Oh, The Places You’ll Go! Embracing Virtual Journeys in Science

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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When I was a classroom teacher, this quote was posted on my wall to remind my students that they would have many choices in life. I wanted my students to be ready to explore the world and walk through all the doors that would open for them.

I was recently re-inspired when I saw these same words posted on the wall of a classroom I visited. It reminded me not only of the inspiration I find when reading many of the Dr. Seuss books, but also that each of his books has a message — some buried deep within the text, others more obvious, almost jumping off the page.

Green Eggs and Ham can teach us about the importance of modeling and of encouraging a growth mindset. Just like Sam — one of the book’s main characters — educators need to be open to new ideas and model a growth mindset so that our students can engage in the practices of historians, scientists, writers, and mathematicians.

The Lorax reminds us that everything is interconnected and that, in order to make an impact, we must be invested and care a whole awful lot… which certainly describes the way teachers meet their students each day.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is about perseverance, but also about adventure and taking risks. As educators, we have the power to help our students explore places previously unimagined and engage in deeper learning — with a little help from 21st-century technology and our own willingness to connect with people and resources that were once beyond our reach.

And we don’t even have to ride a bus or fly on a plane to take our students to a museum, a farm, or even to outer space to enhance instruction and address standards because we’re no longer limited by geography within the confines of a science text.

So, what are we waiting for?

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Tch Next Gen Science Squad in Action LIVE at NSTA 2018

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Connected educators teach longer and have greater satisfaction in what is easily one of the best and most challenging professions.

Whether you’ve had the opportunity to connect with educators on Teaching Channel‘s Q&A board, or even just exploring the Deep Dives, the Tch Next Gen Science Squad wants to connect with you as we continue to get better together!

This year, the Tch NextGen Science Squad has been working to bring you snippets of our NGSS journey through #NextGenSquadinAction and #anewkindofpd videos on Twitter and Facebook.

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Teacher, It’s Cold Outside: Ideas for Relatable Science & Student Engagement

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

So much science to know (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

Why icicles glisten and glow (Teacher, it’s cold outside.)

What matter makes up snow? (Your students will want to know.)

Why is winter so cold? (Teacher, you’ll freeze out there!)

Teacher, it’s cold outside.

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Students never seem to lose their sense of wonder when it comes to snow. The unexpected snow day, delayed start, or early dismissal has the potential to take student learning off the clear path you’ve carefully shoveled as schedules are rearranged and students are excited to play — no matter their age.

But play during the long, cold, and sometimes unpredictable months of winter doesn’t have to be limited to the outdoors.

What can you do in the classroom with students on short, cold, snowy, icy, and stormy days?

Create relevant learning experiences and increase student engagement!  

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5 Ways to Spur Student Growth and Opportunity Through Hands-On STEM

5 ways to spur student growth and opportunity through hands-on STEM

It may seem far down the line when we talk about career prospects for elementary school students — or even for middle schoolers — but many students decide on careers in STEM long before they graduate high school. Plus, STEM skills and digital literacy have a proven demand in a job market that is increasingly technology and data-driven, thus making these skills critical competencies students should be learning in school.

Research shows a startling gap between what business leaders expect of graduates and the reality in the classroom: by 2021, 67 percent of U.S. executives expect to choose job candidates with data skills over those without, but only 23 percent of educators believe their students will graduate with these essential technology and analytical skills.

Educators need tangible resources to build the skills students need to succeed in the current and future workforce. Active-learning activities provide students with practical, hands-on education and engagement key to building their STEM competencies. Whether these activities are done in the classroom or as an after-school program, students lead the learning and gain opportunities to hone their teamwork, delegation, problem-solving, and communication skills.

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Winter Olympics: 5 Rings, 5 Events, 5 Engineering Challenges

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up it’s…”  Olympics time!

~ Sanka Coffie, Cool Runnings

Olympic rings

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?

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Choosing an NGSS Course Pathway: Are You Robert Frost or Yogi Berra?

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

How might we use the 3-D learning vision to inform the NGSS course pathways we seek?

Back in November, I was desperately seeking resources that would reveal the one road that would allow our busy science teachers to deliver NGSS content — and all of its pre and post preparations — effectively and effortlessly to all students. Resources that would reveal the most efficient way to bring the 3-D Learning vision to the classroom.

But, if the 3-dimensions of NGSS are designed to connect science to the lives of students, would it follow that they’re also designed to connect science to the lives of science teachers?

It occurred to me that by actually using the 3-D learning vision, I could inform the very NGSS course pathway I was seeking.

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Practices in Action: Ecobottles as a Model Ecosystem

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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.

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PodcastPodcastSTEAM-ing along with Science

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

In October, Tch Next Gen Squadster Meg Richard was recognized with SmartBrief Education’s monthly Editor’s Choice Content Award for her creative post on how to engage students and STEAM through Halloween with 13 fun and creative lesson ideas.

Listen to Meg talk about her work with Larry Jacobs on Education Talk Radio.

Check out Meg’s Happy Hallow-STEAM post and more:

And be sure to check out the NGSS Deep Dive for more great ideas!

Hello Darkness: Light Bulb Moments for the Longest Nights of the Year

Hello Darkness - Light Bulb Moments for the Longest Nights of the Year

There are many teachers who serve as sources of inspiration in our lives, but the one that we hope to emulate most is undoubtedly Professor Albus Dumbledore, of JK. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

During this hectic holiday season, as the days are shrinking but the pile of grading is not, we cleave to his wise words:

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“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times,

if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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As Gretchen Vierstra recently pointed out, teaching in December can be tough.

Many of us find ourselves at school before the sun makes its grand appearance and are still there long after it quits for the day.

What is it that’s causing the daylight hours to hasten by, providing us additional hours of darkness?

Is there a way to embrace the “Darkside” of the season, while still resisting the negative forces at work?

Whether you’re looking for ways to get students engaged with the darkness around us during this time of year or enamored with the bright lights of the season, here are some tips and tricks to use around the solstice to help students embrace phenomena and enjoy the holiday season.

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KLEWS: Supporting Claims, Evidence & Reasoning

Supporting Claims, Evidence and Reasoning

What are the KLEWS to real learning in the classroom?


In order for the vision of the Framework and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) to be successful, science education cannot be something we only tackle in secondary school. In some ways, it’s easier for us to get buy-in from middle school and high school science teachers, who often have a background in science content. The challenge of supporting elementary classroom teachers, who sometimes lack the same confidence when it comes to science, is critical when it comes to NGSS implementation.

In order to meet this challenge, Urban Advantage (UA) has been working on a pilot program with about 40 New York City classroom teachers, from third through fifth grades. This program, a collaboration between education staff from the American Museum of Natural History, New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Queens Botanical Garden, aims to support these teachers by engaging students in authentic science investigations.

The KLEWS strategy has been a key feature of this work.

teacher using KLEWS strategy

A few years ago, I was sharing with Mary Starr, executive director of the Michigan Mathematics and Science Centers Network, the work I’d been doing around scientific explanations for middle school teachers, referring to the book, Supporting Grade 5-8 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science, by Kate McNeill and Joe Krajcik.

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What's Your Evidence book cover

Mary then asked if I was familiar with the book, What’s Your Evidence?, also by Kate McNeill, along with Carla Zembal-Saul and Kimber Hershberger.

That was how I discovered the KLEWS strategy, a powerful tool to support the Claims-Evidence-Reasoning (C-E-R) work we were already doing in our program.

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So how can teachers begin to use the KLEWS chart right now in their science instruction?

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