Science Court: Living Things
Waterville Junior High School
120 West River Road
Waterville, ME 04901
Science Court is a popular childrenís show that is aired Saturday mornings on ABC. The dynamic characters combine a bit of wit with a colorful attention-grabbing cartoon to maintain a studentís interest and teach science concepts. The program focuses on explaining how scientific evidence can prove a point. The program is nicely set up with an almost no-fail method of cooperative grouping.
You could choose to use the original episode of Science Court
with the supplied video and a television and VCR. To benefit from the interactivity,
I would suggest the use of the Science Court CD-ROM with either a PC or Macintosh
that has a CD-ROM drive rather than the video when presenting information.
The video is a good reinforcement and is helpful if the technology does not
exist within the school to use the CD-ROM. An adapter from the television
to a large screen television or a computer screen projection device also works
best to ensure visibility for the whole class.
The kit comes with a poster highlighting key points. Also included is a manual that contains masters to be photocopied. If you choose to do the optional labs at the end of parts 1, 2, and 3 you will need the following materials:
Part 1. A variety of miscellaneous materials to classify into groups such as pens, paperclips, shells, rocks, etc.
Part 2. Brine shrimp eggs
Part 3. Reference books
Peanuts and grinder
Seeds and oven
Lemon, sugar, and lemon juicerGrade Levels: 4-8
Time Required: 3-5 class periods
Student Grouping: Place students into groups with no more than four students per group.
Maine Learning Results:
Science and Technology
A. Classifying Life Forms (Elementary Grades 3-4)
#2. Design and describe a classification system for organisms.
C. Cells (Elementary Grades 3-4)
#1. Demonstrate an understanding that a cell is the basic unit of living organisms.
K. Scientific Reasoning (Elementary Grades 3-4)
#3. Draw conclusions about observations.
#4. Use various types of evidence (e.g., logical, quantitative) to support a claim.
#5. Demonstrate an understanding that ideas are more believable when supported
by good reasons.
K. Scientific Reasoning (Middle Grades 5-8)
#1. Examine the way people form generalizations.
#2. Identify exceptions to proposed generalizations.
#6. Support reasoning by using a variety of evidence.
#8. Construct logical arguments.
L. Communication (Middle Grades 5-8)
#1. Discuss scientific and technological ideas and make conjectures and
#6. Identify and perform roles to accomplish group tasks.
It is best to prepare students for cooperative learning by first setting expectations for individuals and the group as a whole. Showing students that each contribution to the group as a whole in the beginning will proactively eliminate problems further down the road. A couple things to review with students before stating part one are:
At the end of three of the four video segments, students will be responsible for each group member having four of the six questions answered correctly. Each group member, although having the same six questions, will have a clue on their worksheet that other group members will need. This method of cooperative learning encourages each member of the group to participate and realize that each student's input is equally valuable. It also makes the class act as a team because they can not proceed until four of the questions are answered correctly.
When the class checks their answers, the Science Court CD-ROM has a selection device that randomly chooses students to answer the question. Students will want to be prepared because they could be called on. This also allows students who are not apt to raise their hand, a chance to participate.
Part 1. Is the Chicken Bone Dead?
Input of Information: Students are introduced to the dilemma in a nine and a half minute video segment. A cartoon character, Walter Williamson, writes poetry about dead items like pets for a fee. He feels that some items he was asked to write about (a chicken bone, brine shrimp eggs, and a wallet) would not be considered dead. The case is sent to court. There is a poster included in this kit that goes with the portion of the video where a science expert testifies on the stand about three groups things can be classified into. These areas are:
Living- Something that can grow and reproduce.
Dead- Something that is no longer alive.
Nonliving- Something that can not grow or reproduce. A living thing that
was put through a process to turn it into something else is also in this category.
Reinforcement: With students in groups no larger than
four, they will complete the "Information Sheet Part 1" located
in the manual for this kit. Every student will have the same six questions
to answer, but make sure each of the four members of a group have a different
version A, B, C, or D. The varied versions give different clues to allow for
the maximum use of cooperative grouping. The following are the different clues:
A- Living things eat, breathe, move, grow and reproduce.
