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                         OUR FEATURED RIP ® -BASED INQUIRY:

                 RIP~ing with Crystals   

               Eighth Graders Use Scientific Inquiry to Learn about Rocks and Minerals



           Teacher: Mimi Verhoeven


            Students: 8th Grade



       Earth & Space Science


           King Intermediate School

               Honolulu, Hawaii







           School Demographics

  • Most students attending King are from low to                    middle socioeconomic class making it a Title I school. Approximately 800 students in the seventh and eighth           grade attend King Intermediate from areas that are         predominantly rural or suburban.  The majority of                students are local and of Polynesian or Asian                     ethnicity with a small percentage of students come              from military families. The campus is large, originally             designed to be a high school.  It is situated on                Kaneohe Bay with beautiful scenery and well                    maintained grounds.
  • All students are divided into teams for their core              subjects.  Teaming is used to discuss students who                 are struggling, monitor their progress, and implement interventions.  All students are required to take 2                years of Math, English, Social Studies and Science                   in addition to electives.

           Course and Classroom Environment

  • All eighth graders take Earth and Space Science for               two semesters.  The majority of the year covers                 Earth Science with the fourth quarter covering                  Space Science.  The course is designed to provide              content knowledge and lab skills through use of                 textbooks, workbooks, activities, demonstrations,               discussions and of course lab experiments.  Earth                  Science covers Plate Tectonics, Continental Drift,               Minerals and Rocks, and Weather and Climate.                    Space Science covers the Solar System,                       gravitational forces, the universe, and objects                       found in the universe.



  • The classroom environment is designed to complement        group work.  Students are seated at tables of four and are involved in many activities that require them to work     together.  In addition to this, the room has eight lab tables  around the periphery making it ideal for lab activities and     experiments.  The class is set up to begin with a routine to   settle the students into a focused mind-set, before the       lesson begins.  Students are expected to create a              respectful and tolerant environment for themselves and     their peers.  Students are also responsible for completing their assignments and work individually and turning it in on time.










                                                         INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF ROCKS & MINERALS:  Instructional Plan and Objectives                                



  Scientific Inquiry (Process) Objectives

  • Students will understand characteristics of                       crystal growth which will later help them to                      understand how some minerals form
  • Stimulate student interest to learn about                              the natural world through investigation:                          providing students with the opportunity to make             observations, ask questions, and design and                     conduct an investigation to test their answers
  • Explore and understand the thinking and                        activities involved in scientific inquiry using                           the Research Investigation Process



  • Students will engage in...

        - the study of crystals that will lead to an

             understanding of how rocks are made

             and can be changed

           - making objective observations about                           

            different crystal forms that lead to

            research questions

        - testing hypotheses about how crystals can be

             formed and changed

              - designing and carrying out a scientific


        - applying standard deviation as a tool for their

               decision making about their hypothesis

        - explaining how their data support or fail to

            support their hypothesis

        - explaining how their data support their

                conclusions about their hypothesis

        - defining solvents, solutes, saturation, super- 

             saturation, and precipitates






 Expected Student Outcomes

      Students will demonstrate the ability to:

  • distinguish between objective and subjective


  • make and accurately record objective observations
  • pose questions based on objective observations
  • construct tentative answers their own questions
  • locate and use appropriate background information
  • design and conduct a study to test their hypothesis
  • record data accurately and honestly; analyze data
  • evaluate findings and make a decision regarding

          their hypothesis

  • apply what was learned to their demonstration of         knowledge on standards-based science content
  • explain the processes of dissolution and crystallization
  • apply their understanding of scientific inquiry to

          learning about the characteristics of rocks and minerals






                                                                              PREPARING FOR THE GUIDED INQUIRY:  Materials Needed


  • Background Information obtained from a variety

          of sources

During the summer preceding my development of  this guided inquiry lesson plan, I participated in a graduate seminar course at the University of Hawaii Biology Department during which I learned how to "RIP" through science while actually conducting scientific investigations.


