Thursday, July 27, 2017

Add Some “WAM” to Your NGSS Models!

***I am so spoiled to get to share this AMAZING guest blog post from two incredibly brilliant instructional coaches.  ENJOY!***

Add Some “WAM” to Your NGSS Models!
Explaining Visual Representations in Writing

Amy Booth and Michelle Peace

Students are spread out in groups across the classroom, gathered around whiteboards, Expo markers in hand. Lively conversations about how to explain represent water moving up a tube echo throughout the room.  Your students are developing a model.  Yah, your instruction hits Science and Engineering Practice #2. Your classroom is so NGSS.   But hold  up...you’re not going to let students stop there.  It’s time to take modeling to the next level-- It’s time to “WAM”.  

Writing About Models, affectionately dubbed WAM, allows students to describe in words what their model visually explain about science phenomena. Students can write about their own model or what they see in other models. Models and their written explanations challenge students to communicate thinking multiple ways. By explaining a model, students summarize and synthesize what they visually explain, deepening their understanding of a phenomenon.  

Creating models is a fundamental component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as students in all grade levels are expected to frequently construct models to predict or explain phenomena through diagrams, 3-D objects, mathematical representations, analogies or computer simulations.  As teachers shift to this deeper and richer view of science, they will be challenged to construct learning experiences for students to model and grapple with how to assess those models.  Teachers also need to consider when and how to have students explain their model in writing.  

Origins of WAM
The inspiration for writing about models was born from shared office space, which is the homebase for seven district instructional coaches.  Although we are typically out at school sites working with teachers and students, creativity and collaboration flourish when four English teachers, two science teachers and one social science teacher share a space roughly the size of a classroom. The science coaches verbalized a need for a writing tool to accompany all of the student generated modeling now featured in our science curriculum.  This need was particularly high for digital badge based assessments in Competency X at Del Lago Academy.  The Literacy coaches from English and social science ran with the idea. Writing About Models (WAM) was conceived, refined and shared with district science teachers to implement in the 2017-18 school year.  

How to WAM
Students need to tailor their writing to the task, audience and purpose of the assignment.  An explanation of a model is different than other writings in science or an essay a student might write in another class.  Not every model will require a written explanation, but when the model is accompanied by a written explanation, consider this criteria:
  • Main Idea - What does the model predict or explain? Clearly identify this to begin the summary.
  • Descriptions - Concisely describe the components (steps, series, pieces. parts) in the model.  Explain why they are important to the model and any relationships between the steps.  Make sure your descriptions follow the same order has the model.  
  • Concluding statement - State the model’s significance or connection to other concepts including any real world applications.
  • Writing Conventions - Write in complete sentences using precise academic language. Use transitional phrases (first, then, finally) when appropriate.

Assessing WAM
Rubrics help students identify the expectations of the writing task and grow their skills with peer and teacher feedback.  Consider adding a writing category to your rubric for assessing the model like this sample:  
TOPIC
4
3
2
1
Writing About Models
Main idea of model is clearly stated.  Descriptions are detailed and complete.  Concluding thoughts explain the model and/or its significance.
Writing is clear and well-organized with appropriate transitions.  No grammar or spelling errors.
Main idea of the model is clear. Descriptions may be incomplete.  Concluding statement somewhat communicates model significance. Writing is mostly clear, transitions contribute to flow or ideas. Few errors.  
Main idea is somewhat unclear.  Descriptions are incomplete.  Concluding statement may be inaccurate.  Writing is not well organized, no transitional phrases. Grammar and spelling errors detract from clarity.  
Main idea is unclear.  Descriptions are inaccurate or incomplete.  Concluding statement is missing or inaccurate. Grammar and spelling errors detract from clarity.

Don’t Forget to WAM
The demands of NGSS are new and exciting, and perhaps a little overwhelming.  As you plan for students to analyze and create models, don’t forget to WAM.  Make sure students can describe and explain their model in writing.  It will improve their communication skills and deepen their understanding of science.



