administration student task rubric student work technical quality
Coat Caper
Administration Procedures
Contributed by: Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)

Students examine pollen and fibers taken from a garment, make an analysis, and make conclusions concerning the specific historical authenticity of the garment.

This task is designed to take students approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Life Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Matter and its transformations

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

12 A SI 1: Science as inquiry: Grades 9-12
1.2 Design and conduct scientific investigations. Designing and conducting a scientific investigation requires introduction to the major concepts in the area being investigated, proper equipment, safety precautions, assistance with methodological problems, recommendations for use of technologies, clarification of ideas that guide the inquiry, and scientific knowledge obtained from sources other than the actual investigation. The investigation may also require student clarification of the question, method, controls, and variables; student organization and display of data; student revision of methods and explanations; and a public presentation of the results with a critical response from peers. Regardless of the scientific investigation performed, students must use evidence, apply logic, and construct an argument for their proposed explanations.

1.4 Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence. Student inquiries should culminate in formulating an explanation or model. Models should be physical, conceptual, and mathematical. In the process of answering the questions, the students should engage in discussions and arguments that result in the revision of their explanations. These discussions should be based on scientific knowledge, the use of logic, and evidence from their investigation.

1.6 Communicate and defend a scientific argument. Students in school science programs should develop the abilities associated with accurate and effective communication. These include writing and following procedures, expressing concepts, reviewing information, summarizing data, using language appropriately, developing diagrams and charts, explaining statistical analysis, speaking clearly and logically, constructing a reasoned argument, and responding appropriately to critical comments.

12 G HNS 2: Nature of scientific knowledge: Grades 9-12
2.1 Science distinguishes itself from other ways of knowing and from other bodies of knowledge through the use of empirical standards, logical arguments, and skepticism, as scientists strive for the best possible explanations about the natural world.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task was originally developed for use by students in the state of Kentucky. Adaptations in the materials may be made for local administration of the task (see "Advance Preparation" section below.)

Students will be working in groups of 4-6 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise. Each student must record the information in his or her own booklet (test papers). Allow up to 20 minutes to complete the group work. If students are still working together 20 minutes after the testing begins, instruct them to cease their group work and begin individual work. At this point, they may no longer talk. Whether or not they are just beginning their individual work, remind students that they now have about 25 minutes to complete the individual activity.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. Group assignments should be made in advance. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for Coat Caper:

At this station students should have:

  • 3 samples of (coat) fibers
  • 1 "mystery coat" fiber sample
  • 3 pollen slides (reference)
  • 1 "mystery coat" pollen slide
  • 4 microscope slides
  • eyedropper
  • pencils
  • paper towels
  • 2 microscopes
  • cover slips
  • small cup of water
  • forceps
  • 1 ruler for each student

Advance Preparation:

The "mystery coat" pollen slide should contain many different kinds of pollen. The reference pollen slides, used for comparison to the "mystery coat" pollen slide, are intended to represent three plants that were common in Kentucky during the late 1700's. The slides you actually use may be adapted based on available sample slides in order for the task to "work" in any local administration of the task. Similar adaptations may be made in providing suitable samples of coat fibers for students to use and examine during the test.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


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