Ms. Verhoeven collecting data from her scientific investigation on the heart of daphnia.


The RIP ® (Research Investigation Process) is a critical thinking approach to scientific inquiry that uses the same components of inquiry that scientists use in their investigations about the natural world. I used the Research Investigation Process to motivate my students to learn science and to transfer from teacher to student the ownership for the learning of standards-based content.





   The Research Investigation Process

(Click on chart to enlarge)


    • Assorted Earth and Space Science Textbooks
    • Relevant Web sites                  

              - http://jersey.uoregon.edu/~mstrick/AskGeoMan


              - http://sln.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/ 


              - http://interactive2.usgs.gov/learningweb/


              - http://www2.nature.nps.gov/geology/usgsnps/


                 - http://chemistry.about.com/od/growing

                    crystals/ig/ Crystal-Photo-Gallery/index.htm

              - http://www.chemistry.co.nz/growing_


              - http://www.chemistry.co.nz/crystals_


              - http://www.chymist.com/alum%20crystals.pdf











    • Books and Magazines from the library        



          Crystals and Crystal Growing              Growing Crystals (True Books)

         Alan Holden & Phylis Morrison                 by Ann Squire (Children's

               (The MIT Press, 1982)                                 Press, 2002)


  • Direct and indirect background content that directly      relates to the benchmarks for learning about rocks

          and minerals

        In addition to the scientific inquiry standards directly

        covered in this guided inquiry and the other student

        outcomes described above, students could be directed

        towards resources focusing on concepts related to the

        three types of rocks and their characteristics. Students

        were required to include in the background section of

        their RIP-inquiry information on:

- Formation-how the three types of rocks are formed

- Composition-what the three types of rocks are

  made of

- Characteristics-Hardness, color, shape, etc.

- Common examples of each type of rock



  • Classroom laboratory materials


    • hot plate to provide heat for dissolving
    • a pot to hold water and substance during heating
    • pot holder to protect our hands from the heated pot handle
    • an electrical outlet to supply energy for the hotplate
    • goggles for eye protection
    • piece of string for growing the crystals
    • stick or pencil to hold the string
    • a washer to suspend the stick and string
    • an 800-1000 mL beaker for growing the crystals
    • coffee filters
    • lighter/candle
    • pure water for dissolving of minerals
    • tongues for holding the hot beaker
    • wooden spoon for stirring the heating minerals
    • pan balance for massing the minerals
    • graduated cylinder
    • magnifying glass, binocular microscope,

    dissecting scope, or hand lens for observing details

    of small crystals

    • container with rough surface


  • Subjects (Substances studied)
    • alum




    • salt 



    • sugar






                                                 Let's RIP®! :  the steps for guiding my students through their first scientific investigation


                    I had six classes and each conducted their own

             experiment on crystals. Most of the classes

             designed  and conducted their research investigation

             on the effects of heat or flame on crystal. The

             remainder of this RIP-inquiry description will focus

             on the inquiry conducted by one of these classes.

                   This was the first time that my students are to be

             exposed to the process of scientific inquiry in my

             classroom and most likely in any of their previous              classes. Thus, in order to cover all of the

             components of the inquiry process, I expected the

             extended guided inquiry to take more than just a few

             days. In addition to covering the components of     

             scientific inquiry, this guided inquiry was designed to

             lead students into the study of the characteristics of

             the three main types of rocks (a benchmark for the

             eight grade science Hawaii Content and Performance


                   Crystals or broken crystals of different kinds

             of minerals, or broken pieces of rocks are what

             mostly make up rocks. So scientific investigations

             focusing on crystals can easily include in their

             background information section earth science content

             about rocks and minerals. The three types of rocks

             can generally be identified by how they are made,

             composition and texture.



              www.ezwebsite.org/Photos/files278/pinkgranite-Igneous.jpg  www.calstatela.edu/faculty/acolvil/igneous/basalt_olivine.jpg


                   The surface of the Earth (crust) is mostly made of

              igneous rocks-solids made out of crystal which form

              directly from the cooling of magma. The formation of

              these rocks involves an exothermic process in which

              heat is lost. There is also a change from the liquid to

              the solid state during the formation of igneous rock.

