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Rationale for Work Toward Enduring Understandings Centrality to the Disciplines

Reesha Grosso

I chose the topic of experimentation in science as viewed through the lens of artistic exploration for my integrative unit specifically because the process of experimentation is one that is essential in the development of enduring understandings in the sciences. It is imperative that students have the opportunity to participate both in making predictions and in considering feedback as this interactivity promotes conceptual change (Bransford, 2000, p. 187). Further, research has shown that students learn best when they are actively seeking answers to questions that they themselves have formulated (Hilton, p.28). This process of engaged exploration lies at the heart of the disciplines of both art and science. The common core standards for sixth through eighth grade each designate a good amount of real estate to the scientific process of experimentation. Standard 3.2.6-8.B7 reads:
Understand how theories are developed. Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations and evaluate the appropriateness of questions. Design and conduct a scientific investigation and understand that current scientific knowledge guides scientific investigations. Describe relationships using inference and prediction. Use appropriate tools and technologies to gather, analyze, and interpret data and understand that it enhances accuracy and allows scientists to analyze and quantify results of investigations. Develop descriptions, explanations, and models using evidence and understand that these emphasize evidence, have logically consistent arguments, and are based on scientific principles, models, and theories. Analyze alternative explanations and understanding that science advances through legitimate skepticism. Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Understand that scientific investigations may result in new ideas for study, new methods, or procedures for an investigation or new technologies to improve data collection.

At the first encounter with this standard, its implementation seems like an insurmountable task. However, the fact that the standard is repeated across the middle years supports its importance and highlights the fact that developing an enduring understanding of the scientific process is itself a process. In fact, the eight Scientific and Engineering Practices outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards identify many of the same points as being essential to how science is done: asking questions, developing models, planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing data, using mathematics, constructing explanations, engaging in argument using evidence, and processing and communicating information (NRC, 2012).

Rationale for Work Toward Enduring Understandings

Reesha Grosso

Further, mastery of the skills involved in the process of scientific experimentation will prepare students for success in areas outside of science. For instance, the practice of asking questions helps students to start with what they know and to build upon this foundation as they explore (Bransford, p.134). This internalization of the question at hand allows students to make any learning process their own, resulting in increased engagement with the subject matter. The practice of developing models helps student to conceptualize relationships between concepts, and construction of these connections could support both recall and understanding (Vavra, 2011, p. 28). The practice of argumentation necessitates both recall and synthesis of ideas, skills that highlight depth of understanding and are essential to effective persuasive writing. According to Sewell, in order to convince someone else that you are right and they are wrong requires a thorough understanding of the concepts being presented, (2002, p.28).

Interest to Students In order to set the stage for inquiry, my goal for framing this unit is to engage students in the process of discovery as it relates to art and science. My lessons are constructed in an effort to encourage students natural curiosity in the world around them. I will draw their attention to various aspects of order in both the natural world and in art to lead students from concept to understanding without pulling them through the information. To let lessons blossom, I will engage their sense of wonder by framing the big ideas behind each concept as behind-the-scenes information that is not visible to the naked eye: the secrets of the universe. It may be no secret that some aspect of math and/or science underlies all things beautiful both natural and manmade, but it is certainly not apparent on the surface. After building these ideas up, I will then provide students with the opportunity to explore the inner workings of these ideas or processes in a hands-on fashion that will provide them with 2

Rationale for Work Toward Enduring Understandings

Reesha Grosso

the authentic experience of trial and error and meaningful exploration as it relates to the topic at hand. Highlighting student discoveries that are essential to the process we are exploring will solidify the experience in their minds as one of authentic discovery. Of course, this will not be effective unless students feel that the information they are looking for is pertinent to their personal experience of the world. In Sewells words, most of them do not see scientific knowledge as relevant to their daily lives, (p.26). Therefore, it is my duty as a teacher to make the information in my lessons feel both immediately essential and relevant. Sewell goes on to point out, if it is not relevant, students do not need it, (p.28). I believe that connecting art to science will make it feel more essential to my students as art has an outcome that they both are familiar with and value to some extent. The information they will glean from experiments is made more essential by the simple fact that they will need it to create the outcome that they seek in their art projects. As I mentioned in my context essay, the students at TPS have the opportunity to enroll in mini-courses of their own choice, so I know going into this project that my students have a vested interest in the arts, the sciences, or both. My intent is to leverage this information to create connections in students minds between the two disciplines. My hope is that students who chose the course because of an interest in one discipline or the other will take away from this unit a newfound interest and personal connection to the other.

Interest to Teacher The integration of art and science is a concept that I have been slowly synthesizing in my own mind as I struggle to define myself both as a person and as a professional. This is evident in my educational background: I have taken equivalent quantities of coursework in both disciplines. My interest in both extends to my earliest memories and career aspirations. A big part of why I 3

Rationale for Work Toward Enduring Understandings

Reesha Grosso

want to be a science teacher is because I am never as animated as when I am sharing scientific understanding with others. Therefore I am confident that my own interest in these topics will shine through, both in the extent of my knowledge in these areas and in my investment in planning due to my excitement about sharing information concerning the intersection of art and science. However, I believe that although I may have a desired outcome for an experiment, this doesnt mean that students should be limited by these expectations. Its important to me as a teacher that I not let my own interest overshadow the ideas and experiences that my student have to contribute to the learning process.

