Course Four Final Project – Energy Unit
For my final project for this course, I chose to go with option one and design the unit I plan to teach for course five. It was a big task, but I am glad that I have it mostly ready to go, so now I can spend course five focused on the teaching of the unit and my students’ learning. I say “mostly” because in the PYP classroom plans are heavily influenced by student choice and needs, so I know that as we work through the unit the plans will be tweaked and changed.
You can find the unit planner and linked resources here.
For this unit, I chose to design my grade level’s Unit of Inquiry for Energy. For the most part, the choice was easy because it was the unit that we would be working on during the best dates during course five. However, it was really a good choice because it is a new unit for the fourth grade in my school.
In previous years, the topic of energy had been covered in fifth grade, however, this year when we began the school year, my principal allowed us to rearrange and reorganize the units of inquiry for the upper elementary. In doing so, I had the energy unit moved down to fourth grade because there are more standards for energy in the fourth grade NGSS.
Student Voice and Agency
As I started to plan this unit I knew one thing for sure, I wanted my students to have a lot of freedom to deepen their learning past the required standards, so they could dive deeper into the different energy concepts they were most interested in. Still, I needed to be sure to include a good amount of time to gain the content knowledge as laid out by the NGSS standards.
My students are in a very unique position, while most of them have been in our school for several years, this is their first year in a PYP classroom. That is because up until grade 3 students are in the Montessori program and are in mixed-age classrooms. It has only been in the last year, that my school has incorporated elements of the PYP and units of Inquiry down into the grade 1-3 Montessori classrooms, and from what I understand science teaching and learning has been a struggle in the past.
I have noticed that my students are farther behind in science knowledge than in many of my past classes. This past October was the first time we had the students take the science section of the MAP test and we definitely noticed we have work to do.
All of that being said, I wanted to find a way to have my students learn about the different aspects of energy that they need to meet the fourth grade standards, but in a hands-on, inquiry-based way. Enter MysteryScience! Their platform is based on exploration and experiments. I have used the program in the past and the students love it.
Thus my unit plan unfolded with the first few weeks, giving my students the content knowledge they need through inquiry and exploration. Then in the second half of the unit, the students will take charge and drive their learning further.
The Energy Summit
Once we have shared the MysteryScience lessons, we will present the students with a list of the NGSS standards and let them choose which standard they were most interested in. They can work in small groups of 1-3 to learn more and develop their own experiment to teach others at our Energy Summit.
Students will use their devices to continue learning and researching about their chosen concept and deepen their learning. Then they will make a presentation to share their learning and hopefully teach others. The energy summit will be open to classes in grades 1 to 5 as well as the students’ families.
Ultimately, my goal is to empower my students to become science professors. I am already so excited to see what they can teach me!
Although not all included in the unit plan here, I will also be integrating reading, writing, and math into this unit as well. In the linked unit you will see some integration for reading, however, even though we are a PYP school we still keep separate planners for each subject so these other subjects will be planned more thoroughly on their own planner. Perhaps, I can share those planners as part of Course 5.
For reading and writing, we will cover the nonfiction standards for fourth-grade common core. We have a lot of focus on research, note-taking, paraphrasing, and reporting. For math, the students will explore concepts for data, measurement, and probability.
All in all, I think this will be a wonderful well-rounded unit, that will be highly engaging for my students.
Well, that is a wrap on course four. I am very much looking forward to having a break then getting started on our final course!
Happy Holidays, Everyone!