Unit Overview:

How do animals receive and respond to different types of information?  How do animals use the information to guide their actions and behaviors within their environments?  In this unit students explore these questions by learning about animal senses and then engaging in several activities and a simulation where they experience first-hand how to perceive their surroundings and use the information to make decisions and guide their own behaviors.  The unit culminates in a design challenge where students develop an animal model with input sensors and then create a decision tree that demonstrates how the animal processes and responds to information.

Educational Outcomes:

  • Students are able to describe how animals use their senses for survival
  • Students are able to describe, and identify uses for objects without using sight for sensory perception
  • Students are able to use a simulation to evaluate the effect of limited sensory perception on decision making
  • Students are able to create a decision flow chart that predicts animal behavior based on environmental conditions
  • Students are able to develop a model of an animal with input receptors to describe how it would behave given different types of sensory information

STEAM INTEGRATION

Students watch videos to learn how animals perceive the world around them.  Students discuss how animals use this information for survival in Lesson 1 (SL.4.1).  In Lesson 2, student use senses other than sight to perceive different objects and then research potential uses for the objects (W.4.7).  Students play a game of “Bat and Moth” in Lesson 3 to emphasize sensory perceptions affected by distance and sound and identify patterns reflecting decisions made to attain the moth.  Lesson 4 provides students with an opportunity to create a decision flow chart to show how the bat might behave due to its sense receptors under certain environmental conditions (4.OA.C.5).  The Design Challenge lesson allows student to engage in the design process and develop a model of an animal with specific sense receptors and explain how their animal might respond to different types of sensory information (4-LS1-2).

Co-created by Campbell Union School District teachers

Click on the “+” icon to open each section

Unit Materials

  • RAFT Makerspace-in-a-box
    • Various adhesives, connectors, and fasteners (e.g., paperclips, binder clips, thread, yarn, adhesive foam pads, wooden stir sticks, straws, spoons, pipettes, labels & stickers, rubber bands, etc.)
    • Materials (e.g., laminate samples, dust covers, foam pieces, deli containers, fishboard, cardboard tubes, plascore scraps, posters, shower caps, scrap materials, cards, etc.)
  • Tape, glue, scissors, timer
  • Items that have an odor (e.g., sachet, soap, foods, etc.)
  • Items that make sound (e.g., a bell, a drum, a buzzer, etc.)
  • Recording materials: RAFT Makerspace Journal Pages (for each lesson)
  • Optional: a binder for each student to keep their Makerspace Journal pages in.
  • Tech: videos about animal senses and how they are used for survival.
  • Perhaps create model with makey-makey …

Design Thinking Overview

Our design thinking units have five phases based on the d.school’s model. Each phase can be repeated to allow students to re-work and iterate while developing deeper understanding of the core concepts. These are the five phases of the design thinking model:

EMPATHIZE: Work to fully understand the experience of the user for whom you are designing.  Do this through observation, interaction, and immersing yourself in their experiences.

DEFINE: Process and synthesize the findings from your empathy work in order to form a user point of view that you will address with your design.

IDEATE: Explore a wide variety of possible solutions through generating a large quantity of diverse possible solutions, allowing you to step beyond the obvious and explore a range of ideas.

PROTOTYPE: Transform your ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn and develop more empathy.

TEST: Try out high-resolution products and use observations and feedback to refine prototypes, learn more about the user, and refine your original point of view.

The Design Thinking Process | ReDesigning Theater. (n.d.). Retrieved April 2, 2016, from http://dschool.stanford.edu/redesigningtheater/the-design-thinking-process/

STEAM Integrated Standards

  • NGSS 4-LS1-2: Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.
  • CCSS Math 4.OA.C.5Generate a number or shape pattern that follows a given rule. Identify apparent features of the pattern that were not explicit in the rule itself.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy W.4.7: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy SL.4.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Lesson Overview

Students obtain information through videos and slideshows to learn about different animal sensor receptors and the types of stimuli they are intended to detect.  Students use this information to discuss in teams how animals use the sensory input to survive in their environments.

