Lesson 4 – Planning Cohesive Experiments

Description: When teaching the topics of ocean acidification, climate change, ecosystems, and sustainability, helping students model the collaborative nature of science is an important endeavor.  When tackling “big problems” scientists from different disciplines directly communicate and divvy up research into projects that best use available resources and lead to more comprehensive understanding.  The goal of this lesson is to guide student groups as they plan their experiment and ultimately develop a class-wide, cohesive set of experiments that work together to answer the big question and their group’s individual sub-question.

Objectives

Course:  Life Science, Integrated Science, STEM, BioChem, Marine Science

Unit:  Ocean Acidification, Ecology, Biogeochemical Cycling

See Standards Addressed for all NGSS, WA State (Science, Math and Literacy), and NOAA Ocean Literacy Education Standards Connections.  In addition to the aligned objectives linked above, for this lesson, here is a breakdown of:

What Students Learn
  • Systems scientists work together (collaborate) to build off of each other’s experiments to achieve enough data and experimental evidence to understand complex relationships.
  • Preparing and planning for experimentation is required for successful implementation of research.
  • Experimental ideas often come from the needs and passions of humans.
  • Systems thinking is a useful technique for understanding complex situations.
  • Systems thinkers use systems diagrams as tools of their trade.
  • There are many types of systems; these can be represented in many ways and have many different properties and forms, such as being in equilibrium, containing balancing loops, reinforcing loops, etc.
What Students Do
  • Students collaborate to design experiments.
  • Students refine and narrow a question based on a large, big picture question.
  • Students build their hypotheses, make predictions, design how they will measure outcomes, list needed equipment/materials, and complete procedural flow charts and protocols.

Instructions

Introduction:  When teaching the topics of ocean acidification, climate change, ecosystems, and sustainability, helping students model the collaborative nature of science is an important endeavor.  When tackling “big problems” scientists from different disciplines directly communicate and divvy up research into projects that best use available resources and lead to more comprehensive understanding.  The goal of this lesson is to guide student groups as they plan their experiment and ultimately develop a class-wide, cohesive set of experiments that work together to answer the big question and their group’s individual sub-question.

Main question for upcoming set of labs:  What effect does the increasing atmospheric CO2 have on the ocean and its subsystems?

Advanced Prep

  • Review the Teacher’s Guide to Student Experiments document (Google Doc | Word Doc) in order to familiarize yourself with the many possible experimental ideas that will emerge during this lesson.
  • Prior to this lesson, make sure your students understand:
  • Set up each class’s interest groups – Tally the student requests you received at the end of Lesson 3 to decide on appropriate lab interest groups.  We recommend you have 2-4 students in each group.  All experiments will collaboratively work together to give insight into ocean acidification and will model real science.  Here is a schematic that breaks down the different possible interest groups:

Lesson Specifics

– Have students write down the main question in their notebook:  What effect does the increasing atmospheric CO2 have on the ocean and its subsystems?

– Lead a discussion first as a class that allows students to brainstorm how they can contribute by experimenting in your lab to this research question.  You can also use a Think-Pair-Share here as an option.  Questions to get them talking and thinking:

–What could you measure in the lab, what outcome will you be hoping to observe or measure, what have you measured in previous labs, how will you know what you know?  (Possible student answers:  pH, amount of CO2, source of CO2, nutrient levels, rate of shell dissolution, mass, temperature, salinity, population count, optical density with spectrophotometers or fluorometer)

– What evidence could help you advocate for your interest group?

– What is your subsystem?  Remind students that their subsystem should be pertinent to their interest group.

– What systems component are you bringing into your experiment?  For systems science we need a great deal of data and a variety of data.  How are you working toward achieving both the large amount of data and variety?  Also, we generally use multiple stressors in systems experiments.  This means that instead of changing only one variable and keeping everything else constant, we allow for multiple variables. This mimics what occurs more naturally in nature.  For instance, if you change the amount of light, temperature often changes with it.  Instead of allowing one to change and unnaturally holding the other constant, we allow them to change as they may together. The way this is accomplished is through experimental design – ensure the data you gather allows you to trace back to what caused the outcome observed.

