Why Is Our Corn Changing? [v1.0]
In this second grade unit, students investigate the mystery of harvest corn, something they saw as decoration, beginning to sprout what look like leaves and roots. Disagreements about how the corn is growing spark investigations that lead students to uncovering the functions of different parts of the plant as well providing evidence for what plants need in order to grow. The end of the unit concludes with students designing and carrying out their own unique investigations about what else plants need to grow, and the students share their findings with the class.
WHAT STUDENTS INVESTIGATE
Each day the corn yields new surprises. Students observe many related phenomena coming from the corn and design multiple investigations to help them uncover important pieces of the puzzle. Each piece of the puzzle they figure out helps them incrementally develop a model to explain their anchoring phenomena and answer their original questions. Here are just a few of these investigations...
After looking at this harvest corn decoration our teacher brought in, we wondered if it was real corn or not. We wanted to dissect it to see if it was made of the same structures as the corn we eat. We found some similarities (both have cobs and kernels), but we also found some differences (in hardness and color). We were still wondering if this is real corn. Some students suggested we plant it to see if it would grow. Others suggested we keep the wet corn in water and see if anything happens to it.
Each day we check in on our corn in the water, we record what we notice and we record what we wonder. The more we notice, the more we wonder. And the more we wonder, the more ideas we have for what might be going on as well as ideas for new investigations we want to conduct.
As we kept observing our corn, from one day to the next, some of us argued that it was growing. But that led us to realize that we couldn't really prove it was growing unless we started taking measurements of some of these structures and recoding them, so we could compare a measurement from one day to the next.
As we kept checking in on our harvest corn in water near the window, we noticed something odd after a while. The green things coming from it were bending toward the window. This got us wondering if plants need light to grow. So we conducted an investigation to try to answer that question. After leaving some of our corn in the dark, we started noticed some changes in what was happening to it.
WHAT STUDENTS FIGURE OUT
By the end of the storyline students develop important ideas related to plant growth. These ideas include:
- Plants need light and water to grow.
- Plants have different parts that help them survive and grow
- Roots help plants get water.
- Leaves help plants get light.
- There is something inside a seed that needs water to start growing structures that will become the plant.
- You can plan and design investigations to answer questions about what causes things to happen that you see going on in the world around you.
Lori Farkash, teaches at Moses Y. Beach School in CT. She is a 2010 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science Teaching and Wallingford's Teacher of the Year in 1999, enjoys engaging second graders in hands-on, discovery based learning while developing students' natural curiosities about the world. In addition to teaching, she creates second grade Language Arts and Math curricula for her district and has taught grades 1-5 over the past 27 years.
Nancy Jo Michael is a certified Teacher Leader in Science in the state of Connecticut. She teaches at Pembroke Elementary School and was named Teacher of the Year 2016 for the Danbury Public Schools. Nancy holds a Bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Michigan and a Master's degree in Special Education from Washington University in St. Louis, as well as post-graduate studies in STEM education.
Ruth Purdie-Dyer is a certified CT Teacher Leader in Science. She teaches at WCAIS-Magnet School. Ruth holds a B.A. in Business Administration and Human Resources from Western CT State University, an M.S. in Education from the University of Bridgeport. Ruth is a lead teacher in Green School Programs and Global Sustainability. She is devoted to improving teacher knowledge around Science and Global Environmental Studies. Nothing is more exciting to Ruth than teaching second graders and coaching professionals in these areas at the Western CT Academy of International Studies Magnet School in Danbury, CT.
Maureen teaches at Oscar Mayer School, in Chicago, IL. She graduated from Indiana University in Early Childhood Education and began her career teaching Kindergarten and 1st grade. It was during this time that she realized she loved teaching students how to read. She then went on to get her masters in Reading from Northeastern University and from there she gained experience working as a reading specialist in grades K-12 in various schoosl throughout Chicago. Maureen was selected to be a reading specialist for the Office of Literacy in the city of Chicago where she worked with various inner city schools throughout the city as an area literacy coach helping coach and provide professional development for teachers in the area of literacy.
Katy Fattaleh is a K-8 Instructional Technology Coach at South Park School in Deerfield, IL. As a former classroom teacher, she shares her passion for educational technology across the content areas to elevate teaching and learning in grades K-8.
Tara A. W. McGill is a Curriculum Development Specialist at Northwestern University. Prior to her current position, she taught ninth-grade biology in Chicago Public Schools and developed curriculum materials with Ag in Progress Partnership, NFP. She researched honey bee biology and behavior in the Entomology Department at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign (UIUC). While at UIUC, she also performed informal science outreach and collaborated on several science education projects. McGill is also a facilitator and member of the design team for the Next Generation Science Exemplar System for Professional Development (NGSX), a web-based professional development system designed to help educators grow in their understanding of three-dimensional learning.
Michael Novak is a 2014 Golden Apple Fellow and National Board Certified teacher and a middle school science and social science teacher at Park View School. He has authored instructional units and computational models for the Center for Connected Learning at NU and has worked with partnerships in multiple states to develop NGSS-designed storyline based curriculum materials. Novak is also a facilitator and member of the design team for the Next Generation Science Exemplar System for Professional Development (NGSX), a web-based professional development system designed to help educators grow in their understanding of three-dimensional learning.
Dan Voss teaches science at Boone High School, in Boone IA. He is a 2016 Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Fellow. He holds a materials engineering degree from Iowa State University, where he was selected as the College of Engineering's student marshal. Since earning his B.S., he served as president for the Engineers Without Borders-USA Midwest Steering Committee, earned a Master's of Science in Education degree at Northwestern University, and worked as a Curriculum Development Assistant for the Storylines Team. Dan is looking forward to teaching physical science and chemistry at Boone (Iowa) High School in the 2016-2017 school year.
IN PARTNERSHIP AND WITH SUPPORT FROM
These materials were developed in part with support from an MSP grant from the Connecticut Department of Education; with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to Northwestern University, and support from the NGSX Project at Clark University, Tidemark Institute, and Northwestern University.
The Storylines Project is grateful to Liz Buttner, CT Department of Education (retired) whose vision and support developed a creative supportive NGSS learning community of K-12 teachers and higher education faculty.