This started from a desire to ‘FOSILize’ a Year 7 project as part of a science topic into heating and cooling.
Thinking about the project in terms of the stages of FOSIL was helpful. Having a framework on which to hang some of the worksheets we had used elsewhere simplified the process as we weren’t starting with a blank canvas.
For a number of years now, pupils at Oakham have taken part in the CREST scheme. Year 7 were set the task of designing a container to transport a water snake. The design brief was to keep the temperature of water in their container between 60-80 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes. As part of the project, pupils built and tested their snake container in small groups, completed a CREST booklet and gave a presentation about their artefact.
Although pupils enjoyed the process of carrying out a project, they often failed to make links between the theory they had learned in class to the design of their snake carrier, so this was a particular focus in the design of the FOSIL materials.
The starting point for updating this project using FOSIL was the CREST worksheets we had used in previous years and the FOSIL materials developed for an inquiry in English for Year 6.
After discussion with some of the science teachers, we decided that the design brief had to be broad enough to allow different projects about reducing heat transfer. Pictures acted as prompts.
The ‘What do I already know about my topic?’ sheet was an important step in anchoring the project in the theory about heat transfer covered in previous lessons. It was a clear way of showing that conduction, convection, radiation and evaporation were the factors to be considered.
Collaboration with the library was key. Jenny Toerien identified that the importance of evaporation in heat loss was often misunderstood by pupils. It wasn’t something that was explicitly taught in the topic so we used this as a worked example in the materials to act as a prompt for teachers to show pupils how theory and practice can be linked.
Thanks Chris. This was a particularly interesting collaboration for me because six years ago I was a Physics teacher delivering the CREST project to my Year 7 Junior Science groups, and now I am part of the Library team supporting the Science staff in moving it forward into an inquiry paradigm. Students had always enthusiastically embraced the practical side of the project – with varying degrees of success, but most had emerged with some sense of fair testing and a ‘solution’ of some kind. As a collaborative team (as Chris has mentioned) we felt that the weak point in the current project was that students did not consistently connect the theory of heat transfer that they had been taught in the first part of the unit with their practical work and use the practical phase as an opportunity to move their understanding of heat transfer forward. Chris did some excellent work on the Connect and Wonder phases to explicitly support students to use their knowledge of heat transfer to steer their experimental design (see attached image).
Looking back to when I taught this unit, I think that, as subject specialists, the connections between theory and practical are so obvious to us it is sometimes easy to forget that this is not always the case for the students. Without the prompt to slow down and think about what they are about to do and why before they get their hands on the equipment, experimental design will likely be reactive and driven by the first equipment that catches their imagination rather than thoughtful and systematic and driven by an understanding of theory. This is similar to the drive later in the inquiry cycle to get on with the Express stage rather than spend time constructing a new understanding based on the information they have found – which is why these are two critical stages for intervention and scaffolding.
[ASIDE] In terms of designing the worksheets, this was also an fascinating stage as we were deliberately building on materials that Year 7 had used in an English Science Fictional Writing inquiry the previous term because we wanted them to feel a sense of familiarity and continuity. This was intended in part to help the teachers, because if students were already familiar with the resource from a different context then the teachers could focus more on the content and less on teaching students to use the resource – it’s less distracting. However, crucially, it was also intended to help students to internalise the inquiry process as the stages become more familiar to them. The consistent colour scheme is very important here too.
The “identifying questions” sheet (attached to post above) went through six very different iterations before we were happy with it because, as we added the extra steps that would be important for the Science inquiry, we realised how important reading order is in tables and in trying to keep the sheet as close as possible to the original we were violating the natural “left-to-right then top-to-bottom” reading order and it became very confusing to use. I have attached an image of the English worksheet as well as the first two iterations of the Science sheet to this post show how it evolved. The final version is attached to the post above. Sometimes I think it can be helpful to share our mistakes and drafts because they reveal more of the design process than the final polished version…