Amy Booth and Michelle Peace are Instructional Coaches for Literacy in the Escondido Union High School District.  They are inspired by NGSS, and enjoy collaborating with district science teachers to strengthen student communication skills.   
Amy Booth: abooth@euhsd.org @1AmyBooth

Michelle Peace: mpeace@euhsd.org @1peacemichelle

Sunday, June 11, 2017

NGSS Science Summer Institute

My forward thinking district was willing to support a Science Summer Institute to provide training for the science teachers on the Next Generation Science Standards and the new curriculum.  Instead of hiring an outside company, they entrusted myself and my coworker to design and implement the 3 day extravaganza.




After much contemplation, we decided on an approach comparable to what we experienced at the amazing teacher institute at the Exploratorium.  Essentially, each morning we would begin the day by diving into hands-on inquiry activities.  We would follow that with minimal direct instruction on specific topics (a bit of sit-and-get) then in the afternoon PLC teams would get unit planning time.  

I have come to realize that because NGSS has huge pedagogical shifts, teachers need to experience them first hand as if they were the student.  So we used the Exploratorium's Sound CUP activity for discourse and modeling and their colored shadows for discourse and experimentation.  If you have not discovered the Exploratorium's Science Snacks, I would strongly encourage checking them out.  AMAZING resources from an AMAZING organization.  LOVE THE EXPLORATORIUM!!!!


We had teachers designing and performing experiments using this template.  Bio teachers had to determine which hand responds the fastest using this siteWe had them white board their data and followed it up with a white board meeting.

Physical science teachers had to manipulate variables associated with cheese making. 

Bio teachers had to draw and refine models to explain why something bubbles when hydrogen peroxide is added to it.  Physical science teachers had to draw and refine a model to explain why water is becoming acidic.  (another Exploratorium Snack)

After lunch each day, professional learning community (PLC) teams came together to develop their first unit.  We used a modified version of the Oakland Unified's unit design picture to provide a visual for HOW a unit should look. (OUSD has some AMAZING material.  They are definitely leaders in rolling out NGSS.  Thank you for making them available).  We gave teachers this template to help them develop their unit plan.



Every night we gave teachers a bit of reading homework from the STEM Teaching Tools.  These tools are irreplaceable for professional development.  They have countless useful links and provide excellent followup questions for teachers to discuss purpose, practice, and implementation.


We spent a bit of time going over the ends-and-outs of engineering (a new standard in NGSS).  Teachers experienced the V-model of systems engineering and HOW that can be easily implemented in the classroom.  We provided everyone with this handout then gave them some time to see where in the curriculum engineering was explicitly called out.  One of my favorite exit tickets from the day can be seen to the right.


The literacy TOSAs in our district were there to support the science teachers in how to implement reading and writing within an NGSS course.  They provided countless strategies from Claim/Evidence/Reasoning to writing about a model, preview statements, reading with a purpose, interactive notebooks.....AMAZING!  


Each day had a fun theme (crazy science t-shirt, dress like an element, mad scientist) and we made sure to have cheesy prizes to hand out as well.  

I was overwhelmed with the high energy and collaborative vibe that pulsated throughout the three days.  These amazing science educators were willing to dive straight into the deep end of educational reform.  Sure, there was some anxiety and concern, but I can honestly say that the team of science educators in my district are the BEST!  The students of this district are so lucky to have such an incredible group of teachers willing to provide a science and engineering experience like none other.  I can't wait to see NGSS being implemented next year.




I would strongly encourage all districts to consider doing a similar summer institute with their science teachers.  We are in the learning process and there is a lot of new learning for teachers with NGSS.    

Sunday, May 21, 2017

When Students Fail (NGSS Style)

I've been in education for over 14 years.  Over that time, I have reflected a lot on my grading practices.  I have analyzed the purpose of homework, tests, projects, gradebook...  I have pondered standards based grading and competency based grading.  I have wondered if the grade in the gradebook truly reflects what students can know and do or is it an artificial number created by a mathematical system that doesn't look at the growth of a students, but rather the summation of events.

Recently my 8th grade son was tasked to build an egg catcher to prevent an egg from breaking.  LOVE THIS TOPIC!  So I asked my son, "Can you explain to me the science behind the egg catcher?"  His response, "I don't know."  So I asked him about forces and impulse, if these terms sounded familiar.  He said, "We've talked about forces."  After an additional twenty minutes of talking about forces and leading to the concept of impulse, it became very apparent that these were topics that they had not covered in class (or maybe my son conveniently forgot).  