Essential Questions:

  • How do animals receive information about their environments?
  • How do animals use this information for survival?

LESSON PROCEDURE:

  1. Ask students to think about how they know when the Sun is setting.  Have them think for one minute and then ask for volunteers to share ideas.  Lead them towards perceiving the sunset through the senses (see Student Directions section below).
  2. Show students the videos on animal senses located in the External Resources section to the right.  Alternatively, students may explore these sources on their own.  Determine which videos are ideal for your class (content, time).
  3. Students list different sensor receptor types mentioned in the videos and their associated stimuli in the Maker Journal.
  4. Students work in teams to brainstorm and discuss ways that animals use the information they receive from the environment to survive.  They should record their ideas in the Maker Journal and choose one animal, sensor receptor, and its role in survival for the animal as an example to share in a whole class discussion.

SAMPLE Student Directions (Click + to open)

Sample teacher and student dialog.

T:  “How do you usually know when the Sun sets?  What information tells you this and how do you receive that information?”  Give students 1-2 minutes to think about the questions.

S: (Answers will vary) “I notice the Sun getting lower in the sky.”  “It starts getting dark!”  “I know because I can watch (see) the Sun going away.”  “Our eyes let us know!”

T: “In other words, you received information through your eyes, quickly thought about it, and determined the Sun is setting.  Today we will explore this idea further by watching videos and then discussing how animals use information from their environment to survive.  Make sure you all participate and be ready to discuss and share your ideas!”

S: (Answer clarifying questions) “Can we work together, do we choose a specific animal, where do we write things down, etc?”

T: “You will work in teams and choose an animal that will serve as an example for your ideas.”

Students record their ideas in the student Maker Journal page (below):

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Concept Quick Reference (Click + to open)

Sensory receptors allow animals and humans to detect the world around them.  They enable us to taste, smell, hear, see, touch, and detect motion and temperature.  Some animals can even detect electric and magnetic fields.  Without the senses, animals would not be able to interpret their environment and this would directly affect their survival because they cannot respond to stimuli without the senses.

Taste and Smell

The senses of taste and smell are stimulated by chemicals and often function together rather than separately.  Specialized receptors located high in the nose respond to chemicals in the air and send the information to the brain.  Taste buds are special chemical receptors on the tongue that detect the tastes salty, sweet, sour, and bitter.  The taste buds detect different combinations of chemicals in food and send this information to the brain.  The receptors for smell and taste work together to create combined effect on the brain, which is why it is hard to fully taste food when your nose is held shut.

Sight

Light enters the eye through a durable, transparent layer of cells called the cornea, which helps focus the light through the pupil.  The iris regulates the size of the pupil.  The lens is right behind the iris and inverts images and projects them onto the retina.  The retina contains receptor cells called rods and cones.  Rods are light-sensitive cells that are excited by low levels of light.  Cones function to provide the brain regarding color.  All of these receptors send electrical impulses via the optic nerve to the brain, which then interprets the combination of signals and forms a visual image.

Hearing and Balance

Hearing and balance are two major functions of the ear.  Hearing involves several structures inside the ear but it is all based on sound waves causing particles in the air to vibrate.  As the vibrations travel from the outer ear to the inner ear, they cause the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil), stapes (stirrup), and cochlea to vibrate.  From the cochlea the information, in the form of electric impulses, travels through the auditory nerve and to the brain.  The inner ear contains organs called semicircular canals that are filled with fluid and hairs.  As body position changes, the water moves in the canals and bends the hairs, sending impulses to the brain so that it can detect body position and motion.

