Scientific Inquiry Performance Task
Brief Overview of Task:
Students will use the property of paper to absorb liquids and to transmit the liquid along a strip at different rates depending on the liquid, the type of paper, and other variables. For young students the teacher will set up the experiments with student activity somewhat limited. For older students the control of the experiments is transferred to the students.
Task Author: Bob Valiant
Task Title: Performance Assessment Task*
Grade Level: K-8
Targeted Benchmark: Scientific Inquiry
Recommended Prerequisite Student Knowledge and Skills:
Students should have some skills of observation and experience with the scientific inquiry process.
Materials Generally Available: Paper towels and other types of paper such as facial tissue, typing paper, etc. Water, eye-droppers, plastic wrap, and small containers are also useful.
Special Items: (Teacher must provide) Cooking oil, rubbing alcohol, and food coloring may be used in some applications.
Citation and Helpful Resources: (i.e. books, web sites, etc.)
Recommended Classroom Time: (in hours) 1-2 hours
Detailed Description of Task for Teachers:
1. The teacher passes out a piece of typing paper to each student. They are asked to observe it carefully and the teacher asks for descriptive words to explain what they observe and lists the words on the board. They are encouraged to tear, crumple, etc. and to describe the results.
2. A second type of paper is passed out using the same process, and finally a third type of paper.
3. The teacher leads a discussion where students compare and contrast the properties of the 3 types of paper. The discussion then moves to the uses of the different papers and how the properties identified might contribute to intended use.
4. The focus now shifts to the paper towel material and one of its properties, absorbency. The teacher asks the question, “What type of paper absorbs better than another?” Student responses are written on the board. For the purpose of this performance assessment, the teacher selects (or suggests) the idea that strips of two different paper types can have drops of liquid applied at the same time and a sort of “race” to see which spreads more quickly down the strip will determine the “better absorber.”
4a. An optional approach for older students is to use the same type of paper for two or more different liquids and run the same kind of race. Here the question becomes “At what rates do different liquids diffuse through paper?”
5. The teacher hands out the Student Investigation Form and helps fill in the question portion (For young students this may be done on a large format form by the teacher, and for very young students it may just be talked about. The students are asked to predict what they think will happen when the drops are applied to the paper and write it on the paper. In the case of young children, the teacher fills in the predictions on the large format form. Reasons for the prediction are also collected.
6. Materials needed for the test (plastic wrap to protect the work surface, strips of paper, eye droppers, pencils, liquids to be tested, rulers, etc) are handed out and listed on the form
7. A discussion is held on procedures to be used. For example, how can you ensure that both drops start at the same time? What is the best way to be sure they start from the same place on the strip? Older students fill in the procedures they choose to follow. The teacher fills in the large format form for the younger students.
8. The students carry out the tests. The teacher asks how they can record and organize the data (information learned from the test). Older students come up with their own ways and develop their data sheets. The teacher makes suggestions for the younger students and helps them record the data on a large sheet of paper.
9. Students are asked if the data support their prediction? Older students write in their responses while the teacher discusses the findings with younger students.
10. Students are asked to state their conclusions based on the data. Older students write responses on the form. Younger students discuss the conclusions with the teacher.
Additional Contexts and /or Possible Extensions of Task:
1. This activity can lead to a variety of questions regarding absorbency or wicking action of various material, the speed with which different liquids travel in a medium, or whether the property could be used to separate liquids.
Student Name_________________________ Date__________________
The problem: (your question): 5 points
Prediction: (state what you think will happen and support the prediction with reasons why you say this) 5 points
Equipment List: 5 points
Procedures: (step by step explanation on how you will do your experiment) Number these in order: 10 points
Record and Organize Data: 10 points
Analyze data: Does the data support your prediction? Do you need more information?
Conclusion: State your conclusion based on your data. Your data should support your conclusion or lead to another question. Have any questions or problems come up?