Posts Tagged plants

STEM Tuesday– Celebrating Women’s History Month– In the Classroom

 

This STEM Tuesday, Jodi and Carolyn are teaming up and tackling it all–well, almost! Literacy, science practices and a cross-cutting concept, technology tie-ins, and gender and general equity in STEM. It goes to show you what a couple of great books can do to stimulate learning–our own and, we hope, your students! So let’s get going…

 

Literacy Connection: Writing Prompts!

It’s March, which means that it is Women’s History Month. In schools, March is also the time when teachers of all subjects are especially pressured to give writing assignments that will help prepare students for upcoming writing assessments. You can “celebrate”  both with Women in Science: 50 fearless pioneers who changed the world, by Rachel Ignotofsky.

 

This book contains an excellent collection of 1-page descriptions of female scientists’ lives and careers. Let’s look at how you can use them to quickly pull together writing prompts.

 

Rachel Ignotofsky’s opening pages (p. 6-7) provide an excellent introduction for the prompt:
Next, pivot to the actual prompt:

Finally, add in your question. Here are some suggestions you might consider, based on your area of science:

That’s all there is to it! Strong texts on an important subject, and writing practice for all.

 

STEM Connections: Patterns and Practices

The Girl Who Drew ButteSupport Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgrflies offers wonder-full opportunities to connect kids to NGSS disciplinary core ideas (e.g., heredity). But its value goes beyond DCIs. Together with carefully paired experiences, this inspirational book promises to stimulate learning in the areas of science practices and the cross-cutting concept of patterns.  It also suggests strong connections to technology and engineering, art, and fostering gender (and general) equity in STEM. Doesn’t that paint a powerful picture? (Just like Maria Merian!)

Bring Up “Baby” (Eggs, Instars, etc.) for Pattern Recognition

Of course, the focal points of Merian’s scientific studies–body forms and regular, predictable repetition of life cycles of insects, and these animals’ relationships to specific plants– offer key examples of patterns.

An obvious—and engaging–learning link: Nurture butterflies from eggs (or instars, AKA caterpillars)! Choose painted lady butterflies or monarchs.

Better yet…

Make a Menagerie of Metamorphosis!

Raise multiple species! For example, rear painted ladies, monarchs, and add in “brassica butterfly” eggs , various moths, and the  mealworms (which are neither butterflies nor moths).

 

Add Power and Punch with Plants

Echo Merian’s emphasis on ecological relationships by providing plants that your particular classroom specimens rely on.  For example, raise the “brassica butterfly” on the quick-growing Wisconsin FastPlants® variety of brassica, which allows students to examine a complete plant life cycle. Free lesson and activity guides  are available.  (The plants won high marks with teachers in one of my recent curriculum-based professional development programs.)

 

Outward Bound

For more info on tagging butterflies, visit Monarch Watch.

Are you fiscally and philosophically motivated to follow Maria Merian’s lead and head outdoors for your specimen? Missouri Botanical Garden offers user-friendly suggestions.

Exploring Patterns with Your Classroom Zoo (and a Garden, Too)

Observing the live specimens can foster awareness and understanding of patterns. Explicitly use the term while prompting students to reflect on their daily observations and data.


Exploring Patterns: Questions to Ask

 
  • For each individual species, what is the body pattern (the way the parts look and relate to each other, the basic template or form)? What differences, or variations, do we notice across individuals of the same species?
  • Investigate each species’ development, or life cycle, pattern: How many days do individuals spend in each phase of development? Is there a wide variation or a narrow range of time from one phase to another? (Can we tell without banding or marking individuals)?
  • Over each species’ life stages, what predictable relationships between the animal’s behavior and its stage do you see? Do these patterns make sense? What questions do they raise?
  • Across species: Compare and contrast the life cycle stages in different species. Are there any general patterns of development across species? What variations across different species do we see?
  • How do the animals’ and plants’ life cycles resemble and differ from each other?
  • What are the relationships between the species and the plants they rely on? Are their cycles synced in any way you can see?

Science Practices Make Perfect Connections!

You can foster development and understanding of science practices while interweaving The Girl Who Drew Butterflies and classroom studies of animals (and their plant hosts).

Practice 1: Asking Questions (for science)

While reading about Merian’s habit of hoarding insects for study, ask students to list the questions they think she had in mind; post them. (Although understanding the curiosity that drove her may be straightforward, articulating questions might be challenging.) Ask students which they think are most interesting.

