The Grade 8 science curriculum includes a number of broad topics. As a result, students have varying levels of prior knowledge when it comes time to approach new concepts.
During our 'Cells' unit, we focus on the concepts of osmosis and diffusion. After some short introductory direct instruction, students work through the rest of the lesson at their own pace. Students select the degree of difficulty appropriate to their level of understanding and complete the problems based on their ability at the time. Students end with an exit card that allows them to synthesize the core concepts from the lesson and demonstrate their learning.
In the second class, students are put into groups based on their understanding from the previous lesson, in combination with the results from their exit card. In these groups, they develop a lab procedure that investigates the concept of diffusion. Students select from a list of options, or can submit a proposal for a concept of their own design.
Over the course of two classes, students design, execute and write their labs. This offers them ownership over their learning while performing an experiment that will solidify their understanding of core concepts.
Students have responded well to this flexible style of learning. Many have expressed that they were more invested in the results of their lab, gaining a deeper understanding of the theory as a result.