Saturday, April 9, 2011

Marshmallows and Student Interest

So, right now I have a high school student working with my fifth graders. Claire is working through a program that will help her explore various levels and aspects of teaching. She is on her second round with my students because we begged her to come back to our room for her last experience. We LOVE Claire.
Hearing my students talk about thermal energy and how things expand as they heat, Claire decided to help out with our conversations and learning. She video taped a marshmallow heating and expanding in the microwave. She kept the recording going while she opened the door. My students were able to see the cooling and contracting. Even though she wasn't at school on Friday with us, Claire emailed the video to us.

Now, how awesome is that? This young lady jump started our conversation and learning without even being in the room. My students were so excited to think of ways to repeat the investigation and extend the test. They wanted to try different sizes of marshmallows and check the resulting expansion. They wanted to test different flavored marshmallows, different brands, coated with chocolate syrup, and my favorite...frozen marshmallows. Various microwaves and methods of heating were discussed. They were on a roll, discussing controlled and manipulated variables. What a great discussion!

So, plans for next week are changed, marshmallows were purchased at the grocery, and a microwave is being borrowed! A google doc for investigation design is in the works for student use in setting up lab. Of course, the date of test will HAVE to be on Tuesday. As one of my students pointed out, "We can't do the test without Claire!"

Going with my student interests has always been the best method...
Is there a state achievement test question that will be formatted like this? Probably not. We are not filling in a multiple choice, short answer, or extended response question. It's not in a packet, and it will be quite messy. (I can guarantee that. Can you imagine measuring the expanded marshmallows? HA HA!) But, this is the real science. The problem solving, messy, curious, exciting way of working in the world. And, these are the type of scientist I will be helping to send into the work force.

Also, there may be many messy microwaves over the weekend....Hmmmm.

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