Touch

Touch is felt through many sensory receptors that respond to temperature, pressure, and pain and are found in the outer and inner layers of the skin.  Some of these receptors respond to light touches while others respond to heavy pressure.  In the body, the distribution of receptors is not uniform.  For example, fingers have receptors that detect light touches while the soles of the feet have receptors that respond to heavy pressure.  Pain receptors are simple, consisting of free nerve endings found in all tissues of the body except the brain.  The brain responds accordingly to all of the signals it receives.

Lesson Materials

Tech

  • Computers or mobile devices
  • Internet access

Maker Journal Pages

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Teacher Notes

Select pictures of animal sensory receptors ahead of time to provide additional examples for students.  Choose pictures of different types of animals such as snails, dogs or cats, fish, and insects to broaden the discussion.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to describe the sensory receptors common to a variety of animals
  • Students will be able to describe how animals use the information received from sensory receptors to survive

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

Students review their Maker Journal entries and have other students ask them questions about specific sensory receptors.

Peer Assessment

Student groups discuss and compare their findings and share different sensory receptors and their associated roles in survival for a specific animal.

Teacher Assessment

Call out examples of different stimuli.  For example, you might call out light, pressure, pain, cotton candy, etc.  Students quickly provide an example of a sensory receptor that matches the different stimuli.

Lesson Overview

Students identify, describe, and determine uses for objects concealed in a grab bag without being able to look at the objects, modeling a type of sensory deprivation.  They determine how their use of touch and other senses help them to make decisions about what the object is and provide ideas for its potential uses.

Essential Questions:

  • In what ways do your senses help you describe an object?
  • How do your senses help you understand what an object is useful for?
  • How do messages about an object get sent to your brain?

LESSON PROCEDURE:

  1. Review the following sentence with students: “Different types of information are relayed to the brain through different sensory receptors, allowing experiences to be perceived, stored as memories, and thus influence behavior.”  Students write their own example of something they saw (perceived) and remembered that also influenced how they behaved.  Examples: Images from scary movies that still make a person uncomfortable or an accident that changes the way a person drives.
  2. Put random materials in a bags.  Give a bag to each student group.  One team member quickly makes a blindfold.
  3. Students take turns putting on the blindfold and reaching into the bag to take out an object.  They must describe the object based on what they feel, smell, or hear and how it may be used in a task based on their perceptions.  Taste is not recommended but may be included if edible items are put into the bags (facilitator’s discretion).
  4. After all members have taken a turn, students discuss how their senses help them to make decisions about what the object is and then discuss how it might be used.
  5. Students watch the video on sensory information processing (see External Resources).
  6. Students record in their Maker Journals their understanding on how sensory receptors were able to detect different types of information to send to their brain and inform their decisions and ideas.

SAMPLE Student Directions (Click + to open)

Sample teacher and student dialog.

T: Ask students: “How does sensory input affect our behavior?”

S: Answers will vary: “When I hear a good song I feel happy”  “If I touch something hot I will avoid it next time!”

T: “Yes!  Our behavior is primarily based on input (information) we perceive about the world.  Today we’re going to experience sensory deprivation, that is, we’re going to use all of our senses except sight.  Do you think you can identify objects in a bag without looking at them?”

S: “I can do it!  I’m good at playing games in the dark so this should be easy!”

T: “You will work in groups, be blindfolded, and must remove the object from the bag so your group mates can see it.  Describe and identify it based on what you perceive with your senses.  Then, discuss how that information guided your thinking about the object.”

Students record their ideas in the Maker Journal page (below).

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Concept Quick Reference (Click + to open)

Information received via the different sensory receptors in animals is transmitted to the brain as electrical impulses through specific nerves.  The brain interprets the information and this guides certain decisions made by the animal and thus affects its behavior.  For example, deer are able to hear and smell very well, so they can identify potential threats from great distances.  They may travel around or away from these threats as necessary as their brains process the perceived information.

Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information, or the environment.  All perception involves signals that go through the nervous system, which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sensory system.  For example, vision involves light striking the retina of the eye, smell is mediated by odor molecules, and hearing involves pressure waves.

