Three middle school science curricular units on the topics of genetics, ocean biodiversity & discourse, and solar ovens & design critiques:
In this unit, students explore and critique explanations about mutations, probability, and simple inheritance in order to construct stronger and more coherent scientific arguments. Students use Punnett squares and interactive models to explore the basics of genetic material, allele dominance, and trait inheritance and expression. They analyze the expression of some personal traits such as ear lobes. Students construct graphs showing probabilities of getting certain genotypes in different model-organism crosses. They use evidence from these graphs to draw conclusions about patterns of inheritance.
- Ocean Biodiversity & Discourse
In this unit, students collaboratively learn about the main ideas of evolution (mutations and variation, environmental pressures, natural selection, phenotype versus genotype plasticity, heredity and biodiversity, speed of evolution) through a sequence of interactive activities. These include graph-based analysis of a model simulating natural selection. To develop scientific discourse capabilities, students are guided to share ideas and arguments regarding the simulation, and collaboratively discuss science and graphing.
- Solar Ovens & Design Critiques
In this unit, students design, build, and test solar ovens. They critique and refine their own oven, as well as their peers' designs. Students learn about how energy is transformed from solar radiation to heat and infrared radiation. They use an interactive simulation to extend the design process. They test their ovens using heat lamps, and use a budget to constrain their design. The budgeting activity helps students consider trade-offs in the design. They evaluate each material they use with regard to their goal. Students go through two iterations of designing, building, and testing. Between the two iterations, student groups critique each other's ovens. During the second iteration, students engage in self-critique of their ovens prior to re-design.
Learn more in this video.