Mr. H. plans a year-long science activity integral to the entire school science program. The students are to observe and record information about the daily weather. Mr. H. begins the activity by assessing what students know, but realizes that students might use terms without understanding. He focuses on the aspects of weather that his teaching experience and knowledge from research on student abilities lead him to believe are developmentally appropriate, and he keeps a record of terms to help him modify his plans as the activity progresses. Students design instruments for measuring weather that are within the range of their skills and a parent provides expertise. They make measurements using their mathematical knowledge and skills; they organize data in a meaningful way and communicate the data to other students. There is an ebb and flow of teacher-directed, whole-class discussions and small-group work sessions.
[This example highlights some elements of Teaching Standards A, B, D, and E; Professional Development Standard C; the Content Standard on Unifying Concepts and Processes; K-4 Content Standards A, D, E, and F; and Program Standards A, C, and D.]
Mr. H.'s fourth grade class was in charge of the school weather station as part of the schoolwide science program. In planning for the weather station, Mr. H. reviewed the objectives he and his colleagues had defined for the activity. Because of their age, the students would not be studying the causes of weather change such as air pressure, the worldwide air currents, or the effects of land and sea masses. Rather, over the course of the year, they would identify and observe the elements of weather; devise and use measurement and data collection strategies; build measurement instruments; analyze data to find patterns and relationships within the data; and communicate their work to the entire school.
Mr. H. introduced the weather station to the students soon after school opened. After a discussion of students' experiences with and ideas about weather, Mr. H. asked the class what kinds of information they thought would be important to collect and how they might go about collecting it. The children quickly identified the need to record whether the day was sunny or cloudy, presence of precipitation, and the temperature. Mr. H. asked some questions, and the list became more complicated: What kinds of clouds were evident? How much precipitation accumulated? How did temperature change during the day? What was the wind speed and direction? One student said that he had heard on the weather report that there was a high-pressure front moving in. What is a front, he asked, and is it important? At the end of the discussion, someone mentioned humidity and recalled the muggy heat wave of the summer.
When Mr. H. thought about the lesson and reviewed what he was going to do next, he realized that much of what the students had said was predictable. He wondered about the last two items—humidity and air pressure. Those concepts were well beyond the students' ability to fully understand, yet they were familiar with the words. Mr. H. decided to continue, as he had planned, focusing on the most observable weather conditions and see whether the children's interests in humidity and air pressure were maintained.
The class spent time the next week discussing and planning how they were going