Scientific Literacy: Using QAR to help students learn about the Ontario Greenbelt

A scientifically literate person may be described as “one who is aware that science, mathematics, and technology are interdependent human enterprises with strengths and limitations; understands key concepts and principles of science; is familiar with the natural world and recognizes both its diversity and unity; and uses scientific knowledge and scientific ways of thinking for individual and social purposes” (Derek Hodson, “In Pursuit of Scientific Literacy” 1998. p. 2).

Hodson describes three different aspects of science education: learning science, learning about science, and doing science. The three different aspects of science education are discrete; however, they are clearly connected and provide a well-rounded science education. He goes on to explain that learning science teaches about science facts and knowledge; learning about science develops an understanding of the nature and methods of science and the interaction with science, technology and society; while, doing science engages and develops scientific inquiry and problem-solving.  All three aspects of science must play a role in science education because they allow different areas of a student’s scientific literacy to be developed.

So what does this mean for educators?  Well, not all of the students in my science classes will go on to pursue science related careers; however, they must all have critical thinking, inquiry, and problem solving skills in order to make well-informed decisions, both for themselves and for society as a whole.  I think that a great way to develop scientific literacy is to use realistic examples, scenarios, and case studies during science classes.  An example of this is the mining case I posted earlier:

The fictional town of Drew’s Falls, Ontario faced quite a dilemma: as a town based on a strong summer and winter tourism industry, townspeople needed to decide if they should mine a nearby copper deposit. The townspeople were split in their decision—some argued that the mine would create new jobs, improve the economy, and create a new industry to support the citizens. On the other hand, several residents discouraged the mine development as it would pollute the surrounding town, lake, forests and parks, endanger animals, and threaten the tourism industry. Before the town can reach a decision, several issues must be carefully considered to determine the consequences of both choices.

Another way to develop scientific literacy is to use real-life issues; for example, in 2005, legislation was passed to create a greenbelt around the Golden Horseshoe area of Ontario.  The purpose of this greenbelt is to prevent urban sprawl from decimating the natural green space (i.e. agricultural land, conservation parks, wetlands, forests, and watersheds) surrounding some major cities.  Since this is a critical issue in Southern Ontario, it is important that my students understand both the benefits and challenges of the greenbelt and how it will affect them.

I’ve provided a short text explaining the Ontario Greenbelt and a QAR student sheet to help you promote scientific literacy in your classroom (and it’s cross-curricular with Language Arts!).  Even if you do not live in Southern Ontario, you could discuss the relevance of a greenbelt with your students and determine whether a protected area like that would benefit your town, city, or province/state.

For further reading about scientific literacy, here’s a great article by Derek Hodson, a professor at OISE/UT: http://www.mun.ca/educ/faculty/mwatch/fall05/hodson.htm

Here’s the student text, worksheet, and teacher answer key! Just click the image below!

Ban the Bottle!

During these last few weeks before summer vacation, many of our students are chugging back on water in plastic bottles to stay hydrated…but do they understand the impact bottled water has on our environment?  Many schools and school boards are taking steps towards banning plastic water bottles and advocating the use of reusable water bottles that can be washed and refilled on a regular basis.  An excellent video to watch with your students is “The Story of Bottled Water.”  This lesson is a great way to incorporate media literacy into your science lessons (and vice versa!) and promote a healthy discussion with your students regarding the environmental implications of their daily actions.

Before watching the video, talk to your students about drinking water.  Some of the following guiding questions can be used:

  • Where do you get your drinking water from?
  • Do you drink tap water or bottled water?
  • Is tap water safe?
  • Is bottled water better for you than tap water?
  • Do you think that there is an environmental impact to bottled water use?

Here’s the worksheet that can be used while watching the movie! Just click the image below!

Patterning & Algebra Quiz

Here’s a quick quiz that can be used with grade 7 and 8 students who have been working on term number and term value.

The attachment includes both the student quiz and teacher answer key!  Just click the image below!

 

 

Using PEEL Responses as a Framework for Making Connections

The Ontario Language Arts curriculum document is divided into four strands—Oral Communication, Reading, Writing, and Media Literacy.  In both the Oral Communication and Reading strands, expectation 1.6 requires students to “extend understanding of texts by connecting, comparing, and contrasting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them.”   Being able to make a meaningful connection to the text is essential for reading comprehension and strategic reading; however, some students may have trouble actually getting their words down on paper.  In order to help my students produce a well-developed written response (one paragraph or multi-paragraph), I tried to find some strategy that they could use to help sort out their ideas and give them a framework to follow. I first found the PEEL strategy on www.tes.co.uk and it appears that this writing framework is very popular in the U.K.  After a small adjustment, I decided to try it out with my class and have achieved tremendous success with it.

So, what is PEEL? Well, PEEL is the acronym for POINT-EVIDENCE-EXPLANATION-LINK and works in the following way:

Point:  provide the opening statement for your argument…what point are you trying to prove?

