Okay, you’ve probably seen variations of this project around. If you read my post about introducing synthetic products, two of those ideas introduce a similar concept. Some of these have good ideas, but assume some background skills and information that your students may or may not have.
There’s a good reason that many projects for this unit are similar – the standard is pretty specific:
MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on natural resources that undergo a chemical process to form the synthetic material. Examples of new materials could include new medicine, foods, and alternative fuels.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to qualitative information.]
Not many ways to interpret that, are there?
I’m going to drop all these links first, then give you the step-by-step of figuring out what your students need.
1) CRAAP Test Intro Lesson (post coming soon)
2) Project Instructions and Rubric – a remix of this
3) Research Links at Middle School Chemistry
4) Easy Bib and Citation Mini-Lesson
5) Project Work Time
Do I need all of these? Let’s check!
STEP 1: Figure Out What Skills Does Your Class Have?
To succeed at this, they need to know how to Google effectively (come up with search terms, skim a bit), evaluate resources for credibility, cite sources in your preferred format, synthesize the answers they find to answer questions, and communicate effectively.
A. My kids don’t have the Google Skills:
This year mine do, last year, they didn’t. We spent a lot of time going “and what should we ask Siri to get the information they want”. If you let them use text-to-speech, this goes a lot faster! Most of my students type slowly, so internet research goes slowly if they aren’t allowed to use a mike.
B. They can Google, but they believe everything TikTok says
I spend a short class (50 minutes) teaching my students how to use the CRAAP test with this project. Before I really dive into the project requirements, I teach this skill, then have them apply it to their project research.
C. They know how to do those things, but some read far below level.
Two good options, and I would present both to your students.
First off, if they pick one of the suggested “synthetic products” in Middle School Chemistry’s resource list, a lot of the links are Youtube videos. Vetted videos can be a source of scientific information at the middle school level, as long as they still evaluate it. Having a list of links also means less blind Google-Skim-Read-Frustration.
Secondly, you may want to pick a topic – or two – and find some grade-appropriate resources that answer the questions. Many children’s science books have enough details to meet these project requirements, but are at a lower reading level than an academic website. If a student is really struggling with the “internet research” concept, offer them a stack of hard-copy. Still has to evaluate it, but fewer choices.
Okay, now they have their sources – how do they cite them?
For the last two years, I blindly assumed that SOMEONE ELSE was going to teach my 8th graders how to cite a source. Some of them don’t even know that there’s a difference between a URL and a citation, or what a URL is.
I teach about a 10 minute mini-lesson on how to cite web pages in MLA, and have the students come ask for help if they need to do something complicated.
Here is the OWL Purdue MLA citation page, which is updated often and very helpful!
STEP 2: Actually Do The Project!
- Internet-connected student devices for research and/or a trip to the library.
- 1 piece of cardstock or larger poster paper for each student. (I bought this ream from Walmart for the rest of the year)
- Some good felt tip pens and maybe even permanent markers for students to fight over. They all want to use those black, fine tips. (I don’t buy my students Sharpies because $$$, but for this project I got a fresh set of Pen & Gear Permanent Markers)
- Miscellaneous art supplies – mine use rulers, colored pencils, scrap pieces of colored paper, glue sticks, and some random stencils this year. They get pretty creative, but none of that is actually necessary.
- Patience and a procedure for “when can you come for help”
- Optional: student-accessible printer for images.
Timing: About 1 week, give or take
This year, I spent an 50 minute period introducing the CRAAP test and letting them start preliminary research, a 80 minute block to research and evaluate resources, and another 80 minute block to finish making their posters. Some needed that whole week, some were done by the end of Wednesday.
It all depends on your students (and their reading levels).
You’re welcome to use my spin on this project; student instructions and rubric are below. The original and mine are both Creative Commons, so you’re welcome to remix and use in your classroom, but don’t post it anywhere for sale 🙂
I posted this as a PDF in Google Classroom for them to reference, but also printed some hard copies for the students who needed one. And for me. I needed a copy of the rubric.
I’m thinking for next year, make a teeny-tiny version of the rubric on some mailing labels to make grading posters easier. What do you think?
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