Science Education – Who Is Responsible?

I am engaged in my own after school learning community, surrounding science through the grades. We are aware that the sand is shifting beneath us in that our state has not yet adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. The “older” standards are still in play for many teachers in our school but the real meat of the topics, including things like who will teach simple machines and forces of motion, are up for discussion. As a result, too many things are not explored or taught at all. How can a student reach fifth grade without having developed thinking deeply about the water cycle in a growing scientific way?

What attracted me to the NGSS conversations years ago was the way they are viewed in a somewhat different way, or maybe it’s just that their organization speaks to my logical-mathematical thinking anyway.

There are three ways to view the standards:

View the NGSS in Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) Arrangements

View the NGSS in Topic Arrangements

View and Search the NGSS performance expectations individually

Kindergarten children are expected to explore and then integrate the learning in other ways. With a science-based curriculum, I am able to revisit our learning over the course of the year. Rather than planning a 2-week unit on weather, I can roll back to weather over time, and apply it to seasons, patterns in our universe, the changing angle of the sun over the course of the year, animals and their habitat and adaptations, careers, pets, the needs of all living things etc. I view science through its web design, as all of life is interconnected. This allows students to think more deeply, more personally, and to do that over and over again as new concepts are developed and connections are made.

Should we ask teachers to only teach specific topics? I know that some teachers get deflated because an earlier grade teacher “did butterflies” so her class is now bored. Where is the student and educator passion in that plan? My students want to bring things in from home that are outside of any assigned topic list. I love all of science and I know my class is crazy about all of the science work we do.

I don’t have a Steve Spangler kind of program. Those things can often cost money. I try to avoid that. There are tons of things that can have long-lasting value though and they are worth the investment. Seed packets and soil will give us weeks and months of learning. A pack of Mentos and a 2L bottle of soda, while a snazzy performance, is not likely to create lifelong learning on gases.

I love all of science and I know my class is crazy about all of the science work we do.  Right now, we are rocking simple machines and designing leprechaun traps. Our plants are on the windowsill and in the snowbank outside the window. The sun is higher in the sky and snow is melting. Our classroom pets continue to educate us about their lives. The duck eggs will arrive next month and we will be back to looking at animals, seasons, water cycle, vernal pools, and habitats with our friend from the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation.

We cannot avoid these topics as life and learning cycles on and finds its own pattern of change.

Thanks for listening to this rambling reflection. It’s my process for making better sense of my thinking.


Being a Part of Classroom 2.0 Learning

It was a pretty big thrill for me to be invited, along with my peer teacher Kevin Hodgson, to present a session on Hour of Code at one of the Classroom 2.0 Live programs on Saturday morning/afternoon. Special thanks go to my wonderful friend Maureen Tumenas for thinking of us as a team.

Hour of Code is coming up this week so it seemed an apt time to fire everyone up for the learning adventure.

While I am a veteran of the Blackboard Collaborate webinar platform, it is still a big deal for me to present to others in the education field. Having Kevin to lead the way in our planning and preparation made the job a lot easier and he helped to fuel my energy and enthusiasm for the session. It was an important piece in my own development as an educator, a piece that I usually shy away from.

Classroom 2.0The co-hosts Peggy George, Lorie Moffat, and Tammy Moore are incredibly organized and proficient in keeping this weekly series pumping out fresh new teaching and learning program ideas. Once the session enters the archive, you can access the recording here. The YouTube link to the recording is here.

I’d say the session went pretty well. There were some wonderful contributions made by participants in the chat window and also using the whiteboard and mic.  I have to give a nod to the experts in computer science education, including tech integrations specialists, for really getting a handle on how to deliver the goods across multiple grade levels. I like the way things are going in my kindergarten classroom now and  I look forward to continued learning with an even wider group of educators.

Thanks  Classroom  2.0!    You  rock!

#HourOfCode 2014

Are you ready to rock the world? You can do that by getting a little bit of coding time into your school day. There are tons of excellent resources to harvest and the future is in desperate need of computer science majors, especially females!.

I attended a training in Worcester this weekend and found a wealth of information to add to my repertoire.  Our exit ticket was thinking of a plan to share our learning with other educators. That’s why I am sharing this post on my reflection blog and encouraging folks to join in the fun.

