Science Snoops Life Science Investigations

 for students in grades 7 and up

Teacher Information

Published by Kinder Magic Software 2007

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Example of student interaction with the software

In Science Snoops, students engage in inquiries of life science phenomena. This software provides students with an opportunity to practice science investigation skills and competencies within a simulated workplace environment. They play the role of new researchers as they are guided through learning tasks, and they work to solve each life science mystery case as part of a team of real and virtual scientists. Each virtual co-worker is portrayed by an actor who interacts with the student to give information, assign work, and give feedback on students’ performance. Students complete 20-30 tasks of varying kinds and difficulty levels to solve a case.

Science Snoops Institute

Inside the building

 

At the start, students are greeted by the Administrative Assistant in the Lobby. He asks students to complete an employment application:

 

After an orientation, students are shown to their office:

 

On the students’ computer is an email from the Lab Director asking students to select a case:

S

 

Co-workers stop by the New Snoops' office...

Jacy Jackson, the Field Specialist:

 

Tom Green, the other Research Associate:

 

Each case follows a model of the inquiry process.

The following examples are taken from The Monarch Case:

 

Victor, a young researcher and exchange student from Mexico, comes to the Institute with a problem. He is concerned that the number of Monarch butterflies has plummeted in the vicinity of Miller’s Pond this year, and he asks the Science Snoops to help him investigate this.  Students take notes during the client interview, and it is also “videotaped” so that they may review it later.
Next, a follow up email asks students to define the research questions that need to be answered in order to solve the case. MORE
Feedback on student work usually comes in the form of an email from a co-worker and varies depending on how well the student performed. It may confirm students’ answers or lead them to reconsider their responses.

 Students are always able to look up the corrected case files on the Institute’s “server” for later reference.

Next, students are guided in formulating hypotheses and predictions that lead to a data collection plan. They are instructed to accept or reject a particular hypothesis once data have been evaluated. MORE

 

Here, Dr. Addams explains how to check microscopic slides for parasitic organisms.

 

Several times in the course of a case, students are called to the laboratory to perform experiments and collect data. All these data are then analyzed. For instance, they examine data from 200 monarchs and find that only 6% showed moderate infection. By comparing this data to data from previous years in the same area they conclude that the infection rate has not changed over at least the last 11 years. Therefore infection by these parasites is probably not the major cause of the decline of the monarch population in the area.  

In another lab activity, students help measure and record the forewing length of the monarch butterflies. Later they will analyze these data.

After completing about half of the case activities, students are summoned to the Head Snoop’s office for a performance review.

 

 

As the case progresses, students will eliminate most of the hypotheses for the decline of the monarch population. At this point, students conclude their investigation and write a final report for the client. MORE

Students who performed well receive a job promotion with fanfare at a Science Snoops staff party. If any unsolved cases remain, students receive an email prompt to choose another case. If all cases have been completed, students see a video conclusion. 

 

 

This approach to solving life science “mysteries” guides the students’ learning about scientific methods in research and is repeated in each case. After solving a number of cases in this fashion, students may acquire the basic skills to engage in scientific research projects on different topics. They will have had many opportunities to participate in teamwork, formulate hypotheses, make predictions, reason, analyze and evaluate data, draw conclusions, and communicate results.

The assessment features built into the software include cumulative scores for correct answers and specific feedback on each learning task. This provides students with an overall picture of how well they are doing. Additionally, students receive specific information relevant to their performance on each particular learning task, either confirming their conclusions or redirecting their efforts.

All the learning activities are available in both game mode and practice mode so that students may revisit particularly difficult tasks and concepts and reflect on them carefully without the pressure of time constraints, and teachers may opt to present a task as a whole class activity.

Below are a few examples of correlations to the NSES for the Monarch butterfly Mystery Case.

 

5-8 National Science Education Standards Correlation

Science Snoops

Curriculum Content

(examples are from the Monarch butterfly mystery case)

9-12 National Science Education Standards Correlation

Content Standard A: Science as inquiry

 

Students are given the opportunity to:

Content Standard A: Science as inquiry

 

Design and conduct a scientific investigation.

use evidence to generate explanations (analyze monarch population data at Miller’s Pond and compare the data to previous year measurements)

interpret data (compare caterpillar masses, butterfly masses, level of infection with parasites, etc.)

Design and conduct scientific investigations.

Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze, and interpret data.

Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.

interpret charts and graphs mathematically

use formulas to estimate monarch populations

Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.

Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.

acquire subject matter knowledge about monarchs (life cycle, migration, habitat, interactions with other organisms) to develop hypotheses, explanations, predictions and models about the monarch’s population dynamics

Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models.

Content Standard C: Life Science

 

Students are given the opportunity to:

Content Standard C: Life Science

 

Structure and function in living systems

deal with quantitative observations (butterfly and caterpillar weights, forewing length, amount of infections, weather data, etc.) Monarchs rely on nectar sources to build up fats in their bodies for the survival during migration and the winter months. 

Matter, energy, and organization in living systems

Reproduction and heredity

study the monarch’s life cycle;

study different populations of monarchs

Bt corn biotechnology, and herbicide tolerant plants

Molecular basis of heredity

 

Populations and ecosystems

study the factors that limit the survival of monarchs, dependence on milkweed plants and wild flowers. Interaction with parasites and predators.

Interdependence of organisms

 

Diversity and adaptations of organisms

The limitations of the environment and resources affect how many of the eggs a monarch female lays can survive. (demonstrates natural selection and survival of the fittest.)

Biological evolution

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Students are given the opportunity to:

Content Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Science and technology in society

understand that science and technology advances through the contributions of many different people, in different cultures (virtual co-workers and expert scientists as models)

Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

Correlations to the California Science Content Standards

User Guide

Monarch Case Teacher Guide

Monarch Case Learning Tasks

Space Case Teacher Guide

Space Case Learning Tasks

Reasearch based

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 © 2007 Kinder Magic Software