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Young Scientists At Work!

About this Daily Classroom Special
Young Scientists at Work was written by Michelle Serpenti, teacher at Trinity School of Communication Arts & Technology, New Rochelle, NY. 

Young Scientists At Work!

Physical Science, Mathematics, English and Spanish Language Arts

Second Grade Bilingual Students

Lesson 1: A Balancing Act

Lesson 2 :Getting Dizzy with Spinners

Lesson 3: Soup Can Olympics

Lesson 4: “Wheel” Roll Right Over You

In the following inquiry-based curriculum unit, my students and I will explore and discover the basic concepts of physical science focusing primarily on the different types of motion and properties of balance, in both English and Spanish. We will work cooperatively to learn about basic scientific theories and principles such as where to place a counterweight in order to create a stable position, and use our newly acquired skills and information to construct models that test our hypotheses. We will also apply the skills and vocabulary gained from this curriculum unit to other real-life situations and experiences, such as soup can Olympic games and assembly line wheel and axle construction.

The unit aims to develop higher order thinking skills in both languages using the inquiry based model of science instruction in order to teach concepts and processes needed for hands on experiments. Through various hands on experiments, the students will make predictions about how scientific principles work, build and construct models to test their hypotheses, observe and record their results and finally discuss and draw conclusions from their findings.

The Internet will enrich this curriculum unit in the following ways: An online quiz provided by another school’s congruent unit of study will provide the students with a way of testing their science knowledge, as well as motivate them to design their own questions that can later be placed on the class’s personal website. An online balancing game will allow students to estimate weights and create stable positions and Scholastic’s interactive website will allow students to take short quizzes, view animated cartoon movie clips/comic strips that reinforce the concepts of balance and simple machines. 

The Internet will also allow students to upload and email their digital photos.

This project is innovative because it successfully teaches physical science to young students (a topic usually omitted in the primary classroom) through a hands-on inquiry based model of instruction that develops student’s higher order thinking skills. It teaches students to predict, observe, analyze, measure and compare while gaining valuable vocabulary. Students become active participants in the learning process as they construct meaningful models and experiment with different materials. Since the unit is conducted in both the student’s native and second languages, they are given an opportunity to fully comprehend the content material and then transfer the concepts and skills into English as they practice and improve their oral language development. Lastly, the project utilizes a variety of different technologies such as digital cameras and children’s publishing programs in order to weave together scientific content area material and language arts.

This engaging unit of study successfully contributes to student learning because it capitalizes on the children’s innate interest and curiosity as a catalyst for cooperative learning and creative/content area writing in journals and on the computer. For students who are normally frustrated with visual/auditory instruction and exhibit more mechanical, kinesthetic learning styles, this unit allows them to be successful members of the classroom community, thus raising their self-esteem. Teachers would want to adapt this unit for their classes because it effectively integrates science in to the primary classroom curriculum, encourages oral/written communication skills across the content areas and interconnects science, math, language arts and technology.

Daily teacher observations with anecdotal notes and brief checklists can assess students’ attitudes about science, vocabulary development, cooperative learning behaviors and problem solving skills. Creative and content area writing from student journals and teacher made extension activities can also provide valuable information about student learning. In addition, online games and quizzes can be used to evaluate concepts and skills.

New York State Learning Standards Addressed:
MST Standard 1: Analysis, Inquiry and Design-The students will use scientific inquiry and engineer designs to develop solutions in a real life setting.
MST Standard 2: Information Systems- The students will use appropriate technologies to access and communicate information about physical science.
MST Standard 3: Mathematics-The students will observe, measure and record their observations in a graph and draw reasonable conclusions from their charts.
ELA Standard 1: Read, write, listen and speak for information and understanding-The students will use effective English communication skills to discuss ideas and apply concepts.
ELA Standard 2: Read, write, listen and speak for literary response and expression-The students will listen and respond to a variety of science texts in order to write creative and factual stories about their experiments.
ELA Standard 4: Read, write, listen and speak for social interaction-The students will work cooperatively to share ideas and enrich their understandings of the concepts taught.
Languages Other Than English Standard 1: Use a language other than English for effective communication-The students will use their oral and written native language (Spanish) skills in order to initially learn concepts and skills as well as discuss their opinions in a small group.

Unit Enrichment: 
In order to tie into our social studies unit on famous women, students can research and present the accomplishments and contributions of famous female scientists through writing, artwork and 3-D projects.


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