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Dena Siegel, Emili Bockert, Angie Lenderts, Becca Rodgers

Logic Flow

5-ESS3-1 Earth and Human Activity

When farmers use fertilizer or chemicals to treat crops, the chemicals

enter the soil and nearby rivers and lakes.

When people drive cars, chemicals (carbon dioxide) that pollute the air
are emitted.

When people construct buildings, vegetation, such as forests, may be


Some chemicals, like those in some aerosol sprays, go into the air.

Humans are becoming more aware of the environmental impact made

by their activities.

Manufacturers are beginning to make cars that produce and burn less

Some farmers are using different farming techniques that require

using little to no chemicals.

Some forests are being protected by the government.

Some countries are lowering the use of ozone depleting chemicals.

Human actions can be good or bad for the environment.

Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have had

major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air, and even
outer space. But individuals and communities are doing things to help
protect Earths resources and environments.
Dena Siegel, Emili Bockert, Angie Lenderts

Graduate Article: Runoff and Pollution

When teaching students, it is important to give them hands-on
experiences whenever possible. Starting with a concrete
representation during a lesson and then moving on to a more abstract
view will allow students to make better connections and form a solid
understanding what you want them to learn. In addition, teacher
decisions should be informed by goals for students and learning

Targeted Science Content

Our lesson focused on the next generation science standard 5-ESS3-1
(Earth and Human Activity):
Human activities in agriculture, industry, and everyday life have
had major effects on the land, vegetation, streams, ocean, air,
and even outer space. But individuals and communities are
doing things to help protect Earths resources and environments.
This standard would need many different lessons to cover it in entirety.
However, we chose to focus on agriculture for our lesson.

Lesson On Soil Runoff and Pollution

Preparing the Field and River

In order to give the students a concrete experience with soil runoff, we
built a field using half a tin tray filled with dirt. We put a full tin tray
under the half tray to represent a lake or river catching the runoff.
Food coloring was sprinkled over the field to represent
fertilizer/nitrates used by farmers. During the lesson, water was
poured over the field to represent rain.

First Phase
Before starting this investigation, we tapped into the students
background knowledge by asking the following questions:
What can you tell me about the things farmers have been doing
in the fields over the last few months?
What are some things farmers do that may not be good for the
What happens to the soil when it rains?

We ask these students to discuss the questions at their tables in order

for them to learn from one another. The goal of these questions is to
have a discussion about the fertilizers and/or chemicals used by
farmers and how those things may travel with the soil into the rivers
when it rains.

In order to lead them to understanding why polluted water is bad, we

asked some of the following open-ended questions:
Why might this runoff be bad for our rivers and lakes?
How might it harm the fish or other animals that need the

We then proceed to test out the students theories of what happens to

soil on fields when it rains by pouring water over our mock field. We
start this portion of the lesson by asking what do you think will
happen when I pour the water over the dirt? While pouring the water,
we ask them what they are noticing. The goal here is for them to
discuss how the soil is running off the fields and polluting the river with
nitrates (represented by the food coloring).

Second Phase
The goal of the second phase was for the students to determine a way
to slow down or stop the runoff. We started by asking the students to
discuss their ideas in small groups. Some students discussed ideas
that may not have been realistic, such as a dome covering the field.
In order to get them back on track, we asked such questions as What
might be some negatives of this solution?

We then showed them some items we could use in our investigation

that could represent real things a farmer might do to prevent runoff.
These items included:

We asked them to think about the items and then draw a picture in
their journals to show how they would use these items to stop runoff.
As a class, we discussed the ideas and the students came to an
agreement on what they felt we should try. We then used the items to
construct our runoff solution on a second field.

When it came time to test their solution, we set the second field next
to the first field to more easily compare the difference between fields
with and without a solution to runoff. As we poured water onto the
second field, we asked some of the following questions:
What do you notice about this field that is different from the
first field?
How is our solution helping?

The discussions then centered around how there was less erosion,
runoff, and nitrates (food coloring) entering the water.

Goals for Students

Throughout this lesson we focused on promoting our goals for
students. This lesson promoted a robust understanding of science
concepts including: erosion, runoff, and pollution. We asked students
to think about farming and harvesting to activate their prior knowledge
related to erosion and runoff, and begin to understand its effect in our
community. Later in the lesson we discussed related global issues
including nitrates in water, and dead zones in rivers and lakes.

We asked open-ended questions to encourage students to think

critically and creatively. Students were asked to communicate in a
variety of ways throughout the lesson: as a written response, with a
partner, and as whole group. During whole group discussion, we did
not repeat student responses; students were asked to repeat and
clarify their thoughts to promote clear and effective communication.

Because we want students to learn problem-solving skills, we

encouraged them in this lesson to come up with their own solutions to
runoff. We then tested out those ideas so they could see for
themselves if their solutions worked.

Learning Theories
Developmental Learning Theory states that students learn content
when it is presented at appropriate level for their age and ability to
understand abstraction. Students taught in this lesson were sixth
graders, and they were able to understand concrete and abstract
representations of pollution. For example, a lot of students knew what
was occurring during harvest season and how flooding was affecting
rivers and lakes around them. Furthermore, students were able to
come up with ideas to prevent runoff into rivers and lakes, as well as
discuss the negative effects of pollution. Therefore, we can say that
the lesson was developmentally appropriate for these students.

Constructivist Learning Theory states that students learn and construct

meaning through their own experiences. In this lesson, students
reflected on their background experiences with harvesting, and the
rivers and lakes in their community. They were able to watch what
happens to soil as we poured water over our mock field. They also
had the hands-on experience of placing items in the farming model in
a meaningful way to prevent runoff.

From Social Learning Theory (SLT), we know students' new knowledge

and ideas are constructed through their social interactions. When
designing our lesson, we made sure to provide students with multiple
opportunities to have small group discussions, partner work, and
collaborative learning in order to promote SLT.

Teacher Behaviors
As a teacher, it is important to create a positive learning atmosphere.
In our lesson, we did this by using body language that would invite
students to freely share their responses. We gave them plenty of wait
time after our questions in order to give them think time and to foster
multiple student responses. When one student was speaking, we
moved away from them in order to encourage them to speak more
loudly. During group discussion time, we walked around the room to
help keep all students on task. Furthermore, we asked higher-level
thinking questions to promote deeper student learning as well as to
promote our student goals.