Perception is not only the passive receipt of these signals, but it’s also shaped by the recipient’s learning, memory, expectation, and attention.  It can be split into two processes, (1) processing the sensory input, which transforms these low-level pieces of information to higher-level information, (2) processing which is connected with a person’s concepts and expectations (or knowledge) and selective mechanisms (attention) that influence perception, which in turn shapes behaviors.

Source: Wikipedia

Lesson Materials

Building Materials

  • Random materials (foam, craft sticks, caps, paper clips, etc.)
  • Medium-sized bags
  • Paper or cloth for making blindfolds

Tech

  • Computers or mobile devices
  • Internet access

External Resources

Maker Journal Pages

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Teacher Notes

This activity is intended to capitalize on using smell, touch, and hearing to analyze objects.  If taste is included in the lesson, put food items in a separate bag, away from non-edibles to ensure safety and reduce the chances of contamination of food items.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to obtain information about objects without using the sense of sight
  • Students will be able to make decisions and develop ideas for potential uses of the objects identified via the senses

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

As students conduct the activity, have teammates list the object attributes described by the blindfolded student.  Compare the description, obtained via senses, to the actual objects described.

Peer Assessment

Student groups discuss their experience, Maker Journal entries, and ideas regarding how the senses influence our thinking about situations and the world.

Teacher Assessment

Quick Write: Students write their own explanation for the relationship between sensory inputs and animal behaviors.

Lesson Overview

Student teams play a game called “Bat and Moth”, similar to Marco Polo.  Students discuss how they used their senses to make decisions on how to “capture” the moth.  In other words, students experience behavior changes influenced by information obtained via the senses.

Essential Questions:

  • How do bats use their senses to find prey?
  • What information from the environment do bats rely on (what are they trying to sense)?
  • How does hearing sound help bats and other animals make decisions and change behaviors?

LESSON PROCEDURE:

  1. Students watch the videos in the External Resources section (right margin).
  2. Review the rules of playing Marco Polo and then describe the game in terms of bats and moths.
  3. Student determine the bat and moth roles for their groups.  The bat students say “Bat” while the moth students say “Moth.”  The bat student must listen and use sound to get to the moth students.
  4. Students switch roles until all group members have taken a turn as the bat.
  5. Student reflect on the experience in the Maker Journal page.
  6. Student groups discuss the essential questions with another group and record ideas in the Maker Journal.

SAMPLE Student Directions (Click + to open)

Sample teacher and student dialog.

T: Ask: “Who here has played Marco Polo?”

S: Answers will vary: “You close your eyes and listen to people respond to “Marco” by saying “Polo”, and then you get them!”

T: “We will play a similar game called “Bat and Moth” having the same basic rules.  Choose who in your group will start as the bat and moth.  For the bats, make sure your eyes stay closed and don’t cheat!  If necessary, make a quick blindfold or cover your eyes with your hands.”

S: “Why are we playing this?”  “How does this relate to our study of senses?”

T: “This activity simulates how bats acquire sound and distance information and use it to find prey.  They get the information, process it in their brains, and act accordingly.  The best way to understand this is to experience it.  Play nice, be safe, and have fun!”

Students record their ideas in the Maker Journal page (below).

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Concept Quick Reference (Click + to open)

Echolocation is the same as active sonar, using sounds made by the animal itself.  Ranging is done by measuring the time delay between the animal’s own sound emission and any echoes that return from the environment.  The relative intensity of sound received at each ear as well as the time delay between arrival at the two ears provide information about the horizontal angle (azimuth) from which the reflected sound waves arrive.

Unlike some human-made sonars that rely on many extremely narrow beams and many receivers to localize a target (multi-beam sonar), animal echolocation has only one transmitter and two receivers (the ears).  Echolocating animals have two ears positioned slightly apart. The echoes returning to the two ears arrive at different times and at different loudness levels, depending on the position of the object generating the echoes.  The time and loudness differences are used by the animals to perceive distance and direction.  With echolocation, the bat or other animal can see not only where it is going but also how big another animal is, what kind of animal it is, and other features.

