Tag Archives: science

NGSStweeps: A Look Inside NGSS Classrooms

 

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Coming soon, @NGSS_tweeps!

As an educator, I am always curious about how other educators approach lessons, units, content areas, etc. I have never walked away from a peer observation or a student teacher/practicum experience without feeling like I better understood how to improve my own practice. To see how others do things makes it more clear why we do our own practices and find areas where we can continue to grow. I started blogging in my first year teaching to connect with a larger PLN and grow my practice. Blogging is great, but I still want more. I want to see inside the classrooms of those embracing NGSS. It is very vulnerable to share. As reflective practitioners, we are so critical of our own work. So, many of us still stand guarded in sharing our day-to-day adventures in implementing new standards.

 

My friend, Patrick Goff (@BMSscienceteach), has developed an idea for the NGSS community based off of accounts like @biotweeps. This idea will bridge this gap! Accounts like @biotweeps, let the community join in on what is happening in a biologist’s lab/research/field for a week and share in the experience. @NGSS_tweeps aims to do the same for the NGSS community.

I am so excited to support Patrick and others who share their professional experiences to benefit the NGSS community.

No matter where you are in your journey with NGSS, we can all learn from each other. Together, we can grow professionally and improve scientific literacy. Our students will even benefit from participating because they too will enjoy showing what they are DOING because NGSS gives them the skills to THINK and DO like scientists!

Join us in opening the doors on NGSS classrooms and celebrating the journey of implementing NGSS by following @NGSS_tweeps and consider hosting!

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Why NGSS?

 
It’s funny I am just now experiencing this firsthand, but, tonight, I met my first parent that didn’t believe what we were doing in our NGSS classrooms is better. I have talked to many other parents who are so impressed by the changes and wish they had these courses instead of their drill and kill style experiences. Yet, as always, the negative is what I bring home.

So, as I sit here wondering how I failed, if I am doing the right thing by changing so much, I am reminded about the reason I became a teacher. Our system is broken. The way it always has been is not working for many students. Good students, top scorers with great GPAs are arriving in college campuses around the country unprepared. Jobs in high need fields like high tech manufacturing are going unfilled. Students are being left out of science education because of their life experiences and circumstances. Bottom line – what we have been doing is not meeting the need of students or our country. 

I do not believe, however, that I have arrived as an educator or I have it all figured out. But, I believe that I am part of a movement to make changes that improve science education for all students. I am making a difference for the students in my room today and making strides to better prepare students for the ever changing future. I believe in NGSS and I believe we can keep doing better for all students. 

How I Plan to Eat an Elephant Named NGSS

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Change doesn’t come easy for me. I embrace it. I encourage it. I survive it. But it does not come easily.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were in review as I trained to become a teacher and released as I was hired for my first Science teaching position. So, in theory, the standards I am expected to teach have not changed in my career. However, the thinking behind the NGSS is so fundamentally different than how I was taught that I face the same shift as veteran teachers. One benefit I might have is that I am still developing my arsenal of strategies, units, and activities, rather than having to evaluate my favorite “go-tos” for their fit to NGSS.

As I learn more about the NGSS, the more I realize I don’t know. The biggest obstacle seems to be finding consistency with the 3-Dimensional Learning called for by NGSS. Traditionally, the focus has been on the core concepts, now called the Disciplinary Core Ideas. The shift comes as we add 2 more intentional dimensions to Science learning, the Science and Engineering Practices and Cross-Cutting Concepts. As a teacher, I am intimidated by the addition, but as a scientist and learner I am excited by their inclusion.

The practices used by scientists and the interdependence of concepts were only illuminated through my research at the college level. I learned these by doing. In my lab, I was expected to know the content and the connections and perform. Much of the time, I found myself chasing down information to fill the gaps in my education. It is because of this that I am thrilled to give students the opportunity to have these experiences during high school and be able to excel in later endeavors. If I had been taught with the lens provided by NGSS, I know the transition to collegiate research would have been a breeze.

