Sunday, October 1, 2017

Scientific Modeling

I didn't really understand what a scientific model was, or its importance, until I started diving into NGSS a few years ago. Each year since, I've continued to try to refine and improve how I teach and assess this practice with my students. Currently, I assess their ability to create a scientific model and their ability to evaluate a preexisting scientific model.

This week, I started with my Honors Biology students on the "designing a scientific model" journey. We began by discussing a model they were already familiar with - the Rutherford atomic model - and sharing thoughts about what that model explains to us about atoms. Luckily, one of the students piped up and reminded the class the Rutherford model is no longer considered "correct," which led us right into a discussion about how as scientific explanations change, models will also change.

Last week, the students collected data on heart rate associated with various cardiovascular activities. Although they had already completed a scientific argument based on the data, next I wanted them to design a model to show their explanation of the data. We worked together as a class to create a model for the results of one of the independent variables, and then they practiced making a model for a different independent variable on their own. Finally they self-assessed their model based on this rubric:

This rubric is a screenshot from Schoology. It's definitely a work in-progress. If you have any feedback, I'd love to hear it!
Now it was time for them to try to create a model with new data on their own. In order to continue down the path of our guiding essential question, the students completed an investigation into muscle fatigue, which involved squeezing a tennis ball under different temperature conditions. Once they had the data, and watched a short video introduction to anaerobic respiration, it was time to see if they could make a model to explain the differences between two different temperatures. I have not yet looked over their work, but I'm hoping to see some growth. As a warm-up at the beginning of the week, I had the students create a model of how a rainbow is formed, and then they did it again at the end of the week. I saw improvements in this task, so I'm optimistic for their muscle fatigue models.

Honors Biology students collecting data for the Muscle Fatigue investigation.

Anatomy & Physiology students creating 3-D tissue models for peer-to-peer instruction.

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