Scientific Inquiry Meets Storytelling and Filmmaking: Creating Video Lab Reports Using a Project-Based Learning Approach

By Olivas, Alfred Daniel | Science Scope, January 2013 | Go to article overview

Scientific Inquiry Meets Storytelling and Filmmaking: Creating Video Lab Reports Using a Project-Based Learning Approach


Olivas, Alfred Daniel, Science Scope


If you mention the phrase scientific lab report to most adults, they will remember long nights of writing, editing, organizing, studying data, creating tables, and trying to recall details of some obscure experiment they performed in the classroom. Even now, many students think of the science lab report as a dry, tedious, heavily revised piece of work that needs to be written or typed and turned in after an experiment. But what if students could enjoy the process of creating lab reports by highlighting their individual talents, using their voices, and showing off their tech skills with an experience that allows them to become directors, or even stars, of their own science video lab report?

In this interdisciplinary multimedia project, students design, create, plan, direct, edit, and produce a video lab report using their own experimental data. Although this approach could be used at various grade levels, I implement it in grade 6 after students transition from the elementary to middle school and take their first core-subject science class. It is a fun and developmentally appropriate way to have students practice scientific inquiry, as well as to learn the processes of science and produce their first scientific lab report.

Background

This project begins with an interest in creating a rich learning experience by integrating science content and practices with technology to support language acquisition, personal talents, and components of digital literacy. It combines all the steps of a traditional lab report with the practices of scientific inquiry through various media, including photography, video, and verbal and text narratives. The final result is a four- to five-minute video lab report.

This project-based learning approach to producing a scientific lab report can be used with any investigations or units where students are required to document a scientific investigation; I have used it successfully in more than one unit. This particular example comes from a forces and motion unit, during which students build and test mousetrap cars.

The project is designed to encourage the developmental skills and address the science content objectives that follow.

Developmental skills

* Organize, plan, share, and work together

* Practice writing, speaking, and presentation skills

* Reinforce and learn new skills using technology and elements of the filmmaking process

* Apply the scientific method in a unique context via original student research and data

Content objectives

* Explain and give examples of force, motion, friction, mass, inertia, speed, and velocity, including Newton's three laws of motion

* Calculate average speed and acceleration by taking measurements of distance and time

* Identify the points at which an object has the most potential or kinetic energy

* Practice safe laboratory skills

Preparation and trials

Foundational lessons (content objectives) and activities from our forces and motion unit are taught for approximately two weeks before students receive their mouse-trap car assembly kits (www.docfizzix.com/products/ vehicle-kits/mousetrap-powered). Our school purchases enough of these ready-to-assemble kits so that each group of two to three students can build one Little Moe and one Basic mousetrap car. Little Moe is made for speed, and the Basic model is made for distance (Little Moe: $8.95; Basic: $15.95). The self-contained kits that we purchase come with all instructions for assembly and suggestions for modifications and use.

I introduce students to the scope of the project (project description and all necessary forms can be found on the project website; see Resources) before they build the cars and perform their experiments. One of the things they are told in the introduction is that they will be documenting the entire process in video and photo formats. …

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