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Systems and Scale

Systems and Scale is the first of the six Carbon TIME units. If you are new to teaching Carbon TIME, read the Carbon TIME FAQ: Which Units Should I Teach? .

The goal of the Systems and Scale unit is to introduce students to organic matter and chemical energy (in the context of combustion) using the tools for reasoning and environmental literacy practices that students will engage with in other units. Students develop required capacity to distinguish organic matter from inorganic matter, and to understand how differences in the chemical make-up of materials influences how materials and energy are transformed and moved between systems.

The Systems and Scale Unit supports students in using core disciplinary ideas, science practices, and cross-cutting concepts to develop scientific explanations of how matter and energy are transformed during combustion of different organic materials.

Follow these steps to get ready to teach the Systems and Scale Unit






Lead Editor for 2019 Version

Kirsten D. Edwards, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

Principal Authors

Hannah K. Miller, Education Department, Johnson State University

Jenny Dauer, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Christa Haverly, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

Kirsten D. Edwards, Department of Teacher Edwards, Michigan State University

Christie Morrison Thomas, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

Charles W. “Andy” Anderson, Department of Teacher Education, Michigan State University

Contributing Authors

Elizabeth Xeng de los Santos, Beth Covitt, Jennifer Doherty, Allison Freed, Wendy Johnson, Deborah Jordan, Craig Kohn, Lindsey Mohan, Joyce Parker, Elizabeth Tompkins, Nick Verbanic

Illustrations

Craig Douglas, Kendra Mojica

This research is supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation: A Learning Progression-based System for Promoting Understanding of Carbon-transforming Processes (DRL 1020187) and Sustaining Responsive and Rigorous Teaching Based on Carbon TIME (NSF 1440988). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or the united States Department of Energy.

This unit is also available online at http://carbontime.bscs.org/. Contact the MSU Environmental Literacy Program for more information: EnvLit@msu.edu.

The Driving Question

The Systems and Scale Unit starts by asking students to express their ideas about the driving question about an anchoring phenomenon: What happens when ethanol burns? The unit helps students answer this question by using core disciplinary ideas, science practices, and cross-cutting concepts to develop scientific explanations of how matter and energy are transformed during combustion of different organic materials

Before beginning the Systems and Scale Unit, you need to decide what to teach and importantly, what not to teach! Use this page to choose the unit sequence that’s most appropriate for your students.

  • Optional activities in the Systems and Scale Unit are designed to provide supportive learning opportunities for students who have not previously studied or who are still working to develop proficiency with regard to reasoning about scale and chemical change. Use your professional judgment to decide whether or not to teach each optional lesson or activity.

Unless otherwise noted in the table below, all activities in the unit should be taught.

Here, we present two ways to think about how lessons are sequenced in the Systems and Scale Unit. The Instructional Model, immediately below, emphasizes how students take on roles of questioner, investigator, and explainer to learn and apply scientific models they can use to answer the driving question. Further below, the Unit Storyline Chart highlights the central question, activity, and answer that students engage with in each lesson of the Systems and Scale Unit.

Instructional Model

Like all Carbon TIME units, this unit follows an instructional model (IM) designed to support teaching that helps students achieve mastery at answering the driving question through use of disciplinary content, science practices, and crosscutting concepts. To learn more about this design, see the Carbon TIME Instructional Model.

systems and scale unit map

The core of the Carbon TIME IM is the Observation, Patterns, Models (OPM) triangle, which summarizes key aspects to be attended to as the class engages in unit inquiry and explanation. The OPM triangle for the Systems and Scale Unit, shown below, articulates the key observations students make during the unit investigation, the key patterns they identify through analyzing their investigation data, and the central scientific model that can be used to answer the unit’s driving question. During the inquiry portions of the unit (Lessons 3 and 4), the class moves from making observations to identifying patterns, eventually using these patterns to make evidence-based arguments. During the explanation portion of the unit (Lessons 4 and 5), the class learns the atomic-molecular model, makes connections across scales, and uses atomic-molecular model to explain how animals grow, move, and function. Across the unit, classroom discourse is a necessary part of 3-dimensional Carbon TIME learning. The Carbon TIME Discourse Routine document provides guidance for scaffolding this discourse in lessons.

systems and scale unit storyline chart

The tables below show goals for this unit in two forms. A list of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) addressed by this unit is followed by a table showing specific target performances for each activity.