At the most basic level, echolocation is based on the neural anatomy of auditory brain circuitry.  In essence, ascending brain pathways in the brain stem allow the brain to calculate the difference between the two ears to very small fractions of a second.

External Resources

Maker Journal Pages

dl-student

Teacher Notes

Remove any hazards and obstacles from the space such as loose cords, extra furniture, student backpacks, etc.  Remind students playing the bat to avoid running or lunging towards the students playing the moth.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able describe how sensory inputs such as sound can influence animal behaviors

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

Students review their Maker Journal entries and have other students ask them questions about specific sensory receptors the bath and moth use.

Peer Assessment

Student groups discuss and compare their findings and share different critical uses for animal sensory perceptions

affected by distance and sound and their associated roles in the survival for a bat and a moth.

Teacher Assessment

Review student Maker Journal entries for formative assessment and discuss with individual groups. Conduct a whole group discussion to allow all students to share, discuss and compare their findings around different stimuli for the bath and the moth. For example: You might call responses to light and to sound, for example. Students quickly provide an example of a sensory receptor that matches the different stimuli.

Lesson Overview

Student teams reflect on their experiences in the Bat and Moth game in Lesson 3.  They learn about and then create decision trees to demonstrate how information perceived by the bat leads to changes in its behavior.  These types of models will be applied during the design challenge lesson in this unit.

Essential Questions:

  • What is a decision tree?
  • How can decision trees be used to describe behaviors exhibited by a bat while tracking a moth?

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Students discuss how the bat used its senses to find and capture the moth.
  2. Model an example decision tree on a large chart in front of the class.
  3. Lead a discussion on the bat’s sensory pattern for locating the moth and fill in the nodes of the model decision tree.
  4. Students discuss how the moth used its senses to avoid being captured by the bat.
  5. (Optional) Model and complete another decision tree on the moth’s sensory pattern for avoiding the bat.
  6. Student groups each create a decision tree based on the discussions and their experiences in playing Bat and Moth.  They design the decision trees in their Maker Journal pages.

SAMPLE Student Directions (Click + to open)

Sample teacher and student dialog.

T: “Think about the previous lesson where we played Bat and Moth.  How did the bat use its senses to catch the moth?  What decisions did the moth have to make?  How were those decisions reflected in its behavior?”

S: “The bat used sound to determine how far away the moth was in a direction.”

T: “Yes!  Today we are going to represent those decisions visually in what is called a decision tree.  These representations look like flowcharts, which you are probably familiar with.  We’ll complete one together as an example and then you will work with your groups to design your own decision trees.”

S: “How will we know what to put into the decision trees?”

T: “Think about your own experience while playing Bat and Moth.  When the moth sounded close by, did you decide to walk quicker towards the sound?  Does that seem like what a bat would do when hunting for prey?”

S: “Oh, I think I understand.  We can be creative in the design and think like a bat.”

Students record their work in the Maker Journal page (below).

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Concept Quick Reference (Click + to open)

A decision tree is a flowchart-like structure in which each internal node represents a “test” on an attribute.  Each branch represents the outcome of the test and each leaf node represents a class label.  The paths from root to leaf represent classification rules.  Decision trees are used as analytical decision-making tools in operations research and management, in science for classifying processes and organisms, and many other fields.  Below are a few examples of what decision trees might look like.

