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My principal questioned why I had U.S. and world wall maps on my request list. “You teach science, not geography” was his comment. But the maps were ordered, and during lessons we pulled them down and found the location of the Namib Desert, the Okefenokee Swamp, and coral atolls in the Pacific. We pinpointed where current events were happening (volcanic eruptions, storms, space shuttle launches and landings). We contrasted the continental shelf off the two coasts of North America and compared the sizes of watersheds. Those maps were among the best resources in the classroom. For younger students, A Sense of Place
describes an activity to introduce students to the idea of a map as a model of an area. The Concept of a Model
uses the experiences of upper elementary students to help them understand the meaning behind models (including computer models), along with suggestions for helping students with the critical thinking to generate their own models.
When parents hear about “models,” what may come to their minds is the traditional solar-system-on-a-hanger, pretzel stick log cabins, or shoebox dioramas. The authors of Math and Science Night
describe an open house event that gets parents and students involved in inquiry activities using models and other hands-on activities to explore STEM concepts. The authors provide a planning guide, checklists, and examples of activities.
Visual literacy in science is one of my interests. What Do You See?
has a lesson vignette that shows how a teacher guided students through an understanding of the purpose of visuals in science text. Using the topic of cells, the authors include a chart showing several questioning strategies and a description of how students created and interpreted their own visuals. [SciLinks: Cells
(K–4), Animal / Plant Cell
s (5-8), Cell Structures
(5–8), How Do Plant and Animal Cells Differ
? (5-8)] And visit previous NSTA blogs for more on Visual Literacy
and Models, Maps, and Spatial Understanding
A Wave of Interest
capitalizes on current events and student curiosity. The teacher/author describes how he and his students created a working model in the classroom to study tsunamis. This activity was a wonderful opportunity for the teacher and students to learn together. Earthquakes!
has a review of trade books related to earthquakes. [SciLinks: Tsunamis
Models, such as described in Blood in a Bag,
can help students visualize concepts. There are directions for this 5E activity to help students understand the composition of blood. [SciLinks: Blood
(5–8), Blood Type
(5–8)] Make Your Own Snow Day
shows how models can bring experiences into the classroom, even when the real event is not accessible. The 5E lesson incorporates maps and visuals, too. [SciLinks: Snowflake
Why Don’t Spiders Stick to Their Own Webs?
This sounds like a question that students would ask, as they watch spiders during an investigation such as the one described in A Web of Learning
. [SciLinks: Arachnida
Where Are the Stars?
This formative assessment probe that looks at students conceptions (or misconceptions) about the solar system. [SciLinks: Stars
5–8, Solar System
5–8] And check out more Connections
for this issue (September 2011). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, there are ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, and other resources.