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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STEM in Early Learning

STEM in Early Learning Blog Header

When you think about STEM, you might think about high school students doing an egg drop design challenge or middle schoolers building model roller coasters. But even our youngest students are ready to engage in STEM.

In our latest video series, created in partnership with Fairfax Futures, we explore what STEM looks like in early childhood. Young children naturally engage in the scientific method. They observe the world around them, make predictions, try out ideas, and revise their thinking. To help students develop these key concepts, the teachers in these videos present students with developmentally-appropriate math and science activities. They root their lessons in connections to literature and their students’ home lives, asking open-ended questions to help students develop understanding.

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Happy Hallo–STEAM!

Happy Hallow-steam

Halloween can be a scary time of year for educators SmartBrief Ed Choice Award

— candy, costumes, calamity — oh my!

In this season of changing leaves, could it be time to change our mindsets as well? Can we turn the season of “boo” into a season of “oooh” in our classrooms this fall?

Here are some ideas on how to use the crispness of autumn and some tasty candy sensations to sweeten some lessons for your students this Halloween.

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Tch DIY: Build & Tch with Tom Jenkins

Build & Tch with Tom Jenkins

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.

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NGSS: From Theory to Practice

NGSS: From Theory to Practice Video Series

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.

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Video Reflection: Early Engineers

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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.

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Three Ways to Use Virtual Science Notebooks in the Early Grades

Tch Next Gen Science Squad

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.

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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

 


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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!

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