Sunday, May 19, 2013

Switching Topics

For the past couple years I have taught Earth Science to my 6th graders. However, this year I am switching to an integrated model designed by the state. I am pleased with this, but it's also time to start developing a curriculum map for next year. Scary!

First step? Find out what the heck it is I will be teaching. Here's the overview:

Content Area
Grade Level
6th Grade
Course Name/Course Code

Grade Level Expectations (GLE)
GLE Code
1.       Physical Science
1.       All matter is made of atoms, which are far too small to see directly through a light microscope. Elements have unique atoms and thus, unique properties. Atoms themselves are made of even smaller particles
2.       Atoms may stick together in well-defined molecules or be packed together in large arrangements. Different arrangements of atoms into groups compose all substances.
3.       The physical characteristics and changes of solid, liquid, and gas states can be explained using the particulate model
4.       Distinguish among, explain, and apply the relationships among mass, weight, volume, and density
2.       Life Science
1.       Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms, populations, and entire species
2.       Organisms interact with each other and their environment in various ways that create a flow of energy and cycling of matter in an ecosystem
3.       Earth Systems Science
1.       Complex interrelationships exist between Earth’s structure and natural processes that over time are both constructive and destructive
2.       Water on Earth is distributed and circulated through oceans, glaciers, rivers, ground water, and the atmosphere
3.       Earth’s natural resources provide the foundation for human society’s physical needs. Many natural resources are nonrenewable on human timescales, while others can be renewed or recycled
Colorado 21st Century Skills
Critical Thinking and Reasoning:  Thinking Deeply, Thinking Differently
Information Literacy: Untangling the Web
Collaboration: Working Together, Learning Together
Self-Direction: Own Your Learning
Invention: Creating Solutions
Reading & Writing Standards for Literacy
in Science and Technical Subjects 6 - 12
Reading Standards
·         Key Ideas & Details
·         Craft And Structure
·         Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
·         Range of Reading and Levels of Text Complexity
Writing Standards
·         Text Types & Purposes
·         Production and Distribution of Writing
·         Research to Construct and Present Knowledge
·         Range of Writing
Unit Titles
Length of Unit/Contact Hours
Unit Number/Sequence
Changing Environments
4-6 weeks
4-6 weeks
Building Blocks of Life
4-6 weeks
Environmental Systems
4-6 weeks

The Earth Systems standards are of course old news - I have taught those before. We also hit on mass, weight, volume, and density before and have hinted at the particulate behavior behind solids, liquids, and gases, The rest is shiny and new.

Here's one of the sample curriculum maps the state has provided. I love that it takes on the format of UbD (Understanding by Design, Wiggins and McTighe).

Unit Title
Changing Environments
Length of Unit
4-6 weeks
Focusing Lens(es)
Standards and Grade Level Expectations Addressed in this Unit
Inquiry Questions (Engaging- Debatable):
·         How do changes in one (population) affect balance in an ecosystem?
·         How would life / ecosystems be different if Earth’s surface did not change?
Unit Strands
Life Science, Earth Systems Science
change, equilibrium/stability, ecosystems, environment, population, energy, matter, flow, cycle, surface features, constructive/destructive forces, interaction, patterns

