This unit introduces students to some of the scientific terminology used for measurement and clarifies some of the misunderstandings that students have around important measurement vocabulary. Additionally, students create an original measurement system and present their system to the class.
Emon, Markus, Yesinia, Kaitlyn, and Haitham consider the multiple definitions of "unit." and their misunderstandings of the related terminology. Questions check comprehension and spark discussion as students practice using scientific language.
Duration: Approximately 50 minutes
Students distinguish terms used for measurement: mass/weight, volume/capacity, and length/distance. Using cut-up word strips, students work in pairs to create sentences that are accurate and that make sense. Students “upgrade” their language to more precise and formal scientific language. Finally, they make two comparisons in two styles: as informal, less precise comparison sentences as well as the more scientifically accurate sentences.
Duration: Approximately 30 minutes
Students invent an original system of measurement in this design challenge, and then present it to their peers. The fictional setting of a farmstand illustrates the eﬃciency of standardizing units for liquid and dry measurements. Students consider how unit terminology goes in and out of fashion and the arbitrary nature of selecting units. Then they design a new system of measurement. Students produce a poster to present their system to the class. The whole class discusses and evaluates each system according to given criteria to determine the most eﬀective system. Students end by writing why the highest-rated group earned its high ratings.
Duration: Approximately 100 minutes
Students compose an argument in speech form for or against the idea of a unified standard system of measurement, including examples of how this system would benefit (or have a negative impact on) science, sports, and business. Finally, students consider whether Americans should convert to the metric system by examining the debate over metrication in the United States in a timeline covering 1799 to the present.
Duration: Approximately 45 minutes
Student View of Visuals and Activities
Some teachers prefer to have students view the slides and other visual assets in this unit directly instead of projecting them in class. Below is a web page to share with students with links to the same items within in the teacher lesson plans, but without the explanatory text for the teacher.
Original SciGen Unit
This unit has been adapted from "7.1 So what exactly is a unit?" in the Word Generation program led by Catherine Snow (Harvard University) through a SERP collaboration with the Boston Public Schools and other districts in Massachusetts and Maryland.
PDFs of that earlier unit's teacher and student editions are available at the Science Generation Download Center.