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Implementing the Module

The six lessons in this module are designed to be taught either in sequence for two to three weeks or as individual lessons that support or enhance your treatment of specific concepts in science. Many field-test teachers felt that the topic of the module, oral health, is especially appropriate for science classes during the month of February, which is National Children's Dental Health Month.

The following pages offer general suggestions about using these materials in the classroom; you will find specific suggestions in the procedures provided for each lesson.

What Are the Goals of the Module?

Open Wide and Trek Inside is designed to help students develop the following major goals associated with scientific literacy:

What Are the Science Concepts and How Are They Connected?

We have organized the lessons to form a conceptual whole that moves students from an introduction to mouth structures and their functions (What Do Mouths Do?) to thinking about the mouth as an environment (Open Wide! What's Inside?). When students begin asking questions about the teeth in the mouth, they use scientific inquiry to answer the questions (Let's Investigate Tooth Decay!). To help students explain how the results of their investigation relate to what happens in their mouths, students become aware of the actions of oral bacteria in the process of tooth decay (What Lives Inside Your Mouth?). Students use science concepts to help them understand how to keep their mouths healthy (What Keeps Your Mouth Healthy?). Finally, students reflect on what they have learned about the process of tooth decay and behaviors that keep their mouths healthy (What Have You Learned About the Mouth?). The following chart, Conceptual Flow of the Lessons, illustrates the sequence of major concepts addressed by the six lessons.

Conceptual Flow of the Lessons
Lesson Learning Focus Major Concept
Lesson 1
What Do Mouths Do?
Engage/Explore*: Students express prior knowledge, become engaged in the topic of oral health, and begin to explore their mouths. The mouth, or oral cavity, serves many purposes and has many different parts.
Lesson 2
Open Wide! What's Inside?
Explore: Students explore the mouth as an environment made up of many structures. The Explore phase gives students a common set of experiences upon which to begin building conceptual understanding. The mouth is an environment made up of many physical structures. Some are visible, others are not. Teeth are structures in the mouth and there are different types of teeth that serve different functions.
Lesson 3
Let's Investigate Tooth Decay!
Explore: Students continue to explore the mouth and use scientific inquiry to answer a question. Scientific inquiry can help answer questions about the natural world. Scientists use models when they cannot investigate real things. An apple can be used as a model of a tooth to show the process of tooth decay.
Lesson 4
What Lives Inside Your Mouth?
Explain: Students use evidence from their apple investigation to explain in their own words the process of tooth decay. The teacher introduces the concept of living organisms in the mouth (oral bacteria) and students expand their ideas about tooth decay to include the actions of oral bacteria. Oral bacteria live in the mouth. Bacteria behave like other living things: they take in nutrients, they reproduce, and they produce waste (an acid). Tooth decay is the result of the acid from the bacteria acting on the tooth surfaces.
Lesson 5
What Keeps Your Mouth Healthy?
Elaborate: Students apply the module's science concepts to their understanding of how to keep their mouths healthy. The oral disease process depends on bacteria. Sugary and starchy foods create more bacteria and acid in the mouth. Eating healthy foods, removing plaque from teeth, and using fluorides and sealants can help maintain a healthy mouth and a healthy body.
Lesson 6
What Have You Learned about the Mouth?
Evaluate: Students demonstrate their understanding of concepts and performance of skills. Certain steps in a normal day can increase or decrease the opportunity for bacteria to release acid and promote tooth decay. Understanding these steps can help a person maintain a healthy mouth.
*See How Does the 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-based Learning?

How Does the Module Correlate with the National Science Education Standards?

National Science Education Standards iconOpen Wide and Trek Inside supports teachers in their efforts to reform science education in the spirit of the National Research Council's 1996 National Science Education Standards (NSES).1 The content of the module is explicitly standards based: Each time a standard is addressed in a lesson, an icon appears in the margin and the applicable standard is identified. The chart Content Standards: Grades K-4 lists the specific content standards that this module addresses.

Content Standards: Grades K-4
Standard A: As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understanding about scientific inquiry. Correlation to Open Wide and Trek Inside
  • Ask a question about objects, organisms, and events in the environment.
Lessons 1, 2, 3
  • Plan and conduct a simple investigation.
Lesson 3
  • Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend the senses.
Lessons 2 and 3
  • Use data to construct a reasonable explanation.
Lessons 2 and 3
  • Communicate investigations and explanations.
Lessons 1, 2, 3, 6
  • Develop understandings about scientific inquiry.
Lesson 3
Standard C: As a result of their activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of the characteristics of organisms.
  • Organisms have basic needs. For example, animals need air, water, and food. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their needs can be met.
Lesson 4
  • Each plant or animal has different structures that serve different functions in growth, survival, and reproduction. For example, humans have distinct body structures for walking, holding, seeing, and talking.
Lessons 1 and 2
  • An organism's patterns of behavior are related to the nature of that environment, including the kinds and numbers of other organisms present, the availability of food and resources, and the physical characteristics of the environment. When the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce, and others die or move to new locations.
Lessons 4 and 5
  • All organisms cause changes in the environment where they live. Some of these changes are detrimental to the organism or other organisms, whereas others are beneficial.
Lessons 4, 5, 6
Standard F: As a result of their activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of personal health.
  • Individuals should have some responsibility for their own health. Students should engage in personal care—dental hygiene, cleanliness, and exercise—that will maintain and improve health.
Lessons 5 and 6
  • Nutrition is essential to health. Students should understand how the body uses food and how various foods contribute to health. Recommendations for good nutrition include eating a variety of foods, eating less sugar, and eating less fat.
Lessons 5 and 6