              Some igneous rocks cool rapidly and others slowly,

              depending upon how they were formed. Rocks that

              typically have a fine grain and appear glassy cooled

              rapidly during their formation, while those with large

              grainy surface features cooled slowly.


Observing Crystals  (Day 1)

                        I began the unit by providing my students the

                opportunity  to observe and compare test tubes containing

                two different types of crystals:  one containing crystals made

                from saturated Hawaiian table salt the other containing

                crystals made from Epsom salt.  The students worked in

                groups to perform this task.



                  Observations were recorded and shared among the

               participants within each research group with the goal of

               evaluated each one as "subjective" or "objective."



                       Observations of crystals by my students

                                      (Click on table to enlarge)


Background Information   (Day 3)

                In class, students shared the background materials

      they found for their homework assignment. Students spent

      the remainder of the time on Day 3 looking up more

      information about crystals in their textbooks and other

      resources found in the school library.



         Students researching background information at the library


               The information gathered by the students was shared,

      explained, and written on chart paper for all to see. This 

      resulted in a general class background information section

      for the investigation.                             



        Writing down the information found in background resources



        Writing down the information found in background resources


Designing the Study:  the Method   (Day 5)

              Together as a class, the students designed their

        scientific investigation, planning what subjects and

        materials they would use and the procedures they

        would follow.  As the students discussed these

        components of their study, their thoughts were written

        on chart paper at the front of the classroom.


The Subjects

              The subjects in this scientific investigation were

        salt, sugar, and alum crystals. These crystals were

        grown and harvested by the students using the materials

        and procedure described below. The crystals that were

        used to test the hypothesis in the actual investigation

        were then randomly selected using a random numbers table.


The Materials

               The materials used for this scientific investigation

        are listed below.




       In addition, we used a pan balance and graduated cylinders

       for massing and measuring chemicals.

              Students volunteered to bring the materials necessary

       to conduct the investigation to school the next day.


Preparation of Solutions for Crystal Growth  (Day 6)

              The supersaturated solutions for growing crystals were

       prepared following the procedure developed by the students.

       This preparation allowed for crystal growth within 2-4 weeks.



                            Waiting for the water to boil




                                   Massing the chemicals



                                     Using precise measuring tools




                                Adding alum to the boiling water




             Stirring alum into the boiling water to make a super-

                                           saturated solution








          Sedimentary rocks are composed of gathering together

    of small pieces of pre-existing rocks, dissolved minerals

    from the ocean left behind after evaporation, or calcium

    (from animal shells or teeth) or other minerals related to

    organic processes that come together. Weathering,

    decaying of dead organisms, or dissolving from exposure

    to flowing water are all processes that contribute to the

    breakdown of the original rocks and organic structures that

    compose sedimentary rocks. These rocks can usually be

    identified by their being made up of many small pieces of

    rocks that appear to be cemented together or by their

    layered look.





          When the minerals making up any type of rock become

    unstable because of environmental forces such as pressure

    and/or temperature changes, the rocks themselves change

    and are considered to be "metamorphic." These rocks are

    usually formed deep inside the earth. Many, but not all, of  

    these rocks have a sheet-like structure or appear to be 

    made of stacked plates.


 Formulating & Posing a Research Question  (Day 2)

      Students brainstormed about questions they had about

  crystals. The questions were listed on chart paper in the

  front of the classroom for all to see. The first step was to

  eliminate questions that were not practical (could not lead

  to a testable hypothesis and those that were useful (could

  lead to a testable hypothesis). Through discussion the

  class evaluated each question as good (useable) or bad

  (not useable).

         The class decided that they would vote on which

  question they liked the most and that became their

  research question that they they would try to answer

  through a scientific investigation. The most popular question

  was, What happens to crystals when they're heated?



