Refining an old favourite for Grade 7 Science and Technology.

By Leanne Miller

Ray Denny has taught Grades 7 and 8 Science and Technology at Stewarttown Middle School in the Halton District for the past 11 years. "This is an outstanding school," he says. "The staff and the students are great and our parents are involved and tremendously supportive."

While this interview took place, on a scorching last day of school, long after the students had gone, a parent came into the classroom, shook his hand and thanked him for doing such a great job with his daughter.

When asked what he did that was so special, Denny shrugged, "Nothing much, I just did my job and pushed her along all year to be the best she could be. What I do is like teaching Grade 1: the kids come in not knowing how to read and they leave knowing. With me, they come in not knowing anything about safety and technology and design and when they leave, they’ve brought scientific theory to life and they can use AutoCAD and hand and power tools. They love it and so do I."

Ray Denny has taught Core, Language Arts, Science and Technology in elementary and middle schools in the rural parts of the Halton District School Board since 1973. This year, he’s ready for his newest challenge: teaching Grade 7 History and Geography for the first time in 15 years. "Variety is a great thing; it’s what keeps me interested. Of course, it’s really about the kids. When they have fun learning, I have fun teaching."

Denny is one of this year’s Teachers of the Year, as chosen by the Toronto Sun. More than 1,200 outstanding educators were nominated by colleagues, administrators, parents and students, and a panel chose 10 winners.

E - M A I L    S T R E N G T H E N S    C O L L E G I A L I T Y

"There’s a myth that we old Tech teachers are dinosaurs," Denny comments wryly as he searches for a document in his inbox. It’s certainly not true in Denny’s case. He checks his e-mail several times a day, as memos to staff are e-mailed, saving both paper and time. And he and the other Tech teachers in his board chat regularly, sharing ideas, lesson plans and tips. "This technology has made me a better teacher and it really has improved collegiality in our board."

Two years ago, Denny and a colleague started providing in-service for other Science and Technology teachers who didn’t have any technology background but who wanted to excel in delivering the new curriculum. They developed a 10-hour in-service program to train teachers how to use the old shop tools and machines that Halton has kept in some of its schools.

Denny says, "There are no more welding torches, but the hand tools and some smaller floor machines such as sanders, scroll saws and drill presses are still around. We teach them about the equipment and about safety and how to safely set up a classroom. And most importantly, we teach them how to encourage their students to use their hands and these tools to apply the theory they are learning. We teach them how to bring their students’ learning to life."

"It’s ironic," he continues, "when I started teaching, all the shop teachers were men and all the students were male. Girls slowly started to take shop, but they were still only taught by men. That was the first step in eliminating the gender barrier. Today, 50 per cent of the teachers taking our in-service are women. The barrier is gone and girls now have both male and female role models teaching them how to apply the particle theory and how to use technology. I like that."

At least 65 Halton teachers have participated in this in-service program over the last two years.

O N T A R I O ’ S    N E W    C U R R I C U L U M

Denny praises the new curriculum: "It’s good to get back to structure, content and skills. It challenges the kids and I find it interesting too."

One of the biggest challenges he struggles with is relating the Science and Technology curriculum to the world outside the school. "I know that kids learn best when the material they’re taught is relevant to their own lives," he says. "I like this about the curriculum and I’ll work more on this aspect of my teaching and lesson planning this year."

Denny works in a supportive and flexible school environment. He asserts that this is what makes him and his colleagues outstanding. He and a Science teacher work together to deliver Grade 7 and 8 Science and Technology courses. They each deliver certain strands and the students benefit from learning both in a proper science lab and in a technology classroom equipped with tools and computers.

Denny explains, "I believe in specialization and purposeful integration. Kids benefit from expertise and enthusiasm and this comes when teachers have solid knowledge of their subject matter because then they enjoy what they are teaching. Our principal is wonderfully supportive as well. We are flexible with our timetabling, we work closely together, our classrooms are side by side and the kids are the real winners."

