Finding Phenomena: Once there was a swamp…

Finding Phenomena In Your Backyard

kids exploring swamp phenomena

Phenomenal Things Happen Every Day

Finding phenomena can seem like a really hard thing when you’re searing for that “perfect for these standards!” event. Identifying phenomena is actually a skill that we really need to train our mind for, and if we are only doing it when it comes time to unit plan… it may be a long learning curve. I’ve noticed that the more I work with phenomena, the more I notice it. And while at first it requires some intentionality to identify these “things that happen,” over time, it becomes more second-nature and you start to see the inspiration everywhere.

Phenomena In Your Backyard

I love my woods-walks. When I can manage to go alone, (trust me!) I do — but I also enjoy taking these walks with my own kids. We are so lucky to have quick access to some great trails just down the road, so sometimes I’ll even take them there for a quick walk before my work day begins.

While walking in these woods a while back, I noticed “The Swamp” I remembered as a child was now overgrown with grasses and small bushes. I mentioned to my daughter that this used to be a swamp. Like any curious kid, she wondered what happened?

At this point, I actually made the mistake of… you know, explaining. And I totally lost her. In hindsight, I wish I had responded, “What do you think?” And maybe, “What do you notice over there? What do you think happened?”

I’ve gotten pretty quick on generating ideas for phenomena over the years, but the experience was a good reminder that there’s always work to do. Even though I know what I’m supposed to do, those habits of “teaching as telling” are pretty hard-wired into me all the same. It takes some real intentionality to make these changes… and when I’m not paying attention to my “teaching practice” (like when I’m just having conversations with my own kids!), some of those “old habits” tend to make their way to the surface.

Possible Standard Connections

K-ESS3-1 Use a model to represent the relationship between the needs of different plants and animals (including humans) and the places they live.

3-LS4-4 Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.*

5-LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

MS-LS2-1 Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

MS-LS2-4 Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

HS-LS2-1 Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.

HS-LS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.

HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.


What Do You Think?

I’ve suggested a few ways to connect this phenomenon to the standards, but I’m sure there’s many more creative ways I’ve missed! How would you tie this phenomenon to your curriculum? Visit Spark Student Driven Learning on Facebook to share your best ideas.



Learn More

What Every Lesson MUST Start With And Why

Building Student-Driven Science Storylines From Phenomena

4 Ways To Engage Students With Phenomena During Distance Learning