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INQUIRY LE ARNING PL ANNER

UNIT TITLE:

Its Not Easy Being Green; Whats With All These Plants?

LEVEL

TEAM

TERM

DURATION
9 weeks

3-5

UNDERSTANDINGS:

FOCUS QUESTIONS:

Level 3
- Consider environmental differences.
- Students explore how and why natural
factors affect the growth of plants in
different places.

Level 3:
- What are some different environments?
- What are the features of different
environments?
- Do different environments have different
plants? Why?

Level 4

Level 4:
- What impact do the features of differing
environments have on the plants in them?
- How do plants adapt to the environment?

Distinguish and describe the natural and


built features of the environments
identifying and explaining changes.
Make comparisons between a variety of
places and begin to develop an
understanding of the interconnected nature
of the world.

Level 5
- Students begin to develop a breadth of
understanding about natural processes and
human activities beyond their immediate
environment.
- Students identify patterns and processes in
natural environments and human activities
to understand increasingly complex
interactions of physical and human
phenomena within Australian and other
environments and to generalize from
particular contexts.

KEY CONCEPTS:
Location, Environment, Plant life, Climate,
Photosynthesis, Food Chain.

Level 5:
- What is the relationship between animals
and plants?
- How are plants classified as from different
families?

Thinking Processes
Students are to record
data based on
investigation by
constructing a labelled
table and explaining
their findings. Students
are to collect and
explain data through
observations and reach
conclusions.

Communication Skills
Students can present
information in a range of
ways; for examples
through making
informational posters, in
written form, oral
presentation or digitally
using some sort of
digital form such as
cameras/videos and
power points.

Personal Learning
Students learn about the
environment around
them, specifically the
plants within said
environment.

Interpersonal
Development
Students often have to
work in groups
throughout the unit, in
which they will be able
to collaboratively
construct learning and
develop social skills
throughout.

RESOURCES
-

Jungle by Theresa Greenaway


Desert trek : an eye-opening journey through the world's driest places by Marie-Ange Le
Rochais
One Small Square: Arctic Tundra by Donald Silver
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8K5pLt6vsc
Wild Classrooms Biodiversity Video:
http://www.thewildclassroom.com/home/ecogeeksvideos/biodiversity.html
Information About Plants at the Royal Botanical Gardens: http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/visitmelbourne/attractions/plant-collections

Student Cohort:
- The student cohort is from a school in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. In this location, the students
are in an environment that, while within half an hours travel of the CBD, still has a fair amount of
greenery, found both in local parks and botanical gardens.
- The student cohort itself is comprised mostly of students from an Anglo-Saxon background; however,
there are a reasonable number of students from Indigenous backgrounds.
- Most of the students have a pretty good grasp of the required literacy and numeracy skills for their
age group, and thanks to some effort on the part of the Level teachers, they have some idea about
basic scientific concepts.
Immersion Lesson:
- To begin the inquiry unit, the class should be taken on an excursion to the Royal Botanical Gardens in
Melbourne.
- These gardens are the most impressive within an achievable travelling range, and have not only a
detailed, dedicated website but plenty of information about the plants that can be found throughout.
- Focus on seeing each different part of the gardens with the students.
- Before beginning the exploration of the gardens, give each student a card; task them to, when they see
a plant they find interesting, find the information plaque and write down the name of the plant. This
will be used later on.

TUNING IN
Lesson 1: Where have you been? What plants have you seen?
-

Begin the lesson by opening a general discussion about the different places students have visited
and the environment of those places. The teacher will facilitate the discussion by asking questions
such as how was the weather like? What kind of plants did you see and were there certain things
in the environment that stood out to you?
The teacher will record the different places students have been to and the environmental features of
each place on a whiteboard.

* The teacher will then show students a video clip which portrays different environments and their
features.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8K5pLt6vsc
- After watching the video, talk about what students learned. What does a tropical rain forest look
like? What kinds of plants and animals live in the desert? Why is it important to preserve rain
forests etc...?
- Students will write what they discovered or what theyre wondering about on a sticky note and
place it on the classroom thinking wall. Students will be able to, during the learning sequence,
attempt to answer these questions based on their new knowledge.
Lesson 2:

Biodiversity survey
Have students watch the Wild Classrooms Biodiversity Video at:
http://www.thewildclassroom.com/home/ecogeeksvideos/biodiversity.html
This video defines biodiversity and its three levels: genetic diversity, species diversity and
ecosystem diversity.
- After watching the video, discuss and define the term biodiversity with the students and identify a
variety of ecosystems. A good way to do this is to ask the students where they have been for
holidays or where they would like to go.
This initial biodiversity survey will focus on plant variety and vegetative layers, as plants are the
foundation upon which most ecosystems are based. It is designed to get the students to view their
playground from a different perspective, with a biodiversity focus, and establish a sense of place.
1. Walk around the school grounds with the students, using the Biodiverse Playground Data Sheet.
Give the groups a time limit to count as many species as possible belonging to one of the vegetative
layers in particular areas.
- The students justify the number counted by describing or sketching leaf shape, flowers and bark on
the data sheet. Students should also take digital photos of each area. The variety of plant species
counted will help the students make inferences about the possible number of animal species at a
later date.
- Also look for evidence of animals in each area, eg, droppings, chewed leaves, scratch marks, webs,
etc. Note these on the recording sheet.
- Ask the students to compare the areas as you walk around asking questions such as: Do you think
this garden area would have greater biodiversity than the bush corner? What invertebrates and other
animals would you expect to find in this area? (Invertebrates are a good indicator of biodiversity.)

- In the classroom, display a large map or Google Earth satellite image of the school site. Students
label the map or satellite image with information from the Biodiverse Playground Data Sheet and
digital photos.
Lesson 3:
The teacher will have three A3 pieces of paper with the titles; Rainforest, Arctic and Deserts.
Divide students into three groups and allocate each group an environment (the desert, arctic or
rainforest).
- Depending on their assigned environment students will receive one of these three books; Jungle
by Theresa Greenaway, Desert Trek : an eye-opening journey through the world's driest places
by Marie-Ange Le Rochais or One Small Square: Arctic Tundra by Donald Silver.
- Once each group has received their environmental book, give each group an A3 piece of paper and
ask them to write about their given topic. Theyre to include the different animals and plants found
in their environment, the features of the environment and the climate (hot, wet, dry etc...)
Reflection:
When there is about 15 minutes left in the session, the teacher will gather the students and ask them to
share their informational poster. Each group will inform the class about the climate of their environment
and the different animals and plants that are found in that environment. The teacher will ask questions that
prompt discussion, such as is there a reason why some plants and animals are only found in certain
environments?, why dont we see cactuses in our gardens etc. After all three groups have shared; ask
students which environment they would like to live in and why?
- There should be a display section in the class where students can hang their posters and index cards
to refer back to if necessary.

FINDING OUT

SORTING OUT

How can we: Take students beyond what they already know?
Challenge their ideas, beliefs and attitudes? Enable them to use
skills and knowledge to collect new information? Provide a
range of experiences to develop our understandings?

How will students sort out, organise, represent and present


what they have found out? Ho can they communicate and
express what they know? How will they use preferred ways to
demonstrate their knowledge, skills and values?

Lesson 4: Students? More like botanists!

Lesson 6 : The Amazing Chia Pets

Suggested Sites:
- http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/visitmelbourne/attractions/plant-collections
- www.wikipedia.org

The children make Chia pets, using old stockings


(enough for the class), dirt and grass seeds.
1. Collect enough knee length stockings and
small pot plants (the bottoms of 1.25 ltr
coke bottles can do as well) for one per
child. They then fill the stocking first with 2
tbs of grass seeds, then they add potting soil
until the stocking is bigger than the pot/
coke bottle opening. Then tie off the
opening.
2. Decorate with elastic bands (to make ears)
googly eyes textas ect.
3. Now the children sit their Chia pet in their
pot.

Recall with students the excursion to the Royal


Botanical Gardens. Return to students the cards they
filled out with a plant name on said excursion. Tell
the students that people who study plants are known
as botanists, and today the students will take on the
role of botanists to find out about the plants they
wrote down on the excursion.
Group the students into threes, using discretion to
ensure an even range of abilities in each group.
Students are to compile a Botanists Report about

their plants. This report can contain different


amounts of information depending on the year level
completing the task.
Such information includes:
- Plant Name (Common and Scientific).
- An image of the plant.
- Ideal Climate.
- Plant Family.
- Where can it be found?
- Three Special Features of the plant.
The classroom has access to a large number of
laptops, so provide each group with at least one
laptop in order to perform research. Write the
suggested sites on the board to give students a place
to start.
Reflection:
1. Once students have found and recorded the
required information, gather the students at
the centre of the classroom.
2. Ask a couple of students to name their plants
and the ideal climates for those plants.
3. Use laminated A4 sheets with the names of
climate locations such as Desert, Forest,
Rainforest and others. Place them on the
left, middle and right areas of the classrooms
respectively. Explain that these refer to basic
climate temperatures in different parts of the
world.
4. Ask the students to consider the plants they
researched and stand in the Climate Area
that their individual plant normally grows in.
5. Ask questions such as Do you think your
plant could survive in one of the other
climates? to prompt students to consider the
impact of climate on the variety of plants that
can grow in particular places.

