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Fractals, An Inquiry: Day 3
Grade Level(s): 6–8
This unit is designed as a UDL approach to supporting student understanding of scientific inquiry. Students experience first-hand each step in the inquiry process and how the steps systematically build toward understanding. A simple art activity that involves creating fractals with paint serves as the context for the inquiry. By situating an introduction to inquiry in art, students who might feel reluctant or incompetent in science have an alternative environment for engaging in the inquiry process. Exploring scientific inquiry through art is also a way to enable students to experience the inquiry process as a natural, sometimes spontaneous process that is intrinsic to many learning experiences.
Fractals, intriguing in their complexity and beauty, have been charted mathematically, and serve as the connection for the inquiry. By experimenting with the effects of various art media on the formation of fractals, such as the thickness of paint or types of paper used to make them, students' initial encounter with the inquiry process occurs in a non-threatening, intuitive way, so they will arrive at an understanding of the inquiry process inductively.
Lesson Description for Day
Planning the question to ask and the experimental design are essential steps in ensuring that students will understand and be successful with the scientific inquiry process. Today, students will develop their own questions for their inquiries and plan their experiments. They will be supported by a modeled case study of Max the Dog's Inquiry Planning Process, as well as supported by a planning template, The Inquiry Organizer.
Florida Sunshine State Standards:
The student uses the scientific processes and habits of mind to solve problems. (SC.H.1.3)
The student understands that most natural events occur in comprehensible, consistent patterns. (SC.H.2.3)
1. Recognizes that patterns exist within and across systems
California State Standards:
Investigation and Experimentation
Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations.
- Students will gain an understanding of the process of scientific inquiry.
- Students will gain independence in conducting and reporting on their own inquiries.
- Students will become aware that scientific inquiries can happen anywhere, and are a natural part of exploring the world.
Students will become independent in planning a scientific inquiry.
Assess Student Perceptions of Progress:
Have students do a quick write in order to assess whether they feel they are making progress toward the unit goals. Have them describe how well they are understanding the inquiry process. They should also describe what kinds of assistance they need in order to make progress.
None for this lesson.
None for this lesson.
Planning an Experiment
Time Frame: 20 minutes
1. Recap: Recap yesterday's experiences of learning about and making fractals. Explain that today students are going test how changes in the way fractals are made might affect their appearance. Before conducting the experiment however, students will need to plan, which is the focus of today's work.
Let students know that they will only change one thing in the fractal-making process. In this way, they will be able to control how that one change affects the fractals.
2. Model: Share an example of how changing one aspect of the fractal making process can affect the fractal. Project or distribute print-outs of the following example that focused on the effects of altering the thickness of paint. Help students note differences in detail between the fractal examples.
3. Generate Questions: Have students work individually or with a partner, for about five minutes, to generate a 'what if?' question for their own experiments. Questions should relate to how one change in the art media (thickness of paint, type of papers, size of brushes, etc.), or the process used to make a fractal might affect the fractal's design. Let students know that you have more materials (variety of textures and weights of paper, types and thickness of paints, and size of brushes) available for them to test.
Remind students that their questions must reflect keeping everything about making fractals the same, and only changing the part of the process they're wondering about (scientific control).
Scaffold Support as Needed: Circulate among students and listen to the questions they're generating. If they seem stumped on what questions to ask, provide a model, such as: "What happens when you change the thickness of the paper?" If students are really stumped, other variables to try might include: viscosity of the paint, speed with which the papers are pulled apart, type of brush used to spread the paint, and amount of pressure applied to the two layers.
Have students write their inquiry questions in the attached Inquiry Organizer. They can opt to work independently or with a partner.
3. Plan an Experiment: Read aloud and discuss the attached Maxs' Inquiry Organizer, so students have a model of how an experiment is planned.
Time Frame: 15 Minutes
Have students work with partners or individually to plan their own experiments and fill out Step 2 on the Inquiry Organizer—Experiment.
Let the class know that when they return tomorrow, the room will be set up with a variety of art media (varied thicknesses and textures of paper, thicknesses of paint, sizes of brushes, etc.), so they can begin testing the questions they generated today.
After class, read students' responses in their Inquiry Organizers. Make a note of which students will need extra support the following day, which are on track, and which could use additional challenges.
None for this lesson.