So we figured out that as humans, we eat dead animals and plants (unless we're a vegetarian or vegan), and that got us wondering what the raccoon that Mrs. Brinza found on the side of the road eats. Through a reading, we discovered that a raccoon eats dead animals and plants, and by developing a model, we know that whatever does the eating gets bigger and grows/develops new parts, and that whatever got eaten gets smaller/disappears into the organism that ate it!
And then we built models for humans...
Our next steps...
To investigate questions we have about food when we eat it. For example, does the activity we do after we eat affect how much weight we gain? Does the type of food we eat indicate how much we gain? How long does it take to lose weight that we don't need? How much weight do we lose when we go to the bathroom? Do we lose weight when we sleep? Students will report back their findings to some of these questions next week!
Our "Dead Stuff Jars and Columns" are surely changing. We're starting to see some pretty interesting stuff and we're wondering how this all connects back to the dead raccoon Mrs. Brinza found. Here are some things we've noticed...
1. The fruit in the Dead Stuff Jars looks squishier, and it does not look as fresh as it did in the beginning. Some of the fruit looks moldy. And for the vast majority of us, the weight in the jars has remained pretty much the same (some are losing like 0.1g, but we think this may be because the jars have a slight leak in the lid--in fact, some groups noticed the top of the mason jar bulging up building up pressure and possibly popping, releasing some of the juice from the fruit).
2. The Dead Stuff Columns definitely have mold in them. We're not really sure how it got there, or why its there. We also notice that the fruit is looking wrinkly and starting to shrivel. Some of the organisms we put in our columns are obviously bigger, like the slug, the crickets, and the worms.
3. Nothing in the Dead Stuff Columns is as colorful as it was in the beginning. It's all kind of "earthy" colors like brown and yellow. Stuff in them looks really dead as one student put it. The columns that were in the heat and really wet seem to have more changes than the others. We wonder how heat and moisture help stuff "disappear."
So while we wait for our Dead Stuff Jars and Columns to give us some data we predict we'll be getting, we decided to look for some videos that can help us really understand what's going on with the badger.
Both these videos confirmed what we've been wondering...
That the flies we see at the beginning of what goes on with the badger's body are connected to the white wiggly things we see at the end. And it also goes to explain how the badger's body is disappearing because the white critters eat the dead badger!
We built our own models to explain this...
And then came to consensus on what was really happening! We then connected our understanding to the bar model in math (we researched the weight of a female fly and each of its eggs).
And when all the math was all said and done...we made sure we really understood what was happening when dead stuff "disappears!" We've still got some questions though...check back soon!
So while we realized that our dead stuff columns mimicked the environment where the dead badger died, the raccoon Mrs. Brinza found was on the side of the road where no soil or plants were. We decided our next best steps would be to set up an experiment which mimicked the side of the road, and Mrs. Brinza had a whole bunch of jars we could use...along with some strawberries in her fridge.
So we set up some "dead stuff jars" and will watch them over time. Strawberries are dead fruit from the strawberry plant, and we had some questions about how temperature, weather, light, and the surface something dies on affects what happens to dead stuff over time. Many of us predicted that the strawberries would get smaller over time, and then we asked, "What's the way something that's dead gets smaller?"
If something dead is going to get smaller, something living must be eating it. We will see if the fruit in our dead stuff columns gets smaller because we put living stuff in the columns. But we certainly didn't put anything living in our dead stuff jars...or at least that's what we think. But through a thoughtful discussion, if the strawberries do get smaller, we can probably conclude that there was something in the jars that we couldn't see. We agreed not to open the jars as a way to see if anything really small can eat it.
We also had a pretty intense conversation about how we could collect data on these columns and jars over time...and agreed to collect both qualitative data (through written words and drawings) along with quantitative data (weighing the strawberry to see if its weight decreases or stays the same). We'll have to wait some time for something to happen...because if these strawberries act anything like the badger did in the time lapse video, something didn't noticeably happen until Day 4-5 in the video.
After a thoughtful discussion, students suggested that since we couldn't bring an animal into the room and observe it over time (obviously that's not safe), we considered how plants are living things too, and they may behave and "disappear" like animals do.
We brought in all kinds of plant parts (and some of these parts seem to mimic animal parts, i.e. bark is like skin, and fruit is soft like our flesh). We also brought in everything that would be in the environment around a dead animal, like soil (and the organisms living in soil), water, and air. We'll be observing these dead plants over time to see what happens to them!
Mrs. Brinza couldn't bring the dead raccoon into class.
So we watched a time-lapse video of a badger instead.
This got us thinking if we could figure out what's happening to the badger by investigating plants instead, because they're living things, too.
Here are our ideas for our next steps...which are possible? Realistic? Going to give us the information we need?
Fifth graders recognized that the badger's body was fairly similar to the raccoon, so we decided to screen shot the badger's body over the 9-day video to really see what was going on. In a thoughtful discussion, here's what we figured out:
1. The badger's body seemed to be visited by all kinds of organisms, some of which were fairly obvious--flies and crows. Some students said they saw maggots (white bugs), but others think its sandy stuff. We wonder if they're really maggots. Some students said they're fly babies. We'll have to look into that.
2. The badger's body looked pretty much the same for the first few days, and then it began to look WAY different...the fur got changed tremendously, and the body itself started getting smaller and smaller. Was something eating it?
3. By the end of the nine days, all that was left was the skeleton and bones. We wonder why these were the only things left.
And then it got us really thinking. If the fur and bones were left, why don't we see fur and bones of dead animals all the time? Things have to be dying all the time, so where do they exactly go?
We need to figure out what we can do next, so we started thinking about other living things we could possibly investigate safely in the context of our classroom. Someone suggested plants, since they were living. Let's see where this takes us!
So we really want to see if our predictions are right, or if something else will happen. We're trying to figure out the best way to see how to do this...and after careful thought, the class brainstormed ways in which we could safely investigate our predictions. Here's what we came up with!
We all agreed that bringing the actual raccoon in would be a safety risk for everyone. And while asking Mrs. Brinza to go and take pictures everyday would be a great idea, we thought that this may still be risky and not quite possible, especially if someone came and picked it up (like a park ranger who's job is to pick up roadkill). We brainstormed ways in which could have something else that was dead in our classroom, and while raw meat and fruits/veggies seemed like a good idea, they wouldn't necessarily mimic what was going on with the raccoon, which had fur all over it (raw meat doesn't) and it's an animal (fruits/veggies are plant parts).
The ideas of camera footage seemed wonderful, but there was no security camera set up to record what would happen to the raccoon. So with a little research, we discovered a great video on youtube of a similar organism to a raccoon--a badger! We'll be looking at the badger and what happens to it over time to see if our predictions are right. And we'll also see what new questions we have based on what we see!
What do you notice? What do you now wonder? How could we figure this out?
While on my commute to school one day, Waze took me by the Forest Preserve on the city's NW side where I live, and I happened to find this dead raccoon. Knowing we were about to start a life science unit, I just couldn't pass up a great photo opportunity.
I brought the picture in and students were just as curious as me. We spent quite some time noticing things about the raccoon...and then we began to wonder...
And eventually decided together that the raccoon would disappear. But what would happen to it? Our ideas were all over the place! We're trying to make sense of all this stuff.
Here are some of our initial thoughts!
And here's what we all agreed upon!