4. The children now decide on an individual


watering schedule the options are: once a
day (during the school week) every second
day (Mon, Wed, Fri) twice a week or once a
week. Once they have decided they all write
a sentence on why they chose it. Level five
students postulate on what time of year it is
that they are trying to simulate.
5. The children now choose a location in the
classroom to place their pet children should
be given four options with varying levels of
sunlight all of which are out of the way of
the children on an average day.
Reflection
1. Children will write a sentence or two on
why they chose the location they did for
their Chia pets.
2. Children will then write about how their
decisions might affect the growth of their
Chia pets.

Lesson 5: The Symposium.

Lesson 7: The Amazing Chia Pets Part II

Activity 1: Preparing for the Symposium.

At the end of the unit the children will compile,


graph and compare their Chia pet results.
1. The students will get into groups of four,
each with somewhat different results.

Keeping the students in their groups from the


previously lesson, its time to start the symposium!
Explain to students that a symposium is a gathering

of scientists where the scientists present their


findings to one another. As botanists they must, in
their groups, choose one plant they researched and
present it to the class, with greater detail about the
climate and environments their plant exists and
thrives in.
Stress to students that they can do this through a
variety of mediums:
- A PowerPoint presentation.
- A variety show.
- A drama performance (perhaps about how
and where the plant was found).
- A video presentation (perhaps using
Windows Movie maker).
Students may utilise the classroom laptops for the
task, as well as any scrap paper or stationery they
need. Provide support where necessary.
Activity 2: The Symposium Itself.
Hold the symposium. If a student is keen, give them
the opportunity to be the Master of Ceremonies,
introducing each presentation group as they come.
Encourage students, after each presentation, to ask
questions. Prompt questions such as What kind of
climate could your plant NEVER survive in? to link
the presentation back to the core of the unit.
If possible, the Symposium could be held with
parents in attendance, to give it more of an audience
and provide an opportunity to involve parents in
their childrens work.
Reflection:
Once the symposium is finished, gather the students
together and ask them to name some presentations,
or parts of those presentations, that they enjoyed or
found interesting. This way, students can discuss
each others plant presentations, learning more about
how to present similar material and how to give
warm and cool feedback. Students can then write
down one new thing they learned from the
Symposium on sticky notes and add them to the
classroom thinking wall.

2. They will then each draw a graph for their


Chia pet (line graphs would be preferable to
show growth over time)
3. The children will then revisit their sentences
predicting the Chia pet growth from the
start of the activity, and will write more on
them such as how much their predictions for
their pets were accurate and what they
would change given that time over again
and the other people in their groups results,
if they wouldnt change anything why?
4. After that they will decide who in their
group had, the greenest grass, the tallest
grass, the most blades and the shortest
grass. From this they draw conclusions on
what role water and sunlight play on their
Chia pets different attributes.
5. After the groups reach consensus they then
join up with another group and discuss their
conclusions, how are they the same? How
are they different, do any of their findings
contradict their own?
6. After this discussion the groups try to
reach consensus and share their results with
the class.
7. While all of this is happening a large piece
of paper is left on the floor with a graph on
it showing growth. The children one by one
add their results to this.
8. The groups of 8 then share their findings
and discuss who agrees and who does not.
Reflection
The children sit in one group and a general
discussion ensues. The children discuss what they
think the data proves. Then the main question is
asked, why do you think this activity was used in
this classroom? the children then make
suggestions, and are prompted to give reasons to
support their claims. Allow the children to take
their Chia pets home with them.

GOING FURTHER
How can we extend and broaden the unit? What other perspectives or dimensions can we explore? What are the ways which
students can negotiate their own personal inquiries?