Regardless, we looked at the instructions for the egg catcher.  Very typical for this type of project including requirements for the size of the catcher, what could be used to build, as well as what is defined as a broken egg.  But when I saw the grading rubric, my jaw hit the table, and as a parent and teacher I was appalled.

Scoring is based on 3 criteria

  • device built with approved materials
  • device within dimensions
  • egg survives fall
If the device only meets 2 of the 3 criteria, the best grade that can be achieved is a C+.

WHAT the WHAT?!

I just about lost my ever loving mind.  The teacher made it impossible for him to show mastery (if we assume mastery is a B or better) if his egg broke.  Ummmmmmm.


In truth...I really like this teacher.  I respect this teacher and know that this person's heart is in the right place.  This teacher truly attempts to allow kids to have fun with science. Though I don't agree with how this person is assessing my child, I still admire this teacher and am grateful that my son is in the class.  But, this (in my opinion) is a PROJECT without CONTENT.  And in looking at it, the project incorporates only 1 out of the 3 dimensions of NGSS.  

NGSS asks that we have students DOING (science and engineering practices), KNOWING (disciplinary core ideas), and THINKING (crosscutting concepts) about science.  This project is ONLY looking at the DOING of science, and as such, is missing the other two dimensions COMPLETELY.  

You could try to argue with me that there is a core idea and crosscutting concept.  But I would push back by asking, if the other two are present, how are they being assessed via the rubric?

I am going to provide a few scenarios for you to ponder:
  • You are teaching students about alternative energies and you want a student to build a solar car that moves forward. The kid successfully builds that car but it doesn't move.  Has the student failed?
  • Students are learning about forces and they are going to do the classic egg drop experiment.  The kid builds the device to protect the egg, but the egg crack.  Has the student failed?
  • Students are learning about photosynthesis.  A student designs an experiment to determine the effects of sunlight on plants.  After two weeks, they find that the absence of sunlight does not effect the growth of the plant.  Has this student failed?
If this was my class, I would argue that NONE of these kids have failed.  In fact, in all three scenarios, I believe that the students have data to support how not to be effective.  If a student can explain why their project/experiment failed I believe that this is more powerful than a student who was successful but can't explain why.  

The science and engineering practices want to students to argue with evidence, analyze data, construct an explanation...not just build a successful device.  The crosscutting concepts ensure that students are understanding the system they are working in, the energy associated with the experiment, the patterns that emerge from testing.  The disciplinary core ideas allow students to sink their understanding in scientific concepts associated with the course of study.

If a kid only builds an egg catcher, but can't explain how it works (forces, impulse), why it didn't work, linking it to energy associated with the egg as it falls, etc....then what was the purpose of the project?

I was so upset about how this project would be assessed that I wanted to talk to the teacher.  My husband had to talk me off the ledge.  But, how is it that teachers are allowed to assess like this?  I wonder, if we had the opportunity to talk about assessment, would I be considered a parent who is only looking for her kid to get an A, or a professional who is wishing to discuss the pedagogy behind the assessment practice?  I don't know, but I would encourage all science teachers to consider their assessment practices.  How do kids show what they can do and what they know?

BACK to the egg drop project:  Though I know the ends-and-outs of impulse, I merely helped my son build his egg catcher, answering questions and letting him test about 10 of the household eggs.  His device looked super cool.  He used ziploc bags partially full of air within a wooden box that he built, all of it held in place with a plastic mesh.  I was really proud of his design, prototyping and experimentation.  Was he successful on test day?  According to the teacher's rubric, no, his egg broke.  

I patted my son on the back and said, "Sorry kiddo.  You're device was really cool."  

His response, "Well, mom, the air was cold that morning, so my ziploc air bags deflated because the molecules were moving slower, not spread out.  I should have checked to see if they still had enough air in them.  Oh well." 

He might have only scored a C+ on the teacher's rubric, but my son earned an A in my book.

Teachers, as we roll into this amazing 3D learning of NGSS, it is absolutely critical that we assess fairly and not hold students hostage for criteria that WE deem are most important.  If the purpose of science is to explain and understand our world through exploration, then we need to allow students to do that, even if their projects fail.