  • I don’t have the equipment: sign up for the equipment whenever you see an opening. Don’t feel obligated to stay within the Dec. 8-14 schedule – really! Don’t forgot there are unplugged activities that activate the same thinking.
  • We don’t have the bandwidth: at times of heavy use, you may run into trouble but by and large it works.
  • I just don’t feel confident that I can troubleshoot tech issues: the cool thing is you have the experts sitting right in front of you. The students have an abundance of experience and want to help. Be honest about your concerns and enlist student support early on.
  • The batteries drain so fast: they sure do, so you may have to rotate equipment in and out as well as find a way to stay plugged in at work stations.
  • I don’t want to do this alone: then enlist a peer to collaborate. Students often do these activities together and learn even more.

10,000,000 students are expected to participate this year!

Did you know that many activities are unplugged?  Yes indeed!

That means that when all the equipment is reserved by other teachers, you can still include some code thinking, without the use of technology. Below you’ll find the link to sign up for this international project. No pressure, do what you can, when you can. While the hour of code officially takes place December 8-14, you can tackle the challenges whenever. You can even print up certificates for your students at the end.

This is where you sign up for Hour of Code.

Here are some elementary courses to consider. Click right on the images of the courses to open the sites.

Course 1 is designed for early readers probably K-1.

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Course 2 is designed for students who can read, probably grades 2-5.

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 Course 3 is a follow-up to Course 2 and probably best used in grades 4-5.

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Here’s a Symbaloo webmix I have been working on with a number of different code related games.

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Connected Educator Month 2014 #CEM

Getting up earlier now and then allows me some time to dig into the material I am connected with daily via email, Twitter, and RSS. Today, I spotted a post on one of my favorite blogs The Edublogger, inviting everyone to expand their PLNs.

While I can say with confidence my PLN feels pretty healthy, I know that there are an infinite number of possibilities for my own learning and that can and does happen via new connections. The reason my PLN feels so healthy is due in great measure to the exercises and challenges I have pursued via The Edublogger and other groups.I look forward to the weekly challenges and will continue to explore the #CEM website for new thinking, teaching, and learning ideas.

Some of the other places I am connecting through during Connected Educator Month are:

I have already written about the ConnectedCourses challenge, next I will invite my PLN to join the Hour of Code movement.


Science ~ Add More Inquiry!

class numbers tweet.pngScience – it’s what drives me as an educator. There is an interesting game on Facebook where you answer questions and it pumps out the career you are most suited for. It’s not the first time I have been told I should work in the sciences. My pre-college assessments pointed in the same direction. When I couldn’t get a teaching job right after college in the glutted market, I went back to school to become an LPN. The field felt right at home for me.

body_of_water_tweetIt is no surprise that now that I am nestled in the field of education that my focus is shared with the sciences. Marrying the two fields has helped me make sense of the way I need to operate in educating young children. Not only can I think, talk, and otherwise share my passion for science but I can integrate it nicely into the other domains for learning.

sept vernal pool 011The past year’s science based curriculum was very rewarding. Now I want to take the next step in the journey, making the learning even more inquiry based. You can read a lot on the subject here at Science For All and here from Purdue.

Where is the change from what I have done in the past? It is in the importance of pulling the areas of study from the children. I have a full spreadsheet of topics and activities that you may be able to view here. What I want to do though is to find out what and how the children want to explore and share the generation of learning activities and projects from that learning path. It will be rather easy to guide them into areas I have lots of prep done already but I want to be more open to new thinking, new questions, and new science in action. As a logical-mathematical learner, I see patterns all over. That is what makes it easier to use what we can do now in creating new activities and explorations. Math and science play into patterns beautifully.

At the end of this past school year, we had time for one more project. After much discussion, the students and I decided to create a unit on Space. It may have been the richest experience of the year with tons of sharing between students. The materials available online and in the school library are tremendous!

So let’s see how this year rolls out. We can start the year under the umbrella of studying seasons and apples but where that study takes us might be quite different. Inquiring minds want to know…  well, we want to know everything!