#ModBio Workshop Day 2

Our tentative plan for the day was:

  1. Discuss HW
  2. Reach a consensus on the definition of a model
  3. An activity called Playing the Game of Science
  4. Isopod Investigation
  5. Lunch
  6. Seeds
  7. Goldfish

As pairs, we shared our definitions of a model after reflecting the night before.  The first group shared out their definition.  As each subsequent group shared, we revised the definition.  Eventually we came up with:

 A model is a revisable understanding about concepts and their relationships      that can be used to explore, predict, or explain and develop new ideas about the natural world.

This definition was considerably more wordy than my own, but it was a thoughtful process to continuously revise our definition.

Next we discussed a post by Rhett Allain were he argued (potentially tongue in cheek) that science should do away with the 3 terms hypothesis, theory, and law because they are generally misunderstood by the general public and this can cause problems in the classroom.  He argued for replacing all three of these terms with one term to replace them all – model.  Intellectually, this makes sense to me; practically I think it may be difficult to leave behind the term hypothesis from my course.  We had some very productive intellectual banter, but we did not reach a consensus about this article.

We then Played the Game of Science.  In this activity pairs were provided a game board and a series of moves by both players and who won the game.  It was our task to use this information to determine the objective and the rules of the game.  There were three different games; Delta, Gamma, and Psi.  Each pair started with one game.  One pair was able to determine the objective and rules for two games.  This provided an opportunity to see two white boards for each game that allowed for good conversations.  The trainer asked, “What do these games have in common?” and a discussion ensued about prior knowledge of other games, determining how to win, ideas tried and revised, starting over when errors were made, some groups played their own game after determining the rules, and finally we shared, communicated and collaborated during the white board session.  Our trainer then asked, “What does this remind us off?”, and we immediately concluded the process of doing science.  We were then asked to reflect on how this activity Playing the Game of Science relates to the process of experimentation.

The understandings we developed about the games were based on observation.  We briefly discussed two questions: 1. “What does it mean to make an observation?” and 2. “Is there a way to get information other than observation?”.  This segued into our Isopod Investigation.

Our Isopod Investigation was introduced by Angela as a story about finding these organisms at a school campus.  We were asked to observe the organisms and describe them in words, draw and label a diagram, research about them, and develop some questions that we might investigate.

After breaking for lunch we discussed the possible questions as a whole group.  If you’ve done an isopod lab before the familiar -light vs. dark, dry vs. wet, acid vs. base, and warm vs. cold.  We designed our experiments, collected and analyzed our data and had a white board session.  This was followed by a discussion about how at this point in the year with our students (first week or so) the white boards may not look like the ones we produced.

My Reflections:

  1. Playing the Game of Science was an incredible way to get the students to think about how the process of science works.  At two points during the game, Angela asked participants to help another group that was struggling.  She asked us to ask questions and then give ONE hint to help the group.  It is difficult to ask the right questions to find out were a group is struggling so that you can give them the “correct” hint (one that helps, but not too much).
  2. The point of the isopod investigation was to have a simple experiment for the students to develop a question, testable prediction, design an experiment, collect data and construct a graph.  This had me thinking about what I would like to see on my students’ white boards after this experience.  I’m thinking:
    1. Question
    2. Hypothesis
    3. Annotated diagram of experimental design
    4. Data Table
    5. Graph
    6. Conclusion
  3. As a group I think we are still struggling with being in student-mode, we seem to “break character” and end up asking questions and discussing ideas that may be best saved for teacher-mode time.



About ryanwoodside

I help students learn science. I teach at Mt. Ararat High School in Mid-Coast Maine.
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