I haven't perfected the ability to design 3D assessments, but I am getting better.  I have found that the StemTeachingTools are VERY useful resources for educators.  

Maybe, if we assess students fairly, they will stop thinking that science is hard, but rather that science is FUN!

I don't blame my son's teacher.  This person is an excellent educator and my son has learned a lot.  I would even challenge that this one project is not indicative of the overall experience my son had in the class.  But it does serve as a perfect example for why 3D learning is absolutely necessary.  I am grateful that NGSS will allow all of us to grow as educators.  It will make me much more mindful of how learning is assessed in my classroom.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

NSTA 2017

NSTA 2017 was in Los Angeles and oh boy, it was a hit.  I will attempt to highlight some of my favorite sessions below.  My focus this year was primarily on assessment.  I really wanted to find good resources for how to ensure we know how to assess our students fairly  as we begin to implement NGSS in the classroom. 

This was my first session I attended this year.  Kevin Anderson (Wisconsin Science Education Consultant) @wisdpiscience  led us on a short journey to discuss what a system of NGSS assessment might look like for a school:  formative, summative, benchmark, other elements.  He stressed the need to make sure that assessment ties back to our vision.  We did a fun activity where we had to take data and generate a model from it. 

I totally love my model.  HEHEHEHEHE

He shared with us an idea of competency based grading and shared about the next generation storylines that help teachers bundle performance expectations and put them into a coherent progression for student learning.  SUPER COOL!  Kevin told us that rubrics are a learning progression and should NOT have the terms like NEVER, SOME, or ALWAYS.   I will have to go back and look at the rubrics I have created.

Kevin has a blog, which I will now be following, and he shared one in which he wrote about using students surveys as an assessment piece.  I have linked that one HERE.

Overall, Kevin's session was really awesome and was the perfect way to start NSTA 2017.


miniOne System

I have been looking for an electrophoresis system that might be useful for teachers in my district.  When I say useful I mean:  user friendly, quick, not a lot of setup, no dangerous chemicals, not dangerous to students, etc.  What I found with the miniOne system is that this system is AWESOME!  If I was teaching biology, I would want this simple set up in my class.  We poured, loaded and ran a gel in sixty minute session.  INCREDIBLE!!!!! 

Classroom Assessment and the NGSS

Heidi Schweingruber did a great job of sharing with us what assessment could look like in the NGSS classroom:  multiple components, progressive nature of learning, include an interpretive system for evaluating a range of students products.  There is a new book, Seeing Students Learn Science, published by the National Academies Press.  You can download the pdf for free at the link!!!!  I'm so gonna read this bad boy.  THANKS HEIDI!

Admittedly, crosscutting concepts are an area I struggle with.  I know what they are and I know they are important, but I've been struggling as a teacher to see HOW they can be used.  Thus, I really wanted to go to this session.  And Peter A'Hearn rocked it!!!!   He showed us how you can kinda categorize the CCC.


He gave us this quote from Henri Poincare:  Science is built up of facts, as a house is with stones. But a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.

We know that CCC are how scientists think but Peter led us to realize that crosscutting concepts set up the CONTEXT for HOW scientists ask the right questions.  We could design questions for our students OR we could show our students and have them ask questions based on the CCC.  AWESOME!  Peter has a website where he has free handouts and posters for CCC to be used in the classroom.

THANK YOU PETER!!!!  Amazing session.
Leena Bakshi, EdD (@leena219) and Mena Parmar (@menaparmar) had an energetic session on getting gets talking in the science classroom.  They provided us with some fun strategies, having us practice them. 

Though they were all excellent ideas, I think I really enjoyed the think-pair-share with a twist.  They had think-write-pair-write-share-write.  REALLY like this! 
Thanks ladies!!!!  Very fun and great way to end the day!

CHALLENGE BASED LEARNING UNITS INCORPORATING ENGINEERING DESIGN
David Vernot with the University of Cincinnati shared with us a searchable database of Science and Math Engineering Project.  Can't wait to go through this to find amazing projects for ours students to experience.  Woohoo!  Thanks David...you just made my search for engineering so much easier.


