Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Earth & Space Science: Session 4

Lesson and Curriculum

Owen-Parrish classroomLesson at a Glance:
Grade: Sixth
Topic: Plate Tectonics

For the lesson in the video, Ariel and Jeff had their students continue working on a two-week tectonic plate unit from the web-based, inquiry science environment WISE. The lesson began with the children at their computers answering broad questions about what they know about topics related to plate tectonics, such as mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes. After recording their thoughts and completing additional explorations into plate tectonics, the students used the computers to create models of plate interactions and also to record explanations of their models.

Ariel explained that at that point in the lesson her job was to have her students justify their models and explain their decisions to her. When the models were complete, the students in Ariel’s and Jeff’s classes exchanged their work and, as a class, critiqued the other class’s models and explanations. “When students are looking at peer models and evaluating them,” explained Ariel, “what they’re thinking is, ‘Is mine as good as theirs, or is theirs better?’ So they’re not just doing an evaluation. They’re also doing self-assessment.” The next step in the lesson was for the children to revise their models before they learned more about plate interactions.

Both Ariel and Jeff feel strongly about the efficacy of a computer-based inquiry environment for science education. “The difference between computer learning and a book is the interactive part,” explains Jeff. “It is really neat to be able to show them how to take the Earth and twist it so that you can see everything that’s going on inside that relates to events that are occurring on the surface… It’s a very visual way of presenting what happens on the planet, and why things occur and I wouldn ’t trade it for anything.”

"What’s On Your Plate?”, the activity depicted in the video, was developed by Concord Consortium as part of the “Making Thinking Visible” project, funded by the National Science Foundation under grant No. REC-9980600, Dr. Janice Gobert, Principal Investigator. WISE (“Web Integrated Science Environment”)  is funded by the National Science Foundation (REC- 0128062), Dr. Marcia Linn, Principal Investigator, UC-Berkeley. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.`

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