Now, I know very few of my students want to go on to be science researchers, but I also know the approach to learning described by the 3-dimensions is applicable beyond just Science. Being able to ask the questions, define problems, analyze and interpret data/information, identify patterns and cause and effect relationships, are all skills that will further any student as both a citizen and professional.

The complicated part is also the most important part – implementing the necessary changes to accomplish the goals of NGSS. This is my elephant. How am I going to eat this elephant? Same way as any elephant, one bite at a time.

First bite – using the driving questions found in the NGSS Storylines to guide student exploration of scientific phenomena. Gulp.

Here we go!

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New Year, New Educational Technologies

A brand new school year is upon us!

Due to my husband’s job change, I have relocated to the Northern Kentucky area and will be teaching at Boone County High School. My teaching duties now include Integrated Science, Honors Integrated Science, Biology, and Chemistry classes.

I am excited to continue to share with you the implementation of innovative strategies in my classroom. In the upcoming posts, you can expect a description of technologies to be used this year along with follow-up posts on the success of their implementation.

Here are a few teasers!

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Kentucky Literacy Celebration Week

KY First Lady Jane Beshear visits STEAM Academy!In honor of Kentucky Literacy Celebration Week, STEAM Academy hosted Kentucky’s First Lady, Jane Beshear, to share our innovative approach to increasing student literacy. Kerry Hancock, English teacher at STEAM, has implemented a series of steps to shed light on the gaps in student reading abilities and ways to address these findings. Ms. Hancock’s strategies currently include:

  • Reading Groups – much like “grown-up” book clubs
  • Piloting of Quill, Newsela, and ThinkCerca
  • Individual practice reading aloud
  • And our school wide Learning Management System (LMS), Canvas

It has been a privilege teaching with Ms. Hancock, as she is exceedingly willing to share her literacy insights in order to implement a common language regarding literacy across the disciplines.

I recognize that students who struggle with reading are typically uncomfortable with science; but working with Ms. Hancock at STEAM has led me to realize science’s secondary role among core classes. Now, don’t get me wrong here, science is still my favorite and I do not claim to bump it out of core class status. What I do mean is that in order to understand science fully, students must already be proficient in reading, writing, as well as math.

Due to the lottery selection for enrollment at STEAM, we have a wonderful degree of diversity in academic and social backgrounds. While I applaud the diversity and truly believe STEAM is more innovative for selecting this way, it has posed significant complications in meeting the needs of each student. We aspire to accelerate learning as our model school, the Metro School in Columbus, OH, does. However, this means discussing covering entire high school credit courses in one semester while also integrating the Arts and Design Thinking.

Our dream is admirable, but truly raises the question, “How do we meet students where they are, while accelerating them to reach college level courses by their Junior and Senior years?”

In science, for example, students need to be able to analyze informational texts and draw inferences. They also need to be able to work with mathematical equations and graphs of experimental data. When these skills are only rudimentarily developed, the task of teaching students science becomes more of a question of teaching them English and Math literacy with science as the topic.

When this realization finally “clicked”, my perspective on science teaching and how we prepare future science teachers has significantly shifted. Science teachers need to not only be masters of science content and typical educational pedagogy, but also proficient in teaching both English and Math literacy. Then we can change how we teach science across the board and reinforce the work being done in English and Math courses. The common language that Ms. Hancock speaks of can be a reality and the “ah-ha” moments among students can take off.

I have already begun to see the benefits of this approach in my current classes and will strive to find better ways of changing the curricular focus of science to put literacy first.

Put literacy first, and the rest will follow.

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“It takes a lot…

“It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else.”
― Erma Bombeck

I have long been enamored by wonderful teacher blogs that inspire as well as remove the vail on education. Somewhere under my pile of grading, KTIP, and starting a new school, I have been inspired to join their ranks. I hope to share both triumphs and obstacles in my quest to continually innovate for the benefit of student learning.

This is a scary quest for me. Hence, Bombeck’s quote. Hope you will join me in this journey!