Choosing Phenomenon

Phenomenon are everywhere. The key to choosing them is to remember that phenomena do not have to be phenomenal. Choosing phenomenon that students have experienced and can relate to provides a bridge for learning that leads to deeper conceptual understanding of the science behind the phenomenon that they can then apply to phenomenon they have not experienced. More importantly, it fuels curiosity and a sense of wonder about the world in which we live. A great place to start is by brainstorming things that you notice and wonder about: there are more potholes in springtime, you get chills with a fever, sugar dissolves faster in hot tea than iced tea, there are different kinds of clouds in the sky, trees bud at different times of the year, some metals rust, people have different eye colors....... Engaging students in this process using a structure such as "I notice, I wonder" makes the learning more personal and relevant.

“When students understand that phenomena have causes, they are better prepared to seek evidence to support explanations; helping students see causes for phenomena about which they are curious is a powerful way to motivate learning.” -Brett Moulding- Framework writer, author of A Vision and Plan for K-12 Instruction

Guiding questions to consider when choosing a phenomenon:

  • Does the phenomenon occur in the student's’ local environment, is the phenomenon anchored in real-world issues, or does the phenomenon relate to a problem that needs to be solved?
  • Can students observe and/or investigate the phenomenon either through firsthand experiences (e.g., directly in a classroom, lab, or outdoor environment) or through someone else’s experiences (e.g., through video presentations, research, or analyzing patterns in data)?
  • Do students have to connect Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts through Science and Engineering Practices to explain how and why the phenomenon occurs?
  • By making sense of the phenomenon, do student explanations build grade-level understanding towards performance expectations?
  • Will students find making sense of the phenomenon interesting and important?
  • Does the potential student learning related to the phenomenon justify the financial costs and classroom time that will be used?
  • Are the phenomenon analogous to other phenomenon to build an instructional sequence or extend the learning?

Once you have a phenomenon you are considering for a lesson or sequence of lessons, unwrap the phenomenon to discover how the crosscutting concepts can be used to connect the disciplinary core ideas to explain the phenomenon. The next step is to align the phenomenon to the standards based on grade level appropriateness.

Unwrapping a Phenomenon

Resources to Support

A Vision and Plan for Science Teaching and Learning from Brett Moulding, Dr. Rodger Bybee, and Nicole Paulson

Phenomenal GRC Lessons- Going 3D-Choosing Phenomenon