As I reflect on the school year, I believe it was helpful to have a unifying theme for all of my 6th grade science units this year. “Where does the water go?” was applicable to each unit and helped students make connections between units. For example, students were surprised that the earth is a closed system and that materials just continue to cycle through the system, that the amount of water on earth stays the same, it just moves around from place. Also, the fact that the water on earth now is the same water that was here billions of years ago was staggering to them (and to their teacher!)
I asked students in my focus group to share some of their favorite topics or activities that we did this the school year. The hands-on water labs, creating PSAs and posters, and the trip to the water reclamation plant were among their favorites.
I liked having an essential question that was large enough to encompass all of our science units, but I still feel that I am the one driving the curriculum and oftentimes pulling the students along with my ideas and my vision. I am looking for ways to better engage students in the content we are studying. I observed that the students were most engaged when they worked together on creative, collaborative projects such as “create a PSA or poster about where the water goes after it rains in Chicago.” As I plan for next school year, I would like to include more project-based learning that is driven by student interest. This can be a challenge in a standards-based, high-stakes testing environment. Often when I take time for rich, collaborative and longer-term projects, I worry that I may not be able to cover all of the curriculum and standards that are expected. I will continue to work on balancing this tension.
Imagine IT Spring Update, March 2017
In my 6th grade Earth Science class, we are beginning to talk about the water cycle and all of the places that water goes on earth. I will introduce the word hydrosphere as all of the water on the earth's surface including water in the air. Students have a hard time believing that the earth and its atmosphere is a closed system. Last week, I conducted teacher led demonstrations of condensation and evaporation. Next week students will travel through the water cycle, visiting oceans, clouds, lakes, glaciers, etc. After this activity, students will write narratives of their travels through the water cycle. For the format, they can choose to write a narrative story or create a comic strip.
Where Does the Water Go? Spring Semester 2017
Looking back on fall implementation, I would change a couple of aspects of my project. First, I would wait to take the Water Reclamation Field trip until close to the end of the school year so that the 6th graders would have more earth science content learning behind them. I believe this could lead to a deeper understanding of the content and process presented at the water reclamation tour. Next year I will plan the field trip for the Spring. Second, as I plan our second PSA project in conjunction with our Weather and Atmosphere unit, I will be more specific with the students about what is required in the final project and provide examples of effective PSAs related to water. These requirements will be presented in a rubric the students will receive before they start the project. Requirements could include use of 5 new vocabulary words (hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere, condensation, evaporation water cycle), clear connection to weather and atmosphere unit, connections to real-world water issues, etc. This quarter my students will complete a water usage log for two weeks in order to get a sense of the amount of water they use on a daily basis. We will then compile the data for the entire 6th grade class. Additionally, as part of “Where Does the Water Go?” I will enrich a couple of water cycle lessons in our earth science curriculum to include a creative project where students will write a narrative or create a comic strip illustrating the travels of a water droplet through the water cycle. Finally, in our final science unit of the year, Exploring Space, I will look for connections to water and the search for water on other planets.