Lesson 8: Your Own Personal Ecosystem


Students get into groups of 3-4 and design their own eco systems for their choice of habitat.
The amount of plants, animals and plants can be altered depending on the year level. For example, a Level
5 groups ecosystem might be comprised of 3 plants (with at least one tree) 3 herbivores and three
carnivores. They can add more animals in the form of omnivores if they wish. The flora and fauna may be
fictional or otherwise depending on how imaginative the individual child is feeling, and as long as it is
justified the animals do not necessary have to be in their native habitat.
1. The class splits up into their groups. And decide on a habitat to work with.
2. The groups then decide on who works on what (three flora/fauna for each child.)
3. The children can either draw or write a description of each animal (if they are describing it, it must
be detailed and if they are drawing it they must label it.)
4. Every form of life must have at least one (depending on year level) example of something that
helps it eat/ defend itself (plants exempt) and an example of something that helps it in the climate/
area (e.g. fins for swimming or a long coat for the cold.)
5. Once this is done (and if time is left over) the children can write about their animals behaviour
and life cycle. They may also decide about size, shape and colour and other facts such as whether
their trees have fruit
Reflection
One or two groups share their work and explain why they made those choices, such as why they think their
fictional animal would live well in the rain forest, or why they put a lion in a mountainous region. After
this the children then talk in their groups about what creature and plant from each category has the best
chance to survive and which has the worst.
Lesson 9: The Plant Party
For this final lesson, tell the students that they can bring in their Chia pets to take part in the lesson (this is
a bit of fun, but will also bring the things they learned from the Chia pets to the forefront). In this lesson, a
number of competitive games will be played not only for enjoyment, but to recap the unit.
Activity 1: The Plant Seat.
Prepare 5-10 question cards with simple questions about the unit content on one side and the answer on
the other. For each question, ask a student to come to the front of the room to sit in the Plant Seat
(somewhat inspired by Millionaire Hot Seat).
The activity runs thusly:
1. The student in the Plant Seat reads out the question and asks the competitors to put their hand up
if they think they can answer the question. The student in the Plant Seat then chooses one person
with their hand up.
2. The chosen student attempts to answer the question. If they are correct, they get to sit in the Plant
Seat. If they are incorrect, they can choose another class member to attempt to answer the question.
3. Continue until all questions have been asked.
Activity 2: Pin the Plant on the Climate.

Re-use the laminated A4 sheets from Lesson 5 for this activity. Place them in different areas around the
room. Using prepared cards, read out one at a time a plant the students will be familiar with. In response,
students have to stand next to the climate or area that they think that plant lives in.
Feel free to add other activities if you wish.

ASSESSMENT SUMMARY (ONGOING: FOR, AS and OF learning)


What are the cumulative and summative opportunities for assessment? How can teachers and students monitor progress? What
strategies can we use to cater for variance in learning styles and progress? How can we allow for expected and unexpected
outcomes? How can we provide opportunities for self, peer, teacher, parent assessment?

INQUIRY STAGE
Lesson 6

DESCRIPTION
The childrens writing will be
collected and assessed.
Level Three: will have to
identify one reason for placing the
Chia where they did or for the
watering schedule they elected.
Level Four: Will have to
identify two reasons for placing
the Chia pet on the watering
schedule.
Level Five: Same as Level four
but will have to identify what
kind of eco system they were
aiming for.

PURPOSE
Understanding of how the
environment and climate can
affect plant growth.
Building vocabulary in this area.

INQUIRY EVALUATION
-

The students really seemed to find this unit fascinating. Many of the students had older siblings
who had already gone through these year levels, and as such were expecting to do the same units.
They were pleasantly surprised to be studying something different in plants and the climate. Many
students mentioned telling their siblings about the work with genuine pride.
The excursion was a success. Although it was difficult to keep the group together and focussed due
to the excitement, having parent helpers helped keep things on track. Students showed genuine
interest in the different varieties of plants on offer, and as a result all handed in their cards at the
end of the day.
We were pleased with the results of the Biodiversity Survey activity. Students enjoyed working
outside for a change, though some abused the freedom provided by not doing the work.
The Symposium was a mixed success. Although most of the groups put on interesting and varied
presentations, and the parents enjoyed watching their children, some unmotivated students had
rather less impressive contributions to make. Perhaps next time a greater focus on each group doing
similar quality work, by using more restricted criteria for example, would result in a more even
spread of presentation quality.
The students absolutely adored the Chia pet activity. Not only did they get to make their own
creature, they had the opportunity to watch it grow in the classroom, learning more about the
impact of climate on plants in the process. During these lessons, students were abuzz with
discussion about how well their Chia pets would grow depending on where they were placed, and

most students were pleased with their results. Also, the fact that they could take the Chia pets home
resulted in many positive comments from parents.
Next time we decide to run this Inquiry Unit, it might be good to place more focus about how
plants impact the lives of people, so that it relates more to the students. Although students were
engaged and interested most of the time, there were many questions by students about how, for
example, finding out about plants in certain climates has to do with them specifically. Linking the
variety of plants in the environment to the variety of impacts they have on humanity might result in
greater engagement and personalised learning.