Take students on a walkabout in a suitable outdoor space. Look for butterflies, moths, and other insects at various stages. (Remember to check out water insects if you can!) Begin preparations by encourage students to look with the eyes and questioning mind of Maria:

 

  • What questions do students have that relate to her curiosity? Which of these do students think they can investigate simply by going outside and carefully observing?
  • Plan to bring notebooks/sketch pads, trowels, rakes, nets, magnifying lenses, and small containers (such as salad dressing cups or baby food jars) to help unearth, collect for observation, and examine what students find.

Over time, as students get into a rhythm of recording data (including their observations), discuss their observations, questions, and any “wonderings” that are coming up for them. Keep a running list of questions on cards that you post.  Eventually, classify questions according to those that someone could/could not investigate by  running an experiment or planned observation. Consider trying some student-suggested investigations in your classroom, possibly guiding students to adapt and simplify questions as needed.

 

 

Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

This practice stems from and leads to the practice of asking questions. To deepen this connection, explicitly  involve students in identifying ways to collect and record data.

  • What will help us compare and contrast what they see across individual animals within a species, and across species?
  • As we try different approaches, what are the benefits and disadvantages of each?
  • What type of numerical data might be interesting and important to track? (Suggestions: numbers of individuals within a species population that survive to adult form, growth of individuals at, weight of food offered and consumed, numbers of certain features (spots, sensory organs, etc.).

 

  • Sketch the specimens but also keep notes of daily observations of change and constancy. Compare and contrast classroom records with information from other sources about other species.

  • Students might try making watercolor sketches the way Merian did!

 

  • Encourage students to think about the relationships of art, science, and technology in relation to this practice:

 

  • How does making sketches help you as a scientist?
  • How does being a scientist help you as an artist?
  • Maria made prints and books for sale. How did printing technology contribute to scientific knowledge and Maria’s ability to continue studying insects?

 

Add photography and videography to expand this opportunity for students to reflect on how technology helps us in scientific inquiry.

  • Compare and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of using pencil, watercolor, still photography, and video to document, enhance, and communicate observations.
    • What differences do we see among the drawings created by different individuals? How might such differences impact a scientific community?

 

Technology Tie-Ins: Use Insect Info to Solve Agricultural Problems

Two free lessons from the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association engage students in practical applications of understanding insects life cycles and ecological relationships. Bugs on the Bog is an Integrated Pest Management problem-solving activity. Students rely on knowledge of pest insect stages to manage a model cranberry bog. How Do You Bee? focuses on ecological relationships between pollinators and plants at different plant stages.

(Disclosure: My educational consulting firm developed the CCCGA lessons.)

 

 

Mind the (Gender, SES, Racial, etc.) Gap: All Students as Scientists

Maybe these ideas and resources will bring about a full-scale metamorphosis in any beliefs that threaten your students’ pursuit of STEM:

 

  • Prominently post pictures of students that provide evidence that they are already scientists. Have students take and/or caption the pictures.

 

  • Discuss the book’s claims and evidence that Merian’s culture constrained, but didn’t stop, her.
    • Today, what beliefs might hinder or help you and others thrive as scientists?

These materials might support student exploration of this question.

 

We–Jodi and Carolyn–have had our say about this week’s featured books and connections to the classroom. But we’re most interested in hearing from you.

  • Have you read the books?
  • …Used them to foster science learning and engagement on the part of learners?
  • Do you want to recommend any additional resources or share a great lesson idea?
  • Share your thoughts; leave a comment!

(And Happy Pi Day!)


Jodi Wheeler-Toppen is a former science teacher and the author of the Once Upon A Science Book series (NSTA Press) on integrating science, reading, and writing instruction.  She also writes for children, with her most recent book being Dog Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to do with Your Canine Companion. Visit https://OnceUponAScienceBook.com for more information on her books and staff development offerings.

 

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano is a STEM education consultant and provides curriculum development and professional development to schools and nonprofits as Blue Heron STEM Education, Inc., which she co-founded. Her books for kids include the popular A Black Hole is NOT a Hole (published in English, Korean, Chinese, and as an audiobook), and her recent Running on Sunshine: How Solar Energy Works. Find her in classrooms providing author visits, on Facebook –and in April 2019 at the National Science Teachers Association conference in St. Louis, where she will co-present on using authentic data in the classroom and participate–along with Jodi and several other STEM Tuesday contributors–in the Linking Literacy Event, which features conversations with authors.

 

STEM Tuesday — Let’s Explore Botany!– In the Classroom

STEM TUESDAY from the mixed up files

STEM TUESDAY: Let’s Explore Botany – In the Classroom

Note to all: This STEM Tuesday In the Classroom, we welcome Jodi Wheeler-Toppen as our newest blogger. As her “In the Classroom” collaborator, I think you’ll just love what Jodi has to offer. Author of STEM books for kids and educational books for teachers, this dynamo has lots to share. Welcome, Jodi!