 

Lesson Materials

Building Materials

  • Chart paper
  • Marker

Maker Journal Pages

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Teacher Notes

If students are struggling with the concept of a decision tree applied to the bat and moth scenario, have students create a tree based on their decisions to select a variety of lunch items from the school cafeteria.  This can provide extra practice with the concept that can be applied to the bat and moth simulation.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to design a decision tree
  • Students will be able to use a decision tree to demonstrate how sensory information leads to behavioral changes in animals

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

Student groups review their Maker Journal pages and summarize their learning in a group discussion

Peer Assessment

Student groups discuss and compare their decision trees and explain their rationale for the design

Teacher Assessment

Review the logic represented in the group decision trees and provide suggestions for improvement

Design Challenge Overview

Student teams choose an animal for which to create a model having input sensors specific to that animal.  Student teams ideate to develop ideas for the animal model design and then build a prototype according to the criteria and constraints.  Teams create a decision tree to demonstrate how sensory information is processed by the animal, leading to changes in behavior.  During the test phase, student teams share their models with another team that reviews the model and decision tree and provides feedback to the sharing team.  Teams use the feedback to make necessary changes to improve the model and decision tree.  Students discuss and explain their animal models and trees to an audience.

Essential Questions:

    • How do animals use their senses to make decisions?
    • Which senses do you think are most important for survival?
    • What do you now know about input sensors that you didn’t before?

LESSON PROCEDURE

Introduce the Design Challenge (Click + to open)

Sample student & teacher dialog.

T: “We have been working to understand how animals sense the world around them.  Today you will work in teams and choose an animal to model.  You will need to conduct research to find information about the animal’s sensory receptors and the information they allow the animal to perceive.  We’ll review the rules for the model, called criteria and constraints, that will guide the building of the model.”

S: “What will we do after we build it?”

T: “Great question!  Afterwards you will create a decision tree that others can follow in order to understand how your animal will behave given specific types of sensory inputs.”

S: “That’s why we practiced the decision tree!  When to we start?!”

Criteria & Constraints

Review the criteria and constraints with students.  Engineers design things using some rules about how the designs must behave or work.  These rules are called criteria.  Engineers can run out of materials, money, time to build, or space in which to build something.  In other words there are limits on how something can be built.  These limits are called constraints.  Below are a few criteria and constraints for this challenge.

 

Criteria (design requirements) Constraints (design limitations)
  • Model closely represents a real animal
  • 2-3 Sensory receptors are clearly indicated on the model
  • Model stays intact (does not fall apart)
  • Model must be built with materials provided
  • Model must be completed and tested in the given time
  • Model must include 6 different materials NOT including fasteners or adhesives

 


Ideate
Student teams brainstorm to generate ideas for the animal they choose to research and model.  They focus their thinking on the basic structure of the animal so it is recognizable and on specific senses that are crucial for its survival.  Teams may come back to the ideate phase to generate new ideas and apply feedback gained through testing.

Ideate : Sample Student Directions (Click + to open)

T: “Conduct a brainstorm where you generate lots of ideas around the animal you will work on.  Focus on basic structure of the animal including locations and design of the sensory receptors your team would like to highlight in the model.  Focus on 2-3 receptors.”

S: “So do we make it look like the real animal?”

T: “Try to get as close as possible given the materials you have available to build with.  Models naturally have misrepresentations in them because they are not exact replicas of reality, but they help to convey ideas and to develop understanding around complex ideas.”

S: “We’ll get it pretty close to the real deal!”

Students record ideas generated during the brainstorm in the Maker Journal page below.

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Prototype

Students use their research, ideas, and the criteria & constraints to build a model of their chosen animal.  They can refine and modify as they build and may circle back to the ideate phase if necessary.  They will also create a decision tree for the animal during this phase that may also undergo changes as needed.

Prototype: Sample Student Directions (Click + to open)

T: “During your building of the model, remember that you may generate new ideas and strategies as you work.  Ideation does not need to stop!  Double check that you have met the criteria and constraints for the build.”

S: “When our team agrees that we are finished, should we start on the decision tree?”

T: “Yes.  You are prototyping the tree as well as the physical model of the animal.  Remember the purpose of the model is to describe phenomena and concepts, in this case that means sensory receptors, sensory input, and animal behavior.”

S: “When do we test the decision tree?”

