Extending our lesson sounds a lot like drawing it out or having something to do for our students who finish quickly. It can make us think of fast finishers, choice boards, silent reading, and more work for us! When it comes to how to extend science, it is not something that comes after the lesson. It is an integral part of the lesson! Extension is the essential part of our science teaching where students take what they have learned and actually put it to practice!
After you have engaged students, they have explored, and you have explained the science concept you’re done right? WRONG! In traditional teaching this can often be where we stop, but if we do, we are missing an essential part in our science teaching. When students extend or elaborate the science they have just learned they are putting it into practice. They are using the new vocabulary and concepts they just learned in a real way. This helps them to solidify the science principles they just learned.
In the real world, scientists never stop after the explanation. They take what they have learned and continue to apply, test, and study it. We need to make sure that we offer the same opportunities to our students. Explanation is simply not enough to deeply understand science principles. Students must have the opportunity to extend science in meaningful ways.
How to Extend
Although initially it may seem like more work, it is quite easy to extend science for our students. Next Generation Science Standards gives several examples of how you extend your students’ understanding; ask questions, propose solutions, make decisions, design experiments, or complete a challenge. We will delve into each of these and what they might look like in the classroom.
This is perhaps deceptively the “easiest” of the ideas on how to extend science. If we choose to ask questions to elaborate on our students’ understanding, the questions need to be carefully thought through and purposeful. Ask yourself, “Are these questions helping my students to apply their new understanding?” Questions should fall under higher levels of DOK rather than simply asking students to recite new understanding. You can also choose to have students ask and answer questions individually, in pairs, groups, or as a class.
One example might be you have just finished explaining the tilt of the earth and how it affects daylight hours. You then ask the question, “Why does the North Pole have a day where the sun never sets and a day where the sun never rises?” “When would this occur?” “Are there other places on Earth that might experience this phenomenon?” In these questions, students are using their new understanding to answer questions about the world around them.
This works best when the exploration of your lesson included a problem that needed solving. Now that students understand the principles behind the problem, they should be able to propose solutions to that problem! This is a great way to include real world science into your classroom. Most often scientists are trying to solve problems with their research and proposing solutions is a part of that process.
One idea is that you have introduced the idea of an invasive species in your exploration and explaining phases of your science lesson. Then students work together in pairs or groups and come up with ideas of how to handle the invasive species problem. They use the vocabulary and ideas about balanced ecosystems in order to come up with a solution.
Making decisions can look quite similar to proposing solutions when you extend science. The key difference here is that students make decisions about how to solve a problem and then follow through with those decisions. This allows students to see the results of their decision and understanding of the science concepts. When teaching about balanced ecosystems there is a simulation where students choose how much of each species to place in the ecosystem. After their exploration and explanation, students may make thoughtful decisions based on their new understanding about how much of each species to place in their ecosystem.
When students design experiments to extend science, they are engaging in real science practices! Students look at what they have learned and then design a way to test that knowledge in an experiment. Experiments allow students to test a theory or a scientific belief and find out for themselves if it holds true. After teaching students about thermal conductors and insulators, students may decide to design an experiment to test different materials and make predictions about what they believe are better conductors or insulators.
Complete a Challenge
I always find that my students really enjoy this way to extend science. The difference between completing a challenge and designing an experiment is that you have created or are presenting the challenge for your students to complete. They then use their new understanding of the science principle to complete the challenge. Students love challenges and are always engaged in this way of extending science. Completing a challenge can also easily be grouped with asking questions and making decisions.
One idea for a challenge might come after teaching your students about density. Students are then challenged to take something that would normally sink and see if they can make it float by decreasing its density or having it float on something that is less dense. In this example, students are given the opportunity to use their understanding of density to complete a fun and engaging challenge.
What’s great about all of these ideas on how to extend science, is they can easily be done in science centers! I love centers because it allows students to extend and elaborate on their own or in small groups. Science centers also allow you to extend science in more than one way! You can easily extend in several different ways listed above using science centers around the room! Not sure what science centers to do? I have some great products that are easy to set up and use and are perfect to extend your science lessons.
Extension is SO important to our science lessons! There are so many different ways to extend our lessons that will help our students to really grasp and apply the concepts we teach them each day! It is also the perfect way to give our students real life science experiences. So go ahead, extend away!
If you need some ideas for Exploration- check out this blog post here!