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Prior Knowledge Investigation. Water Availability and the Water Cycle Jennifer Uerz, MAED Candidate Secondary Science Education Virginia Tech. Advantages of using Prior Knowledge in Education. Create a meaningful, individual connection between each student and the material presented

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Prior knowledge investigation

Prior Knowledge Investigation

Water Availability and the Water Cycle

Jennifer Uerz, MAED Candidate

Secondary Science Education

Virginia Tech

Advantages of using prior knowledge in education
Advantages of using Prior Knowledge in Education

  • Create a meaningful, individual connection between each student and the material presented

  • Meaningful connections foster more personal analysis of material and better retention (Piaget’s theory of assimilation and accommodation)

Problems with prior knowledge
Problems with Prior Knowledge


  • Humans are scientists in life constructing theories about the world around them (Kuhn, 1989).

  • These theories may or may not be correct.

  • Prior knowledge can interfere with new learning if incompatible with material presented (Dole, 2000).


  • Analyze students’ prior knowledge and misconceptions

  • Design a lesson to build off of prior knowledge and address misconceptions

  • Analyze students’ learning and the lesson to find out whether it was constructed in a way that changed incorrect constructs

How much of the world s water is freshwater
How much of the world’s water is freshwater?

Correct Answer = 2-3%

Class Range= 1-63%

How much of that freshwater can we humans use
How much of that freshwater can we (humans) use?

Correct Answer = 0.003%

Class Range= 0.3-100%

Why can t we use all the freshwater on earth
Why can’t we use all the freshwater on Earth?

  • Student 1= some is polluted and there are animals living in the rest

  • Student 2= fish/sharks are living in it

  • Student 3= fish are living in it

  • Student 4= not sure

Student 3 representation
Student 3 (representation)





Water lesson overview
Water Lesson Overview

  • Day 1 = What is water? How is it used?

  • Day 2 = How much water is there on Earth?

    Where is it? How much can we


  • Day 3 = What is the water cycle? How does

    water travel through the water


Day 1 objectives

Introduction to water

Definition of water

Students analyze personal water use

Water usage outside the home


Day 1 Objectives

Day 1 strategies aqua words activity
Day 1 Strategies:“Aqua Words” Activity

  • Critical thinking- Brainstorming

  • Auditory, Visual and Spoken- Class discussion

  • Application of problem solving/critical thinking (identifying a known substance)

  • Spoken and Spatial- Creation and sharing of individualized products (water definition pages)

Day 2 objectives
Day 2 Objectives

  • Demonstrate water availability.

  • Give students a sense of how little water we have to work with and why we need to take care of it.

  • Show students where water on our planet exists.

Day 2 strategies drop in the bucket activity
Day 2 Strategies: “Drop in the Bucket” Activity

  • Visual and Auditory- Demonstration

  • Written- Questions Activity Sheet

  • Auditory and Spoken- Class Discussion on Water Usage and Availability

  • Auditory, Spoken and Written- Water Facts game; review, to stimulate interest

Day 3 objectives
Day 3 Objectives

  • Review the water cycle.

  • Help students realize the complexity in the water cycle.

  • Illustrate where some of the otherwise available freshwater is tied up.

Day 3 strategies the incredible journey activity
Day 3 Strategies: “The Incredible Journey” Activity

  • Kinesthetic-students journey through the water cycle (movement to different stations, rolling dice)

  • Spoken and auditory: Listening to and sharing individual journeys

  • Visual- pictures of various locations in the water cycle, drawing of individual water cycle journey

  • Spatial- illustration of water cycle journey

  • Written- description of movement from location to

    location (to accompany water cycle picture)

Post lesson interview
Post Lesson Interview

How much of the Earth’s water is freshwater?

Correct Answer =2-3%

Why can t we use all of the freshwater on earth
Why can’t we use all of the freshwater on Earth?

  • Student 1= Some is trapped as groundwater

    and some is frozen as glaciers.

  • Student 2 = The unusable part is caught up

    in glaciers or ice or is polluted.

  • Student 3 = Its polluted and animals live in


  • Student 4 = Because we need to conserve some.

Water cycle depictions
Water Cycle Depictions

Student 1

*no noticeable alteration

Student 21
Student 2

*no noticeable change

Student 3
Student 3

*incorporation of more than one location (puddle/river/ocean)

Student 4 representation1
Student 4 (representation)

*no noticeable change

Discussion of results
Discussion of Results

For the question concerning amount of freshwater on Earth, all students were within 2% of the answer. They understood the discrepancy between the amount of water and the amount of freshwater on Earth.

Discussion of results1
Discussion of Results

Though no students interviewed produced a correct answer for the usable freshwater question, 2 of the 4 did understand that less than 1% was available and all 4 did realize that little of the freshwater on Earth was actually available for our use.

Discussion of results2
Discussion of Results

All students interviewed exhibited more complex thought when answering the question concerning why all freshwater was not available for use. Before the lesson the primary answer was because of animals living in the water; afterwards the students expanded their ideas to include pollution and water caught up in other locations (glaciers, ice, groundwater).

Discussion of results3
Discussion of Results

Only 1 student of the 4 interviewed altered his water cycle diagram to reflect learn about the more complex nature of the water cycle.

Reasoning behind results
Reasoning behind Results

  • More time was needed to work with the new material and review.

  • Student 4 was the only student of the ones interviewed that was absent from class. His absence, lessened his exposure to the material and may have contributed to his diminished retention.


  • Incorporate prior knowledge into lessons to stimulate student interest.

  • Address misconceptions and give students a chance to work through them on their own.

  • Spend time with multiple activities and review, allowing students the chance to work with the new material in various different ways.