Next Generation Science Standards

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) performance expectations that middle and high school students can achieve through completing the Animals Unit are listed below. To read a discussion of how the Carbon TIME project is designed to help students achieve the performances represented in the NGSS, please see Three-dimensional Learning in Carbon TIME.

High School

Middle School

Materials List

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Activity 1.1: Systems and Scale Unit Pretest (20 min)

  • pencils (1 per student, for paper version)
  • computer with an Internet connection (1 per student, for online version)

Activity 1.2: Expressing Ideas about Ethanol Burning (20 min)

  • Sticky notes (1 per student)
  • ethanol, 95% (10-15 ml)
  • lighter (1)
  • Petri dish, glass (1)
  • Petri dish, plastic (1)

Activity 2.3: Zooming Into Air (30 min)

  • piece of paper (1 person student)

Activity 2.4: Atoms and Molecules Quiz and Discussion (30 min)

  • pencils (1 per student)

Activity 2.5: Using a Digital Balance and BTB (30 min)

  • BTB, blue (1 cup per group of four students)
  • clear plastic cups (1 per group of four students)
  • digital balance (1 per group of four students)
  • paper clips (10 per group of four students)
  • safety glasses (1 per group of four students)
  • straws (1 per group of four students)

Activity 3.1: Predictions about Soda Water Fizzing (20 min)

  • Petri dish, plastic (1 per class)
  • soda water (1 cup per class)

Activity 3.2: Observing Soda Water Fizzing (40 min)

  • BTB, blue (less than 1 cup per group of four students)
  • digital balance (1 per group of four students)
  • Petri dish, plastic (2 per group of four students)
  • sealable, 9.5-Cup container (1 per group of four students)
  • soda water (less than 1 cup per group of four students)
  • (Optional) Molecular modeling kits
  • (From previous activity) 3.1 Predictions Tool for Soda Water Fizzing

Activity 3.3: Evidence-Based Arguments for Soda Water Fizzing (50 min)

Activity 3.4: Molecular Models for Soda Water Fizzing (40 min)

  • molecular model kit (1 per pair of students)

Activity 3.5: Explaining Soda Water Fizzing (20 min)

Activity 4.1: Predictions about Ethanol Burning (30 min)

  • (From previous activity) Students’ ideas and questions they shared in Activity 1.2 Expressing Ideas Tool for Ethanol Burning
  • (From previous 1.2 Expressing Ideas Tool for Ethanol Burning
  • Video or demonstration of ethanol burning

Activity 4.2: Observing Ethanol Burning (30 min)

  • BTB, blue (less than 1 cup per group)
  • (optional) BTB, yellow (less than 1 cup per group)
  • digital balance (1 per group of four students)
  • ethanol, 95% (10-15 ml per group)
  • large plastic container (1 per group of four students)
  • lighter (1 per group of four students)
  • Petri dish, glass (1 per group of four students)
  • Petri dish, plastic (1 per group of four students)
  • safety glasses (1 per student)
  • (Optional) Molecular modeling kits
  • (From previous activity) 4.1 Predictions Tool for Ethanol Burning with student answers
Activity 4.3: Evidence-Based Arguments for Ethanol Burning (50 min)

Activity 4.4: Molecular Models for Ethanol Burning (50 min)

  • molecular model kit (1 per pair of students)
  • scissors (1 per pair of students)
  • twist ties (at least 12 per pair of students)

Activity 4.5: Explaining Ethanol Burning (40 min)

(Optional) Activity 5.1: Molecular Modeling for Methane Burning (40 min)

  • molecular modeling kit (1 per pair of students)
  • scissors (1 per pair of students)
  • twist ties (12 per pair of students)

Activity 5.3: Preparing for Future Units – Organic vs. Inorganic (40 min)

Activity 5.5: Systems and Scale Unit Posttest (20 min)

  • pencils (1 per student)
  • computer with an Internet connection (1 per student, for online version)