Day 153 – A View from Here

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Science 9 – Students were asked to create a small project.  Each group was given an object to research. They had to find a bit of information about the object, and then describe what the Earth would look like if a person were on the object looking at us right now. So if a person was in the Andromeda Galaxy which is 4 million light years away, they would see the Earth as it was 4 million years ago. It was a great activity to learn about different types of objects in space and learn about distances in the universe.  This activity was taken from the Perimeter Institutes teacher resources.

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Day 147 – The Expanding Universe

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Science 9 – As part of their learning about the Big Bang and the expanding universe, students do an activity where they model this expansion with balloons.  They noticed that all of the galaxies move away from each other and that the expansion goes in all directions.  To help with these topics, I’m using parts from the Perimeter Institutes resource package.

Day 145 – Black Box Quiz

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Science 9 – For the final assessment in the electricity unit, I constructed 4 “black boxes”that had batteries and 3-4 bulbs wired in a variety of ways.  The task for the students was to connect the batteries to turn on the circuit and then unscrew (and then re-screw) one bulb at a time to see what effect it had on the circuit. From this they would draw a schematic for the circuit.

The students really got into it!  A couple of the circuits were pretty easy but there was one in particular that was difficult for them. As a teacher, it was so nice to see them work so hard to figure it out.  Eventually students started sharing ideas a little bit. I guess in a strict sense, this would be a type of “cheating.”  However, they weren’t being deceptive about it, I was right there while it was happening. While we can say that an assessment is useful for figuring out where the kids are in their learning, assessment should also be a learning experience as much as possible. I couldn’t ask for anything more from the students and this assessment.

Finally, the kids pretty much all really liked it.  There were a couple of fist-pumps from students after they figured out a circuit and despite the difficulty level of the assessment, they really loved it. Challenges and tests can be liked, it’s all about finding that sweet spot for authenticity and being within a student’s capabilities (aka Vigotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development).

Day 140 – Questions about Space

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Science 9 – For our first day about space I had the students generate their own questions. I used the methodology outlined in Make Just One Change.

Space is a fantastic unit for inquiry. Pretty much every kid has things they wonder about for space. And by going through all of these questions they’re interested in, we actually cover all of the required learning objectives.

Day 134 – Ohm’s Law

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Science 9 – Students used the PhET DC Circuit Construction Kit to explore the relationship between voltage and current.  I had them use the simulator because it’s difficult to get good data using our ammeters and voltmeters.  I found that it was too easy for kids to make a mistake, and then they get data that doesn’t reveal any patterns.

Even though in grade 9 the kids are not especially great at deriving equations from a linear relationship, they are able to see a pattern and relationship using a data table, and can use words to describe this relationship.

For example, with the table below once they’ve collected data for current using different voltages, they will see that the voltage is always 100x the current.  From this, most kids decide to write something like “resistance times current is voltage”

 Resistor Size = 100 Ohm
 Current  Voltage

Day 131 – Circuit Voting Peer Instruction

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Science 9 – We did lots of Peer Instruction in class today, here are a few of the questions.  Students were able to make progress going from one question to the next, but as always is the case in my classes, it was difficult to get the kids to walk around the room and talk to people that were not their friends. At one point I had them walking around but they stayed in their groups…