Typically, how many labs do you do in your science unit? Usually, I have my students do one or two in a unit before we move on to the next concept. This year, I’ve been able to do 36! Well, technically not me — my students have. And they did it by using Agile methodologies in class.
I teach six rotations of 7th-grade science. In each class, there were six teams. Each team was assigned to explain a specific aspect of our unit about rocks and minerals, their differences, and how they are used in the real world:
- How Do Rocks Form?
- How Do Minerals Form?
- What Are The Differences Between Rocks and Minerals That Affect How They Are Used In The Real World?
- How Are Rocks Used In the Real World?
- How Are Minerals Used In the Real World?
- Why Are Other Substances NOT Rocks Or Minerals?
Each team was required to develop a hands-on activity or lab as a part of their lesson. At first, they were confused. Many of them asked, “Wait… WE have to come up with a lab?” I loved that part — that healthy anxiety that produces great results. They didn’t realize it yet, but I knew those great results were coming.
My students were confused about where to start. The frustration was palpable. And of course, there was a little whining. But that’s okay. We all do that when we get frustrated, right? But, as I jokingly told them to “suffer in silence,” I would talk with each team about how they should try and solve their problem. Were they communicating as a team? Did anyone have an idea about where to start? Had they begun any research for ideas? If they had found an idea, how could they adapt it to make it their own? Could their lab be linked to another team’s topic in the class? Using the boards on the Kanban Zone helped. Kanban helped them brainstorm ideas. It helped them organize their research and refine it. It helped them collaborate and share ideas. It helped them rule out experiments that did not work. It helped them gain confidence in their learning and their problem-solving abilities.
The confidence they had gained was evident when they presented their lessons, especially the lab portions. They shared clear, concise instructions for their classmates to follow. They were able to answer questions and troubleshoot solutions for those who needed them. They even redirected behaviors in the labs when necessary!
This happened in each class.
Six different teams in each class.
Six different labs per class.
Thirty-six labs in all.
In one, we were able to learn about metate. According to my students’ presentation, this was a traditional method of grinding whole grain using rocks in Central America. The class had a blast trying to do it while enjoying a mini-history lesson as well.
A second one that I loved was when my class was transformed into a day spa. One team had us create our own salt scrubs. The students were amazed to learn how minerals are used in cosmetics and appreciated the chance to apply what they had just learned through this lab.
I think the coolest one for me may have been when my class became a construction zone. Many of the students knew that they had granite countertops. Now, through this unit, they understood how the granite was formed. The student team teaching this concept had them create “granite” tables to show how this rock is used in the real world. No, not all of the tables were granite, some were ceramic tile. But, the students were able to tap into a little engineering as well to see if they could design a table that would actually stand up and not fall over.
Yes, some labs were better than others. But honestly, all of them were better than any I would have done. You know why? Because they were created by my students.