For example, Denny uses a key fob activity to encourage all of his students to excel. He says all the students can make a perfect fob. "Some kids will take longer than others to buff out all the marks, but I encourage them all to be perfect, and with varying degrees of assistance, they all can be. Of course, a level four is tough to achieve, but it happens when kids demonstrate extra creativity by making inside curves (try making the letter ‘R’). Everyone can be successful and everyone sees the particle theory come to life. That’s what’s truly exciting."

T H E    L E S S O N    P L A N

Background and Context

This is a culminating activity from the Heat unit in the Energy and Control strand in the Grade 7 Science and Technology course. It takes six to eight weeks to teach the basic concepts and skills of this unit, which focuses on the causes and effects of heat and the principles of particle theory. The culminating activity takes four classes to complete; classes run 50 minutes each, four days a week.

This is a variation on the old key fob lesson adapted to fit into the new course of study.

Overall Expectations of the Unit and Activity

Students will:
• identify, through experimentation, ways in which heat changes substances and describe how heat is transferred
• explain how the characteristics and properties of heat can be used and identify the effect of some of these applications on products.

Specific Expectations of the Unit and Activity

Students will:

• describe the effect of heat on the motion of particles
• form questions about and identify needs and problems related to heat and explore possible answers and solutions
• plan investigations for some of these answers and solutions, identifying variables that need to be held constant to ensure a fair test
• use appropriate vocabulary, including correct science and technology terminology to communicate ideas, procedures and results.

Teaching and Learning Activities

Students will design and construct a key fob to experience a practical application of the particle theory. First, they will learn to use the necessary tools safely and properly (coping saw, vise, sandpaper, buffer, drill press and oven).

Students will:

1 Draw a shape on a 6 cm x 8 cm piece of acrylic, keeping the protective paper on the acrylic.
2 Cut out the shape using a coping saw and a vise.
3 File and sand the object until it is as flawless as possible, using medium 120 grit and then fine 220 grit sandpaper.
4 Use a buffing machine to remove all marks. (This step may be eliminated if you don’t have a buffer. Without this step, students will produce a fob with a matte finish rather than a shiny finish.)
5 Drill a 5/32 hole for the fob chain.
6 Remove the protective paper and heat the object for about 10 minutes in a 275o to 300o F oven. (This is the only temperature where the particles of the acrylic will separate enough to allow the object to be reshaped. Any less and nothing will happen; any more and it will bubble and melt.)
7 Use gloves and bend the object into the desired shape. (Students will have less than half a minute to shape the object. The particles will return to their original cluster after this time and the object will have to be reheated carefully to continue with the reshaping.)
8 Repeat steps six and seven if errors occur or if a change is desired.
9 Use a piece of wire bent into a letter shape (student’s initial) to imprint the fob.
10 Complete the fob by inserting a chain into the hole.

Optional Enrichment Activity

This activity will provide students who finish faster with an opportunity to make a more sophisticated fob that also illustrates the particle theory and offers a greater challenge

Students will:
1 Weld two pieces of acrylic together using Plexiweld.
2 Observe the liquid colour that oozes from the sides (the particles integrate with each other; that is why it is called welding and not gluing).
3 Follow the 10 steps above.

Assessment Tools
Teachers can use a rubric with the following descriptors:
• students show understanding of all the basic concepts of the particle theory
• students demonstrate no misconceptions
• students apply all of the required skills and strategies
• students consistently demonstrate awareness of safety procedures
• students use tools, equipment and materials correctly and with little or no assistance
• students consistently communicate with clarity and precision
• students consistently use appropriate science and technology terminology and units of measurement
• the acrylic key fob shines brightly
• no cuts or scratches are visible
• there is no evidence of bubbles or marks caused by overheating.

You will need resources you may not ordinarily have in your school for this activity. Denny recommends the supplier Kidder, which can be reached toll-free at 1-800-263-3556. They will send you a free catalogue.

If you have any questions about this activity, you are welcome to e-mail Ray Denny at .

Leanne Miller has been an English, History and Social Science teacher in Peel secondary schools and taught pre-service students at OISE/UT. She continues to teach part-time at Humber College. She would like to hear from College members about other exemplary teachers who might have a lesson plan to share. She can be reached at .

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