I recently observed in an 8th grade general education science classroom. The teacher was having the students do a lab that was geared towards authentic learning. The lab fit in well with the HOPE standard H5 – Honor student potential for roles in the greater society. To me, this HOPE standard means incorporating activities that will widen students’ perspectives. In addition I would like the students’ to feel like they will be able to play a meaningful part in society.
For this lab students, students began the class with a brief discussion about water resources and water needs for people on our planet. The students’ were then told that they would be doing a desalination lab, figuring out how to remove salt from water. Desalination, is a process that real scientist are working on perfecting. Through questioning that probed students’ prior knowledge, the teacher facilitated the students’ thinking on how to approach the lab. This line of questioning was a great way to allow students to access their prior knowledge. The replies that came out were; evaporation, condensation, the water cycle, that salt doesn’t evaporate, and lots of “Oh yeah’s”.
The supplies for the lab were as follows: salt water inside a large cylinder, a burner, a Styrofoam cup, tinfoil, ice-cubes, and a filter. The students were in groups of four. I found it enjoyable to watch the students collaborate on different ideas for the experiment. Some groups were much better at this than others. Some people got right to it and started crafting objects out of their supplies, other groups held lengthy discussions and shared their ideas and then began building. Watching the students interacting over a real world issue was great. The students were highly engaged.
I don’t know what subject or grade level that I will be fortunate enough to be able to teach. Wherever I end up, I hope to be able to create engaging activities that encourage dialogue and excitement amongst the students. The picture below is an image of the Ashekelon desalination plant, one of the worlds largest.