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.
As a first generation college graduate, a decision I made early in life was to have a growth mindset. If you’re new to the term growth mindset, or maybe just on the hunt for resources, check out Teaching Channel’s Growth Mindset Deep Dive. While many people assume things in my life have come easily, I’ve spent my entire existence struggling to succeed. Blessed or cursed (depending on your perspective) with an insane amount of drive as well as a natural curiosity toward all things, my life has been a constant cycle of discovery, failure, retooling, and — mostly — eventual success.
This lifestyle has carried over into my classroom, as I believe that regardless of the content I’m teaching, it’s my duty as an educator to prepare all of the young people that walk through my door to face the challenges that lie ahead of them. That’s why I’m such a staunch advocate for the incorporation of the engineering design process into all classrooms. The EDP is the epitome of growth mindset and transcends the classroom into every facet of day-to-day life.
In that spirit, I continue to refine my practice. Every year, I identify one area of my instruction as a point of emphasis. In the past, these areas have ranged from classroom management, to individualized learning plans, to the integration of technology. One area I’ve been putting off is refining the writing process that occurs within my STEM course. Why have I been putting it off? Quite honestly, I struggle with writing. I believe in the value of writing, but freely acknowledge that it’s not a strength I possess. Opening up this area of my practice could be humbling, but it’s my hope that we (myself as well as fellow educators) will all benefit from this experience.
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.
As the school year is approaching its second semester, I’ve started to both reflect on the progress I’ve made as well as look ahead to the standards that need to be addressed by the end of the school year. As a STEM teacher within Greenon Local Schools, my primary focus is on Science and Engineering Practices. Something that has always been a major challenge is how to accurately take inventory of the standards and then develop an outline that ensures the needs of my students have been met by the time they leave my classroom.
This is something that often eludes me as I work through my day. Where does the time go?
One of my all-time favorite pieces on Tchers’ Voice is Sarah Brown Wessling’s blog post, A Letter to My Children: What it Means to be a Teacher. Throughout the post, Sarah shares the struggles and sacrifices that we all make as we attempt to meet the needs of not only our biological children, but also all of the smiling faces that walk through our doors every day. As a single father, coach, and teacher, this piece really hit home. Being a teacher is a balancing act. And that’s especially true if you’re a teacher leader.
Whenever I’m asked why I became an educator, my answer is short and sweet: “Because I want to change the world.” Not that I’m naïve enough to believe that my work will achieve world peace, but I have faith that there are enough like-minded souls spread throughout the globe to make a significant difference. Some of us are blessed with the opportunity to possess a leadership role within our profession. And it’s tough! Not only do we have to ensure a quality education to our own students, but we also have an obligation to provide support and resources to our colleagues.
So how do we find balance? Well, when you figure that out, please let me know!
While I do joke about it, there is truth to my previous statement. Even those of us that have lived a dual life for several years struggle at times. That being said, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned with you.
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!
As we dive headfirst into a new school year, many educators are struggling to integrate engineering design into their classrooms. As the Science Laureate at Teaching Channel, I’m often asked two questions: “Is there one specific Engineering Design Process?” and “Where can I find NGSS aligned materials that emphasize the Engineering Design Process?”
As I’ve been watching CNN over the past month, I’ve been very interested in their feature “The Person Who Changed My Life.” It’s a retrospective series where studio personalities talk about people that have had a profound impact on their lives. Some of us were lucky to have come from families that were both loving and supportive. However, there are those of us that were twice blessed in that we also had our lives influenced by another individual that caused us to go down a totally different path then we would have ever imagined.
I was 18 years old and had just completed my first year of studies at Wright State University. I came from a fairly modest upbringing and was the first person on either side of my family to attend college. As such, I was bound and determined that I was going to graduate with a degree in political science and then proceed immediately to law school. My primary objective was to make enough money that I never had to worry about paying a bill at the end of the month.
To help achieve these goals, I was working at a court reporting firm to not only earn money for tuition, but to also build a supportive network. I had it all figured out. At least, I thought so…
My cousin was in eighth grade and was playing middle school football. He seemed to be having fun and I found myself missing being part of a team. That’s when I called the football coach and offered to volunteer my services for the season. He was receptive, and so began my friendship with Jeff Whitt.
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.