Let’s Investigate!

Let’s Investigate!


Submitted by: Anne Bohnet-Stuart
Collaborators: Julia Brown
School: J.R. Tucker High School

Summary

Students will be randomly selected to work with a team to select a topic, research the topic, form a hypothesis, design a controlled experiment, conduct the experiment, collect and analyze data, and form a conclusion. As the students arrive to class, each will draw a number, which will determine their team. After the students have been placed with their team, the teacher will announce to the class that they will be conducting a scientific investigation on common pillbugs (Armadillidium vulgare), a common terrestrial isopod. The teacher will provide the pillbugs and a variety of equipment for the students. This equipment is a mixture of standard science equipment, along with Vernier Labquests and a variety of Vernier probes. Students, after observations are made, must decide on a problem/question that the team can solve. Students then conduct research, using the laptop or selected books, and form a hypothesis. Students will develop a procedure which must be approved by the instructor. Once approved, the students conduct the experiment and collect the data. A formal lab write-up, completed in Microsoft Word is due the following class period, which must include all steps of the investigation, a data table, a graph, and all citations. This project and assessment will serve as a “spring-board” to encourage students to choose a larger, community-based project which will be entered into the Metro Richmond Science Fair and/or the Virginia Junior Academy of Sciences.

TIPC Ratings

IDEAL/TARGET – The teacher creates a structure for the students to follow. This form is clear and allows the students to know EXACTLY what the teacher expects.

This lesson also provides the students with varied research opportunities. Students collaboratively researched a research topic, using the library, school and county resources. All research collected was cited.

A variety of scientific equipment and digital equipment is provided and used by the students to conduct their investigation. Some of these tools included the Vernier Labquests and probes (these devices can read and record data for carbon dioxide and oxygen emissions, pH, temperature, heart rate, etc..), dissecting microscopes, digital graphing devices, beakers, graduated cylinders, etc… (See the resources section for an entire list of items available for student use.) All of this equipment is available, but the students have to choose the appropriate digital tools and equipment to collect the data and evaluate the information.

The teacher then uses a rubric to assess the final product, which is a written lab report. The students must also work collaboratively to form a scientific investigation procedure. The information that they acquire is used to formulate additional questions for Metro Richmond Science Fair, which will accomplish real-world tasks relating to the community. For example, one hypothesis included, “Pillbugs prefer a moist environment over a dry environment”. Students create a habitat and observe the pillbugs behavior, monitoring and collecting data. After the data table is complete, the students use excel to graph or they choose a graphing website to organize their data. From this, questions such as, “Are pillbugs involved in composting?” and “Are they beneficial for the environment?” are answered. The result of this included a student completing his science fair project on composting. He completed his project, wrote a 7 page paper and plans to attend the Metro Richmond Science Fair, where he will defend his paper and results.

DEVELOPING – A very diverse group of students were randomly selected to work with a team to select a topic, research the topic, form a hypothesis, design a controlled experiment, conduct the experiment, and collect the data. My classes are extremely diverse with students who are first generation students from India, Russia, China, Africa, and South America. As the students arrived to class, each drew a number to determine their team. The students knew in advance that they would be conducting a controlled experiment, but they did not know the topic or their team members. After the students were placed with their team, the teacher announces the topic. The topic is on common pillbugs (Armadillidium vulgare), a common terrestrial isopod. The teacher provides the pillbugs and a variety of equipment for the students. Students, after observations are made, must decide on a problem/question that the team can solve. Students then conduct research, using the laptop or selected books, and form a hypothesis. Students will develop a procedure which must be approved by the instructor. Once approved, the students conduct the experiment and collect the data. A formal lab write-up, completed in Microsoft Word is due the following class period, which must include all steps of the investigation, a data table, a graph, and all citations. Students will be required to reflect not only the project but also reflect on the group work that was done.

While groups of students work together, the teacher monitors and guides students, assisting students where necessary. Students also work closely to determine their project and then students must write the paper, communicating in a formal scientific manner. When students participate in the Metro Richmond Science Fair and the Virginia Junior Academy of Sciences, they will be communicating their project and project results to other students throughout the Metro Richmond area. The student will also have to defend their paper while speaking to judges at the science fair. The judges normally include engineers, college professors, scientists, etc…

IDEAL/TARGET – Students must choose from multiple resources to plan, design, and execute how to solve a problem. As they form a conclusion on one investigation, they must formulate new, open-ended questions, and design a new experiment for the Metro Richmond Science Fair or the Virginia Junior Academy of Sciences.

The team of students must not only choose a hypothesis but design a controlled experiment that is “scientifically sound”. For example, one group of students chose the hypothesis, “If the temperature increases, pillbug respiration will increase”. Their experimental design included placing a group of pillbugs in the “bio-chamber” in room temperature. They then monitored the carbon dioxide emissions. Students then increased the temperature and monitored the carbon dioxide rates again. What a great hypothesis for a group of 13 and 14 year olds to come up with! Not only that, but they designed an appropriate procedure to collect valid data, organize the data, and display these data. Could this be applied to the world outside of the biology classroom? As students started thinking of ideas for the science fair project, questions were posed such as, “do you think if a lake temperature increases too much that the fish will die?” “Does temperature affect the respiration rates of humans?” Questions such as this resulted in one science fair project where students are testing the water quality of the James River and another student is measuring respiration rates of humans. Other hypothesis included, “Pillbugs prefer a moist environment over a dry environment”. Students created a habitat and observed the pillbugs behavior, monitoring and collecting data. After the data table was completed, the students chose a graphing website to organize their data. From this, questions such as, “are pillbugs involved in composting?” and “are they beneficial for the environment?” The result of this included a student completing his science fair project on composting. Other students worked with mentors at VCU or engineering companies to complete their projects.

These students used multiple resources to plan, design and investigate real-world and community based problems. They chose the appropriate technology in a collaborative environment, and developed new open-ended questions to start another scientific investigation!


APPROACHING -I was amazed at the originality and innovation of the students. For example, one group of students chose the hypothesis, “If the temperature increases, pillbug respiration will increase”. Their experimental design included placing a group of pillbugs in the “bio-chamber” (part of the digital equipment provided) in room temperature. They then monitored the carbon dioxide emissions. Students then increased the temperature and monitored the carbon dioxide rates again. What a great hypothesis for a group of 13 and 14 year olds to come up with! Not only that, but they designed an appropriate procedure to collect valid data, organize the data, and display these data. Could this be applied to the world outside of the biology classroom? As students started thinking of ideas for the science fair project, questions were posed such as, “do you think if a lake temperature increases too much that the fish will die?” “Does temperature affect the respiration rates of human?” Questions such as this resulted in one science fair project where students are testing the water quality of the James River and another student is measuring respiration rates of humans. Other hypothesis included, “Pillbugs prefer a moist environment over a dry environment”. Students created a habitat and observed the pillbugs behavior, monitoring and collecting data. After the data table was completed, the students chose a graphing website to organize their data. From this, questions such as, “are pillbugs involved in composting?” and “are they beneficial for the environment?” The result of this included a student completing his science fair project on composting.

The students applied their critical thinking skills, their research skills, and communication tools to create a project and then expand on that project. The students, by participating in the Metro Richmond Science Fair and the Virginia Junior Academy of Sciences, will find themselves working with other students or collaborating with medical professionals or engineers to create an original work.

Student Artifact

Download Files

Contents:

  • Lesson Plan
  • Creating a Chart in Excel 2007
  • Pillbug Lab Writeup
  • Science Fair Final Project
  • Student Picture 1
  • Student Picture 2

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Quick Links

Faceted Search (click arrows to expand)