Jan 05 2011

Stream of Consciousness

Incorporating technology into the science curriculum can spark student interest in complex concepts.

Incorporating technology into the science curriculum can spark student interest in complex concepts.

Understanding how the Earth's oceans and landmasses are affected by natural forces is crucial to students' mastery of scientific and geographic concepts. Technology helps make science more accessible to them while also encouraging personalized, collaborative, authentic learning.

Lesson Description: This lesson brings emerging technologies into the science classroom to make the study of the relationship between the Earth's water and land resources more engaging and enjoyable for students.

To begin, divide students into groups of four and assign each student one of four roles: recorder (note-taker), reporter (speaker for the group), timekeeper (person charged with keeping the group on task) or technology specialist (camcorder operator). Show students a picture of the Grand Canyon and ask them how they think it was created. Each group's recorder should write or illustrate each team member's observations in a journal. The reporter will then present this information to the class. Next, give students a list of terms that relate to natural processes that affect the planet's oceans and land in destructive and constructive ways. Have them work as groups to define the words.

Each group will then conduct a "stream table" experiment to study how water flow affects landmasses through erosion and deposition. To create a stream table, each group will need a plastic tray; a mixture of sand, clay and rocks; water; and a piece of wood, which will be used to form the materials into a flat surface with a cliff-like edge. (For an illustration of the stream table setup, go to tinyurl.com/stream2010.)

As one student pours water onto the earthen materials in his or her group's stream table, the technology specialist should use a camcorder to record footage of the developing landforms. The group timekeeper should ensure that classmates move in a timely fashion from station to station to observe other groups' experiments and to discuss what they see. Finish the lesson by having students use Windows Movie Maker to create videos that incorporate the footage from their experiments and summarize their findings.

Subject Area: This lesson focuses on fifth-grade science subject matter, but it can be adapted for other grades.

Curriculum Standards: This lesson meets these South Carolina Department of Education Science Academic Standards:

  • Explain how natural processes affect Earth's oceans and land (Indicator 5-3.1);
  • Illustrate the geologic landforms of the ocean floor (Indicator 5-3.2);
  • Compare continental and oceanic landforms (Indicator 5-3.3);
  • Explain how waves, currents, tides and storms affect the geologic features of the ocean shore zone (Indicator 5-3.4); and
  • Explain how human activity has affected the land and the oceans of Earth (Indicator 5-3.6).

This lesson also fulfills many of the International Society for Technology in Education's National Educational Technology Standards for Students.

Resources: FOSSweb offers inquiry-based science curriculum resources. The site's Landforms Module is particularly helpful for this lesson.

Grading Rubric: Students' grades should be based on the quality of their:

  • peer evaluations;
  • journal entries;
  • lab experiments; and
  • group digital presentations.

Teaching Tips

  • Explain presentation guidelines and the grading rubric to students before the lesson begins.
  • Encourage peer collaboration.
  • Give students plenty of time to define the terminology.
<p>Image Source/Photolibrary</p>