End the Torture of Science Fairs

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Yellow, trifold Science Fair poster that reads, "How Much Turmoil Does the Science Project Cause Families?"As a classroom teacher, I used to require all of my fourth and fifth grade students to complete a formal science fair presentation following the scientific process with a tri-fold board and a classroom competition. I made it a big deal and organized many school-wide science fairs with elaborate themes and events. My intent was to get students and our community engaged and excited about science.

When my own children started participating in science fairs, I learned that my actual impact looked a little less like engagement and excitement, and a little more like torture — for the whole family! I was definitely not my best parenting self while trying to coerce my own children to finish their projects, and I realized that it’s time for a science fair revolution.

Check out this hilarious article by Susan Messina, creator of the turmoil project.

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Time for A Shift

The shift from a strict adherence to the scientific process to the Science and Engineering Practices should be reflected in our school science events. There are eight practices and only one of them is Planning and Carrying Out Investigations.

It’s time to broaden our view of a science fair, just like we’ve broadened our definition of the practices.

The “scientific method” makes science into a series of rigid steps — and can lead students to disengage. In contrast, the Science and Engineering Practices highlight how science is a highly social, creative, and iterative problem-solving process, involving a variety of different kinds of intellectual work.

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Tch Video Lounge: KLEWS for Learning Science Vocabulary

Tch Video Lounge 2.0 - Watch. Learn. Interact.

Looking for a fun way to learn with colleagues? Come and check out Tch Video Lounge, where you can watch, interact, and discuss videos with the rest of the Teaching Channel community. We have over thirty videos in the lounge, with topics ranging from new teachers to instructional coaching.

In our latest installment, Bringing a KLEWS Chart to Life, we focus on science and visit a third grade classroom in Queens, New York that is engaged in NGSS instruction and learning. The video clip comes from our recently launched series, KLEWS: Supporting Claims, Evidence & Reasoning.

Teacher in front of her class, pointing at a KLEWS chart.

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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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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!

KLEWS: Supporting Claims, Evidence & Reasoning

Supporting Claims, Evidence and Reasoning

What are the KLEWS to real learning in the classroom?

Dora:

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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Let’s Talk Turkey! Transfer of Energy and Thanksgiving

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

Kathy's Third Graders doing project on floor

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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