Wind Solvers: A Conventional Wind Vane Activity Becomes an Opportunity for Problem Solving

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Weather happens all around us every day. Students can take for granted the different elements of the weather that they experience. Measuring real weather provides a nice opportunity for data collection and problem solving when students work to create a procedure before they gather data. It is also a powerful way to get students to notice the weather. As we collaboratively created a unit on weather and taught it in a fourth-grade classroom, we took the common activity of having students construct a wind vane a step further. In this lesson, the data collection process is changed from a "cookbook lab" where the teachers tell the students how to collect the data into a collaborative effort to choose how to best perform data collection. We did this by building on students' own experiences through questioning, journaling, and problem solving. Then we asked students to "assist the teacher" to solve the problem of how to gather valid, reliable data using the wind vane. Through this strategy, students had to do the thinking and planning, allowing them to participate in the inquiry process. This integration of a traditional activity and inquiry allows for students to actively engage in problem solving.