In preparation for this activity, have students complete a Fishbone Diagram Worksheet as a homework assignment the night before and bring it with them to class. A fishbone diagram is a graphic organizer that can be used to brainstorm possible causes of a phenomenon (or ‘effect’). For more information on fishbone diagrams and to see more advanced versions of them, visit this website.
Warm-Up (10-15 minutes)
1. Give students a couple of minutes to discuss and compare their completed Fishbone Diagram Worksheets with a partner.
2. On the board, write the focus question, ‘How might we determine if one thing causes another?’ and brainstorm ideas as a class. E.g., conduct surveys, plan and carry out a scientific investigation to collect data, do research to learn more about the phenomenon, find evidence, etc.
3. Ask students what they would consider to be ‘good evidence’ that one thing causes another, and make a list on the board. E.g., data from a controlled experiment, or many observations over a long period of time.
Independent Group Work (20-25 minutes)
4. Divide students into groups of 3, and pass out one Solutionville Inquirer article and Activity Guide to each student.
5. Give students about 20-25 minutes to work through their Activity Guide in their groups.
Class Discussion (15 minutes)
6. Take a poll on which, if any, of the residents students think presented a plausible cause of increasing temperatures in Solutionville and around the globe. Discuss the three hypotheses, and what makes them either plausible or implausible.
7. Ask students to explain what criteria they used to determine who they think has the most compelling argument. For example:
Data that shows a trend over a longer period of time (Hypothesis #3) are usually more compelling and useful for drawing conclusions than data that only spans one or a few years (Hypotheses #1 & 2).
Data from controlled scientific experiments (Hypothesis #3) are usually more accurate than random observations (Hypothesis # 1), particularly if the experiments were repeated and the same result was found.
- It is very suspicious when people present an argument or call to action that they are likely to personally profit from (aka, conflict of interest- Hypothesis #2).
Additional Evidence: Fossil Fuels (15-20 minutes)
8. Tell students they are going to watch a video that might give them some more useful information. Show students the video What’s the Deal With Fossil Fuels? (you might need to show it twice through) and discuss.
9. Ask students to brainstorm ways they could test or confirm one of the claims made in the video about the connections between fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, and rising temperatures. E.g., Find data showing fossil fuel use over time and see if it correlates with carbon dioxide concentrations, or conduct an experiment to test if carbon dioxide does in fact trap heat.
10. On the board, define the terms correlation (when two or more things vary or change together/in similar ways) and causation (when one thing causes another to occur or exist). Then, to assess understanding, ask students to identify each hypothesis’ graph in their Solutionville Inquirer article as either showing correlation, causation, both, or neither. (They all show correlation, but the data on the graph for Hypothesis #3 is the only one that also shows causation).