Authentic learning in the MYP Science Classroom

by Amber Rhinehart - MYP Coordinator

Dr. Alicia Gordons is dead! The tragedy is overwhelming!

MYP grade 7 science students are studying compounds, elements and mixtures in their unit on Chemical Change; in this unit, students focused on the separation of mixtures and the different techniques used to separate different types of mixtures. Mr. Black-Storm and Ms. Mallam Hassan, grade 7 science teachers, chose to create a hands-on activity so the students could apply their knowledge and approaches to learning skills to an authentic situation.

They arrived at their classroom last week to a “crime scene”.

The students were given this scenario:
The Ghana police have already been here and collected some evidence. They are pretty sure it is a murder. No one saw anybody enter or leave the room and unfortunately there was a power cut so the CC-TV wasn’t operating properly.

What is known from an entry in the victim’s calendar, is that she had a meeting with two men that afternoon. Her husband Alex Gordons and a mysterious person known to the public as Mr. X. He would like to stay anonymous for now.

These have both immediately been called in as prime suspects. They both deny meeting with Doctor Gordons.

The Ghana police have found:
2 bottles containing different mixtures - samples of both mixtures will be taken to the lab for further investigation.
Footprints with sand, salt and stones - the police have taken samples from the suspects shoes to match.These will go to the lab for further investigation.
On the collars of both the suspects the police have found lipstick marks - the police have given samples of the lipstick for further investigation.
A blank note lying crumpled in the victim's hand.

Based on this information and their scientific knowledge of mixtures and separation technique skills, students had to hypothesize who was in the room and how the victim was murdered. Moreover, students had to apply their information literacy skills, by collecting, gathering, and verifying data; choose one or two of the clues in order to design an experiment to test if their hypothesis is correct; and justify the results of their findings in a conclusion.

Grade 7 science students were enthusiastic and engaged in this learning experience and assessment.

Here’s what they said:

  • What did you learn?
    • Different techniques; especially to be organized because if I forgot to label a container my whole investigation will be ruined.
    • I learned a lot about separating matter.
    • I learned how to filtrate, evaporate, and distill.
  • What skills did you apply?
    • Critical thinking: Thinking hard on what to write ;communication with classmates; collaboration to check with classmates; maths & different boiling points; science as the whole investigation.
    • I definitely applied my science knowledge in order to identify what I needed to do to answer the research question.
  • Curiosity - Anything else?
    • I really liked this because there were a lot of things to do and to learn!! So who's the culprit?
    • I would love to do another investigation!!!