The Cube Activity - Florida International University

The Cube Activity
Kathy Sparrow & George O’Brien
Florida International University
Science Content & Methods Courses
The Cube Activity
The cube activity is used with pre-service, in-service
and graduate students in science education.
The activity enables participants to experience the
nature of science and to engage in the scientific
inquiry process of asking questions, making
observations, collecting data, making predictions and
posing explanations based on evidence.
As well as integrating the Habits of Mind, this activity
also models the 5 E Learning Cycle of Learning
[Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, Evaluate].
The Cube Activity
• The activity is in two parts,
the second building on the
• Participants work in small
groups of 3 or 4.
• Each group is given a cube.
One side is taped down, so
that it is not visible. The
other five sides are visible.
• Participants initially
examine the cube and pose
the question: What is on
the side we can’t see?
The Cube Activity
• Participants then write down as many
observations as they can. They should
come up with at least 7 different
observations. We also distinguish the
difference between an observation and
an inference. [Explore]
• Each group then shares their
• Although the solution seems rather
obvious, participants have to support
their claims with the observational
evidence. [Explain]
• Participants next use these same
inquiry techniques to a more complex
cube. [Extend]
The Cube Activity
• Participants follow the same
procedure on this second cube.
However, this time they have more
• On each side of the cube, there is a
male or female name; a number in
the upper right corner and a number
in the lower left corner.
• Groups work together making
observations to have evidence to
predict the name and the numbers
in the left lower and right upper
The Cube Activity
Using the two reference
sheets, participants then
identify Scientist’s Actions and
the Habit of Mind used.
Habits of Mind have included:
• Persisting (#1)
• Thinking Flexibly (#4)
• Questioning & Problem Posing
• Using Prior Knowledge (#8)
• Making Observations (#10)
• Wonderment & Awe (#12)
• Thinking Interdependently (#15)
Reference Utilized by Participants
Reference Provided to Participants
The Cube Activity –
Additional Extension
In the BSCS ViSTA Online Module – Inquiry
(2010), participants view a video of a middle
school science teacher working with her
students following the same procedures as
the 5 E Learning Cycle described in this slide
Participants working in the small groups are
asked to collect data, make observations,
make predictions, and write an explanation
related to whether there is scientific inquiry in
the science teacher’s classroom in this video.
Participants challenge one another’s thinking
and responses to the question. The instructor
probes members of each group with
questions and challenges groups and
individuals to present essential evidence to
support each claim and/or to build alternative
The Cube Activity –
Additional Extension
Using the reference sheets,
participants then identify Scientist’s
Actions and the Habit of Mind used
by the middle school students in the
Habits of Mind identified have
Persisting (#1)
Listening & Understanding with
Empathy (#3)
Thinking Flexibly (#4)
Questioning & Problem Posing (#7)
Using Prior Knowledge (#8)
Thinking & Communicating with Clarity
& Precision (#9)
Making Observations (#10)
Thinking Interdependently (#15)
The Cube Activity – Some
Assessment Findings
• An important element of our end of the semester assessment is preservice teachers creating a professional development plan and portfolio
artifacts. Professional development goals in critical aspects of science
education are co-created by the candidates and instructor for online
presentation of artifacts in the TaskStream Assessment System. Each
candidate is required to identify goals, action items related to progress
to-date, evidence from the course experiences, and reflection in relation
to the past, present, and future plans of the candidate. Six broad
categories of goals have included: content knowledge, pedagogy,
technology skills, management skills, impact on student learning, and
communication skills.
• The cube activity has been cited by several candidates in a recent
semester as an activity that has influenced and impacted in positive
ways their thinking about the meaning and importance of inquiry-based
teaching and learning, scientific inquiry, communication in science,
nature of science, and habits of mind.
• This activity is adapted from Teaching About Evolution and the
Nature of Science, Working Group on Teaching Evolution,
National Academy of Science, 1998, and the
Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS). (2010). ViSTA
Project Online Modules. Boulder, CO. Online at
• Additional reference & resource: Sommers, W. A., & Olson,
W. (2010). Habits of Mind Teachers Companion. The
Institute of the Habits of Mind. Westport. CT.

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