No Series: Engineering in an NGSS Classroom

Engineering in an NGSS Classroom

Lesson Objective: Design solutions for dealing with an insect problem
Grades 6-8 / Science / NGSS


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. What does engineering look like in an NGSS classroom?
  2. How do students evaluate possible solutions?
  3. What strategies does Ms. DeFino use to engage her students in problem solving?

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External Resource Materials


  • Engineering in an NGSS Classroom Transcript

    Lauren: Let's get started everyone. Open to page 128. Read the scenario carefully, gentlemen, because

    Engineering in an NGSS Classroom Transcript

    Lauren: Let's get started everyone. Open to page 128. Read the scenario carefully, gentlemen, because that's what we're using today, okay?

    If you ask people what an engineer is, I think a lot would say, "Oh, they build robots or design things." What NGSS says engineering is ... is designing solutions to problems.

    Who remembers what an engineer does? Christian?

    Build certain things that could helps a city. Let's say as an example, they can build bridges and highways and things like that.

    Lauren: Yeah. That's the typical thing that people answer. Some people, they only think engineers build bridges or make robots. Nsair? [phonetic 00:00:53]

    Nsair: An engineer fixes problems. Let's say the Hudson River was messed up, right? And, the engineers would come to fix that problem. Like for example, to take out the quagga mussels or the zebra mussels from their ecosystem to fix the problems.

    Lauren: We're doing a lot of engineering. This chapter, weighing the different options and then picking the best solution.

    Female Speaker1: Lauren has been teaching our ecosystems unit. The unit has five chapters.

    Lauren: We're going to find a solution.

    Female Speaker1: And so what we saw today was the lesson that we introduce the new phenomena, or the new problem for students to solve. The launch of the new chapter.

    Lauren: Today we were doing lesson 5.1, which is the last chapter of our ecosystems unit. In the engaged lessons, the students were presented with a scenario of a girl named Holly who was on a farm, and the crop has a beetle infestation.

    So, we've got Holly on a farm. Elijah, what's something we know?

    Elijah: We know that Holly has a problem with the insects.

    Lauren: Oh, there's an insect problem.

    We ask students to list everything they know from the scenario, and then they were thinking of questions that they would want to ask if they had to solve the problem.

    So, let's hear some of your questions.

    Male Student: I would like to know, if Holly's family can move where there's not much insects.

    Lauren: Okay, so can Holly's family move?

    Male Student: I would like to know what they're growing ... or producing.

    Lauren: And then, they went back to their student discussions, and they talked about what they would do. How they would solve this beetle infestation of the farm.

    Male Student: If we could use certain chemicals or pesticides, so it won't damage the plants.

    Male Student: It might affect people or other animals, you won't know.

    Male Student: So, like you're saying it's a cause of disruption in the ecosystem- [crosstalk 00:02:48]

    Lauren: The shift at NGSS is from learning about, to figuring out. When students are making sense around problem solving, they aren't just being told something, or reading about something. They're making sense of it themselves.

    Male Student: Can they like ... not grow like the crops or go to another area.

    Lauren: We then came together as a whole class. They listed out their ideas.

    Male Student: A greenhouse, so then there's no insects that come inside and eat the crops.

    Lauren: Alright, what other ideas?

    Male Student: They should attract birds. It can help the birds and it could help their crops.

    Lauren: Get birds to eat them.

    Male Student: Create some type of machine so that it might scare the insects away.

    Lauren: So a machine to scare insects.

    Male Student: Take a bug that eats insects.

    Lauren: So find another bug to eat them.

    Male Student: We said if we was living in a farm like this we would put bug traps near the crops so they'll die easily.

    Lauren: Alright, so bug traps.

    And then, I presented them with four solutions.

    You've got, chemical control. You've got, relocate the farm. We've got, Biological control, so they said, "Toads." And physical removal, where they burn the fields.

    Then, they had to decide as a group at their table, which one they were going to do.