         Student-formulated research questions and the results of 

         voting (circled in blue)



             Students voting for their favorite research question


        At the end of the second day of the inquiry, I assigned the

  students the homework task of researching information on



 Constructing the Hypothesis   (Day 4)    

         Using the research question and background information         from the previous day, the students worked in groups to answer

  the question by writing a testable hypothesis in an "If...then...

  because" format.  Each student-generated hypothesis included 

  the conditions that would be used to test it, the predicted

  results, and the rationale underlying the prediction.

                             Constructing the groups' hypotheses

         Each group of students then listed only the conditions that

  would be used to test their hypothesis on the front board so that

  these could be examined by the entire class. This way the class

  could see all of the experiments that they could choose from for

  the class investigation. Voting again took place so that the 

  students could determine the class investigation that was most

  popular.  After the winning experiment was determined, all

  student were asked to write in their composition books their own

  prediction and rationale for that experiment. Each of my six

  classes chose a hypothesis. The hypothesis adopted by my

  period 6 class was:


                                     The hypothesis to be tested


     The Color Scale

    I wanted the students to collect both qualitative and

    quantitative data for testing their hypothesis.  I guided them in

    the construction of a scale for crystal color and consistency

    changes that would involve both qualitative and quantitative

    data. The scale was constructed by the class using background

    information and past experiences with the consequences of

    applying heat to various substances. They were able to put

    their observations in the form of descriptive statements

    regarding the heating of objects into a table (see Table 1

    below). We then assigned a number to each object to reflect

    the amount of change resulting from exposure to a flame. This

    became our rating scale (Table 1).


  The scale was arranged on a continuum from least (No Change)

  to most (Catches Fire or Melts) change.  Although one could

  argue that these numbers represented ordinal rather than

  interval or ratio level data, they permitted my students the

  opportunity to perform data summarizing and analysis using

  descriptive statistics.



 The Procedure



 Collecting & Drying the Crystals   (Day 7)

       The solutions were strained through the coffee filters and

  allowed to dry overnight. Crystals were then randomly selected

  for the heat study.




               Close-up of the alum crystals grown by the students




           Close-up of the sugar crystals grown by the students




            Close-up of the salt crystals grown by the students


                                                                                                          TESTING the HYPOTHESIS


Conducting the Study & Collecting the Data   (Day 8)

              The students conducted their experiments.  Fifteen

        Individual alum, sugar, and salt crystals were held over a

       flame to determine the effects of heating on the crystal




                                          Heating the crystals




                    Observing the result of heating the crystals



Organizing & Summarizing the Data   (Day 9)

               The data were put on piece of chartpaper at the

         front of the classroom to create a class data table

         (see below). When all of the students finished collecting

         and entering their data into the class table, each student

         copied the class data for their own records.



               Entering individual data onto the class data table  


Data Analyses

            The mean (average) scale ratings were calculated by the

     students to describe where most of the crystal samples fell on

     the change scale when exposed to heat. Then standard

     deviation (S) was calculated to represent the error

     (uncertainty) due to differences in change among crystals of

     one type.




                      The crystals were directly exposed to the flame.


      Using the heat scale they developed, students entered the

   data they collected individually into a data table.



                   Carefully recording the data into a notebook      



       The data for one class are shown in Table 2 below. Students

  summarized the melting scale color change values for each

  crystal for the three trials and then calculated an overall mean

  across the trials for each type of crystal. The averages (means)

  and standard deviation for each crystal type are also shown in

  the data table below.



     Table 2. Class data table and summary statistics (means and

                     standard deviation)


The data were then placed into a bar graph (see below).



                                                                                      Student generated graph with standard deviation


                     The means were then compared using the eyeball test (an abbreviated t-test that compares the means for two groups,

                     described in Look at Me Now! by R.E. Landsman-ANOVA Science Publishing).  As can be seen in the graph, my students

                     found that both the alum and sugar crystals exhibited more change than did the salt crystals when they were exposed to

                     heat. The alum melted, the sugar turned brown, and the salt crystals did not change in color or form from heating by flame.