T: “You give your model and decision tree to a team that is done prototyping their work at the first available opportunity.  The information the team shares with you will allow you to come back and reiterate, making modifications as needed.”

Students draw labeled diagrams of their prototypes in the Maker Journal page below.

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Test your Design

Student teams allow other teams to run through the decision tree for the given animal, asking questions and providing feedback to the designing team.  This information can help the designing team improve both the model and the decision tree so the model clearly represents the animal and the tree correctly keys out behaviors observed for the animal given specific input sensors.  Students may need to revisit this step.

Test: Sample Student Directions (Click + to open)

T: “When you are ready to share your model and decision tree with another team, do so.  The more feedback you receive the better your model and decision tree will be.  You may share your work with more than one team.  The more feedback from multiple perspectives the better!”

S: “How will we know when we are actually done?”

T: “Continue the process until you receive feedback that indicates the model clearly represents the chosen animal in terms of structures and receptors and the tree leads to logical behaviors for the animal given the receptors in the model.  For example, if I modeled a bee and it has recognizable antennae, legs, and hairs, my decision tree should have paths that lead towards behaviors based on inputs received by those receptors.  I would reiterate until a team thinks the paths are logical.”

S: “But what if the evaluating team does not know much about bees?  What if they chose a zebra?”

T: “You can share information with that team an educate them on bees.  This was another reason you researched the animal.  It allows you to teach the other team using the model and they use that information to follow the paths on the decision tree.”

Students record feedback for a model and decision tree they tested in the Maker Journal page below.

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Concept Quick Reference (Click + to open)

Models can be powerful teaching tools.  They are used to represent ideas, concepts, and phenomena and are essential to the design process.  This challenge leverages the use of both physical models and conceptual models.  A conceptual model is a representation of a system, made of the composition of concepts which are used to help people know, understand, or simulate a subject the model represents.  The decision tree is a conceptual model used to inform real-world decisions.  Physical models are usually objects designed and/or used to represent real-world systems or ideas.  For example, a toy car could be used to explore physical phenomena such as collisions and momentum.  Alternatively, multiple cars could be used to explore problems such as urban traffic flow.  Models always contain elements of error.  They are not perfect but as long as the errors are recognized, models can be effectively used to convey complex types of information.

Design Challenge Materials

  • RAFT Makerspace-in-a-box
    • Various adhesives, connectors, and fasteners (e.g., paperclips, binder clips, thread, yarn, adhesive foam pads, wooden stir sticks, straws, spoons, pipettes, labels & stickers, rubber bands, etc.)
    • Materials (e.g., laminate samples, dust covers, foam pieces, deli containers, fishboard, cardboard tubes, plascore scraps, posters, shower caps, scrap materials, cards, etc.)

Tech

  • Computers or mobile devices
  • Internet access

Teacher Notes

Pre-select web resources students can use to learn more about their chosen animals.  Review how to conduct safe and effective web searches so students can mediate their design efforts.

Active Classroom

Tips for success in an active classroom environment:

Communication is critical in the design process. Students need to be allowed to talk, stand, and move around to acquire materials. Help students become successful and care for the success of others by asking them to predict problems that might arise in the active environment and ask them to suggest strategies for their own behavior that will ensure a positive working environment for all students and teachers.

Practice and predict clean-up strategies before beginning the activity. Ask students to offer suggestions for ensuring that they will leave a clean and useable space for the next activity. Students may enjoy creating very specific clean-up roles. Once these are established, the same student-owned strategies can be used every time hands-on learning occurs.

Learning Targets

  • Students will be able to use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

Assessment

Student Self Assessment

Student groups use their Maker Journal pages to ensure individual ideas and suggestions are considered in the design of the models

Peer Assessment

Student groups discuss and compare their models and decision trees and apply peer feedback in multiple iterations

Teacher Assessment

Review student Maker Journal pages for formative assessment and discuss with individual groups as they work.  Conduct a whole group discussion to allow all students to share, discuss and compare their models.