SCIENCE vs ENGINEERING?
I led a session this year on science vs engineering, explaining how they are similar and different and how they fit into the classroom. I was super excited to see a decent amount of people show for this 8:30 am session and super pumped to be able to share this at the National conference.  WOOT!!!!  I've written this blog before for those who are interested.

Grading in a 3 Dimensional Classroom
Jim Clark (@sci_innovations) and Samantha Johnson rocked this session.  They had us evaluate the purpose of grades, digging into what is a formative vs summative assessments.  They shared this idea of a chef cooking a meal and as they cook they taste to make sure they are on the right track (formative) but once they have finished the dish they serve it for the guests to enjoy (summative).  LOVE THIS ANALOGY.  

They suggested competency based grading using the scale.  They explained that even though they grade everything on a 1-4 scale, the only grade that really counts is the summative assessment in the end.  In theory, if the formative assessments do their jobs and there is learning progression, a student will be able to show mastery of the content in the end.

In the end Jim and Samantha said that whatever grading system we use, it CANNOT cancel out hope.  I couldn't agree more.  Great stuff!!!

ADVANCED STUDENT THINKING THROUGH INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS with NGSS
Jennifer Weibert did an excellent job sharing with us how to use interactive notebooks in an NGSS class.  She indicated there are three things that must be present for students to learn using their notebook:  COLOR, PICTURES, TEXT.  YES!!!!!

She showed us some student exemplars and they were really nice.  She stressed the need for students to have the same assignment on the same page in their notebook and this is for the purposes of ease of grading.  This would be the only thing I would consider doing different...because sometimes kids just need more space and if they have a table of contents then you can identify where that material is located.

She also shared that if you start your unit with a phenomena, they can do this really cool strategy of building meaning around the essential questions of the unit.  They put those questions in the center of the page in a light bulb, and as they start building knowledge to answer those questions they add it to that page citing where in their notebook they found that information (kinda like a giant concept map).  I absolutely LOVE this idea!!!!



I did another workshop with some of my amazing coworkers on HOW WE MADE our FIRST NGSS CLASS.  It was a hit and I loved sharing our work with other teachers.  I am so spoiled to work with such an incredible group of dedicated educators.

From another session I picked up  little tidbit that made my day.  It was the ACT college readiness standards.  Basically, it is the evidence I need to show teachers when they ask, "How do we know if NGSS will prepare kids for college?"  An amazing find!!!!


I went to a bunch of other amazing sessions, but to write about all of them would take me all night, and I am now officially tired.   The guys from San Francisco Unified....and your water bottle flip phenomena....LOVED IT!  SFUSD has got it together!

I got to hang out with Exploratorium Teacher Institute Team.  If you are a teacher and haven't check them out, then you are truly missing out.  I want to be like these science rock stars when I grow up!!!!!  They have figured out how to deliver phenomena in spades.  If you go the NSTA Conference site, make sure you pull up the resources from their sessions.  Lori, Zeke, Erik, Tammy and Julie....y'all are my science heroes!

I want to thank NSTA for putting on a great conference and thank all the presenters for the dedication to science education and students.  If my colleagues were unwilling to share, I would not be able to learn from them.

NSTA was amazing this year.  I got to meet a lot new people, hang out with old friends and coworkers, LEARN a bunch of new strategies, engage in amazing experiences and for the first time, present at the NATIONAL conference.  NSTA 17 will go down in history for me as AWESOME-SAUCE.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Exploratorium Day 3

Exploratorium Day 3:  Amazoids.

You would have thought that day 3 couldn’t beat day 1 or 2, but these days just keep on getting better. 

We started the day with an extremely engaging graphing activity that can be found HERE.  Basically we were given parts of information at told to make a graph but NOT label the graph.  Then, each group had to hang up their graphs around the room and we were given a list of scenarios.  We then had to GUESS what their graph was about based off the shape of their graph and the scenario.  So AWESOME.


We followed that up by going down on the Exploratorium floor and participating in a class rotational inertia activity.  But WHAT CAME NEXT MADE ME SO DAMN HAPPY!!!!!!  We generated d-t, v-t and a-t graphs using tape and our measurements.  THOUGH, we didn’t actually plot data points.  We just used tape…this is such an amazing and visual way to create and visibly represent these graphs.  This makes me graphy happy!



