The National Board Certification process was one of the most effective exercises I’ve been involved in. The initial process, as well as my subsequent renewal, have proven to be invaluable to my development as an educator. The challenges presented to me have encouraged continued growth within this profession.
I found one of the most difficult aspects of the certification process to be the videotaped reflective piece. This component forced me to critically analyze virtually every aspect of my practice. Lessons learned through critical analysis of the recording have compelled me to find solutions to a wide variety of minor issues that were possibly hindering the success of my students. The videotaping has had such an impact on my classroom that I continue the practice to this day.
Imagine being 12 years old and being told that you’re made up of tiny bits, that are made up of tiny bits, that are made up of tiny bits; and all those bits are going to interact in different ways and have AWESOME names that sound more like spells from Harry Potter than English. For me, teaching cell transportation at the middle school level has been a challenge.
When students walk into our classrooms many of them have no concept of cells other than the ones they’re carrying in their pockets. We, as science teachers, have long relied on analogies to demonstrate concepts; although this method has worked, I find there’s always a student who is confused by the “endoplasmic reticu-what” and cannot work their way up Bloom’s or grasp the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) I’m seeking for mastery,
This fall, I decided to change my approach when teaching the topic of cells. Instead of having my students dance out the process of endocytosis (think the hokey pokey: “things move into the cell, things move out of the cell… and they move all about”), I would try to align more to NGSS using an approach rooted in phenomena.
August Webinar with Teaching Channel, WGBH, and PBS LearningMedia
Last month, PBS LearningMedia, WGBH, and Teaching Channel partnered to co-host a webinar on Engineering and the Design Process: Real-World Classroom Resources. The interactive, hour-long event provided an opportunity for classroom practitioners to converse with our combined team of classroom educators and curriculum experts.
Wow! What a turn out! Over 800 registrants AND we maxed out the webinar platform!
Editor’s Note: In honor of Earth Day 2016, Teaching Channel asked science teacher Kathryn Davis to describe her work teaching a biopolymers unit that resulted from a partnership between Tch and The Boeing Company.
According to the United Nations, each year enough plastic is thrown away to circle the earth four times, and these plastics can take over 1000 years to degrade! Sobering facts such as these and images illustrating the devastating effect of plastic waste on wildlife can leave many feeling paralyzed and hopeless.
While there are startling examples of the negative impact humans have had on the earth, there are also stories of innovation and incredible problem solving. I shared with my students the story of the engineer in India who created edible utensils, replacing plastic forks and knives with cutlery that is both delicious and eco-friendly, and the graduate student designing biodegradable clamshell containers from actual clamshells. I want my students to be inspired by these stories, and to feel hopeful that through human innovation and design, we can begin to tackle problems and make changes that can alter our current environmental trajectory.
Over the past few months, Teaching Channel has been working with more than 230 partner organizations on the 100Kin10 initiative. The overarching goal of the initiative is to train and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers to educate the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.
Two of the initial steps that our collaborative has undertaken is to identify the root causes of our current STEM teacher shortage, and also identify both the frequency and the fidelity of the engineering instruction that is occurring in today’s schools. So far our findings have been quite interesting and all of the robust conversations have left me wanting to dig in deeper with all of you during a #TchLive Twitter Chat. And what better time than during Engineers Week, which is happening Feb. 21-27.
My biggest regret as an educator is that throughout the first half of my career, I continually underestimated the abilities of middle school students. (Slow to learn, I would later underestimate kindergarteners as well.)
It’s not that I thought that they were unintelligent. Nor did I think they lacked creativity. I just didn’t bother to ask for their input and, since they were fidgety 13 year olds, I assumed that more structure equaled a better learning environment. I thought that if I fed them a nice dose of PowerPoints, lab experiences, and classroom discussions, that they would walk out of room 8c with everything they needed to be successful in their high school science courses and beyond.
When their standardized test scores came back over summer break, my practice was validated. By and large my students were very successful at both filling in the correct bubble and parroting a rehearsed response to a writing prompt. I had become proficient at churning out very good test takers.
I’m watching as my students attempt to create an object using only cubes and tetrahedrons that will roll down a ramp in the least amount of time. It’s an engineering design challenge that was inspired by Curiosity Machine’s “Build a 3-D Object out of Tetrahedra.” (You’ll be prompted to log in to see this challenge, or you can create a free account here or by clicking the Join button from the former link.)
On the surface, it may seem like a very simple task, but there are actually quite a few STEM content areas that we’re exploring over the course of our four-day unit:
- Newton’s Laws of Motion
- Potential Energy
- Kinetic Energy
Not to mention the fact that my students are utilizing scientific and engineering practices. They’re constantly collaborating, working within constraints, collecting and making sense of data, as well as using the iterative design process to help them accomplish their objective.
A challenge of being a veteran teacher is that some of my favorite units of instruction become inadequate to meet the needs of today’s students.
Often times it can be because the subject matter or theme becomes outdated. Other times it can be because the standards change or become more rigorous. With the introduction of 21st century science standards (be they NGSS or updated state standards), we as educators face a couple of awesome challenges. How do we create or update content that not only adequately addresses the standards, but also inspires our students to consider various career possibilities? And how do we shift our practice to allow our students to better experience this new type of content?
One avenue that I’ve found useful when I attempt to address both of these concerns is recording myself and then later reflecting upon the events that transpired within my classroom. That’s why I chose to invite Teaching Channel, as well as all of you, into my classroom to see my students exploring science, math, and engineering concepts in To the Moon: Applying the Engineering Design Process.
Rube Goldberg – a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation. ~ Webster’s New World Dictionary
When Rube Goldberg walked away from his engineering career in 1904, it’s unlikely he realized the impact that he would have on 21st century education. I find it ironic that many educators at the forefront of STEM education find inspiration from his cartoons, like The Simple Alarm Clock, that were published in newspapers across the United States over 100 years ago.
When I initially share the Engineering Design Process with my middle school students (see below), I like to have them collaboratively plan, construct and then use the iterative process to continuously refine a Rube Goldberg Machine.
When I was I little, I used to watch reruns of the TV show “Little House on the Prairie.” The students sat passively in a late 1800s schoolhouse writing notes on slate boards with chalk. If I think back to my public education in the late 1900s, I remember sitting passively at a desk using a pen to take notes in a spiral-bound notebook.
It seems absurd to me that for 100 years, this methodology was the norm and that things remained relatively unchanged in the American educational system for such a large span of time.