Fidgeting for Physics: Spinner Science in Six Steps

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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

 


Read more

Video Self-Reflection: What We Don’t Know

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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.

Read more

Facing My Fears: Teaching STEM to Kindergartners

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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?

Read more

Integrating Scientific Argumentation and Modeling for K-2 Learners

Scientific Argumentation in the Early Grades - Watch the video series

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.

town flood diagram

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.
Read more

Flipping the Lens: Finding New Perspective On Delivering Quality PD

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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.

Read more

Engaging the Community with Family Engineering Nights

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

“Now I understand what engineering in elementary school looks like!”

A dad raving about the Family Engineering Night

“Easiest and most fun event I have ever volunteered for at school.”

A teacher leading a station

“Loved how it got all members of the family involved in problem solving!”

A response from the parent survey


How much to do you involve your families with school?

If you’re like me, involvement with families consists of newsletters, emails, volunteering in the classroom, attending performances or academic celebrations, and conferences. As I started analyzing and reviewing how I was engaging families in the new science standards, I quickly realized this was purely a one-way system. Families were merely an audience for whatever I deemed relevant.

As I researched more about the traditional family involvement paradigm I’d been adhering to for so long, I realized I was missing an important and critical opportunity to have families as partners. So I started unpacking my beliefs and biases about families, and I thought about ways I could reframe and reshape what I’ve been doing. I was ready to move beyond the status quo and start pushing my practices to move out of my comfort zone!

The opportunity to start this work fell on my plate as a mandate. In my new role as district Elementary Science and STEM Specialist, I was informed that all 15 elementary schools would be hosting a family engineering night, for the first time EVER.

We’ve completed five of our school events and received overwhelmingly positive responses from teachers, volunteers, families, and students — a few of my favorites opened this post.

Here’s how we did it — and you can do it too!

Read more

My NGSS Mess

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Editor’s Note: Isaac’s two-week unit plan pictured in this post is linked in the text below (PDF) and to the image.

One of my favorite aspects of NGSS is the emphasis on students doing science rather than just learning about science. We can have our students talk about science all day, but it’s not until they actually start to experiment with science that their misconceptions and misunderstandings become clear and they begin to learn so much more.

I was recently reminded that this same learning process applies just as much to teachers in the NGSS transition as it does to students in the classroom.

I’ve been exploring and learning about NGSS for quite a while now. I’ve enjoyed going to rollouts, workshops, and conferences and bringing back strategies and lesson ideas I can use in my classroom. When I found out I’d be teaching chemistry for the first time this year, I saw it as an opportunity to really use all the things I’d been talking about for so long. So, using the proposed California Chemistry Framework as a guide, I planned and implemented my first attempt at a 5E-inspired, totally NGSS unit. And it didn’t work out the way I intended at all.

Read more

Does This Swivl Make My Tendons Look Big?

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

A few weeks ago, I made a stop at a local butcher’s shop and left with a cooler full of cow muscle, tendons, fat, and a kidney just for fun. I was prepping for a tissue engineering unit where students would research authentic tissues before tackling our big question: Can low-cost, synthetic tissues be engineered for use in under-resourced medical schools and research labs? This unit was based on the Tissue Engineering guide from Allen Distinguished Educators DIY Guides.

One of my goals is to increase peer observations and encourage a school culture where teachers open up their practice to others. This can be challenging, as teachers most often have to give up their own time with students to make these observations happen. So I fired up my Swivl, and decided to step out of my comfort zone to demonstrate another way to share our practice when time is short — through video! As part of my work with the Tch Next Gen Science Squad, I decided to focus on the implementation of engineering as described in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Read more

Growth Mindset in STEM: EDP and the Writing Process

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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.

engineering-design-process

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.

Read more