We then got to pick one of four small group topics to investigate how to NGSS-ify a lesson.  The Exploratorium Teacher’s Institute has a tool that can be used to do this and it is fairly simple to use.  I picked the SEED GERMINATION group.  We found a way to use CD cases to germinate radish seeds and how to store them in a plastic shoe box.  The team of teachers and I then identified different ways to take this simple experimental design and chatted about how to use this in a NGSS activity. 



We finished off the day in the tactile dome…a dark, huge dome in which you have to feel your way around in order to get out.  SUPER fun.  Super engaging.  Super tactile.  And the Exploratorium offered this activity to use for free.  EPIC!

Oh…and we got a behind the scenes tour of their maker space to build the exhibits.  HOLY DRILL PRESS AND METAL WORKING!  It was like a geeks garage of sunshine and joy.  It was Home Depot on ‘roids. 

The Exploratorium has provided some seriously thought provoking activities that makes me want to dig in deeper.  This has led to unbelievable conversations with these rock star teacher leaders that has been much needed and irreplaceable.  Hearing where everyone is in regards to NGSS implementation, how they tackling this, what their processes are, concerns, successes, tools and issues has been absolutely priceless.

Since we started this process in my district nearly 3 years ago, lots of resources have been made and some of them have been vetted.  But sometimes I feel like I am a lone pioneer having to invent and find my way through the uncharted jungles of NGSS.  But the Exploratorium Teacher Institute has been an excellent tour guide and my fellow classmates have jumped in this expedition fearlessly.

My brain is fried, my stomach is full of delicious seafood, and my legs are tired from walking but I am still super stoked to see what the Exploratorium has planned for us tomorrow.

 



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Exploratorium Day 2

Exploratorium…Day 2…OMG…awesome

Can I tell you how awesome it is to be at the Exploratorium (where pi day started) on pi day!!??!??!?!?!?!?!  An amazing and uniquely exciting experience is an understatement.

We started this awesome day by experiencing some more fun on the Exploratorium floor.  Lori led us through an amazing process of discovering how colored lights produce shadows and when added together make white light.  Now, I’ve been teaching physics for a few years now, and to go through the process that she led us through to experience the colored lights was FAN-DAMN-TASTIC! 
The team at the Exploratorium has mastered the ability to get teachers thinking.  Some of their favorite questions:


  •  WHAT DO YOU NOTICE?   So simple, yet so elegant, in its approach to engaging the learner in deeper understanding and digging into prior knowledge.
  • How do you know what you know?  (This will literally drive people to finding their evidence to support their claim)

Tammy then led us on a thought provoking journey with an age old classic:  pressure demonstration.  But her demo was cooler!  You can see it here.  Through a series of activities, that can be found here, Tammy and Zeke expertly crafted our ability to dive into deeper pedagogical practices to engage students learners in discourse, modeling, reflecting, experimenting, etc. 

We then experienced PI DAY!  The Exploratorium does a hike around the pier and those who wish to participate are given a number within the pi sequence….and we marched, in order, in a pi parade.  IT WAS AWESOME!  Upon completion, the Exploratorium gives everyone a piece of PIE!  OMG!  And, btw, pi day is free at the Exploratorium.  What an amazing way to share geeky science with the community and get people stoked about STEM!  Just so you know I was the #4 that is 61 numbers into pi.  hehehehe


As a group we walked up to COIT tower then kicked it with some cold ones and reflected on best practices, strategies, uh ohs, ahas and OMGs! 

I have met the most amazing group of educators here.  These people are dedicated to their crafts AND they are some serious leaders in science education, not only in California, but I would say across the US.  These teacher leaders are innovators, strategizers, implementors, educators, rock stars, collaborators.  I can’t even come up with enough terms for them.  My science teacher brain hurts but I want to seek out more information. 