B- The scientific term for sorting things by their characteristics is called classification. For example, you could classify things by size, shape, color or age. Here we are classifying everything as living, non-living, or dead.
C- All living things are made up of cells. Some organisms are made up of just one cell. Others, like you, have millions of cells.
D- Organisms are living things that can live on their own. Parts of an organism such as leaves, fingers and skin are also considered alive as long as they are part of a living organism.
With the video and the combined clues each group will attempt
to answer the following six questions on their worksheets.
1. What does it mean to classify something? When you classify something, you put it into groups that share similar characteristics.
2. What are at least four characteristics of all living things? All living things eat, breathe, grow, reproduce and move.
3. What are living things made of? Cells.
4. What is an organism? A living thing that can live on its own.
5. What are three examples of living organisms? Accept all reasonable answers.
6. Is a leaf on a tree alive? And what about when a leaf falls from the tree? A leaf on a tree is alive until it falls off. It would then be considered dead.
Once all groups are convinced that they have all answered the questions to the best of their ability the class must work together to continue. Four correct responses must be entered into the computer before the case continues. The teacher clicks on the icon for questions under Part 1 in the table of contents. The directions and questions can be read aloud by clicking on the microphone. The teacher should next click on the dice on the left-hand portion of the screen. This will allow the computer to choose the group and a person within the group by indicating the A, B, C, or D that is on the upper right hand corner of the studentís worksheet. This person will submit the answer for the class. It is recommended that students not be able to use their worksheets to submit the answer. The teacher will determine if it is correct and then hit the corresponding icon. If the class gets at least four of the six answers correct they can make their guess about whether they feel the court should predict that the chicken bone is dead. It would be best to have the students vote for this answer. It will be addressed in the beginning of part 2.
Practice: The kit gives an opportunity for additional hands on practice of the concepts covered in part 1. Photocopy the ìHands-On Activity Part 1î worksheet either for a group to work together or for individual practice. Present the students with a group of miscellaneous items that can be placed in the category of living, dead or nonliving. The nonliving category may be controversial because some items may be considered decorative by some. For instance, a dried starfish may be dead to some, but a decoration to others if they considered the drying and bleaching in the sun a process.
Part 2. Are the eggs dead?
Input of Information: The second video clip lasts three minutes and takes place in the courtroom. The second item up for debate over being dead are brine shrimp eggs. An expertís testimony informs students of the following key points:
Cell: the smallest unit of life.
One-celled organisms: a living organism consisting of just one
Many celled organisms: the different parts consist of cells
that are considered
Reinforcement: With the students in their groups, they
will complete the "Information Sheet Part 2". Every student will
have the same six questions to answer, but make sure each of the four members
of a group have a different version, A, B, C, or D. The different versions
give different clues to allow for maximum use of cooperative grouping. The
following are the different clues:
A- Brine shrimp eggs have the ìpotential for lifeî which means they will hatch in
a live state when put under the right conditions.
B- Other things that have the ìpotential for lifeî include seeds, nuts, bulbs,
potatoes, and bird eggs.
C- Brine shrimp eggs are also known as the pet ìsea monkeysî. They need water,
salt, and the proper temperature to hatch.
D- Dead things come from living things and do not show the characteristics of living things.
With the video and the combined clues each group will attempt to answer the following six questions on their worksheets.1. What are the two characteristics of dead things? Dead things must have been alive at one time and do not show the characteristics of living things.
2. Do the brine shrimp eggs show any characteristics of living things? Even though the eggs do not immediately show the characteristics of living things, they can if put under the right conditions such as adding water or changing its environment.
3. What does it mean to have the potential for life? Under the right conditions the item in question can show all the characteristics of a living thing.
4. What conditions are needed to hatch brine shrimp? To hatch the brine shrimp you need water, salt and the right temperature. To continue to grow the shrimp will need food.
5. What are three examples of things that have potential for life? Accept all reasonable answers such as seeds, eggs, and nuts.
