Phenomenon Model

Students observe a phenomenon and create a diagram to describe it. Then they think about and label seen and unseen forces that may affect the phenomenon, and use this model to make possible explanations for how the phenomenon works. The world is filled with phenomena and mechanisms that we take for granted and often do not understand. What are the mechanisms behind the patterns of ripples on the surface of a pond during the rain? Why is a heated pot of water loudest before it is at a full boil? How does a refrigerator work? We can come up with some ideas about how these things happen, but making a model is a deeper approach, one that externalizes our thinking and shows us what we do not yet understand. Modeling a complex phenomenon calls on our background knowledge of science concepts from, for example, physics, ecology, or biology, and sends us to additional sources of information to deepen our understanding. Modeling can change the way we think and how we approach problems, but it is not always an intuitive skill. This activity offers an approach to modeling that students can apply in future journal entries and in other disciplines. Students will also observe a phenomenon in detail and begin to understand it, setting them up for future learning experiences and deepening their knowledge of key science concepts.  Modeling like this makes our ideas visible. It doesn’t matter whether our explanation is right or wrong. We model to clarify our thinking. Once the ideas are down on paper, we can more easily see connections, gaps in our thinking, and strengths and weaknesses of our ideas.
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