To Catch a Leprechaun Standard Vocabulary Materials

Science Competitions:
Bringing Ideas to Life
Real-World Applications
To Catch a Leprechaun
Grades K-2 Lesson
Students conduct simple investigations to solve a problem or answer a question.
• The Leprechaun Trap activity sheets (pp. 167–168)
• colored markers or crayons
• materials to build the trap such as tape, glue,
construction paper, straws, small paper cups, paper
clips, cardboard tubes
• The Leprechaun Trap by David Clinch (2008) (optional)
• invention
• inventor
1. Ask students if they know the term inventor. Allow students time to discuss their ideas before
paraphrasing the following for them: An inventor is someone who thinks of new ways to solve
problems or make people’s lives better. Tell them that anyone can be an inventor, and many
people who invented new things did not start out trying to be an inventor.
2. Read aloud the story The Leprechaun Trap by David Clinch (2008), or explain to students
the myth about leprechauns and ask them to think about how they could possibly catch a
leprechaun. Distribute copies of The Leprechaun Trap activity sheets and discuss how a
leprechaun might be caught.
3. Tell students there are contests that allow students to be inventors and scientists. Today,
students will try to invent a better way to catch leprechauns. (Note: Have other classes,
parents, or teachers serve as judges for the final competition.)
4. Have students work in small groups. Each group should come up with a name for their team.
Tell students to write the name of their team and the name of their trap on their activity sheets
(question 1).
5. Provide groups with a variety of materials. Tell students they may or may not use all of these
materials, or they may decide they need different materials.
© Shell Education SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
Science Competitions:
Bringing Ideas to Life
Real-World Applications
To Catch a Leprechaun
Procedure (cont.)
6. Allow students time to work together to build and test their leprechaun trap. Students should
list the materials they used and draw a diagram of how it will work (questions 2 and 3).
7. Once all the groups have built a trap, ask each group to demonstrate its invention for the rest of
the class. On their activity sheets, have students write one or two sentences that complete the
statement in question 4.
8. Invite students, teachers, administrators, and parents to the class to see demonstrations of the
traps. Ask them to judge the traps based on criteria determined by the students. Judging can
either be completed through a formal competition or by displaying all the traps and having
judges award a point to the trap they like the best. Offer a prize to the trap that earns the most
Above-Level Learners
Have students create
T-charts with two
categories: Pros and Cons. Have students record
what they thought were
the positive parts of
completing this project
and then record what
they thought were the
negative parts of the
project. 166
Below-Level Learners
Place students in
heterogeneous groups
so that they can get
support by students with
varying skill levels and
background experiences.
SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
English Language
Encourage students to
draw pictures as they
plan their inventions. Review relevant terms
and concepts as a small
group. © Shell Education
To Catch a Leprechaun
Name_ __________________________________________
The Leprechaun Trap
Follow the steps below.
1.Your group will create a trap to catch a leprechaun. Write your
group’s name and the name of your trap.
Group Name: _ _______________________________________________
Name of Your Invention: _______________________________________
2.List the materials you used for your trap:
© Shell Education SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
To Catch a Leprechaun
The Leprechaun Trap
3.Draw a diagram below that shows how your trap works:
.Tell how you could change one thing to make your invention better:
SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
© Shell Education
Real-World Applications
Science Competitions:
Bringing Ideas to Life
On December 8, 2008, a new scientific process was announced. Wen Chyan had designed a
specialized coating for medical devices aimed at preventing common hospital infections, called
nosocomial infections, which affect more than two million patients each year and cause more than
100,000 deaths. “This research was not only a creative idea, but required a proactive approach .
where cross-disciplinary initiatives had to be taken. The fields of electrochemistry, material science,
and biology all had to be explored in depth by Mr. Chyan,” said W. Mark Saltzman, Goizueta
Foundation Professor of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering at Yale University (Francois and .
Aizenberg 2008). Chyan made an amazing discovery. If implemented, he could be responsible for saving the lives of
nearly 100,000 people per year. However, Chyan was not nominated for a Nobel Prize in medicine,
material science, or biology for his breakthrough because he was not a recognized scientist! Someone
introduced this high school student to a science competition, helped him find a mentor and advisor,
assisted him in finding a topic to study, and encouraged him to develop an authentic research project
which resulted in his winning the competition along with a sizeable scholarship.
The Benefits of Science Competitions
Some research evidence shows that student learning and engagement in science is enhanced by
participation in enrichment activities, including competitions, science clubs, and engineering design
challenges. Cripps Clark (2006) found that many elementary teachers in particular used multiple
enrichment activities with their students. “Educators speak of these activities as authentic, and
children speak of them as “real” (Tytler et al. 2008). Positive changes in both perception of abilities
and career interests in girls’ attitudes towards science and engineering have been noted when the
girls were involved in using robotic projects to learn science (Weinberg et al. 2007). Early use
of science‑related tools and toys affect students’ development of science concepts, especially girls’
development of positive attitudes toward science ( Jones, Howe, and Rua 2000). One study showed
that a majority of graduate students majoring in math or science reported early participation in
special programs and contests for the gifted, such as math and science competitions (Lubinski and
Benbow 2006). Fifty‑eight percent of male and 54 percent of female math-science graduate students
who were surveyed participated in a science contest or special program prior to college.
© Shell Education SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
Real-World Applications
Science Competitions:
Bringing Ideas to Life
The Benefits of Science Competitions (cont.)
