Day One Lesson Plan Observation Skills
September 20, 2016
Observation is the bedrock of scientific investigation.
As I have said before, the world is messy and, unfortunately, we do NOT like messy. The question becomes: Who gets to decide how the mess gets cleaned up? Historically, it has been a small group of self-appointed investigative reporters who have spent years thinking and writing about just this topic. Today, however, each of us has the ability to get involved in the process and make our contribution.
The following exercise is a simple way for students in ANY classroom to stand shoulder to shoulder with these thinkers of the past.
The Student will be able to create a classification system based on their observations of naturally occurring objects.
- yogurt, cream cheese or any lidded container
- a pile of multicolored Bingo Chips
- Work Sheet
- Hand out three cups per group of students (I usually like groups of four, one more than the number of cups so that the cups belong to the group and are not claimed by individuals).
- Give them a random handful of Bingo Chips.
- There are more colors than cups. Have them decide, as a group, how they plan to sort the chips. Have them sort the chips by color, count the number of chips per cup and record their totals and reasoning for their classifications on the worksheet.
- Have the Groups report their findings.
- Once complete, have them combine their resources with another group.
- Now there are six cups, but still more shades of chips than cups.
- Repeat the Sorting, Counting, Recording, Reasoning and Reporting.
- This is where the magic happens. The students will want to continue to collaborate in order to have access to the number of cups necessary to sort the colors precisely. They may also want to start sorting by “family” of colors. It is at this point that the thinking has begun. Trust it, tap into it and let it take on a life of its own in open class discussion.
All the Naturalists, Astronomers and Mathematicians of the past were faced with the same dilemma that this exercise presents. Once one starts to set some rules, there arise birds, stars and numbers that don’t fit those rules. Theories have to change with the data. New categories have to be created to fit the wide, wild wonderful world.
THAT is the HEART of science.
Obviously any grouping of objects is right for this exercise. I chose the Bingo Chips because they are pleasingly tactile, but more importantly, the colors are easily distinguished and visually stimulating for students.
The Periodic Table: Elements with Style (2007) Simon Basher, Adrian Dingle. Kingfisher, New York
The Basher Series is a Classroom Staple. Nothing says Observation, leading to Organization, like the Periodic Table.
Classification Work Sheet