As we're trying to figure out what happens to dead plants (as it relates to what happens to dead animals--maybe?), our home gardener helped us figure out a lot of stuff! There is certainly a relationship between dead plants, worms, and the castings they create (a.k.a. worm poop). Students developed models to showcase their thinking, and we're extending this into thinking about how we can represent this mathematically, too!
So we all agreed that the plants in our dead stuff columns were disappearing. We figured that figuring that out would be our best bet! After watching a video of a home gardener (who puts LOTS of fruit and vegetable "scraps" into a bucket with worms), we noticed a lot of stuff!
We'll be building some models tomorrow to help explain everything that's going on and to help us figure out just what is happening to all our dead plant parts. Are they really disappearing? Or just going somewhere else?
Our dead stuff columns and jars are in full swing! We're collecting lots of data on them, drawing our observations, taking pictures, and even recording the weight of our jars (since they're a closed system). Each class spent time looking at what they noticed and wondered from their models and experiments to help us determine our next steps.
There was lots of discussion about stuff disappearing and wondering where it went. We agreed that no one was tampering with our systems, and we think that the stuff might still be in our dead stuff columns and jars, but we're still not really sure.
We can't see things like fruits, petals, and some flowers, so our next steps are going to involve what's really happening to these things!
Wait. What is happening?
The colors are all changing. All this fuzzy stuff is appearing. Some of our organisms we put inside (worms, mealworms, and crickets) are getting bigger. Some have died. Some we can't see. We even see some new organisms like tiny worms appearing. A couple group's have even seen new things growing! Most of the columns don't have the bright colors of green leaves and bright reds, yellows and blues of the flowers and fruits we put inside. We see lots of brown, gray and black. Hmmmm.....
So many new things to notice and wonder!
After some careful thought, we're realizing that each of our Dead Stuff Columns, while setup to answer one question, may actually have lots of things going on in it which can affect the answers to our questions.
For example, the group that is investigating how heat affects the dead plants is also near the fan and the light. This means that their experiment isn't really figuring out if heat is affecting the dead plants, but light and wind may be, too. Just like the one in the fridge is meant to see what happens in the cold, but it's dark in the fridge, too.
We decided we should try and set up some fair tests to see if we can pinpoint what is specifically causing anything to happen to the dead plants. While our 2L pop bottles were a great idea to model the real world outside, putting holes in them to allow for air flow for our living organisms may mean that other small things like dust and microorganisms get inside. This would mean we might be introducing another possible agent for change.
Mrs. Brinza has a whole bunch of jars laying around, so we figured that they would be good containers to hold a plant part and to change just ONE possible cause. We spent today developing some fair tests...or what we thought were fair tests to answer our questions.
Here's some student work! We'll be evaluating our work on Monday to see if our investigations get the green light of approval!
If we're going to answer any of the questions about what happens to dead plants and how the different conditions a dead thing finds itself in effects it, we're going to have to record some data! Students agreed to drawing and writing about the changes (if any) they see to the investigations they set up. They moved them from the locations they established based on their questions (i.e. under the light, by the window, in the fridge, by the fan, in the heating pad, etc.) to their tables so everyone could get a good view!
Students also agreed that their ability to accurately draw everything that's going on in their dead stuff columns might be a challenge. So we agreed to take pictures, and we worked out the kinks today with our Chromebooks using Google Drive to store them in a specific folder and rename with the date they were taken.
We also did a bit of reflecting upon our work thus far, and we're beginning to think there are some limitations to our dead stuff columns. Here's some student thinking...
We spent time setting up the locations for where we could put all the "Dead Stuff Columns" knowing that Mrs. Brinza teaches 6th graders in and out of the classroom, too. We've got models in the closet, on the counter, in the windowsill, and even in the fridge. We've got some under a light, and others with heating pads on them. We've even got two under the table with a fan on them!
We agreed that we'll need to collect data on our models and we'll be recording this data over the next few weeks. Here's to hoping that we figure out the answers to some of our questions!
We agreed that to investigate our questions, we needed to see what happens to plants when they've died. We also agreed that animals might be eating dead plants, so we figured they would be an important part of our models, too. Students brought in all kinds of dead plants (including many of their parts), soil, rocks, and even living organisms like crickets, earthworms, and meal worms. (Only one cricket managed to escape, ha!)
We spent the class period building our models, which we are now called "Dead Stuff Columns" because there's lots of dead stuff in them! Each group agreed to how they would set up their columns to help answer some of the questions on the Driving Question Board.
Different setups include changing: temperature, wetness, ground cover, trash, amount of plants, and more! We'll be figuring out exactly HOW to setup these different conditions in our classroom along with the best ways to collect the evidence we need to answer all our questions!
After we answered a whole bunch of our questions, we decided it was time to revisit the DQB and see the next set of questions we investigate. So we organized the questions into sub-groups and found we had lots of questions around:
2. Environmental factors affecting how something "disappears"
3. Organisms and what they eat
Questions about people's involvement, bones, and other miscellaneous things can wait!
We agreed that the questions about plants, environmental questions and organisms' eating habit might best be answered by going outside and seeing these things in action, but we also figured out that that might be really hard. We'd have to go outside a lot, and while that would be fantastic to do, it might be a bit challenging for many reasons.
So...some students suggest we build some models to mimic the outside and see if we could gather evidence to answer some of our questions. Mrs. Brinza had a whole bunch of 2L bottles lying around (science teachers collect A LOT of stuff), and we agreed this would help up build some models that could answer some of our questions. Since they are transparent, we can easily see what's going on inside them. We first discussed what might need to go into these models to answer our questions, and we came up with these ideas:
So while groups are figuring out what they want their model to represent, along with the questions they want to answer, we built the base layers of the models today. We did agree that we should try to build as many types of models to figure out as many answers as possible...thinking about temperature, moisture, surface, wind, living/dead organisms, and what eats what.