    Male Student: So we just got to read the scenario.

    Male Student: I'll read [crosstalk 00:04:10].

    Male Student: Whoever chooses D is crazy.

    Lauren: And then they took some time at their tables,

    Male Student: And they could just use pesticides.

    Lauren: And they discussed and they wrote the advantages and the disadvantages for each solution.

    Male Student: The advantages is there is no point of moving because there's still going to be bugs coming. So they can actually stay on their farm instead of wasting thousand of dollars moving.

    Lauren: So a disadvantage for moving would be like there might be insects at the new place.

    It's time to start picking which one you like the best. And you must decide as a table. Come to an agreement.

    I purposely ask them as table to come to a decision. In this engage lesson the questions that they asked, and the talking amongst themselves, was what I think was most powerful.

    Alright gentlemen. [crosstalk 00:04:56]

    Male Student: ... thinking of a solution.

    Lauren: Let's come back together.

    Joseph and Jeremiah, which did you choose as your answer for your farm?

    Male Student: We picked A because it says like the pesticide's very effective at killing beetles. So if the beetles come and eat the insects they would eat it for themselves. So then they have to take out the beetles too.

    Lauren: So not everything ... So every solution has a disadvantage too, right? But, you think that one's the best. Let's move over to the back.

    Male Student: We chose D, physical removal.

    Male Student: We chose C, biological control [crosstalk 00:05:32] because the toads will eat many of the beetles in the farm. And the disadvantages is that the toads are not used to the area.

    Lauren: So that's an interesting choice. Front table, last choice. Let's hear it.

    Male Student: We picked C, because the toads will be able to control the beetles, and the toads eat many other insects such as frogs, lizards, snakes, mice, snails, and insects. So, they would stop most of the beetles and the other insects from coming inside the farm. So the farm would be able to grow more crops.

    Lauren: We charted that out, and then I told them it was a real scenario.

    This is a real story that happened in sugar cane fields in Queensland, Australia. And I'm gonna show you a video clip[crosstalk 00:06:21]

    And so we watched a video clip of what happened.

    Speaker 7: Farmers first imported South American cane toads from Hawaii in 1935 to control crop destroying cane beetles. The plan went horribly wrong. The cane toads couldn't reach the high clinging bugs so they went on to eat almost everything else. Growing to massive proportions.

    Lauren: It turned out that it was not good.

    Did anyone predict that happening?

    Male Student: No.

    Male Student: I did. I told them that the toads could get out of control, and they could focus on something different, and start eating off that population instead of eating off the beetle population.

    Lauren: That's a good reasoning, and you were telling me that reasoning before too. So I was actually surprised that your group picked it, but remember there's advantages and disadvantages to all of them. Right? Now what did we call the zebra mussels.

    Male Student: In the Hudson, we called the zebra mussels invasive species.

    Lauren: Do you think the cane toad qualifies as an invasive species for Australia?

    Male Student: Yes, because they actually took over and started making their own plans and not doing what they were supposed to.

    Lauren: Right, and are they from there?

    Male Student: No.

    Lauren: We just wanted the students to realize there was a consequence for every action taken. And that every solution has disadvantages and advantages. So it's a lesson where I'm not answering questions, the kids are asking questions. They're exploring a new anchor phenomena, and they're just kind of getting an idea of where we're headed in the chapter.

    Are main overall arching question is how can the effects of environmental problems be reduced? And our main goals?

    Male Student: The main goals for this chapter are to evaluate competing designed solutions.

    Male Student: To apply scientific principles, to design a process.

    Male Student: Construct an oral argument to support or refute a solution to a problem.

    Lauren: Alright so you thought about a solution to your farm today, but we are going to keep looking at different environmental problems. This is my favorite chapter in the book. I'm really excited. It uses everything you've learned so far, but you're acting like engineers and designing solutions.

    You guys did a great job today. Analysis one and two for homework. Great job gentlemen.


Lauren Defino


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