Teaching Standards

The suggested teaching strategies in all the lessons support teachers as they work to meet the teaching standards outlined in the National Science Education Standards. The module helps teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program by providing short-term objectives for students. It also includes planning tools such as the Conceptual Flow of the Lessons chart and the Suggested Timeline for teaching the module. Teachers can use this module to update their curriculum in response to their students' interest in this topic. The focus on active, collaborative, and inquiry-based learning in the lessons helps teachers support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners.

The structure of the lessons in this module enables teachers to guide and facilitate learning. All the activities encourage and support student inquiry, promote discourse among students, and challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their learning. The use of the 5E Instructional Model, combined with active, collaborative learning, allows teachers to respond effectively to the diversity of student backgrounds and learning styles. The module is fully annotated, with suggestions for how teachers can encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science.

Assessment Standards

Teachers can engage in ongoing assessment of both their teaching and student learning using the variety of assessment components embedded within the module's structure. The assessment tasks are authentic: They are similar in form to tasks in which students will engage in their lives outside the classroom or in which scientists participate. Annotations guide teachers to these opportunities for assessment and provide answers to questions that can help teachers analyze student feedback.

How Does the 5E Instructional Model Promote Active, Collaborative, Inquiry-based Learning?

Because learning does not occur through a process of passive absorption, the lessons in this module promote active learning: Students are involved in more than listening and reading. They are developing skills, analyzing and evaluating evidence, experiencing and discussing, and talking to their peers about their own understandings. Students work collaboratively with others to solve problems and plan investigations. Many students find that they learn better when they work with others in a collaborative environment than they can when they work alone in a competitive environment. When all this active, collaborative learning is directed toward inquiry science, students succeed in making their own discoveries. They ask questions, observe, analyze, explain, draw conclusions, and ask new questions. These inquiry experiences include both those that involve students in direct experimentation and those in which students develop explanations through critical and logical thinking.

This view of students as active thinkers who construct their own understanding out of interactions with phenomena, the environment, and other individuals is based on the theory of constructivism. A constructivist view of learning recognizes that students need time to

This module provides a built-in structure for creating a constructivist classroom: The 5E Instructional Model. This model sequences the learning experiences so that students have the opportunity to construct their understanding of a concept over time. The model takes students through five phases of learning that are easily described using five words that begin with the letter "E": Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The following paragraphs illustrate how the 5Es are implemented across the lessons in this module.


Students come to learning situations with prior knowledge. This knowledge may or may not be congruent with the concepts presented in this module. The Engage lesson provides the opportunity for teachers to find out what students already know or what they think they know about the topic and concepts to be developed.

The Engage lesson in this module, Lesson 1: What Do Mouths Do?, is designed to


In the Explore phase of the module, students explore their mouths and the structures within their mouths, especially their teeth. Students use an apple as a model of a tooth to explore tooth decay. These lessons provide a common set of experiences within which students can compare how they think about what they are observing and experiencing.

During the Explore lessons in this module, Lesson 1: What Do Mouths Do?, Lesson 2: Open Wide! What's Inside?, and Lesson 3: Let's Investigate Tooth Decay!, students


The Explain lesson provides opportunities for students to connect their previous experiences and to begin to make conceptual sense of the main ideas of the module. This stage also allows for the introduction of formal language, scientific terms, and content information that might make students' previous experiences easier to describe and explain.

In the Explain lesson in this module, Lesson 4: What Lives Inside Your Mouth?, students


In the Elaborate lesson, students apply or extend the concepts in new situations and relate their previous experiences to new ones.

In the Elaborate lesson in this module, Lesson 5: What Keeps Your Mouth Healthy?, students


The Evaluate lesson is the final stage of the instructional model, but it only provides a "snapshot" of what the students understand and how far they have come from where they began. In reality, the evaluation of students' conceptual understanding and ability to use skills begins with the Engage lesson and continues throughout each stage of the model, as described in the following section. Combined with the students' written work, drawings, and performance of tasks throughout the module, the Evaluate lesson can serve as a summative assessment of what students know and can do.

The Evaluate lesson in this module, Lesson 6: What Have You Learned about the Mouth?, provides opportunities for students to

To review the relationship of the 5E instructional model to the concepts presented in the module, see the chart Conceptual Flow of the Lesson.

When a teacher uses the 5E instructional model, he or she engages in practices that are very different from those of a traditional teacher. In response, students also participate in their learning in ways that are different from those seen in a traditional classroom. The charts, What the Teacher Does and What the Students Do, outline these differences.

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