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Susan Dorfman's picture

The Cougar Connection

Rebecca Vandiver's model lesson was complex and multilayered, allowing for various adaptations to subject specific courses and grade levels. I could see the cooling experiment with the math component in a high school physics class. I plan to use the cougar connection and the cooling experiment with the graphing exercise but without the math derivation in my grade 7 biology class. As a result of the debriefing discussion, I might try the change in rate with manipulatives. To develop this part of the activty, I will consult a math teacher teaching middle school.

As Rebecca stated, the cougar story motivates the students by presenting a problem to solve. Is is the hook to gain their interest and attention. Our colleagues suggested using a human forensic problem, but my students would be interested in either the animal or human example. They are already interested in conservation issues. I will have them read a conservation article from the grade appropriate magazine, Science World, prior to the experiment. A discussion of the article will connect the ideas we discuss to the problem of limiting cougar hunting and how to enforce the law. Rebecca's model included stopping points in her presentation to allow students to solidify their understanding before going on to the next step in the lesson by solving a specific problem. This also allowed time for students with questions to gain the help they needed to go on. These opportunities are important to encourage students to continue even if they begin to feel out of their comfort zone. For this reason, Rebecca's model needs to slow down at the point of the introduction of rate of change. Wil and Paul both suggested that a new story needs to be introduced at this point. I agree. In grade 7, rate of change is understood well with the example of sledding down a hill. The students make the connection, and without prompt, will use the word slope. We can then extend the idea to lines having slopes.

Today's experience reminded me that students come to a class with a variety of likes and dislikes based on abiltities and past experiences, both positive and negative. Our approach to problem solving including the words we use can create an encouraging or inhibiting experience.


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