In their efforts to bring under-performing students up to grade level, many schools have reduced or
eliminated programs that support advanced or gifted students. Yet research consistently shows that
providing talented students with the opportunity to work with information and materials designed
for older students is effective in enhancing achievement (Benbow 1991; Benbow and Stanley 1996;
Colangelo et al. 2004; Swiatek and Benbow 1991a). The positive effects of accelerated learning are so
long lasting that they are detectable up to 50 years later (Cronbach 1996). Dr. Benjamin Bloom, the creator of Bloom’s Taxonomy, described the process by which some
individuals were able to reach extremely high levels of accomplishment in his article entitled, “Talent
Development v. Schooling” (Bloom and Sosniak 1981). He concluded that competitions, among
other factors, played a major role in the success of highly talented students. “In each talent field there
are frequent events (recitals, contests, concerts) in which the child’s special capabilities are displayed
publicly, and there are significant rewards and approval for meritorious accomplishments” (Bloom
and Sosniak 1981). In Opportunities for Challenging Students Academically: Challenges and Competitions, the Massachusetts
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education promotes the use of science competitions and
describes their benefits:
“Many teachers use the program materials provided by the competitions to supplement their
regular curriculum, and they choose not to enter the competitive aspect of the program. Many of
the program materials…are exciting and include hands-on activities and creative problem-solving
projects that teachers can use in a noncompetitive way in the classroom with large groups, small
groups, cooperative learning groups, or individually offered to a child in need of academic challenge. We need to creatively access quality programs and resources that provide additional learning
experiences for those students who are ready for the next level of challenge. [There are] many
educational opportunities available that we as educators should consider as we look for additional
ways to help raise expectations for student achievement and to find strategies for recognizing,
enhancing, and celebrating our students’ gifts and talents” (Libby 2006).
To encourage students to choose science-related careers, the Report to the Australian Department
of Education, Employment, and Workforce Relations recommends “…(t)he use of pedagogies that are
more varied and more supportive of young peoples’ need to actively engage with ideas. This implies
a greater focus on student engagement with thinking and working scientifically and mathematically,
rather than on the exclusive focus on establishing canonical content, or on low-level processes. Problem solving in authentic contexts, higher order thinking, and investigation should be major
aspects of the curriculum” (Tytler et al. 2008).
SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
© Shell Education
Real-World Applications
Science Competitions:
Bringing Ideas to Life
The Benefits of Science Competitions (cont.)
Successful participation in science-related competitions involves each aspect of this recommendation. For instance, in the ExploraVision Awards competition, an international K–12 science competition
sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association and Toshiba, Inc., students must “…apply
knowledge gained from lessons in life science, physical science, and earth and space science.” The
experience will help students understand:
• the importance of invention in history
• the scientific breakthroughs required to create an invention
• the gradual “building block” nature of scientific progress
• how science relies on the constant improvement of its technological tools in order to progress
• that all new technologies have both positive and negative impacts on our lives” (NSTA 2006)
Students who complete an ExploraVision Awards entry act as a research and development team to
identify a problem that can be solved using a new technology and invent a scientifically based new
technology, using information from multiple fields of science, technology, and history to support
their decisions and descriptions. For girls in particular, they can see the connection between using
scientific understanding and helping to make life better, which is a key component of increasing the
participation of women in STEM fields.
The National Science Teachers Association (1999) has written a position statement in support of
incorporating science competitions into regular K–12 science education:
• All participation in science competitions should be voluntary and open to all students.
• Emphasis should be placed on the learning experience rather than on the competition.
• Science competitions should supplement and enhance other educational experiences and be
closely aligned or integrated with the curriculum.
• The emphasis should be on scientific process, content, and/or application.
• Projects and presentation should be the work of the student with proper credit to others for
their contributions.
• Scientific competitions should foster partnerships among students, the school, and the science
© Shell Education SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
Real-World Applications
Science Competitions:
Bringing Ideas to Life
The Benefits of Science Competitions (cont.)
Science competitions provide the experiences in doing authentic science and solving real-world
problems that are necessary for girls to see themselves as future professionals in the field of science. They bolster the self-confidence of students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, and they provide
the opportunity for talented and advanced students to learn content knowledge far beyond what they
encounter in a regular science classroom. In addition, the recognition is authentic. The judges are experts in their scientific fields, many have
published manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and the intellectual merits of the winning teams or
entries are beyond question. Students know that the winners deserved to win; the quality of the .
first-place winner is indisputable. It does students no favor to give every participant the same
award for projects that vary widely in quality, although many school-based science fairs do just
that. Authentic science competitions require the participants to demonstrate an extensive depth of
knowledge, the ability to engage in creative problem-solving in a timely manner, and the ability to
communicate their results effectively and precisely.
Finding the Time
Participation by teachers in science competitions is largely accomplished in one of two ways:
managing an extracurricular club, or by helping mentor or coach an individual or small team who is
interested in participating in a research-based event. Rarely do you find competitions incorporated
into the year-long curriculum of a single teacher, although it is easier to do if one is teaching
technology than if one is teaching chemistry. Elementary and middle school teachers tend to see
a bit more flexibility in their curricula, and can sometimes find a way to provide time during the
school day for students to work on their projects. The best approach is the one that makes the most
sense to you. An extracurricular activity will generally take at least 100 hours of your time. Ideally,
a during-school activity must fit with your curriculum and your state’s academic standards. Most
competitions require inquiry, research, writing, and mathematical skills, and some have engineering
design components.
SEP 50649 (i5724)—Strategies for Teaching Science, Levels K–5
© Shell Education