                                                                                                    DISCUSSION and CONCLUSIONS            

             Our results showed that all three types of crystals

     changed color, but some more than others. However, not

     all of the crystals melted.


                     Writing the discussion and drawing conclusions


               My students were able to actually see first-hand

        through their scientific investigation that different crystals

       have different responses to heating and are variably resistant

         to changes in form when heated with a flame. 

              The students' hypothesis was "if we grow salt, sugar,

       and alum crystals and heat them, then the crystals will melt

         because high heat causes things to melt or burn."  This

         hypothesis was supported for the alum, but not for the

       sugar or salt which did not melt.  The sugar did change



  color from white to medium brown, but not consistently. The salt

  showed no change in color.

      One student wrote:

       "In our experiment where we exposed different crystals to

  heat, alum was the most affected by heat followed by sugar,

  and finally salt with very little change. "

       "Standard deviation was calculated for each sample and it

  was found that the error bars when graphed did not overlap

  which tells us that each average rating is significantly different

  from the other graphs."

       Another student wrote:

       "This hypothesis was partially supported because the salt did

  not melt, but alum and sugar melted."

        Possible sources of errors that could have influenced

        the findings:

         "Some possible causes of error could be that each person

  heated differently, the lighters produced different temperatures,

  or lighters might have been held at different distances. People

  might have added different amounts of crystal."

       The students were able to use the data obtained in

         their investigation to make a decision about their


         "In our experiment where we exposed different crystals to

  heat, the alum was most affected by heat, followed by sugar ,

  and finally salt with very little change."


                                                                                                                   NEXT STEP


           After they completed their studies, my students wrote

   down what they would like to do next in their investigation.

   All of the students mentioned replication of the study. Their

   most common responses focused on bettering the study by

   trying to take measures that would reduce the error.

   For example, two students stated:

          "To fix or eliminate the errors, I would measure the

   distance from the lighter to the crystal so that everyone

   would be heating evenly and we would get the same kind of

   lighter for each crystal" and

           "I would try to reheat all crystals to see if I would get

   the same data as the last time. I would also try to fix all of

   the errors in my study."



                                 A giant alum crystal-wikipedia.org




     This was the first time I incorporated guided inquiry   into my instruction of science and I wanted to see the

impact on my students' understanding of the scientific inquiry process. Thus, I administered to my students in all six classes a pre- and post-assessment containing items that demonstrate both knowledge of and ability to apply the process of scientific inquiry. The pre-assessment was given to the students at the beginning of the school year prior to my teaching any scientific inquiry to them. The post-assessment was administered after the students completed this scientific investigation on minerals.

       The data shown in Figure 1 indicate that there was demonstrated increase in student knowledge about the individual components involved in and the process of scientific inquiry for the students in all of my classes.  This was only my first time to try this way of teaching and I expect the gains to be even greater as I become more accustomed to implementing RIP-based scientific inquiry into my classroom instruction.




     Figure 1. Student performance on a general scientific inquiry

     assessment before (Pre-RIP®) and after (Post-RIP®) the crystal


                                                                         NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS ADDRESSED
  • Science as Inquiry

    As a result of activities in grades 5-8,
    all students should develop
    • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
    • Understanding about scientific inquiry
  • Earth and Space Science
    As a result of activities in grades
    5-8, all students should develop an understanding of
    • Structure of the earth system

                                                                                 HAWAII CONTENT & PERFORMANCE STANDARDS

                                                                                             SCIENCE Benchmarks Addressed



Standard 1: The Scientific Process: SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION:

Discover, invent, and investigate using the skills necessary to

engage in the scientific process

Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC.8.1.1 Determine the link(s) between evidence and the conclusion(s) of an investigation
Topic Scientific Inquiry
Benchmark SC 8.1.2 Communicate the significant components of the experimental design and results of a scientific investigation




Standard 8: Physical, Earth, and Space Sciences: EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE: Understand the Earth and its processes, the solar system, and the universe and its contents

Topic Earth Materials
Benchmark SC.8.8.1 Compare the characteristics of the three main types of rocks


Earth  Materials                         

Benchmark SC.8.8.2 Illustrate the rock cycle and explain how igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are formed
                                                                                             TEACHER OBSERVATIONS & REFLECTIONS


                For my first guided inquiry, I had a lot of difficulty

      initially coming up with an experiment the students could

      do in connection to minerals.  Through past experience

      and my own experience I felt that the students would find

      growing crystals interesting. When I turned it over to them

      they did seem interested.

