As a classroom teacher, I used to require all of my fourth and fifth grade students to complete a formal science fair presentation following the scientific process with a tri-fold board and a classroom competition. I made it a big deal and organized many school-wide science fairs with elaborate themes and events. My intent was to get students and our community engaged and excited about science.
When my own children started participating in science fairs, I learned that my actual impact looked a little less like engagement and excitement, and a little more like torture — for the whole family! I was definitely not my best parenting self while trying to coerce my own children to finish their projects, and I realized that it’s time for a science fair revolution.
Check out this hilarious article by Susan Messina, creator of the turmoil project.
Time for A Shift
The shift from a strict adherence to the scientific process to the Science and Engineering Practices should be reflected in our school science events. There are eight practices and only one of them is Planning and Carrying Out Investigations.
It’s time to broaden our view of a science fair, just like we’ve broadened our definition of the practices.
The “scientific method” makes science into a series of rigid steps — and can lead students to disengage. In contrast, the Science and Engineering Practices highlight how science is a highly social, creative, and iterative problem-solving process, involving a variety of different kinds of intellectual work.
“Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up it’s…” Olympics time!
~ Sanka Coffie, Cool Runnings
The Olympics are full of amazing athletes, but what keeps people watching night after night are the stories.
For two weeks every four years, households around the world tune in to watch. We cheer on Apolo Ohno, Lindsey Vonn, and Shawn White. We’re suddenly captivated by otherwise mundane tasks like sweeping (curling anyone?).
The stories of the athletes teach lessons of perseverance in which athletes train, and retrain, and retrain… until they reach their goal and the glory.
How can we provide students with analogous opportunities to embrace a process that leads them to overcome a challenge and improve upon a system?
Anyone who has spent time learning about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is familiar with the three-dimensional aspect of the Standards — an integration of disciplinary core ideas, cross-cutting concepts, and science and engineering practices. While most would reason science education has always involved themes and practices in addition to the content, the integral shift the NGSS offer is that each of these is given equal status.
The Next Generation Science Standards changed how science is assessed. Students must show proficiency in all three dimensions, not just content mastery.
When you think about STEM, you might think about high school students doing an egg drop design challenge or middle schoolers building model roller coasters. But even our youngest students are ready to engage in STEM.
In our latest video series, created in partnership with Fairfax Futures, we explore what STEM looks like in early childhood. Young children naturally engage in the scientific method. They observe the world around them, make predictions, try out ideas, and revise their thinking. To help students develop these key concepts, the teachers in these videos present students with developmentally-appropriate math and science activities. They root their lessons in connections to literature and their students’ home lives, asking open-ended questions to help students develop understanding.
Halloween can be a scary time of year for educators
— candy, costumes, calamity — oh my!
In this season of changing leaves, could it be time to change our mindsets as well? Can we turn the season of “boo” into a season of “oooh” in our classrooms this fall?
Here are some ideas on how to use the crispness of autumn and some tasty candy sensations to sweeten some lessons for your students this Halloween.
As Science Laureate at Teaching Channel, one of my roles is to highlight exemplar modules of instruction. In my mind, that means that these units not only have to be aligned to the standards, but also need to be both unique and engaging.
One problem with innovative lessons is that they often involve costly or custom-made components. To help address these issues, the editorial team at Teaching Channel asked me to create a series of videos that show educators how to build different testing mechanisms that I use within my own middle school classroom setting.
Tch DIY: Build & Tch is a new series where I, along with my students, will not only highlight four outstanding modules of instruction, but we’ll also provide a step-by-step video on how to construct wind turbine stands, shake tables, an electromagnetic dropping mechanism, as well as an air compressed rocket launcher.
In my role as a facilitator of professional learning for science teachers, I’m often asked “What do the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) look like when they’re translated into classroom practice, and how do we help teachers get there?” Along with some innovative collaborative partner institutions and generous funders, we at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) have been working on two projects to answer these questions. Thanks to Teaching Channel, we captured some of this work on video to share with the larger science education community.
Science is an amazing thing.
It’s a basic human desire to try to understand the world around us.
Why do we feel compelled to do this? To fulfill our innate curiosities? To leverage this knowledge to improve the quality of our lives? To explore the unknown? For each of us, the answer may be a little different — and that’s the beauty of it.
The questions that advancements in science generate help everything else flourish. Mathematics make sense of our observations and help us with future predictions. Language arts allow us to share our findings and collaborate. Philosophical debates and the fine arts provide a platform for us to both process and express our thoughts, which in turn help us develop an ethically acceptable line in the sand.
Literally and figuratively speaking, science is the catalyst of our existence.
This Earth Day — April 22 — the March for Science will occur in 605 locations around the world.
It’s not only a celebration of science, but also a means of raising awareness and generating dialogue. As such, I‘m proud to say I will be participating in the satellite march this Saturday in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Regardless of whether you’re a “science geek” or not, I’d encourage you to learn more about the event by exploring the official website.
Thank you to everyone who joined us as we discussed The Art of Engineering Practices and Creative Design in the K-12 Learning Space.
We discovered a lot of overlap between STEM, the arts, and design. In fact, engineers often use design to think outside the box, accomplish a task, or solve a problem.
Continue to think about ways STEM and the arts are complimentary and seek opportunities to collaborate with colleagues who can bring a different perspective to the conversation.
Don’t forget to check out our Storify below, because it’s jam packed with resources and ideas you can use in your classroom right now. If you have questions, reach out. And remember to follow the Tchers you connected with in the chat, so we can continue the conversation and get better together!
Want timely reminders about #TchLIVE chats on Twitter? Sign up for our Remind class: remind.com/join/tchlive.
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.