Curriculum & Planning, Lesson Plans

Save Fred

One of the first assignments I had my 5th and 6th grade students complete was something called Save Fred.  If you haven’t heard of it, the basic premise is that Fred the Gummy Worm was out boating when his boat capsized.  His life preserver has become trapped under the capsized boat, while Fred clings to its top.  Students must figure out how to get the life preserver out from under the boat without knocking Fred off.  The catch is that they can’t use their hands — they can only touch Fred, the boat, and the life preserver using four paperclips.  Students have to work together to find a solution, trying out different strategies and evaluating what works.

Students had to document their process, recording the strategies they used as they tried to Save Fred.

Afterward, I directed students to the Next Generation Science Standard’s eight practices of science and engineering, identified in the NRC’s A Science Framework for K-12 Science Education.  Students Think-Pair-Shared, and then as a class we discussed, which skills students had to use as they worked through the activity.  We talked about how the “Scientific Method” is not always the linear series of steps they had been taught — sometimes (most times!) scientists used these practices out of order. 

Overall, the activity was a great “ice breaker” for the beginning of the year.  Students were able to do something fun, get a little treat (they ate Fred and his gummy life preserver afterward), and begin developing those scientific practices right off the bat!

Download this NGSS Science and Engineering Practices bookmark from TeachersPayTeachers. Laminate, cut, and distribute to students.


Curriculum & Planning, Education, Middle School, Science

Scientific Inquiry Skills

The first unit my students in both 5th and 6th grades are learning is the scientific method — specifically, how do we use scientific inquiry to solve problems?  To start the year off, I wanted to expose my students to some “scientific inquiry skills” that they are probably already pretty familiar with — and to identify those as tools scientists use.   Instead of reading about these skills in books, though, I created a series of mostly hands-on stations that asked students to use those very skills!

Station One: Observation

1Station Two: Classify/Order



2Station Three: Compare

IMG_3416   IMG_3457



Station Four: Predict


Students worked from this worksheet, Growing Seeds Prediction Worksheet, for this station.  I also set up a Solution Station at our Knowledge Bank where students could check their predictions!

Station Five: Measure

Students had a chance to try out these scientific tools at Station Five.


Station Six: Interpret Data


Students visited BBC’s Schools site to complete this math activity: Interpreting Data.



Station Seven: Infer

Students completed a few inference worksheets for this station.  This one wasn’t so exciting…


 Observation or Inference?

If you’d like to use any or all of this activity, you can get the packet here (Word and PDF files):

Inquiry Station Rotation Packet  Inquiry Station Rotation Packet