My students will Understand that…
Guiding Questions
                                   Factual                                                                                                     Conceptual
The interactions among organisms in an ecosystem facilitate the flow of energy and cycling of matter and follow predictable patterns.  (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.c;  IQ.2; N.3)
What biotic and abiotic factors comprise ecosystems? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.c)
What are ways that we can describe and measure populations and ecosystems? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a)
 How does a food web show the flow of energy through an ecosystem? patterns (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.b)
What “jobs” do organisms do to facilitate the flow of energy and cycling of matter? patterns (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.c;  IQ.2)
How do biotic and abiotic factors interact in an ecosystem? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.c)
Why are there generally more producers than consumers in an ecosystem? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.c)
How does the flow of energy compare and contrast with the cycling of matter? patterns (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.c)
The interaction between Earth’s constructive and destructive forces explains both the pattern and changes in surface features on Earth. (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.a; IQ. 2; RA.1)
What constructive and destructive forces affect Earth’s surface features?
How does Earth’s surface change over time? (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.b,c; IQ.2;  RA.2; N.2)
How do forces inside the Earth and on the surface build, destroy, and change Earth’s crust? (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.a; IQ. 1; RA.1)
How do changes in Earth’s surface alter the nonliving environment of ecosystems? (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.b; RA.1)
Changes in the environment can determine the survival of populations and the stability of ecosystems. (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a; IQ.1)
What types of environmental changes can occur? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a)
What is meant by “equilibrium” of an ecosystem? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.c; IQ.2)
How do environmental changes explain why populations decrease or increase? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a)
How do environmental changes affect the survival of individual organisms, populations and species? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a)
A general understanding of ecosystems and environmental change allows scientists to predict and model potential impacts on populations of organisms. (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.b, d; N.1)
How do models help scientists to predict future events? (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.d; RA.1; N.3)
How might future environmental changes affect the survival of individual organisms, populations and species?  (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.d; N.3) and (, N.2)

Critical Content:
My students will Know
Key Skills:
My students will be able to (Do)
·         The difference between biotic and abiotic (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.c)
·         The reasons why there are generally more producers than consumers in an ecosystem (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.c)
·         How food webs help us visualize the flow of energy through and ecosystem (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.b)
·         Matter cycles within ecosystems (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.c; IQ.1)
·         Earth’s surface is constantly changing (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.c; IQ.1)
·         Examples of how forces inside the Earth contribute to changes in the surface of Earth’s crust (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.a; IQ.1)
·         The constructive and destructive forces  brought about by changes to the Earth’s surface (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.a; IQ.1)
·         How environmental conditions affect the survival of individual organisms, populations and entire species (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.d; N.3) and (, N.2)
·         Develop, communicate and justify an evidence-based explanation about why there generally are more producers than consumers in an ecosystem (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.a)
·         Design a food web diagram to show the flow of energy through an ecosystem (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.b)
·         Compare and contrast the flow of energy with the cycling of matter in ecosystems (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.2-EO.c)
·         Gather, analyze and communicate an evidence-based explanation for the complex interaction between Earth’s constructive and destructive forces (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.a)
·         Gather, analyze and communicate evidence from text and other sources that explains the formation of surface features (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.b)
·         Use or create a computer simulation for planets’ changing surface (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1-EO.c)
·         Practice the collaborative inquiry process that scientists use to identify local evidence of constructive and destructive forces (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1; N.1)
·         Create and compare models of natural processes that affect structures (SC09-GR.6-S.3-GLE.1; N.2)
·         Interpret and analyze data about changes in environmental conditions (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a)
·         Develop, communicate, and justify and evidence-based explanation about how ecosystems interact (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.b)
·         Model equilibrium in an ecosystem (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.c)
·         Examine, evaluate, question, and ethically use information from a variety of sources to investigate how environmental conditions affect survival (SC09-GR.6-S.2-GLE.1-EO.d)

Critical Language: includes the Academic and Technical vocabulary, semantics, and discourse which are particular to and necessary for accessing a given discipline.
EXAMPLE: A student in Language Arts can demonstrate the ability to apply and comprehend critical language through the following statement: “Mark Twain exposes the hypocrisy of slavery through the use of satire.”
A student in ______________ can demonstrate the ability to apply and comprehend critical language through the following statement(s):
Ecosystems change over time as populations interact with each other and the changing environment.
Academic Vocabulary:
analyze, interpret, evidence, interactions
Technical Vocabulary:
weathering, erosion, deposition, constructive forces, destructive forces, ecosystem, population, species, crust, survival, equilibrium,  producers, consumers, food web, food chain,

Just so we're clear, the state of Colorado has provided these sample curriculum models as a tool. They are not something I absolutely must do. For example, I would prefer to start with atoms in the "building blocks" unit and then move into this. Why? Well, having taught about the constructive and destructive forces on earth, I know that the whole "building blocks" idea can be very helpful in developing a concept of how molecules behave before we ever begin this unit. Then we can use that foundation to help problem solve through how exactly our constructive and destructive forces work.