« Simulations and Models

How are you using models & simulations in your classroom?  

I'm curious to know how you are using models and simulations in your classroom. It would be great if you would share in this thread. Please note that you can even attach a file showing an example or student work.

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Thank you Aida for setting up this discussion! We utilize models within my STEM programs a lot. One of the examples we do for water cycles is: https://greensborosciencecenter.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/diy-science-water-cy...

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Very nice! I love the idea that no two students will have the same experience. You could do a nice writing activity to wrap things up too.

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I really enjoy using modeling and simulations in my science classroom. Anything that I can teach by a hands-on activity, I do. However, I do need to offer a word (or few words) of caution. These hands-on activities in which students are representing scientific principles through manipulatives can cause two problems in the classroom: 1) Some students (especially younger students) do not make the connections with the manipulative piece with the scientific concept. For example, if you use a marble to represent a fish in a simulation. Does the student really understand its a fish? Some students think very literally. For this, the teacher must take special care to specifically identify what the manipulative represents and have the student verbalize this. Do not allow them to call the manipulative what it is while doing the simulation. For example, do not refer the marble as a marble, rather refer to it as a fish and encourage the student to refer to it as a fish while completing the simulation. 2) While play is really important in learning, in the science classroom play needs to be purposefully, directed, and discussed. Before, during, and after completing the activity, the teacher should explicitly discuss with the students what is happening in the activity. Questioning the students actions during the activity encourages the student to think deeper about what they are doing while the play and how the changing of variables (as a function of play) impacts the result. Having the students discuss and write about these scientific connections is essential, if you are making these play experiences serve true function of learning.

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Originally Posted by Dieuwertje Kast


Thank you Aida for setting up this discussion! We utilize models within my STEM programs a lot. One of the examples we do for water cycles is: https://greensborosciencecenter.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/diy-science-water-cy...


Our 3rd grade teacher was planning to do this activity with her students this week. She had seen it in a workshop and stated that it was very powerful for her. She mentioned that she never had really thought through the steps of the water cycle like this before seeing this model. This is the type of experiences we are creating for our students. I love to see it when those light bulbs turn on in their heads and they can use their own models to explain to each other, their parents, and classroom visitors what happens within their model.

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Originally Posted by Christina Agurcia


I really enjoy using modeling and simulations in my science classroom. Anything that I can teach by a hands-on activity, I do. However, I do need to offer a word (or few words) of caution. These hands-on activities in which students are representing scientific principles through manipulatives can cause two problems in the classroom: 1) Some students (especially younger students) do not make the connections with the manipulative piece with the scientific concept. For example, if you use a marble to represent a fish in a simulation. Does the student really understand its a fish? Some students think very literally. For this, the teacher must take special care to specifically identify what the manipulative represents and have the student verbalize this. Do not allow them to call the manipulative what it is while doing the simulation. For example, do not refer the marble as a marble, rather refer to it as a fish and encourage the student to refer to it as a fish while completing the simulation. 2) While play is really important in learning, in the science classroom play needs to be purposefully, directed, and discussed. Before, during, and after completing the activity, the teacher should explicitly discuss with the students what is happening in the activity. Questioning the students actions during the activity encourages the student to think deeper about what they are doing while the play and how the changing of variables (as a function of play) impacts the result. Having the students discuss and write about these scientific connections is essential, if you are making these play experiences serve true function of learning.



Those are both great points. I especially like calling the "fish" "fish", not "marbles"... great insight on where young students are developmentally with symbols and abstract concepts, and in how to take that into account in practice.

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Originally Posted by Christina Agurcia


I really enjoy using modeling and simulations in my science classroom. Anything that I can teach by a hands-on activity, I do. However, I do need to offer a word (or few words) of caution. These hands-on activities in which students are representing scientific principles through manipulatives can cause two problems in the classroom: 1) Some students (especially younger students) do not make the connections with the manipulative piece with the scientific concept. For example, if you use a marble to represent a fish in a simulation. Does the student really understand its a fish? Some students think very literally. For this, the teacher must take special care to specifically identify what the manipulative represents and have the student verbalize this. Do not allow them to call the manipulative what it is while doing the simulation. For example, do not refer the marble as a marble, rather refer to it as a fish and encourage the student to refer to it as a fish while completing the simulation. 2) While play is really important in learning, in the science classroom play needs to be purposefully, directed, and discussed. Before, during, and after completing the activity, the teacher should explicitly discuss with the students what is happening in the activity. Questioning the students actions during the activity encourages the student to think deeper about what they are doing while the play and how the changing of variables (as a function of play) impacts the result. Having the students discuss and write about these scientific connections is essential, if you are making these play experiences serve true function of learning.



Great points for all of us to remember! A couple things I have tried to do with my students: 1) always be very specific with the language used as you suggest, call things in a model by what they represent; 2) use formative assessments to double check that the students are making the connections back to the science and real components of the model.

I'm curious to know what others are doing to help with this?

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« Simulations and Models