My unit will introduce students to an overview of science topics using the elements as a common theme. This unit aims to reinforce the idea that science is constantly being added to and changed, but that the methods and practices are constant. It also aims to show students that we are part of nature and have the same requirements as all other living things. This unit is connected to many of Connecticut's science standards for second graders; it addresses soil makeup and classification, life cycles, and food groups and nutrition.
Most students are unaware of the miraculous nature of their bodies. They know little about the enormous impact nutrition makes on their growing bones and bodies. They do not know how to nourish and care for their bodies with nutrition and exercise. They are also unaware of the theory of evolution and the great similarity between their bodies and many favorite and known animals and that humans are integral in the natural world. Moreover, many are uninterested in, and feel no connection to, the aforementioned topics. I want students to understand that science isn't a belief system - rather it is a way of studying and observing the natural world. My unit aims to provide an overview of science. To provide context for the subjects covered in detail there will be units of: Astronomy, Geology, and Biology (Biology will be broken up into the subunits botany and zoology). The subtopics: the skeleton, nutrition, and evolution will also be included. My curriculum will begin with a brief introduction to the elements. Students will become familiar with the most commonly found elements in our atmosphere and earth and with those in our bodies. Students will learn about planets and the elements of which they are made. The unit will then delve into geology and students will learn about the three different kinds of rocks and the minerals of which they are made. Students will then learn about different types of soil.
The Biology unit will continue with a general introduction to the bones and muscles of the human body. Students will learn how bones and muscles are formed and what minerals and nutrients are needed to keep them healthy. Students will learn about the skeleton and engage in several activities to interest and familiarize them with the human skeleton and bones. Students will have the opportunity to make and put together paper skeleton mobiles and other hands on activities.
The unit will then segue into lessons about nutrition and the benefits of healthy foods and habits- specifically the importance of exercise and calcium, vitamin D, and protein for bone development. Students will learn about foods that contain the vitamins and minerals and protein that make bones strong and flexible. It will also delve into the ability of our bodies to make vitamin D from sunlight. A brief lesson about sun safety will also be included. Students will learn to read nutrition labels and do an experiment with chicken bones that shows the importance of minerals for bone health (students will put bones in vinegar and discover that as the vinegar leeches the bones' minerals they become rubbery and soft).
Between licks of a lollipop, one of my students recently said, "Sugar is my one true love." After learning where food comes from, students will also study what "real food" looks like. Many of my students know nothing of unprocessed food. The food we get in school breakfast and lunch is processed. Breakfast consists of sugary cereal or muffin with a carton of juice and a carton of skim milk. There is little to no protein in their breakfast. And while my students do love the fresh whole fruit that is served they abhor the "yucky salad bar." In truth it's not yucky at all. There's usually an assortment of fresh (though not organic) vegetables. There is often baby spinach, carrots, string beans, bean sprouts, and other fresh vegetables. But I've seen children leave with nothing but a plate of pickles. Just that the pickles are next to garbonzo beans is enough for one of my students to associate pickles with fresh nutritious vegetables. He was shocked I told him that 6 pickles was too many and explained that they are not fresh, they're called pickles because they've been pickled - which is a process that involves curing vegetables, in this case small cucumbers, with salt and preservatives and that too much salt isn't good for you. Similarly, one of my second graders was similarly taken aback when, at our visit to a local farm, he learned that bacon is from pigs. To summarize, my students have little knowledge of and exposure to healthy food. This is very troubling and helps to explain national health trends. As of June 1, 2012 America Heart Association (AHA) listed this data on its website: one in three children is overweight and obese and one in six is obese. As of 2009, the proportion of children who are overweight or obese is five times higher than it was in 1974. The AHA also advises that overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight adults.
This unit will explain the theory of evolution, to ground and emphasize that humans are part of the natural world though most students think of us as separate. It will capitalize on most students' love of dogs and gorillas and will use several activities and presentations to show the similarities between the human skeleton and that of dogs. It is important to explain that we did not evolve from apes that are existent now; and that, we, and all other life, come from a common ancestor. Scientists have demonstrated this through extensive research with fossils and similarities between species. This unit will also include a brief section about the life cycles of plants and butterflies.
Students will able to make observations and ask questions about physical objects and their environment. They will analyze, critique, and communicate investigations using words and drawings. This unit will also use books to further engage and educate students. There will be at least one fiction and one nonfiction book suggested for each subtopic.