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?
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We were weeks into our new journey of bringing the science fair into the 21st century: Science In The Sky.
Everything is digital so why haven’t science fairs caught up? Well, my students were doing it! A feverish pitch exploded early amongst my scientific teams once scientists from around the world started responding to different blog postings. Elshaddai and his team were working hard collecting data on their hypothesis about whether the moon does or doesn’t affect mood. “I don’t even know where Luxemburg, Munich, Hong Kong… I don’t know where any of these places are!” I overheard him saying to his team. Using social media, I was able to distribute their survey around the world and excitement ensued when data started to pour in because they had no idea that I’d done this.
Teaching tips and instructional strategies flood teacher professional learning sites and blogs, responding to the continuous need to better engage students and improve instruction. There’s no doubt that teachers need many tools to take multiple approaches to get to a particular learning goal. But here’s something surprising: teachers are usually given very little time to dig deep and understand the impact of those strategies they spend so much time planning and implementing.
The core of our work at Mills Teacher Scholars is to focus teachers’ collaborative time on the question, “What is happening for students?” Teacher-led collaborative inquiry is the method that drives this question. While there are several components to inquiry work, perhaps the most overlooked is the effort to make student thinking and learning visible. Being able to “make student thinking visible” sounds easier than it is. Video is a fantastic tool for gathering this process data.