Activities for what age or grade level? and
How activities are used at different ages or grade levels
Teachers continually reflect on the question: is an activity appropriate for a particular age or grade level?
While most activities can be done at any age or grade level. The critical question is? What will be the benefit for students? Which is dependent on: the learning expectations or outcomes for students at different ages or levels and their ability to achieve them.
This is where knowledge of development in general and what a student or students presently know along with what possible information can be learned by experiencing a particular actrivity. All this information is taken into account to decide what concepts and outcomes are appropriate for different ages and grade levels?
To illustrate this, supposed students were introduced to a Cartesian Diver. A simple home made Cartesian Diver and its operation is shown in the following video.
Cartesian diver video...
Any school age student would enjoy experiencing a Cartesian Diver. However, what the teacher might expect students to gain from the experience would vary considerably depending on the age or level of student. These different expectations are expressed in educational jargon as: goals, objectives, concepts, outcomes, and skills. More information for these terms may be found in the glossary of educational terms.
Developmental ideas from Piaget's levels will be used along side students current understanding to decide what questions to ask, what answers to expect, how to procede, and when to conclude students have achieved peak learning objectives or outcomes.
Characteristics of developmental levels can be reviewed at these links:
- Characteristics of sensori-motor.
- Characteristics of preoperational thinking.
- Characteristics of concrete operational thinking.
- Characteristics of formal operational thinking.
Cartesian diver investigation
Groups of students from different ages investigated a Cartesian diver were asked questions, answered them, and were pushed toward better understanding by presenting observational evidence as suggestions for them to explain what was happening.
A Cartesian Diver was created by filling a two-liter pop bottle with water, inserting a glass eye-dropper, and capping it. The water in the eye-dropper was adjusted so when the bottle was squeezed the dropper moved to the bottom and when the pressure was released the dropper moved to the top, as demonstrated in the video.
- Ask - How did the stopper go up and down?
- Ask - What caused the stopper to go up and down?
Summary of results from the least scientific to the most scientific
- Described the cause as intentions of an object. It wanted to sink. The water wanted it to float. The water made it happen. The water pushed the air out so it would sink. (preoperational characteristics)
- Described the cause from an observation of what they observed. Observation of the diver. It sunk or it floated. Observation of the bottle or hands. It was squeezed. Observation of the water or the air inside the diver. The water went in and out of the diver. The air went in and out of the diver. (concrete operational characteristics)
- Described the cause of the event as a result of an interaction with one variable. The diver sunk because the water made it heavier. The diver floated because the air went back in and made the diver lighter. When the bottle was squeezed the water and air went in and out to make the diver sink and float. (concrete operational characteristics)
- Described the cause of the event as a result of two variables. The diver sinks or floats because of how the size and weight change. The amount of water in the diver changes to make it heavier and lighter. But the size of the diver doesn't change. (concrete and formal operational with systematic use of variables as characteristics)
- Described the cause of the event as a change of relationship between two variables. The volume of the diver stays pretty much the same when the bottle is squeezed. However, the air is compressed which allows more water to go into the diver and makes it heavier. It doesn't float or sink just because it is heavier. It is because it is heavier for its size (volume). I think the density is changing. (concrete and formal operational with systematic use of variables and proportional reasoning as characteristics)
How to use the information to create Learning Plans (lesson plans)
Summary of results for three different levels of development
Pre Kindergarten - grade three, student's explanations will use observable properties to link cause to effect as the why. Why did the Cartesian diver sink? Because I squeezed it or it was squeezed and it sunk. They can also chain events together in one to one to one... relationships. (preoperational, one-to-one, ego-centric,... not toucing... floating, squeez... goes down, let go... go up. ...)
Around third grade children’s experiences with the physical world and their intellectual development enable them to begin to recognize variables can be acting simultaneously to cause a specific effect. They are able to select one cause at a time and use concrete operations and manipulations to associate additional variables acting together for a reasonable explanation to include - a report of conditions before an event, during an event, and what happened presumably as a result of the causal event of observed result.
For example - I squeezed the top of the bottle, which caused pressure to push the dropper to the bottom. When there was not pressure pushing it down it rose to the top. If questioned further by - Asking what will happen if they squeeze the bottom of the bottle? Will it stay floating or will it sink? If they are asked to quess before trying, they might say it doesn't matter or they may say it won't as they do not believe the pressure on the dropper is a simultaneous event and when squeezed it will push on the dropper from all directions. (Concrete operational)
As students develop conservation abilities they begin to understand similar events create similar results in the world. Coupled with this is a better understanding of the physical world and the kinds of physical interactions that create change. Understanding and a desire to make better predictions and inferences to explain their world, the embryo of rational explanations is created.
Rational explanations that are very generous with analogies. Analogies tied to the concrete world; first explored with early physical inquiry skills developed through play. As their experiences grow and their imaginative abilities increase, they will recognize cause and effect explanations that are not observable, but can be inferred as possibilities from observations. They also realize the possibility of simultaneous conditions as necessary for causal explanations that can be inferred from similar observations and used to make predictions. However, they are troubled with complexity as they are not good at systematic and combinatorial thinking, which often creates uncertainty and they long for and ask - "what is the right answer?” (concrete operational)
Another jewel comes to light when students create their operational definitions, which are their explanations of what they learned. If we listen to enough of these explanations we can not only discover how understanding develops as they mature, but can organize the information into developmental levels. For example: preoperational students have no problem with push or pull as an explanation as to why something moved. Both of which are included among the early inquiry skills. So if the science curriculum includes force in second grade, then a developmentally appropriate concept for a second grader would be - A force is a push or pull. Oh, what a jewel! - Something that pushes or pulls on another object is a force. WOW! Which is written as an Operational definition. Another jewel! And it can be the outcome of the first level of a scoring guide or rubric in a curriculum document. See information in the science glossary about operational definitions and their use for scoring guides or rubrics.