              Applying scientific inquiry to my hands-on instruction

      was a new experience for me.  Because this was my first

      attempt, I designed my approach as a mostly guided inquiry,

      but tried to encourage student contribution to the process

      and creativity when possible.

              In the end, my students actually conducted a scientific

      investigation that directly compared the behavior of three

      types of crystals that were exposed to a flame. Next time,

      through socratic questioning, I will guide my students to

      discussion and background information that includes the

      concept of melting points for different chemicals or minerals.

      This will provide them with the knowledge that different

      chemicals have different melting points depending upon

      what they are made of and how they are constructed.

      Hopefully this will lead them into formulating a research

      question that will ask a comparison type of question such

      as do alum, sugar, and salt behave differently when heated?

      Then the student developed hypothesis can include the

      prediction and rationale for what is expected to happen

      when crystals of the three chemicals are heated and

      compared. Guiding students into inquiries focused on

      crystal growth rate and/or shape would also directly tie

      into the benchmark of how rocks are formed.

               I did like how the students were excited about doing

      the experiment.  It served as a reward to some and an

        opportunity to demonstrate responsibility and  earn my

      trust.  When we collected the data all students were

      engaged.  Whether they were just watching or actually

      carrying out the experiment, everyone in every group

      knew what was going on and what they were trying to

      find out.  No students complained about wearing safety

        goggles or shoes because they actually saw the importance

      of their use.  Doing the experiment was also the driving

      force behind many of them writing up the beginning part




  of their research report.  Thefinal discussion and conclusion

  was also easier for them because they understood what the

  purpose of the experiment was; they had invested  their interest

  in the question and hypothesis.

         Implementation of the RIP ® was undoubtedly useful as a

  learning tool and engaging to students.  The inquiry approach

  could be built upon and understanding strengthened by using

  the method to teach each unit.  This method of instruction is

  very student-centered because it gives students ownership of

  their learning and they feel empowered that they have control

  in the decision-making that goes into their education.  The

  students were challenged with the rigor of the RIP approach

  as it was their first time carrying out a full investigation using

  this process.   Repetition and further use will reinforce the

  process and improve student understanding.

          Traditional lecture and lab activities are comfortable for

  teachers and many students.  However, this method fails to

  engage a person’s curiosity and therefore a deep and invested

  interest in their education.  While the method of  lecture does

  offer a direct delivery of content, students aren’t involved in the

  research process and it turns into a process of memorization or

  for some an opportunity to tune out.  The laboratory exercises

  are handed to the students where the students are told what

  question to ask.  When it comes to forming a hypothesis virtually

  every student has the same one because they’ve been taught

  what to expect.  Students are more likely to “fudge” data in

  order to get the results they know their instructor is expecting.

  Barely anything in the experience resembles the scientific

  method. There is no curiosity, there is little room or tolerance

  for mistakes which in no way resembles the real world of

  science.  In a lab, scientists are full of wonder and curiosity. 

  Most can’t wait to analyze their data to find out if their

  hypothesis was correct.  Scientists realize that a mistake can

  lead to a new discovery…not a failing grade.  For this reason the

  RIP is invaluable in teaching students the “real” scientific process

  where “failure” is okay as long as there is some explanation.

  Students are engaging their creative and curious capacities,

  which is what causes science to progress.  The RIP ® is not just

  useful in teaching science. After completing this lesson, and

  those that followed, I have found it to be essential.

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