Teachers and families across the country are facing a new reality of providing opportunities for students to do science through distance and home learning. The Daily Do is one of the ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families with this endeavor. Each weekday, NSTA will share a sensemaking task teachers and families can use to engage their students in authentic, relevant science learning. We encourage families to make time for family science learning (science is a social process!) and are dedicated to helping students and their families find balance between learning science and the day-to-day responsibilities they have to stay healthy and safe.
Interested in learning about other ways NSTA is supporting teachers and families? Visit the NSTA homepage.
Sensemaking is actively trying to figure out how the world works (science) or how to design solutions to problems (engineering). Students do science and engineering through the science and engineering practices. Engaging in these practices necessitates students be part of a learning community to be able to share ideas, evaluate competing ideas, give and receive critique, and reach consensus. Whether this community of learners is made up of classmates or family members, students and adults build and refine science and engineering knowledge together.
Have you ever taken time to sit and watch who visits a flower? You may have noticed bees visiting the lavender, or ants helping to open up a peony bud. But, have you really watched to see what parts of the flower the insect is visiting, or wondered why the insect is there?
In today's task, Why are they visiting the flower?, students investigate the natural world around them as they observe insects visiting a flower for a period of time and record the insects' actions. Students are guided to use structure and function as a thinking tool (crosscutting concept) as they connect the parts of the flower the insects visited to their functions. Students make inferences about the actions of the insects visiting the flower using what they know about the function of each structure on the flower. While students could complete this task independently, we encourage students to work virtually with peers or in the home with family members.
Materials you will need:
Choose a day and time where environmental conditions are best:
Before we begin to examine a flower, let's determine what things we should notice and record on our Insect-Plant Monitoring Field Study Handout.
Choose a flower, or group of the same flowers, that are blooming in your yard or park. First, examine the flower and become familiar with it. Take several pictures from different angles. Determine what type of flower it is and record that on the handout. If you are not sure, there are several apps for smart phones such as iNaturalist (free), NatureGate (free) or FlowerChecker (fee).
Once you have taken pictures of your chosen flower, set a timer for 10 minutes. During this time, you will observe and record what kinds of insects are visiting the flower. For each insect, record:
Describing an action is different from interpreting what the insect is doing. Do not interpret what the insect is doing on your data sheet. Examples of interpretations include:
If you are unsure of what type of insect it is, there are several apps for smart phones such as Picture Insect (free) or Audubon Butterflies, Insects and Spiders (fee).
Engage students in making sense of what they have observed by having them explore what the function of the different parts of the flower are. Give students the Why are they visiting the flower? Making Sense Handout. Allow students time to research the different structures of the flower and their functions before beginning to discuss what they figured out.
Use the following prompts to allow students to share what they have figured out:
Students may share that:
Have students connect what they observed about where the insects visited on the flower to the function of that structure on the flower. Allow students some time to Stop-and-Jot down their ideas on their Handouts before asking them to share their thinking. Encourage students to use evidence and prior knowledge to explain their thinking.
NSTA has created a Why are they visiting the flower? collection of resources to support teachers and families using this task. If you're an NSTA member, you can add this collection to your library by clicking ADD TO MY LIBRARY located near the top of the page (at right in the blue box).
The NSTA Daily Do is an open educational resource (OER) and can be used by educators and families providing students distance and home science learning. Access the entire collection of NSTA Daily Dos.
This lesson was adapted from the Insect-Plant Monitoring Field Study created by Negin Almassi, Naturalist at the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois. She based the lesson on Xerces Society Citizen Science Bee Monitoring Protocol.
To reach Negin email her at: Negin.Almassi@cookcountyil.gov
Background photo courtesy of Paul Dacko, Andrena zizia (Golden Alexander Mining Bee) nectaring on Zizia aurea (Golden Alexander).