"What are we doing to help kids achieve?"
The call for ideas on classroom culture really got me thinking. What is the very first impression that I want to make on students? Do I want to pass out a bunch of papers about the syllabus, rules and policies? Do I want kids to be thinking and acting like scientists? Deep down inside, my hope is always for the second idea. I decided to steal an idea I got from master chemistry teacher Linda Ford at an local ACS meeting. Linda introduced a group of teachers to the "Miracle Fortune Teller Fish". The fish is a small piece of red plastic shaped like a fish. A person takes the fish, places it on their hand and depending how it moves or curls, it predicts your "fortune". So on day one of class, I passed this out to the students, demonstrated the fish and asked, "How does this work?". Their "homework" was to take the fish home and collect their own data that would support or refute how they think their fish works and to write a paragraph with their data that supports their answer.
The next day students were placed in lab groups. We took some time to talk and brainstorm about what makes good teams and then they were to share their "fish" ideas with the others in their group. After their conversations, they could keep their original idea or revise it.
I was pleasantly surpised with the results. Some students searched for the answer on the internet. I explained that this was a great idea and research is always important in the scientific method but that data is always required. One student thought that it had something to do with moisture. He placed his in the fridge and it did not move. Next, he placed his hand in ice water, then removed it and placed the fish in his hand the fish quickly curled. He concluded that the temperature was about the same but his hand had more moisture. Others placed their fish on warm and cold paper towels. One girl placed the fish on different parts of her body such as her arm, hand, knee and elbow. Every time the movement of the fish was different but she reasoned that she had the same fortune so that the fish movement must not have anything to do her fortune, otherwise it would move the same each time nomatter where on her body she placed the fish. Several students thought they had the correct answer but then revised their ideas based on experiments by other students. Throughout the process, I tried to stress that it was okay if they did not have the correct answer as long as they could use the scientific method to help find the correct answer.
The answer is that the fish is effected most by moisture. The best part of this activity is NOT when students get the perfect answer....it is when they develop an attitude of curiosity and experimentation that will hopefully continue throughout the year. Thanks Linda....
Editor’s Note: This post was submitted for the 2017 ChemEd X Call for Contributions: Creating a Classroom Culture.