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ITEEA The Elementary STEM Journal, Vol. 24, Issue 4
PublisherInternational Technology and Engineering Educators Association, Reston, VA
ReleasedMay 1, 2020
Copyright@2020
The Elementary STEM Journal, Volume 24, Issue 4 - May, 2020

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Article - Using Living Organisms to Investigate Fossils: A 6E Lesson Plan

Article

ESJ Fig 3-143.jpgUsing Living Organisms to Investigate Fossils: A 6E Lesson Plan 
by Eric Worch, Emilio Duran, and Lena Duran

Using Living Organisms to Investigate Fossils: A 6E Lesson Plan is an engaging and dynamic lesson where third grade students learn how scientists study structure and function of living animals to describe how similar-looking extinct animals may have behaved based on fossil evidence, as well as speculate on the existence of unpreserved soft body parts. Students use their observation skills and existing knowledge about animal structure and function to address the challenge of identifying similarities and differences between pill bugs and trilobites. This lesson exemplifies how formative assessment probes can be used seamlessly within existing instructional models to assess and ensure that all students progress adequately during the learning cycle. Ultimately, this strategy provides differentiated opportunities that help all learners master disciplinary core ideas.

introduction and background

This third-grade lesson uses the 6E instructional model (Duran, et al., 2011) to help students understand that scientists make inferences about structure and function of extinct species by examining extant species (NGSS, 2013: K-LS1, 3-LS4-1, 3-LS4-2, 3-LS4-4). The 6E model is a modification of the 5E model developed by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS & IBM, 1989)—Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. Although there are other 6E models (e.g., Burke, 2014; Kähkönen, 2016), some of which include an engineering component, this 6E model inserts the Express phase after the Explain phase to formatively assess how students are progressing toward mastering the learning objectives. With this knowledge, the teacher places students into appropriately differentiated activities in the Elaborate phase to support their specific learning needs. Unlike Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which helps students overcome their individual academic and social-emotional hurdles (Zalaznick, 2019), the 6E Learning Cycle differentiates support based on each student’s current understanding of the concepts being taught while still being able to include UDL strategies.

All handouts, the materials list, and background information about pill bugs and trilobites can be found at: www.iteea.org/173809.aspx.

ESJ Fig 1-300.jpgengage

(5-10 minutes)

1.     Show HD images of trilobite fossils that include the back and underside of the animal, as well as it rolled into a ball like a pill bug (see Materials). Provide interesting facts about trilobites, including when and where they lived (see Background).

2.     Ask students about structures (parts) they may see and to complete Handout 1.

3.     Scientists have discovered that trilobites have additional structures that are not visible on most fossils. Show an artistic rendering of a trilobite showing antennae, jointed legs, and tail structures. 

4.     Ask, I wonder how scientists determined trilobites should have these parts when we haven’t seen them in the fossils? Discovering how this is done is the objective of this lesson.

ESJ Fig 2-300.jpgexplore

(20-25 minutes)

1.     Introduce the pill bugs, aka roly-poly bugs. Discuss the need to treat the pill bugs with care and respect. The Petri dish should not be shaken and it should be lifted to observe the underside of the pill bugs.

2.     Ask if students have seen pill bugs before, where they saw them (dark, moist areas), and whether they tried to pick one up. Connect the name roly-poly to how pill bugs roll into a ball to protect themselves when they sense danger.

3.     Allow 3-5 minutes for students to observe the pill bugs freely. Ask students what they noticed about their pill bugs and if they recognize any body parts? Introduce “structure” as another name for “part.”

4.     Allow 10-15 minutes for students to use Handout 2 to find the structures on their pill bug. Key questions: 1) What other animals have you seen that have a shell-like covering? 2) Can you point out the head, thorax, and abdomen? and 3) How are the pill bug’s jointed legs similar to and different from your own legs? After the allotted time, have students push their Petri dish to center of the table.

Annotation 2020-04-21 121559f.pngexplain

(15-20 minutes)

1.     Begin this phase by debriefing what students learned in the Explore phase. Reinforce the names of the main structures and introduce the term "function." Use HD images and/or video to view pill bugs up close (see materials). Point out main structures, including the gills on the underside.

2.     In small groups, students use the word banks in Handouts 3a and 3b to label the structures on both diagrams and discuss the possible function(s) of each structure. The purpose of this activity is to get students thinking about the relationship between structural features and what they do to help the animal survive.

3.     As a class, display each diagram one at a time. With the class’ help, the teacher fills in each blank. To save time, use labeled diagrams.

4.     After the structures are properly labeled, ask students to describe the function or functions they think each structure has. Shape students’ ideas into scientifically accurate ones. The correct functions are recorded by the students.

express

(5-10 minutes)

1.     Display side one of the formative probe for the whole class (Handouts 4a and 4b), pass out a copy to each student, and read the prompt and choices. Students should circle the name of the “friend” they agree with and provide an explanation. Next, display side two of the probe and follow the same procedure. Collect the probes without discussion.

