Dr. Stephen Pruitt: The Highest Distinction is Service to Others

Teacher Appreciation Week blog header

Teacher appreciation is something I think about a lot. When I was in the classroom full time, I so appreciated the notes from children and families — especially when they arrived at times other than Teacher Appreciation Week. However, it’s really awesome to be recognized as a group with your colleagues, and for that reason I’m thankful for the special things that happen each year at the beginning of May.

As a #NGSS teacher, learner, and coach, I have so much for which I’m thankful. I write this post to give a shout out to those who have been instrumental in helping me to become a much better #NGSS advocate and guru. Through my own learning, I became a better listener and collaborator, and now I can pay it forward by working with other teachers. There’s no educator who has had a greater impact on my #NGSS journey and my work than Dr. Stephen Pruitt.

Dr. Stephen Pruitt

Stephen Pruitt, who I like to call the “Father of NGSS,” was my first NGSS teacher. There are so many things I’ve learned from Stephen that they would be impossible to enumerate in full.

Dr Stephen Pruitt with students

Orange Dot Border

  • Most notably, he taught me how important it is to believe in myself as a science educator.
  • Stephen helped me to understand the importance of the three dimensions of NGSS, and how weaving those strands into meaningful science teaching and learning makes a strong and beautiful rope. While each of the dimensions is important as part of the foundation of learning, sense-making doesn’t truly happen until each of the dimensions are interwoven.
  • Stephen also taught me how to “eliminate black boxes” as an adult learner, so I could use that learning in my work with teachers and children.

These are just three examples of the ways that Dr. Stephen Pruitt has impacted me and my work as an educator. I appreciate him tremendously and I find myself wondering, if Stephen had such a profound impact on my work, what impact has he had on educators across the country? I decided to ask a few colleagues for their thoughts in an effort to find out.

Orange Dot Border

Read more

Tch Video Lounge: KLEWS for Learning Science Vocabulary

Tch Video Lounge 2.0 - Watch. Learn. Interact.

Looking for a fun way to learn with colleagues? Come and check out Tch Video Lounge, where you can watch, interact, and discuss videos with the rest of the Teaching Channel community. We have over thirty videos in the lounge, with topics ranging from new teachers to instructional coaching.

In our latest installment, Bringing a KLEWS Chart to Life, we focus on science and visit a third grade classroom in Queens, New York that is engaged in NGSS instruction and learning. The video clip comes from our recently launched series, KLEWS: Supporting Claims, Evidence & Reasoning.

Teacher in front of her class, pointing at a KLEWS chart.

Orange Dot Border
Read more

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Embracing Virtual Journeys in Science

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Orange Dot Border

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Oh, the Places You'll Go! coverOrange Dot Border

When I was a classroom teacher, this quote was posted on my wall to remind my students that they would have many choices in life. I wanted my students to be ready to explore the world and walk through all the doors that would open for them.

I was recently re-inspired when I saw these same words posted on the wall of a classroom I visited. It reminded me not only of the inspiration I find when reading many of the Dr. Seuss books, but also that each of his books has a message — some buried deep within the text, others more obvious, almost jumping off the page.

Green Eggs and Ham can teach us about the importance of modeling and of encouraging a growth mindset. Just like Sam — one of the book’s main characters — educators need to be open to new ideas and model a growth mindset so that our students can engage in the practices of historians, scientists, writers, and mathematicians.

The Lorax reminds us that everything is interconnected and that, in order to make an impact, we must be invested and care a whole awful lot… which certainly describes the way teachers meet their students each day.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is about perseverance, but also about adventure and taking risks. As educators, we have the power to help our students explore places previously unimagined and engage in deeper learning — with a little help from 21st-century technology and our own willingness to connect with people and resources that were once beyond our reach.

And we don’t even have to ride a bus or fly on a plane to take our students to a museum, a farm, or even to outer space to enhance instruction and address standards because we’re no longer limited by geography within the confines of a science text.

So, what are we waiting for?

Orange Dot Border

Read more

Teacher, It’s Cold Outside: Ideas for Relatable Science & Student Engagement

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

So much science to know (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

Why icicles glisten and glow (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

What matter makes up snow? (Your students will want to know.)

Why is winter so cold? (Teacher, you’ll freeze out there!)

Teacher, it’s cold outside.

Orange Dot Border

Students never seem to lose their sense of wonder when it comes to snow. The unexpected snow day, delayed start, or early dismissal has the potential to take student learning off the clear path you’ve carefully shoveled as schedules are rearranged and students are excited to play — no matter their age.

But play during the long, cold, and sometimes unpredictable months of winter doesn’t have to be limited to the outdoors.

What can you do in the classroom with students on short, cold, snowy, icy, and stormy days?

Create relevant learning experiences and increase student engagement!  

Read more

Let’s Talk Turkey! Transfer of Energy and Thanksgiving

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Kathy's Third Graders doing project on floor

I recently spent some time working with third graders on motion stations.

As I watched them work, I was thinking about the transfer of energy and the unlimited possibilities for helping students understand this concept.

I started seeing energy everywhere I looked: watching a toy car move down a ramp, a pendulum swinging, and even balls bouncing. My brain was focused on moving energy and imagining the possibilities.

I was thinking about energy transfer even as I was helping students to grapple with questions of weight or height and mass, such as, “How does the height of the ramp affect the distance an object will travel?” or “How does the weight of the object affect the distance an object will travel?” The fact that I continued to return to this idea made me realize the importance of engaging our students with this phenomena… but how?

How might we engage students with the transfer of energy in the classroom in a fun and fascinating way right now?

Read more

Video Self-Reflection: What We Don’t Know

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

I felt the blood rushing to my face. I was standing in front of a group of teachers presenting on a topic I was very familiar with and all of the sudden, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I was saying. The teachers were very gracious, but I was cringing. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have the strategies to make my next move. I sure could’ve used some coaching in that moment.

I often have the opportunity to work with teachers as a professional learning provider or coach around the implementation and assessment of the three-dimensional learning expected from the Next Generation Science Standards. In this work, I’m expected to be the “expert” and the collaborator, but sometimes I need coaching too.

Read more

What I Know Now: Anchoring Phenomena in NGSS

Tch Next Generation Science Squad

Phenomena can be the special ingredient that brings both intrigue and relevance to an otherwise ordinary lesson. It’s no surprise anchoring phenomena have become a part of the conversation whenever educators discuss NGSS science instruction. This is exciting because anchoring phenomena and driving questions can be the key to student engagement.

When I was first introduced to the importance of anchoring phenomena in NGSS instruction, I remember Googling “NGSS anchoring phenomena” and getting two, maybe three results —  and even they weren’t really what I needed. Today, the same search returns more than 2000 results. In a very short time, knowledge and resources have increased at a breakneck pace. Today, I know I can find the resources I need to help me anchor phenomena to the standards with relative ease. I’d like to share some of my favorite results from my search with you.

Read more

#TchLIVE: NSTA 2016 Preview

blog_DD_science_squad

One of the highlights of my year is going to the National Science Teachers’ Conference. This year, I’m so excited to meet my fellow Tch NextGen Science Squadsters there!

In preparation, I’ll be leading a #TchLIVE Twitter Chat about #NSTA2016 on March 24, 2016 at 4PM PT. Come prepared to talk about the sessions you’ll be attending, and why. And, if you’re new, get a feel for what to expect at the conference from veterans.

Read more