6. Do you think a hard-boiled egg has the potential for life? No, once boiled the egg can not hatch or grow.
Once again four correct responses must be entered into the computer by the class before the case continues. The teacher clicks on the icon for questions under Part 2 in the table of contents once the students are ready to check their responses. Use the dice icon to randomly choose students to represent the class in the response to each of the questions. After the answers are checked the students can vote on their prediction about whether or not the court will classify the brine shrimp eggs as dead. It will be addressed in the beginning of part 3.
Practice: It is a good idea to demonstrate the potential brine shrimp eggs have to display the characteristics of a living thing. The ìHands on Activityî for part 2 gives the directions to grow brine shrimp eggs. It can be photocopied from the manual. The activity also has students perform scientific observations. Students can make observations individually or in their groups. The brine shrimp eggs can be purchased in kits or individually. Seeds would be a good substitute if the eggs can not be found.
Input of information: The four minute video clip in part 3 gives
a demonstration of the hatching of brine shrimp eggs. It also brings up the
problem of whether or not to call a leather wallet dead when it is made from
the skin of a dead cow.
Reinforcement: With the students in their groups, they will complete the "Information Sheet Part 3". Every student will have the same six questions to answer, but make sure each of the four members of a group have a different version A, B, C, or D. The different versions give different clues to allow for maximum use of cooperative grouping. The following are the different clues:
A- If something like paper or leather shoes is made from dead things, but went through a process, they are classified in a group called ìnonlivingî.
B- Along with wood being processed into paper, the act of mixing a picked, juiced, lemon with water and sugar to make lemonade would classify this product as nonliving.
C- A chicken bone is considered dead, but leather has differences when processed into a useful wallet.
D- Nonliving materials include rocks, minerals, gasses, and plastic as well as dead things that have been through a process.
With the video and the combined clues each group will attempt to answer the following six questions on their worksheets.
1. What are three examples of living things? Accept all reasonable answers.
2. How can living or dead things become nonliving things? By going through a process.
3. Give three examples of nonliving things that were once living. Accept all reasonable answers.
4. You find a snakeskin on the grass. Is it living, dead, or nonliving? Dead
5. How do you tell the difference between a dead thing and a nonliving thing? Dead things used to be living. Nonliving things were either never alive or processed after dying.
6. Why is a piece of paper considered nonliving? Alive at one time, the tree went through a process to turn it into paper.
Once again four correct responses must be entered into the computer by the class
before the case continues. The teacher clicks on the icon for questions under Part 3 in the table of contents once the students are ready to check their responses. Use the dice icon to randomly choose students to represent the class in the response to each of the questions. After the answers are checked the students can vote on their prediction about whether or not the court will classify the wallet as dead. It will be addressed in the beginning of part 4, which concludes the case.
Practice: To review the processes living things go through
to become a nonliving thing, the ìHands-On Activityî for part
3 has students either work in groups or alone to research this topic. This
worksheet from the manual also suggests some optional activities. I would
suggest trying one of the optional activities such as grinding peanuts to
make peanut butter or making lemonade to allow students to have a better understanding
Input of Information: The last video clip lasts seven
minutes and shows that the wallet would not be considered dead due to its
processing. It reviews the evidence to back up closing arguments and the key
point the teacher should stress is that the evidence is based on science.
The video clip stops right before the jury delivers the overall verdict in
the case. The class is asked to click on their prediction based on the evidence.
Evaluation: At this point, having the students complete the ìTesting Your Recallî worksheet would be the perfect evaluation. On the back of the sheet add the following short essay to be included in the evaluation. This essay question allows students to demonstrate their proficiency at the Maine Learning Results from the section on "K -Scientific Reasoning". Students should also use the back of the sheet to vote for the guilty/innocent icon that will be clicked.
Will Walter Williamson be found guilty or innocent of failing to meet his guarantee to write poems about dead things or triple your money back? What scientific evidence can you use to back up your prediction?
WWW Links: To reinforce the characteristics of living
things, I would suggest the use of the following website:
HYPERLINK http://vilenski.com/science/safari/ http://vilenski.com/science/safari/ .
References: Tom Synder Productions, 1988. Living Things:
Science Court. Tom Synder Productions, Inc.
This curriculum project was funded by the Colby Partnership for Science Education and the Howard Hughs Medical Institute.