Accessibility to Students Due to the span of three grade levels enrolled in mini-courses, my curriculum unit has unique requirements in relation to developmental appropriateness. As we have talked about often in Seminar and TDL, I want to teach to the high-end while providing differentiation for the students who need more support. One of my goals in designing a class centered on experimentation was that this structure allows each student to access the content at their own level, building upon and applying their previous knowledge and understandings. As I previously mentioned, students enrolled specifically in this course so I began my curriculum design knowing that students had seen the abstract and therefore are likely to have interest in science and/or art already. To ensure the curriculum holds the interest of the more experienced or interested students, I made sure to integrate independent projects and open-ended assignments for self-selection (Renzulli, 2008, p.34). Though I am familiar with the 8th graders and some of the 7th graders, I havent had much opportunity to work with the 6th grade, so I wanted to be sure that my curriculum would be accessible for all kinds of learners. I looked to Multiple Intelligences Theory to ensure my course 4

Rationale for Work Toward Enduring Understandings

Reesha Grosso

was well rounded, providing opportunities for various learning styles. In practice, this means learning via hands-on activities, through reading and spoken words, through videos and still images, through drawing and writing, through group and solo work, and through open-ended projects and experiments. Goodnough summed up the overarching benefits of a pedagogical application of MI theory in this statement: Students need to experience learning that allows them to engage all of their intelligences, to explore their own intelligences and how they can impact their learning, and to be offered choice in how they learn and are assessed. In this way, students are more likely to experience curriculum that is meaningful, personalized, and relevant, (p. 182). In providing an experience that allows for access via all of the intelligences, I am also helping students to further develop all of their intelligences.

Accessibility of Resources
Ultimately, the unit that I developed is very materials intensive. Students will work with fruits and vegetables, computers, markers, and pinhole viewers, they will separate colors, make dyes, and manipulate photographs. The Philadelphia School has many unique resources that made this unit possible. Primarily, I was asked to submit a budget for unit materials. This allowed me more leeway to think outside the box I was able to select experiments that would require fresh fruits and vegetables rather than just working with what was on the science room shelves. The art room has a sharing space filled with tools and supplies so I am able to take all that I need to provide students with materials. The school also has plenty of laptops available which will allow for all students to be engaged in research or using the Photobooth app at the same time. Internet access and a SMARTboard will provide me with the opportunity to share videos and images with students. Access to a kitchen filled with pots and hotplates will make the process of creating dye-baths a possibility. Finally, the block scheduling of the minicourses will allow for enough time to do a more intensive hands-on experiment once a week.

Rationale for Work Toward Enduring Understandings

Reesha Grosso

Despite all of these resources, my ambitions outweighed the realistic possibilities in one realm incorporating hands-on experience with photographic processes into the physics portion of my unit. I considered having students construct pinhole cameras and then visiting a community darkroom for processing of the images. However, I weighed my options and ultimately decided that the amount of effort that this would require (not to mention exposure to harmful chemicals) wouldnt be worth it just to give them the experience of the inversion of an image and the reaction of photosensitive paper. Though the first option would be a bigger bang, these same understandings could be explored on a smaller scale with two separate experiences: by making pinhole viewers instead of cameras and working with SunPrint paper. (I researched the possibility of using these two together, but the exposure time would have literally been years long). The upside of this second option is that students will need to comprehend these interwoven processes separately, thus giving each the importance that it deserves.

Opportunities for Multiple Connections A glance at the variety of work that is considered art and the countless aspects of modern life that incorporate science are the best argument for the fact that my unit offers opportunities for endless connections. The artist brings with them all of their experiences in lifevisual, emotional, physical, psychological, and incorporates them into a work that somehow captures their experience for the benefit of others. The scientist brings with them all of the research that has been done before, distills it to its essence and uses it to frame a single question. Similarly, students bring with them every experience theyve had in and out of science class and the experiences theyve had with their parents, many of who are scientists and artists. We will be working together to explore the endless connections between the art and science that surrounds students in their daily lives. We will be addressing cross-curricular ideas such as patterns hidden in math, art, and nature, how both light and culture affects physical and emotional color perception, and how processes like dyeing and photography harness the power of chemistry and 6

Rationale for Work Toward Enduring Understandings

Reesha Grosso

physics to create beauty. All students will have something to contribute to the conversation because we will be exploring their world from the angle of natural curiosity. Art and science will take turns being the subject and the product of our inquiry as experimentation promotes a fluidity of movement from question to answer and back to question.

Works cited Bransford, J. (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school (Expanded ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Goodnough, K. (2001). Multiple Intelligences Theory: A Framework for Personalizing Science Curricula. School Science and Mathematics, 101(4), 180-193. Hilton, M. and Honey, M., eds. (2011). National Research Council. Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Johnson, L., Adams, S., and Cummins, M. (2012). NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium. National Research Council (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington D.C.: National Academies Press. Renzulli, J. (2008). Teach to the Top: How to Keep High Achievers Engaged and Motivated. Instructor, 117(5), 34. Sewell, A. (2002). Constructivism and student misconceptions. Australian Science Teachers' Journal, 48(4), 24-28. Vavra, K. L., et al. (2011). Visualization in Science Education. Alberta Science Education Journal, 41(1), 22-30.