Library and Science Teacher Alliance Project: Lesson Plans

These lessons were produced from 2010-2012 as part of a collaboration between Project Look Sharp at Ithaca College and NY State BOCES School Library Systems. The Initiative brought together pairs of science teachers and school library media specialists to develop lessons that integrate critical thinking and media literacy into the science curriculum. The project was supported by federal LSTA funds awarded to the NY State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services

Any Level:

  • Weather Systems
    • A single class period is devoted to decoding film clips for accuracy and as a way of assessing student knowledge of information about low and high pressure systems, cyclones, and anti-cyclones. Follow-up discussion and use of information about mistakes in films from the website also help students explore intentions of feature films, the use of purposeful factual errors in film, the credibility of popular films as information sources about climate change, and how films influence public opinion.

9th - 12th Grade:

  • Organic vs. Processed Foods
    • Over the course of seven class periods, students learn the importance of science literacy in everyday life by examining marketing claims about foods. Students learn to evaluate credibility as they look at web sites which focus on 5 different food groups – poultry – eggs – milk – beef – pork - with guiding questions to determine the veracity of claims made on the sites, especially involving the use of labels like “organic”, “natural”, “no preservatives”, “pesticide free”, and “free range.” They also consider why foods with such labels are often more expensive than those without. Each student is required to compare claims on two different sites and share their findings by creating a PowerPoint presentation.

  • Stem Cell Perspectives
    • A two-week project in which students learn to analyze urban legends, film clips, website credibility, and political cartoons related to stem cells. They also practice using document-based questions and evidence as they examine controversies around use of stem cells for research, and create presentations (using Prezi) to articulate their own opinions about the merits of various perspectives in the debate.

7th - 8th Grade:

  • Debating Hydrofracking
    • During this two-week project students will walk through the research process by investigating the scientific and societal implications of hydrolic-fracturing. Students will evaluate sources of information as they learn to identify bias and determine accuracy of information. Students will together work through 6 steps of the research process as they explore the topic of hydrofracking. They will learn the background knowledge and be exposed to vocabulary and science content to deepen their understanding of natural gas exploration. Students will then be given a "character role" in the debate surrounding this issue. Using their research, students will then create a persuasive informational media presentation that represents their character's point of view. All of this will be facilitated through use of a virtual classroom, ie.

  • Product Testing
    • This project is designed to revive and enhance the school science fair. Students practice analyzing ads and packaging and then test the validity of marketing claims about familiar projects (from waterproof mascara to toilet paper). They will present results of their tests at the science fair. Follow-up may include production of PSAs and/or Environmental Impact Statements. The emphasis throughout is on learning scientific method, with students writing an hypothesis, designing and conducting a controlled experiment, and sharing results. Students also learn that all media are constructed and that all media have a message, as well as how to analyze the product.

5th - 6th Grade:

  • Evaluating Ecosystems in “Lion King” and “Finding Nemo”
    • Students will view the first scene from the “The Lion King” during which baby Simba is introduced, the scene from “Finding Nemo” that shows Nemo going off to school, and various wildlife clips from Youtube. They will analyze the interactions or relationships they observe between the living things in each environment and infer which relationships are realistic and which are fictional and explain their reasoning.

  • Integrating Media Literacy
    • A comprehensive curriculum adjustment to ELA and science teaching is designed to provide students with an opportunity to apply Key Questions for Media Analysis to a wide range of texts and issues, including but not limited to topics like hydrofracking and UFOs, as well as to skills like expository writing, online research, and assessing credibility of websites. The cooperation between ELA and science teachers reinforces lessons and is intended to strengthen student performance in both subject areas.

  • Scientific Fact vs. Fiction in the Movies
    • In a single 45-60 minute lesson, students analyze the introduction to the disaster movie "10.5 Apocalypse" to distinguish between fiction and scientific fact in portrayals of basic earth science topics and concepts. Students make and share observations, draw conclusions from document-based evidence and reflect on the credibility of scientific information in entertainment movies.

  • Volcanoes – Fact or Fiction?
    • This lesson, revolving around media's depictions of volcanoes, will have students apply their knowledge about volcanoes and analyze where this knowledge came from. They will view and interpret several short video clips on volcanoes, as well as write and research their own remaining questions on volcanoes.

3rd - 4th Grade:

  • Endangered Species – Creating PSAs
    • Students will understand the concept of endangered species and will research a specific endangered animal. They will write a report using credible resources, assemble a bibliography, as well as view and analyze examples of public service announcements (PSAs). Then, using this knowledge, they will write and record their own PSA and present their research to peers and families.

  • Evaluating Weather - Proverbs, Tornadoes and the Weatherman
    • These three 4th grade lessons use media literacy to teach and reinforce core knowledge about weather while teaching critical thinking skills. In lesson #1, students research and evaluate common weather sayings while learning to evaluate websites. In lesson #2, they research, discuss, and present on hurricanes and tornadoes and evaluate the accuracy of different media portrayals of wild weather. In lesson #3, students will learn about weather forecasting and meteorology and analyze the credibility of a local weather forecast. All three lessons help students to identify scientific accuracy and recognize when other factors (familiarity, drama, aesthetics) often impair our evaluation of information.

  • Snack Attack
    • An introduction to grade levels 3 and 4 on nutrition and advertising. Students will learn about nutrition and nutrition labels on foods and snacks, as well as begin to analyze advertisements and their targets. They will reflect on their knowledge by creating their own advertisements targeting adults and children separately. This lesson was can be a collaboration between two different schools, connecting through Skype sessions between the classes.

1st Grade:

  • Critical Thinking and Nutrition – Media and Food Choices
    • Students will examine the role celebrities and cartoon characters play in selling food products to children. They will understand that commercials have an intended audience, message, and purpose. They will identify unhealthy ingredients in food products and compare and contrast good eating habits. Students will then become role models and create a short video advertising good eating habits which will be presented to students in grades K-2.

  • Understanding Matter – Through Literature, Poetry, and Cartoons
    • These seven complete lessons will introduce 1st grade students to matter: solid, liquid and gasses. Through hands-on activities, literature and poetry students will understand different types of matter. Students will then identify accurate and inaccurate properties for liquid and gas as represented in animated (Spiderman) cartoons.

Learn more about media literacy at Project Look Sharp's website.