My biggest take aways today:
  • ·        Teachers need to experience phenomena (of a topic they aren’t as comfortable with) to see first hand how the process works
  • ·        Discourse is an ABSOLUTE must if we want students make meaning around their learning. This means that teachers have to have a deep, conceptual understanding of their content in order to facilitate this discussion.
  • ·        Finding good anchoring phenomena to introduce a concept/activity/unit is critical
  • ·        Developing professional development that can empower teachers to implement NGSS has to be mindful and thoughtful (this is going to be fast for some and slow for others)
  • ·        A MODEL should include:

o   What you know
o   What you saw
o   What you think

My FAVORITE phrase of the day came from Zeke.  “Obvious is the opposite of interesting.”  YES!  ABSOLUTELY!


This was a pretty amazing day.  I can’t wait for Day #3.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Exploratorium Day 1

Day 1 at the Exploratorium = AWESOME

I am in sunny, yes sunny, San Francisco to participate in the Teacher Leader Network Institute at the amazing Exploratorium.  And MAN!  I can’t say how excited I am to be here.  The Exploratorium is like Heaven sprinkled with awesomeness for science geeks.  You can play with the exhibits to experience science first hand.  I learned today is that the Exploratorium is NOT the Explainatorium.  They truly seek to allow the observer to experience the science and create meaning from their experience.

This Institute has brought together science teacher leaders throughout the state of California with 4 goals in mind:
  •        Create a professional home for this learning community
  •        Spend time each day engaging as a learner, teacher and leader
  •        Provide time and resources for us to advance our work with teachers and students
  •        Identify what supports are needed in the implementation of NGSS

You want to talk about a way for science teachers to geek out…put them in a building with amazing toys of science happiness, give them the opportunity to play and talk about how best to create quality learning for students…and MAN are we satisfied customers!

Already I’ve met some amazing people, had some incredible conversations and the Exploratorium education team.  These trainers are true professionals who know how to craft a learning experiencing for educators that is insightful, engaging, reflective and models EXCELLENT practice.

Tammy, Lori and Zeke are some of my newest favorite science geeks!  You guys have made my NGSS day.

We started the day investigating some kick butt phenomenon at the museum using their simple yet super cool displays.  They had us questioning, experimenting, engaging in exciting conversation and pushed our thinking.

We took time as a team to really reflect on what makes excellent phenomena and why that phenomena is powerful for learners.  They modeled for us how to deliver that phenomena in an elegant fashion.  That phenomena can be found HERE as well as the resource to bring it into your classroom.  This engaging activity is PERFECT for biology or physics classes or as a simple and fun activity to get students thinking like scientists. 

They also had a really cool sound cup activity that we did.  You can read how to do this activity in your classroom HERE!  This is like an amazing first week activity to do with students. It’s fun, gets them talking and thinking and using their senses.  I had a blast doing it and it is really something that any teacher can do from k-12.

BTW:  The Exploratorium has a bunch of FREE resources for teachers to use called SCIENCE SNACKS!  This makes me so happy!  Thank you Exploratorium.  You are epic.

We then took some time as a group to identify what key components need to be in place to ensure effective implementation of NGSS?  Man…that is a powerful question.  Where to begin?  I had a pretty profound list but I think the following sums it pretty well:
  •        Professional development
  •       Curriculum
  •       A clearly stated Vision
  •       How to assess NGSS (from the course to students learning)
  •       Community connections
  •       Stuff ($ to support the transition…equipment)

We also got to pick 1 of 5 areas of focus for afternoon breakout groups.  I chose resources.  And boy howdy did I pick a fantastic topic to work with an equally fantastic group of educators and leaders.  I’m in a group with the amazing Jenna (@mrsJennaRodgers) who is just a firecracker of content and ideas.  We are going to create a resource link for educators to use.  Basically, we are going to compile all the usable websites and resources that we have found and make them searchable.  Sure, it’s a big task…but I’m pretty sure that this group of passionate educators can do anything we put our minds to.

So, something super amazing happened when I got back to the hotel.  I realized that on of my twitter friends (yes, that is a thing) is at the Institute.  And, seriously, this chick is amazing!  @AllieBBogart is a twitter phenom, just like Jenna.  Both of them are continually posting and sharing excellent resources and insight.  So glad I got to meet you in real life!!!! No longer just Twitter friends.  Hehe

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring (actually, I do because they gave us an agenda) but I am super excited.  I will say that my biggest take away from today has been that I am not alone in this NGSS journey.  There are others and the Exploratorium helping me connect with them.  WOOHOO!