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.
Total Eclipse of the… Start?
Bonnie Tyler’s infamous tune has been resonating for months and the national solar eclipse on August 21st has been overshadowing conversations about the first week of school for many this year.
Even though The Great American Solar Eclipse is helping science educators start the school year off with the NGSS phenomena of a lifetime, there’s no need to throw shade at your science coworkers. The solar eclipse has the potential to be a bright spot all across the curriculum, and one that students won’t soon forget.
The noisy environment is filled with excitement and questioning. Designers create, collaborate, and redesign their models based on new information. Engineers discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their designs. Scientists conduct and evaluate experiments.
Sound like a wonderful place to work?
Well… it is!
Welcome to my first grade classroom, where six-year-olds make science and engineering seamless, and their teacher is learning so much along the way.
Last year, I used video to reflect on my practice and to grow as a teacher of science. I chose to record my students during a series of explorations that culminated in an engineering challenge.
This is the first year that I’ve been using virtual notebooks in my classroom. At first, I was a bit nervous about trying this with six-year-olds, but I felt it could open up so many collaborative tools for my students.
We are a Title I public school in Rhode Island and each student K-12 has his or her own Chromebook. My students are very familiar with different Google applications, but I was looking for something I could use in place of a science notebook. I was introduced to Seesaw by a colleague and decided to give it a try.
This time of year most of us are a little fidgety.
Summer is right around the corner, but as we’re constantly reminding students “the year isn’t over yet” and “don’t give up,” some of us find ourselves needing the same pep talk from our administrators and social media networks. We’re almost there — but in the year of dabbing here and there, flipping hydration, and slime (yes, slime!) enters an item that’s making heads spin.
|What is this amazing tool that’s taken our students by storm? The fidget spinner!
Wait. You mean that at the end of the year our students are obsessed, unknowingly, with NGSS phenomena? Students are loving science and some don’t even realize it.
So how can “Spinners” be spun into relevant phenomena for science classrooms and what is the science behind the spin?
|| via GIPHY
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.
Do you ever wonder how you get yourself into some things?
That’s exactly what I was thinking when I stepped in front of 21 kindergartners to teach a lesson I developed with the video camera rolling. I planned on challenging myself and embracing my year of growth mindset and learning from taking risks. I was both excited and terrified by the opportunity to bring my love of STEM to the small scientists.
Did I mention that I have NEVER taught kindergarten before?
The practices of scientific argumentation and modeling involve using evidence and reasoning to create and evaluate claims about how or why something happens in the world. For example, why did a town flood in 1915 when a dam was built nearby? Scientists and science learners develop an understanding of the world through constructing arguments and models and determining which best account for observations at a given time. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) invite all students — including primary students — to engage in argumentation and modeling as interconnected practices.
In this video series, we share key principles and strategies for engaging K-2 students in the practice of scientific argumentation with explanatory models. We join a second grade scientific community in the midst of exploring a real-life question: What caused the town of Moncton to flood?
As they pursue answers to this question, you’ll see that students are not making arguments about isolated observations (e.g., which kind of soil water flows through fastest), but rather arguments that connect to their explanatory models of the phenomenon (the flooding of Moncton*). We call this “model-based CER (Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning),” where argumentation occurs in service of developing models of phenomena and supporting deeper, more interconnected science learning.
Did I just say that… and do I really sound like that?
I’ve always been told I look and sound exactly like my younger sister, just with darker hair. I’m still not convinced we look alike, but after listening to my most recent presentation, it easily could’ve been my sister speaking. Scary!
Even more frightening is the wording I chose and the stammering that occurred throughout my delivery of the professional learning.
Those poor teachers.
Without the close vetting of this “unwanted” video, I’d never have realized how much I needed to improve. Sometimes “looking in the mirror” can hurt.
To be 100% truthful, I’m considered the “face” of our school district and I conduct numerous interviews that are then streamed on our local cable channel and on our district YouTube channel. How many of those interviews have I watched to see how I can improve on the next, you ask? ZERO!
It’s time to change my paradigm and realize that video self-reflection can be one of the most valuable tools we have as educators. Here’s my most recent glimpse of my reflection.