As a teacher, air can be a difficult concept to teach because it can’t always be seen, smelled, heard, or tasted. Our second grade class has been busy exploring air using our FOSS kit curriculum. Throughout the school year, students will focus on many STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and PBL (project based learning) activities. These activities are student-centered and encourage student investigation and problem solving to respond to a question, problem or challenge.
“Where is air?” “Is air outside?” “Is air inside?” “Is air in our room?”
As an introduction to project based learning, students shared some background knowledge they already had about air. Students explained that air is all around us but is invisible. Then, students were presented with a driving question: How can we prove that that air takes up space? Students used 21st century skills such as problem solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity to manipulate materials as they developed their ideas.
We began by using balloons and bags to model how air can take up and be trapped. We designed and created parachutes using string, paper towel, stickers, and paper clips to learn about air resistance and observe that air is everywhere (even though we can’t see it!). We created a system using syringes to demonstrate pressure and compression. We used buckets of water to show how air can take up space to keep a paper towel dry when submerged under water. Our personal favorite was when we created balloon rockets and explored how they travel further when more air is pumped in the balloon. After the exploration stage, students had the opportunity to share their ideas using a material they explored with. Students demonstrated their answers to the driving question as well as explained their conclusion verbally to the class and visually in their science notebooks.
Our work as scientists enhanced our ability to ask and answer questions, plan and conduct simple investigations, use data to construct reasonable explanations, and communicate investigations and explanations. These skills are important and encourage students to question the world around them.