Some Reflection

Thinking about freshman: They (90% anyway) do really well when I don’t give them much direction.  When they are choosing activities to do in order to learn material, and they have a little time flexibility, great things seem to happen!

For the last two weeks we have been learning about the solar system.  I planned this unit to be in my modified form of Kathie Nunley’s Layered Curriculum.  Last week the students were to complete the “C-Layer” portion of the unit.  They had to complete a certain amount of activities in order to receive points and prove that they had learned the basics about the topic.  They could choose from a variety things:

  • take Mrs. Fries’s notes
  • read a chapter and create your own notes
  • make lotus notes
  • complete a worksheet
  • create a crossword puzzle
  • complete someone else’s crossword puzzle
  • write a one page paper about one of the planets or dwarf planets
  • write a page about why pluto is no longer a planet, from pluto’s view point.
  • Watch the video about the solar system
  • create a Venn diagram for the inner and outer planets
  • create a Venn diagram for comets, meteors, and asteroids
  • create solar system trading cards
  • add to the earth science wiki page
  • write a children’s story to teach about the solar system.

Some students added their own ideas, as long as I Okay’d them, based on if I thought they would learn some basic knowledge.

This week we have been focusing on the size of the solar system and the comparative sizes of the objects in the solar system.  Tuesday and Wednesday were spent doing the CPO Science investigation: How big is the solar system?  They were given information on how to use proportions to find the distances the planets would be from the sun on a 100m scale.  They then had to calculate the distance of each planet from the base that pluto is 100m away from the sun.

The students also had to use a proportion to calculate the sizes of the planets and sun given that the earth would be the size of a 30cm globe.  They and I then came up with various objects to represent the sun and each planet.  We went outside and modeled this scaled model of the solar system.

After class on Wednesday, I didnt feel that they had a great grasp of the activity.  I was pretty sure that most of them didnt know why they were punching so many numbers into the calculator.  They were not connecting that we were finding the proportionate sizes and distances of objects in the solar system.  Most of the students were complaining about using math in science class!!

Thursday I gave the students their B-layer choices to complete.  One of the choices was for them to come up with their own scale of the solar system and figure out how to calculate each proportion: distance and size of objects.  Another choice was to create a new game that would teach the solar system.  The third choice was to write about a trip through the solar system.  This was to be very accurate of the objects and problems they would encounter.

I was happy to find that a lot of students made their own scaled models of the solar system.  When they didnt have much guidance on how to do this (unlike with the CPO investigation) they started to realize what each calculation they were making meant.  They then understood how big the sun really is, how small each planet really is, and how far away the outer planets are compared to Earth.

Some groups made their model out of clay or styrofoam balls set on the table at specific distances.  One group found larger objects to take outside to represent the model.  All groups were saying “wow, i never realized how big the sun was!” or “pluto is so small; it’s just a speck!”

It was really fun for me to listen to their conversations about the numbers they were calculating and how they were going to represent these objects.  I saw some real learning happening, and some motivated students.   I am feeling refreshed!

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