigative Science (THIS LESSON)

5) Student Designed Investigations Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

6) Extension Activity - Draw an Alien in Its Natural Habitat

Learning goals/objectives for students: 

Investigation and experimentation

Students will be able to collect and use numerical data to describe and compare how worms respond when given a choice between dry or damp soil. Students will be able to predict the outcome of a simple investigation and compare the result with a prediction.

Life Sciences

Students know that one characteristic of all living things is their ability to sense and respond to their environment.

Getting ready: 

Buy worms or nightcrawlers from pet store or bait shop. Organize basins, copy investigation sheets for each student, make overhead of investigation sheet, get water sprayer and construction paper and paper or journal for students to write down observations and data.

Lesson Implementation / Outline

Introduction: 

Remind students that as a community of young scientists, they have been thinking and discussing a lot about what living things have in common. Tell the class that today they are going to look at something that most scientists agree is done by all living things. Write on the board: Most scientists agree that all living things sense and respond to their environments.

Introduce the word, "sense" - to recognize or detect something through using one's sense of sight, smell, taste, hearing, or feel. Next introduce the word, "environment" - anything outside of a living thing.

Have different students give an example of how he or she senses one thing in the environment. Ask students what parts of the body did they use to sense it. Ask what he or she did when the object was sensed. Introduce the term "respond"- how a living thing reacts after it senses something in it's environment.

Tell students that today they are going to work together to investigate how  one living thing, a worm, responds when it senses dampness and dryness in its environment.

Activity: 

Part 1 - Planning the investigation
1. Show experimental plan sheet on overhead.
2.  Introduce testable question: Scientists often start with a question that they want to answer by doing an experiment. Here is the question that I want to test.

How will a worm respond when given a choice of being on a damp or dry surface?

3. Ask students what they predict is the answer to the question.
4. Ask for their ideas on how we could do an experiment to find out the answer to the question. Discuss and come to consensus on the procedure and materials used and write this down in the appropriate place on the overhead.I would suggest that each group of students repeat the experiment at least 3 times. The investigation can be done in one session with short increments of recording. An example might be, "Check where the worms are at the end of 5 minutes, repeating 4 times." Or, it could be "Check every morning for four days." Students will fill out the rest of the plan on their own photocopied copy of the class experimental plan during Part 2 of the lesson.
5. Before next science session, make a photocopy of the filled out overhead for each student

BREAK

Part 2 - Doing the investigation
6.Hand out photocopies of filled out investigation plan overhead or display filled out investigation plan overhead.
7. Have pairs pick up materials.
8. Have all groups follow the whole group investigation plan for the given number of trials. Have students create a data sheet to record their results. Depending on the investigation, this may contain a title, column listing each trial and time each piece of data is collected (examples: every 5 minutes for 20 minutes, once a day)
9. Convene as a group to share out results and create a chart of all the gathered data.
10. See Wrap Up and Closure

Checking for student understanding: 

Use data sheets and last sections of experimental plan to assess student understanding.

Ask for their ideas on how we could do an experiment to find out the answer to the question. Discuss and come to consensus on the procedure and materials used and write this down in the appropriate place on the overhead.I would suggest that each group of students repeat the experiment at least 3 times. The investigation can be done in one session with short increments of recording. An example might be, "Check where the worms are at the end of 5 minutes, repeating 4 times." Or, it could be "Check every morning for four days." Students will fill out the rest of the plan on their own photocopied copy of the class experimental plan during Part 2 of the lesson.

Wrap-up / Closure: 

Sharing Data and Drawing Conclusions - Have student pairs share their conclusions (answer to the testable question) and give evidence that supports their conclusions.

Tell students that scientists are always looking for ways to refine investigations so that they  are confident that their data is reliable. Lead a discussion on ways that the class investigation can be improved so that we could be more confident that the way the worms behaved in our investigation is closer to the way it would behave in the natural world when given a choice of a damp or dry environment.

Some discussion points:
Do you think the worms had enough time to adjust to being in the new environment of the basin before we started recording where they were? Do you think it matters?
What did you think about the amount of time we waited before we checked their location? Was it enough?Too much? Why do you think that?
Did we do the investigation with a large enough number of worms?? Do you think all or most worms would behave in the same way as our worms did?
Do you think we would get more reliable data,that is, data that we could count on showing where worms prefer to be, if we did the investigation more or less times?

After the discussion students then fill out the last sections of the investigation sheet (summary of data, conclusions, what would you do to improve the experiment?) with their partner. This can also be done as a whole class.

Extensions and Reflections

Extensions and connections: 

I have students graph the data from the group data chart during math time. They will be asked later in the unit to show the data of their own investigations in graph or chart form for their science poster presentation.

Before moving on to Student Designed Investigations, I recommend teaching the lesson, Conducting Controlled Investigations: Example Using Sound, or a modified version appropriate for this unit.

AttachmentSize
Investigation Plan.doc25.5 KB
NGSS Topics
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
NGSS Performance Expectations
NGSS Performance Expectations: 
3-LS4-3
4-LS1-2
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: 

Standards - Grade 3

Life Sciences: 
3. Adaptations in physical structure or behavior may improve an organism's chance for survival. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know plants and animals have structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction.
d. Students know when the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations.
Investigation and Experimentation: 
5. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
a. Repeat observations to improve accuracy and know that the results of similar scientific investigations seldom turn out exactly the same because of differences in the things being investigated, methods being used, or uncertainty in the observation.
b. Differentiate evidence from opinion and know that scientists do not rely on claims or conclusions unless they are backed by observations that can be confirmed.
c. Use numerical data in describing and comparing objects, events, and measurements.
d. Predict the outcome of a simple investigation and compare the result with the prediction.
e. Collect data in an investigation and analyze those data to develop a logical conclusion.

Standards - Grade 4

Life Sciences: 
3. Living organisms depend on one another and on their environment for survival. As a basis for understanding this concept:
b. Students know that in any particular environment, some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Standards - Grade 5

Investigation and Experimentation: 
6. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
b. Develop a testable question.
c. Plan and conduct a simple investigation based on a student-developed question and write instructions others can follow to carry out the procedure.
e. Identify a single independent variable in a scientific investigation and explain how this variable can be used to collect information to answer a question about the results of the experiment.
g. Record data by using appropriate graphic representations (including charts, graphs, and labeled diagrams) and make inferences based on those data.
h. Draw conclusions from scientific evidence and indicate whether further information is needed to support a specific conclusion.