Discipline-Based Education Research Group


Date of this Version


Document Type



DBER Group Discussion on 2014‐09‐11


Copyright (c) 2014 Laura Zangori


Elementary students should have opportunities to engage in the scientific practices of modeling to reason about plant processes (NRC, 2013). However, modeling practices are rarely included within elementary science learning environments and content is provided in discrete pieces that do not highlight the ways in which individual processes work together to form a system. Little research has focused on how elementary students engage with modeling practices to conceptualize and reason about the relationships between plant processes and abiotic and biotic elements that plants need to grow, develop, and survive. Here we provided 3rd‐grade students opportunities to model about plant growth in order to develop an empirically‐tested learning performances framework integrating science content (i.e., plant systems) and scientific practices (i.e., systems modeling). This study reports findings about the ways in which 3rd‐grade students engage with modeling to conceptualize and reason about three core relationships identified within the 3rd‐grade science standards: (a) plant structure and function, (b) plant life cycle, and (c) plant dependence on abiotic and biotic elements.