2.     Use results to assign students to one of three Elaboration tiers to provide the appropriate level of challenge and scaffolding (Keeley, 2014). Although the teacher plans for three tiers of instruction, there may be a tier to which no students are assigned based on the answers to the probe.

Annotation 2020-04-21 121559.png

elaborate

(35-40 minutes)

All Tiers

1.     Divide students into tiered groups. Project the image of the trilobite with only the lobes labeled (Handout 5) and pass out the trilobite fossil or HD image to each group. Draw attention to the three longitudinal lobes of the body.

2.     Students in all tiers will apply what they learned about the functions of pill bug structures to infer the functions of trilobite structures.

Annotation 2020-04-21 121559b.png

Novice

1.     Students in the novice tier use labeled diagrams of a trilobite to locate the structures on their fossil/image (Handouts 6a and 6b). Ask for ideas as to why they are missing.

2.     Using their knowledge of pill bugs, students discuss the functions of the following trilobite structures: head, thorax, abdomen, legs, antennae, exoskeleton, eyes, mouth, and nose.

3.     Students record the function(s) of three trilobite structures and explain their reasoning on the Trilobite Structures and Functions Table (Handout 7).

4.     Students complete a Venn diagram (Handout 8) to compare and contrast structures of the pill bug to those of the trilobite.

Annotation 2020-04-21 121559c.png

Target

1.     Students in the target tier receive two unlabeled diagrams of a trilobite with the soft and hard structures present (Handouts 9a & 9b). Students identify and label structures using the provided word bank.

2.     Groups discuss which structures are visible in the trilobite fossil/image and which are not. Using their knowledge of pill bugs, they discuss the functions of the structures of  trilobites.

3.     Students record the function(s) of three trilobite structures and explain their reasoning in the Trilobite Structures and Functions Table (Handout 7).

4.     Students complete a Venn diagram (Handout 8) to compare and contrast structures of the pill bug to those of the trilobite.

Annotation 2020-04-21 121559d.png

Advanced

1.     Students in the advanced tier receive diagrams that are missing all of the soft structures (Handouts 10a and 10b). Knowing that a trilobite is an arthropod like a pill bug, groups draw the missing soft parts of the trilobite and label as many structures as they can using the provided word bank.

2.     Students discuss and record the function(s) of three trilobite structures and explain their reasoning on the Trilobite Structures and Functions Table (Handout 7).

3.     Students complete a Venn diagram (Handout 8) to compare and contrast structures of the pill bug to those of the trilobite.

Annotation 2020-04-21 121559e.png

Closure All Tiers

1.     Students summarize the differences and similarities between pill bugs and trilobites in relation to structures and their functions (Handout 8).

2.     Students describe how their observations of a living pill bug allowed them to make inferences about the structures and functions of extinct trilobites.

evaluate

1.     Formative assessment occurs in all phases of the learning cycle using students’ oral comments and written responses on the handouts. This information is used to direct contemporaneous instruction and identify areas needing whole-group clarification in subsequent instruction.

2.     The results of the Express probe receive a more systematic and thorough analysis to identify each student’s current strengths and weaknesses in relation to the concepts of structure and function.

3.     Students are placed into one of three tiers of instruction designed to provide an appropriate level of challenge and scaffolding to help each student meet the teacher’s learning objective(s).

This engaging third-grade lesson is unique, as it follows the 6E instructional model (Duran, et al., 2011) and is an effective and novel way to help meet the learning needs of all students as they explore and express their understanding of how scientists make inferences about structure and function of extinct species by examining extant species. The use of living organisms adds an exciting component to this scientific inquiry, which is sure to captivate and motivate learners of all levels in the classroom.

references

Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) and International Business Machines (IBM). (1989). New designs for elementary science and health: A cooperative project between Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) and International Business Machines (IBM). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Burke, B. N. (2014). 6E Learning byDeSIGN™ Model: Maximizing informed design and inquiry in the integrative stem classroom. Technology and Engineering Teacher, 73(6), 14-19.

Kähkönen, A. (2016). Models of inquiry and the irresistible 6E model. Irresistable Project 2020: Engaging the Young with Responsible Research and Innovation. Downloaded from www.irresistible-project.eu/index.php/pt/blog-pt/168-models-of-inquiry-and-the-irresistible-6e-model

Keeley, P. D. (2014). What are they thinking?: Promoting elementary learning through formative assessment. Alexandria, VA: NSTA Press.

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Downloaded from www.nap.edu/catalog/18290/next-generation-science-standards-for-states-by-states

Zalaznick, M. (2019). Universal appeal: How to remove barriers and engage all students in instruction with Universal Design for Learning. District Administration, 55(8), 53-57.

 

Eric Worch is a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. He can be contacted at eworch@bgsu.edu.

Emilio Duran is a professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. He can be contacted at eduran@bgsu.edu.

Lena Duran is an associate professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH. She can be contacted at ballone@bgsu.edu.

This is a refereed article.

NOTE: Handouts for this article are located online at: www.iteea.org/173809.asp.