– You can leave Slide 12 on the board to help remind students what needs to be completed as they prepare for their experiment.  Also, having students follow this experimental plan procedure tends to lead to successful implementation of these types of labs in the classroom:

Experimental Plan

  • Refine your question – work off of the main question to narrow it and make it your own.  Make it interesting and applicable to your interest group.
  • Develop your hypothesis.  In addition to using “if…then…because…” you should focus on your prediction and the measures that will tell you if your hypothesis is supported or not.
  • Develop a procedure draft.  Include a flow chart mapping out the steps you will take.
  • List all materials you will need, complete with size and amount.

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Assessment

How will I know they know?

  • Completed Lab Planning Tasks:
    • Were students able to
      • participate in the discussion?
      • collaborate in their groups to define their subquestion?
      • develop their hypothesis and predictions?
      • list what they will measure and what it would tell them?
      • list what materials they will need (complete with sizes and amounts)?
      • develop their procedural draft (including a flow chart)?
      • (as needed) refine their experimental idea based on others’ ideas?
      • hand in their final plan?
  • Mini-Surveys:  As part of our effort to ensure quality STEM learning experiences, we invite you to participate in short, but informative surveys. You can complete one, all or any variation between. Here is a downloadable Teacher Overview to guide you through all surveys.
    • A mini-survey is a short survey (1-3 minutes) that students and teachers will use several times over the course of the module. The questions are identical each time, so the same link can be used each time.
    • Student Mini-survey link (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OA_StudentSurvey). Please provide 2-4 minutes for students to complete the mini-survey while in class. It should take most students one minute or so, especially after the first survey or two (because the questions remain the same).
      • When prompting students to take this survey at this timepoint (#3), please remind students that this survey covers information taught over the last two lessons.  Here is an example prompt for students: Take this mini-survey while thinking of the lessons we completed on [Friday and Monday] that allowed you to:
        • plan with your interest group
        • develop your experimental question, hypothesis and procedure

        (Please remove and replace any necessary text above that helps your students think of what they have completed as part of this module.)

    • Please complete the teacher survey while students are taking the mini-survey, or at the end of the day. Please take it on the same day the students take theirs (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/OA_TeacherSurvey).
  • Here is the entire Survey Teacher Guide that you can use when implementing these surveys.  Thank you!

Resources

  • Teacher Resource – Teacher’s Guide to Student Experiments (Google Doc | Word Doc)
  • Teacher Resource – Planning Cohesive Experiments PowerPoint Presentation (Google Slide | PowerPoint)
  • Teacher Resource – Image of Brainstorming on Possible Student Experiments (JPG)
  • Teacher Resource – Tracking of Student Group Experiments (Google Doc | Word Doc)
  • Teacher Resource – Project 2061’s Questions to Ask about Systems (PDF)

Accommodations

Depending on your students, they may need a worksheet to help them track their experimental planning and/or their discussion participation. One can be created by copying the text from the PowerPoint slides to create a more guided experience.

Extension

Scientists who are studying ocean acidification are generally very passionate about their research and more than willing to discuss their work with interested teachers and students. Through field testing, we learned that students love having a guest speaker Skype into the classroom. We suggest searching online to find scientists that study ocean acidification. Teachers or students can find and suggest someone to the class. Emails can be sent directly to that scientist giving a description of who you are and what you are interested in learning about. People are happy to spend 20 minutes talking to students about their work. You can contact us to talk to a scientist or reach out to the many other labs that work on ocean acidification. Here are just a few suggested groups who work on ocean acidification to get your search started:  NOAA, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Hawaii C-MORE, Stillman lab at Berkeley, University of Washington, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, etc.

References

Many teachers and scientists participated in the creation of these lessons and content. Please view the list of credits for this work. For this lesson, these additional references are specifically noteworthy:

1.  Keeley, P., Tugel, J. (2009). Uncovering student ideas in science: 25 new formatvie assessment probes (Vol. 4). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.

2.  See the Waters Foundation website for may systems thinking resources:  http://www.watersfoundation.org

3.  Photo of Brainstorming Wall submitted by Jennifer Duncan-Taylor of Port Angeles High School in WA.