Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Physical Science: Session 5

Causal Patterns in Density; Understandings of Consequence Project

Tina's class

Lesson at a Glance:
Curriculum: Understandings of Consequence Project, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Grade: Fifth
Topic: Causal Patterns in Density

Prior to this lesson, the students had been working with the Arlington science specialist Nadine Solomon and their teacher Nicole Scalzo in lessons on the nature of matter, states of matter, and what it means in terms of particles for something to be a solid, liquid, or gas.

In this lesson, by using brass and aluminum cylinders and controlling for two variables — mass and volume — Tina made the property of density more obvious to the students. She also began to address the causes for density differences in matter on the particle level, by asking the students to draw their own models for what they think the particles of the two materials would look like under what she called their “microscopic eyes.”

Tina commented, “One of the critical challenges in understanding density is that in addition to particle “crowdedness,” there's differences between atoms, in terms of their mass. Eventually, the lessons that we're doing today will lead into lessons on the nature of rising and sinking. What we'll be trying to get the students to understand at that point is that it's the relationship between the density of the object and the density of the liquid that accounts for whether it sinks or rises, not just the density of the object itself.”

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