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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Science lesson on seeds at Merrylee Primary in Glasgow, Scotland

This blog post is my reflection of a science lesson Mrs. B taught on seeds and how they spread throughout their environment. Mrs. B had planned the lesson earlier, but on the morning of the lesson when I came in, she was organizing her materials. She was sure the PowerPoint was on her laptop ready to go. She has a pile of worksheets on her desk, along with small plastic cups, a large bag of soil, and a packet of sunflower seeds.  On the whiteboard, she wrote the Learning Intention: Today, I will learn the parts of the seed and the ways in which seeds spread. Mrs. B read this out with them once, but having it written allows students to refer back to it throughout the lesson as a sort of check-in.
                First, Mrs. B asked about how plants grow. Confirming some students’ responses, she explained that a seed needs to grow in soil. The students then listed a variety of plants that have seeds in them. Then, she used a PowerPoint to introduce the anatomy of a seed (the seed coat, seed, and embryo). The PowerPoint had bullet points with brief sentences explaining the parts, as well as pictures and labels. Mrs. B then asked questions about where plants grow and how seeds get there. This discussion lead to the next slides which explained the main methods of seed transportation: popping out, animals, and the wind.  I noticed some students were disengaged, but I think that is natural in a lecturing component. Engagement increased as the students were directly involved with the activities.
                The students next completed the worksheet which had pictures of different plants, and the students had to label which method of seed transportation was being used (e.g., acorns are moved by squirrels and dandelion seeds are blown by the wind). The next part of the lesson was exploring the anatomy of an actual sunflower seed. Mrs. B allowed the students to pick their own partners. Each pair received two seeds, one to examine and one to plant (just for decoration according to Mrs. B, as well as creating some responsibility for the students to have by watching over their plants). The students were to break open the seed coat, see the seed, and then try to find the embryo within the seed. Some students had greater luck than others, and those whose seed showed the embryo shared their findings with other classmates. One of the challenges of this lesson was the time constraint. Even though the block was an hour and half, time still passed quickly. In order to have enough time for the next part of the lesson described next, this sunflower seed exploration was rushed. If there was more time, the students who broke their seeds and were unable to locate the embryo would have the chance to examine a new seed.
                With about 25 minutes in the lesson remaining of the 1.5 hour block, we all went outside to the ‘Urban Jungle’, a hilly and treed area in the school yard. The students ran around collecting as many different seeds on or in plants as they could find. Mrs. B and I asked the students to think about how the seeds would be transported, in addition to asking them to point out the known anatomy. The students brought their findings back to the classroom, and Mrs. B called on individuals to share what their plant and seed looked like and their hypothesis on how the seeds were moved. As there was a vast majority of seeds, this sharing time was engaging for all students listening because they were able to compare their own seeds to the ones being discussed.

                This lesson was a great success! The objective focused on just two aspects of seeds as oppose to trying to touch on everything about seeds. The lesson presented the material a variety of important ways: through the PowerPoint, in writing, in discussion (which required recall of prior knowledge), and on-hands through examining the sunflower seed and through searching for new seeds outside (thus applying new knowledge of the characteristics of seeds and then applying the new knowledge of seed transportation).  The final discussion acted as a reflection and wrap-up of the lesson and it being student-directed is much more effective than teacher lecturing. The switching of activities kept students engaged and prevented their boredom though the subject matter remained the same. I can use this lesson in mind when creating my own lessons in the future. I can even use just some aspects of the lesson for shorter mini-lessons that won’t take up as much time as this whole seed lesson took.

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