                                                                     –Carolyn DeCristofano

Botanical Bellringers

I took a botany course in college. I planned to get it out of the way so I could move on to the more interesting parts of getting a biology major. Instead, I had an excellent professor who threw open the treasure chest of plant knowledge for me (and, incidentally, got me started on science writing). A maxim among children’s writers is “plant books don’t sell.” I want to change this to “Plant books don’t sell themselves.” With the right introduction, kids can be drawn into reading a book with cover-full of plants.

The books on this month’s list aren’t as likely to be used as a whole-class read, so I propose having them in the classroom library and using bellringers (warm-up questions/ do-nows/ or whatever you like to call the questions that teachers have students do as they enter the classroom) to engage students in the topics. After the bellringer, you can show students the book and encourage them to take a look at it later.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgBotanicum: This is a wonderful book for browsing and might draw artsy students into the topic. It illustrates the breadth of the plant world. This bellringer helps students think about the domestication of crops.

Display plants 1-5 on page 66. Ask: Make a prediction. How might plants 1 and 2 be related? How about plants 3, 4, and 5?

When you are ready to discuss the bellringer, display the first two paragraphs of text on the page, which describe the wild plant that was domesticated to become corn and the two plants that were crossed to create the wheat we eat today.

It's a Fungus Among Us: The Good, the Bad & the Downright ScaryIt’s a Fungus Among Us: Students will pick this one up because of the engaging photographs. It also has “test it out” experiments. I particularly liked one on p. 15 that gave students ideas for gathering data on whether lichen could serve as a compass. This bellringer works on visual literacy and plant/ fungi interactions.

Display the text and diagram for “Plant Partners” on p. 26. Ask: This diagram and text work together to give you information. What do you learn from the words that you don’t get from the picture? What information is in the picture that you don’t get from the words?

When you are ready to discuss, point out to students that pictures and text often have different information, and it is valuable in science to spend time with each. Never just skip over the diagrams! (Students often ignore diagrams and charts in their science books, and visual literacy is as important as text literacy in academic reading.)

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Story of Seeds: This is a book that students are less likely to pick up on their own, but it covers an important topic and could become an area of interest if students are exposed to the ideas. For this bellringer, collect some photos of interesting heritage vegetables. Seed Savers is a great source for these. You might consider Dragon Carrots, Old Timey Blue Collards, Watermelon Radish, and Calypso Beans.

Display the images. Ask: Try to identify each of these vegetables. Have you ever eaten anything similar?

When you are ready to discuss, talk about the value of heritage seeds. It’s not just fun to have different foods to eat, but it also helps us have a variety of genes to help breed plants for new environmental challenges. Encourage them to read The Story of Seeds to find out more.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgChampion: I recommend this one especially for students who live in the area where chestnut trees used to grow. Many students don’t know that plants can catch diseases, and this book can bring that idea home.

Display this photo. (It is also in the book.) Ask: Would you like to have a tree this big in the school yard? Why or why not? Where do you think this tree lives?

When you are ready to discuss, explain that the picture is of the American Chestnut. Ask students for their guesses of where it lives. Tell them you have a map of the range of the Chestnut tree and display the map on p. 16 (A similar map can be found here.) Have them find where you live on the map and imagine that 100 years ago, they could have gone outside and seen one of these trees. Point them to the book to find out about the disease that killed this tree, where survivors still exist, and the hunt for a way to bring the American chestnut back.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgBonus–Poison: You won’t have any trouble getting students to pick this one up to browse. It covers a wide variety of science (and history) topics. I recommend it particularly for physical science/chemistry, however, as a fun take on not-so-fun elements.

Display the “Tox Box” for Lead (p. 23), Radium (p. 126), Mercury (p. 15), or Arsenic (p. 13). Ask: Before the scientists could use chemistry to figure out if someone had been poisoned, people were often thought to have died of disease instead of poison. Read this description and propose some diseases or conditions that people might have gotten confused with this poison.

When you are ready to discuss, don’t tell them if they are right or wrong. Insist that they read the book to find out! And next time students ask when they are “ever going to use this stuff,” remind them that the ability to use chemistry to detect poisons is the reason that poisoning has fallen out of favor!

Do you have other bellringers you like to use when teaching plants? Tell us about them in the comments!


Jodi Wheeler-Toppen is a former science teacher and the author of the Once Upon A Science Book series (NSTA Press) on integrating science and reading instruction.  She also writes for children, with her most recent book being Dog Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to do with Your Canine Companion. She loves plants but seems to have a brown thumb.