Evidence:  provide evidence in the form of quotes from the text

Explanation:  explain the evidence you provided through purpose and context

Link: a statement that links back to the main point

When actually using PEEL with my students, the “L” became make a link by connecting to a personal experience, another text, or the world around you.  This worked really well with my students and helped them not only make deeper and more meaningful connections, but they were able to easily extend their written responses without much struggle!

Also, some of my students preferred to flip around the middle section and make it Point-Explanation-Evidence-Link because they wanted to first explain their argument and then provide evidence to back up their claims.  After reading both sets of responses, I tend to agree with them and like having the explanation first and then the evidence as proof.

I’m providing two worksheets to cover both formats (evidence-explanation and explanation-evidence).  Also some classroom posters!  Have fun!

 

PEEL posters

Science Resource: To Mine or Not to Mine…That is the Question!

The following case study is designed for grade 6-8 students who are learning about natural resources, the Earth’s crust, the human impact on our environment, land use, and industries.  Students will be deciding whether a copper deposit should be mined in a fictional town based on the information provided to them. I provided my students with a map of the town, a brief history of the town and its economy, and its present situation. Students were then provided with six characters that are affected by a possible mine and there are three “pro” characters and three “con” characters. Students have to read the information and determine whether they agree or disagree with the potential mine; once they have formed an opinion, they are to choose a character that matches their opinion and write a persuasive paper in that character’s voice. The main purpose of the report is to explore issues surrounding the use of natural resources and have students develop critical thinking skills. Students will also learn that the knowledge they gain in school plays an essential role in their everyday lives.

This is a cross-curricular activity that can be used for science, geography/social studies, and Language Arts.  Teachers can extend this activity one step further by holding a debate with students taking on the persona of various stakeholders.

Brief Teaching Notes:

Teachers should give students the case study and rubric at the same time; this way, students will understand what is expected of them and how their reports will be marked. Teachers must also explain to students that there is no right or wrong answer to describe what the residents of Drew’s Falls should decide but there are consequences to all choices. It must be clearly explained to students that they are able to choose any of the six characters and their report will be correct as long as they use information and logic to support their reasoning. I also gave my students some time to work on their reports during class, so that they could approach me with any questions they came across while organizing their ideas and writing their actual report. I suggest that teachers make sure that students understand the components of the assignment: the report must be written in the voice of one of the six characters, the report must be persuasive, students must express an opinion and use facts to support their thoughts, and various formats may be used (essay, letter, newspaper article etc).

Here are the student handout and rubric!  I hope your class enjoys it!

 

 

Checking Our Pulse!

Title:Checking our Pulse!

Subject/Grade: Phys.Ed/ Grade 5

Time Duration: Approx. 45-60 min.

Overview: Teaching students to understand the importance of checking our pulse regularly, beginning with knowing how to locate our pulse and how to check/record our pulse both before and after completing exercises.

Objectives:

Overall Expectations

By the end of Grade 5, students will:

· Identify the components of physical fitness and describe physical activities that improve these components

Physical Activity

– participate vigorously in all aspects of the program (e.g. gymnastic stations or fitness circuit)

Physical Fitness

– describe the components of physical fitness and relate each component to an appropriate physical activity (e.g. cardiorespiratory – skipping; muscle endurance-abdominal crunches; muscle strength- push-ups; flexibility-sit and reach);

– assess their progress in fitness – enhancing activities at regular intervals (e.g. weekly monitoring of their pulses before and after running or completing exercise circuits)

Materials/Equipment:

For each student: Other:

– jump rope – stop watches

– chart to record pulse/ pencil – warm-up task sheet- ‘Mission Possible’ (1 for each group)

– station numbers w/ corresponding exercise

Activities and Procedures:

Warm-up exercise: We will begin with a group warm-up activity called ‘Mission Possible’.

Lesson- Checking our Pulse: We will introduce a short lesson about locating our pulse and checking/recording our pulse both before and after completing exercises.

(http://www.wikihow.com/Check-Your-Pulse)

Follow-up Exercises: We will engage in 5 short follow-up exercises supporting our lesson about ‘checking our pulse’ both before and after completing exercises. Students will begin to recognize and understand the difference between our regular pulse and our pulse after engaging in physical activity.

Activities:

(1) Crunches (2) Jumping jacks (3) Push-ups (4) Skipping rope (5) Laps of the gym

Model/demonstrate each exercise; Check/record pulse before and after completing each exercise; walk once around the gym in between each exercise, and lay down for 1 minute, so to slow down our pulse for next exercise.

Cool-down: Join together at the rest station. Reflect on what we learned and share personal observations. This will give students an opportunity to get their pulses back to normal (can check it one last time to conclude, so to understand and notice the changes in our pulse at all levels).