Essential Science for Teachers: Physical Science
Rising and Sinking Featured Classroom: Monique Brinson; Jamaica Plain, MA
Monique Brinson; Jamaica Plain, MA
“Science was a subject area that I greatly enjoyed as a youngster and I want to open the door to the joy of scientific inquiry and processes for my students as well.”
School at a Glance:
Young Achievers Science & Mathematics Pilot School
Jamaica Plain, MA
- Grades: Pre K-8
- Enrollment: 301
- Students per Teacher: 20
62% African American
- Percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunch: 63% versus a state average of 30%
From its inception in 1995, the Young Achievers Science & Mathematics Pilot School (YASM) in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, envisioned a math and science emphasis for urban children in Boston. Its mission statement reflects the school’s belief “that every student can learn algebra and understand the concepts of biology, can plot the course of a beam of light, and come to grips with the vastness of the stars.” The scope of the science program at YASM includes teaching three to four units in life, Earth, physical, and technological science during the course of the school year.
Monique Brinson was a founding teacher of the YASM pilot school, and she has worked in the Boston Public Schools system for 11 years. For the past nine, she has taught science using units from National Science Resource Center’s (NSRC) Science and Technology for Children and the Education Devleopment Center’s (EDC) Insights kits, She augments each unit with learning centers and hands-on activities, as well as texts to support learning. “My first year of teaching at a traditional Boston public school, I was not required to teach science. Although it was not a requirement, I worked directly with the science-only teacher to develop activities that supported the themes and concepts I was teaching my students… Science was a subject that I greatly enjoyed as a youngster and I wanted to make sure I opened the doors to the joy of scientific inquiry and understanding for my students as well.”
Lesson and Curriculum
Challenges with Sinkers; Insights
Lesson at a Glance:
Curriculum: Education Development Center, Insights, Liquids Unit
Topic: Challenges with Sinkers
Nearing the end of their study of the EDC Insights “Liquids” unit, Monique’s third graders are attempting to make shapes from two materials that sink slowly — aluminum foil and clay. Prior to this lesson, the last of five on floating and sinking, the students had experimented with a variety of materials that sink and float in three different liquids.
In this lesson, Monique encouraged the class to manipulate all of the possible variables in order to make “slow sinkers” out of the foil and clay. In the process, the students revealed many of the ideas that are common to children of their age group, about the role of air and the placement and position of the object in rising and sinking. After the lesson, Monique commented, “What surprised me was that by this lesson, through keeping extensive journals with diagrams and text, my students were able to interact with the materials in a systematic manner, and engage with each other with very little modeling. Going forward from this lesson they will have had a wealth of experience with the macroscopic properties and behaviors of different materials in liquids.”
Session 1 What Is Matter?: Properties and Classification of Matter
What is matter? This question at first seems deceptively simple — matter is all around us. Yet how do we define it? What does a block of cheese have in common with the Moon? What are the characteristics of matter that set it apart from something that is definitely not matter? Matter is one of the big ideas in science. Most areas in physical science can be discussed and explained in terms of matter or energy, and matter is a subject that naturally bridges to the other sciences (chemistry, life, earth science, etc.). In this session, we’ll build a working definition of matter, learn to distinguish between its “accidental” and “essential” properties, and explore it through classification, an activity with a rich history in science.
Session 2 The Particle Nature of Matter: Solids, Liquids, and Gases
What simple idea links together all of chemistry and physics? How can a close study of the macroscopic differences among solids, liquids, and gases support a microscopic model of tiny, discrete, and constantly moving particles? In this session, participants learn how the "particle model" can be turned into a powerful tool for generating predictions about the behavior of matter under a wide range of conditions.
Session 3 Physical Changes and Conservation of Matter
What happens when sugar is dissolved in a glass of water or when a pot of water on the stove boils away? Do things ever really "disappear?" In everyday life, observations that things "disappear" or "appear" seem to contradict one of the fundamental laws of nature: matter can be neither created nor destroyed. In this session, participants learn how the principles of the particle model are consistent with conservation of matter.
Session 4 Chemical Changes and Conservation of Matter
How can the particle model account for what happens when two clear liquids are mixed together and they produce a milky-white solid? What happens when iron rusts? Where do the elements come from? In this session, participants extend the particle model by looking inside the particles, learn about some early chemical pioneers, and in the process discover how the law of conservation of matter applies even at the scale of atoms and molecules.
Session 5 Density and Pressure
What makes a block of wood rise to the surface of a bucket of water? Why do your ears pop when you swim deep underwater? In this session, participants examine density, an essential property of matter. They also look at how particles of matter are in constant motion, which leads to a deeper understanding of fluid pressure. Lastly, the concepts of pressure and density are investigated to explain the macroscopic phenomenon of rising and sinking.
Session 6 Rising and Sinking
Why does a hot air balloon rise into the sky? Why does ice rise in water, when a lump of solid wax will sink in a jar full of molten wax? In this session, participants generalize the model that has been developed about what rises and what sinks, using the idea of balance of forces.
Session 7 Heat and Temperature
What makes the liquid in a thermometer rise or fall in response to temperature? Which contains more heat — a boiling teakettle on the stove or a swimming pool of lukewarm water? In this session, participants focus on the difference between heat and temperature, and examine how both are defined in terms of particles. The particle model is then used to explain a number of everyday phenomena, from why things expand when they are heated to the role that temperature plays in changes of state.
Sessions 8 Extending the Particle Model of Matter
In this session, participants extend their understanding of the particle model to explain additional macroscopic phenomena, including the electrical properties of matter. Participants review the progression of ideas covered in the course and anticipate future developments in the understanding of matter.