Hands-on Science Beyond the Lab: Creating a Lesson Plan for Distance Learning

Friday, May 1, 2020

Distance learning lesson plans…  no worries, right?!  Wrong!!  For me, lesson plans include a little of this and little of that.  I like to include research, direct instruction, independent learning, and lots of time in the lab creating and using engineering processes or testing theories.  I have faith that my students will be able to complete most any type of lesson I provide, but with distance learning, teachers are not able to accomplish teaching the same amount of information as when we are in the classroom.  And not all students will have the same types of materials at home for completing the labs.  So how do we provide quality lessons that engage all learning types and the fabulous engineering/lab experiences?  I found that doing it as a mini unit worked out very well.

The  unit of study for my 5th grade Environmental Science class was the geosphere.  While we were still in school, students learned about Earth’s interior, and how the interior of the Earth affected the exterior.  They had an idea of mountain building and volcanoes.  Once students were learning remotely, I had to change the way I presented information.  I chose to use videos, Google slideshows, and Newsela articles to provide a foundation of information, and then assign a project that all students could do from home.  

In this model of a mini unit, students began the distance learning portion of the project by reviewing notes on Earth’s structure.  They used notes taken in class to complete  Doodle notes, foldables, and a Venn Diagram assignment for review. 

Students then began research on the landforms on the surface of the Earth.  I used Crash Course Kids for an introduction to some of the landforms, and then added a longer, more in-depth video about additional landforms and how those landforms develop.  I also assigned a Newsela article for students to read relating to the formation of volcanic islands.  Students then watched a video on Weathering, Erosion, and Deposition that illustrates how landforms change over time.  

I was available to students during Science class and office hours each day for question and answer sessions.  I gave them direct instruction and notes on Chemical weathering.

I knew students needed a creative way to show their mastery of the landform content.  They worked on modeling in the class and lab many times, so I thought a model would be a good option.  Because students have different types of materials at home with which to work, I thought the landforms could be made out of a variety of materials.  

Students could create either a 2D and 3D model.  To give them ideas, I created a Google slideshow from images of models, both 2 and 3D, and links to show a  video how the model was constructed.  I also included instructions on how to make clay from recycled newsprint!  Two students tried it!  Students could make models with materials from their yard, recycled materials, food, or even legos! We met over Google Meets several times for question and answer sessions about the project. The slideshow is attached below, in addition to the document that outlines how students were assessed for the project. 


Link to the Google Slideshow that describes the Landform project

Assessing the Landform Project


The project was a huge success!!  The landforms  come in all shapes and sizes, and are made from all sorts of materials.  I am really impressed with my students’ use of materials and their creativity.  Having a written portion of the project shows me that they understand the targeted objectives.  I think the learning process was effective and engaging.  

I also had a Eureka moment because of this project!  Often in class, students are grouped in many ways to maximize learning, but, as teachers, we often wonder if everyone’s ideas are being incorporated into the project.  For this project, since it was completed individually, all students were able to design and build using their own ideas.  While I love for students to share their ideas and collaborate, it was nice to see individual ideas as well.  The links below are the student projects presented in three Google slideshows.  Students were given edit rights in order to spruce up their slide!

Rotation 1 


Rotation 2


Rotation 3