Teaching Butterfly Effect to Middle Schoolers

Teaching Butterfly Effect to Middle Schoolers

Since mid September we have been working at Hillcrest, a middle school just down the street from us. We have been working with two classes and teaching them how to do their own Butterfly Effect projects. We are doing this with the hope if we got them interested in inquiry projects, they would be more likely to want to be involved in Butterfly Effect when they get to high school. This year their school’s focus is biology. With that in mind, everyone has chosen topics and inquiry questions related to biology. Although it may not be as big a variety as we have, biology has so many different aspects they can look into. Their cycle is also quite a bit longer than ours. While ours is usually 6, theirs will be 14, which includes, teaching them about Butterfly Effect and PA-MOJA, doing research, and presenting.

Between the 60 kids we have in our classes we can not list all their topics, but here are a few of their questions.

  • Do animals have allergies, and how do they develop them?
  • How might you train a duck billed platypus to become a household pet and how will it adapt to its new environment?
  • What effects do different emotions have on art, and why?
  • What are the other colours we can’t see in the world, why can’t we see them and who can?
  • How do different deep sea animals withstand the ocean pressure
  • What are two of the most common animals that use bioluminescence and how do they use it?
  • What type of questions trigger bias responses, and how do these responses vary between people from different cultural backgrounds?
  • How have our teeth been modified by evolution to suit our eating needs?
  • How might your dreams reflect to real life?
  • How has forensic science improved in the last century?
  • If mankind goes extinct what benefits and negatives would animals gain from it?
  • How does a social construct directly/indirectly affect us in our daily lives?
  • How does language affect the development of a child?

Many of the projects are related to animals, evolution, and psychology.

The following is a brief outline of what we have done with the class, and what we plan to do next.

Class #1 - Introduction

  • Introduce ourselves
  • http://pa-moja.com/2016/06/27/...people-and-wildlife/
  • Introduce PA-MOJA first. Talk about what they see in the video, and what PA-MOJA stands for.
  • Talk to them about Allan and Denis
  • Introduce Butterfly Effect
  • Why we like Butterfly Effect, and what projects have we done
    • Dreams, sports, MS, Prosthetics, Photography
  • Any questions about Butterfly Effect or us

Class #2 - Questions

  • Be passionate about your question.
  • Do a project on a topic of your interest.

Teach them how to ask good questions

  • Pick a topic (soccer) get them all to write down 5 questions about it. Check for good/bad questions
  • Difference between a simple question (yes or no answer/googleable) and a scientific question (not 1 answer)
  • Choose another topic (art) write 3 simple and 2 scientific, get everyone to read 1 to the class
  • If they don't fully understand yet continue with a different topic.


HOMEWORK: by following week everyone should have a topic of interest they would like to do a project on plus 2 backup

Class #3

  • Review questioning
  • Split them into groups of 3
  • With their topic, everyone will write 10 questions for everyone in their group
  • Show Butterfly Effect site and tell them more about inquiry projects

HOMEWORK: Have a question chosen plus 2 backup.

Class #4 - Project Plan (Computer Lab - Work block)

  • Determine inquiry question
  • Write project plan
  • Summary of what they hope for their project
    • List steps they will take
      • What will you research first?
      • Will you make a survey?
      • Do an experiment?

HOMEWORK: finish project plan

Class #5 - How to Research

  • What are reliable sources and databases
  • How to cite information

HOMEWORK: have 15 notes on their question

Class #6 - Research (Library)

  • Evolution talk from Ms. Stuart
  • Use book source opposed to the computer

HOMEWORK : have 10 more notes on their question (minimum)

Class #7 - Research  (computer lab)

  • Share research with group and give feedback

HOMEWORK : have 10 more notes on their question (minimum)

(where we are now)

Class #8,9,10 - Research

  • Stress how they do not need an answer for their question

HOMEWORK: each week 10 more notes minimum

      Finish research by end of November

Class #11 - Metamorphosis

  • Reflecting on their project, how has their finds affect themselves, and others
    • Any problems they came across
  • Criteria
    • Discussion of how your inquiry now impacts your thinking.
    • How will this investigation impact the decisions you make.
    • Describe the broader impacts this new knowledge might have on others locally and/or globally.
    • Overcoming challenges- challenges have been identified and reflected upon.
    • (200-300 words)

Class #12 - Start making presentation

  • Can make any type of presentation they want
    • Poster
    • PowerPoint
    • Prezi etc.
  • Minimal writing on slides, lots of pictures

Class #13/14 - Presentations

  • Each person presents in front of the whole class

Next we will be discussing how the kids are working in this class, and hopes for our next cycle in the new year. Any ideas of what to do with the kids would be great.

-Audrey and Emily

Original Post

Hey Audrey and Emily,

You guys have devised such a structured outline! I'm sure that your goal of encouraging students to join Butterfly Effect will be met. I have a couple questions surrounding motivation, though. Do you guys have any games or specific activities prepared to keep students engaged in what they are doing? How will you make sure that they stick to the plan, and produce quality research? Perhaps they don't (since it may be their first inquiry-based research project), but I believe doing this will help students find what they are passionate about and empower them to delve deeper into their domains of interest.

Great project you guys are taking on! I look forward to it

Hey Audrey and Emily, I think it's a great idea to teach the middle schoolers about Butterfly Effect and show them how to make an inquiry question. It'll teach them good skills that will help them as they get to high school. I also really like how organized and precise your plan is. It's good that you have everything planned out. It's great that your also going to be teaching them about PA-MOJA. I'm not sure if this would be possible but perhaps you could talk to them about our fundraisers and maybe see if it's possible to host a fundraiser at their school and you guys, the teacher and the students in the class could organize. 

Good luck, can't wait to hear how things work out!

Hey Audrey and Emily, it's so brilliant to have your guys to teach these middle schoolers. When I was in middle school, I was kind of fascinated by looking at research and thinking about questions however there's no one can help me to settle my thoughts and discoveries systematically at the time. These students are so lucky that they can find out their interests direction earlier. Hope everything goes smoothly!

Hi Emily and Audrey,

I think what you guys are doing with these students are amazing, you are introducing them to research earlier on, and it will help them out in the future. I really like how you made a guideline of what you are going to do with the students. it is a very structured outline. I think this will encourage more people to join butterfly effect in our school. I was thinking you could also teach them where to get their information, like the school library website that we use. You could also teach them how to take the main points out of an article, for example: 


Good luck,

Grace Sun

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