Understanding the Intermingling of Engineering and Life Sciences (and How Best to Teach It)

For engineers to design and make the systems and devices all of us depend on in our daily lives, they need scientific and mathematical knowledge. Simultaneously, scientists benefit from engineering advances evident in the devices, instruments, and processes they use to test and understand the natural world.

Project Infuse, a National Science-funded project, has been exploring the complex and interdependent relationship between science and engineering to help physical science teachers enrich their teaching and learning with engineering design projects and other real-world applications. Some of the logistical challenges this project revealed were selecting and designing appropriate classroom activities; managing projects which required group work as well as multiple solutions to problems; and the need for new assessments and pedagogies.

So a team of five experts (Rodney Custer, Jenny Daugherty, Julia Ross, Katheryn Kennedy and Cory Culbertson) came together to write Engineering in the Life Sciences, 9-12, a compendium of teacher resources, engineering-infused life science lessons, and assessment tools, all of which were pilot tested with real students in a real classroom.

The book’s content is spread across six chapters, beginning with an overview of how engineering fits into life science education.

Chapter 2 offers six engineering-infused life science lessons which Project Infuse teachers deemed the most important components of the book. Each lesson includes a comprehensive list of core elements: an overview;  goals; assessment criteria; recommendations on when the lesson should be taught within a unit; a content outline; needed materials; resources; time recommendations for each stage of the lesson; instructional sequence; differentiation options; research on student learning; connections to the Common Core State Standards; source references; engineering and live science rubrics; and a matrix for lesson development and assessment.

Chapter 3 focuses on the practicality of delivering engineering design challenges and projects in science classrooms, beginning with the rollout (setting the stage), moving into ideation (guiding students toward good design), prototyping, and wrapping up.

Assessment (both summative and formative) is the focus of Chapter 4, which explores the implications for assessment under the NGSS and describes practical classroom issues and tools.

Chapter 5 offers additional lesson ideas across a broad range of interesting topics such as bio-security, green city design, invasive species control, next-generation prosthetics, and unnatural selection.

“The intent of this chapter is to plant some seeds of ideas that teachers may wish to develop into lessons,” according to the authors.

The book’s final chapter presents five engineering case studies to ignite classroom conversations around how engineering was used to find a solution to a real-world problem or opportunity. The examples were deliberately selected to span a range of science and engineering fields and can be used:

  • To introduce students to engineering concepts (constraints, design, systems, and/or tradeoffs);
  • As a starting point for a larger research assignment; and/or
  • To spark student conversation to open-ended questions.

“In our work with science teachers and students, discussion of these as studies have provided a starting point to view and understand something of how engineering works in a variety of real-world situations, and we trust that others will find them equally useful,” explained the authors.

High school life science educators who are seeking teacher-tested and classroom-ready resources will find this book contains a treasure trove of fresh ideas. Ready to learn more? A free chapter is available, and the book is also available as an ebook.

Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon


Posted in NSTA Press Books | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Investigation and Design: Aligning Secondary Science to What is Best

Take a look at this short video from my high school chemistry class:


Now ask yourself, were you surprised by my choice to use ice to reboil the water?  What did you feel when you watched that event?   Were you curious about why that event could take place?  Did you have your own unique questions you wanted answered?  

If so, your experience is similar to the findings from the recent report from the National Academy of Sciences on what middle school and high school science students should experience when learning science and engineering.  Students want to ask THEIR OWN questions AND solve real problems THEY SEE in their own communities.

As teachers, we know that Science is fundamentally based on asking questions about one’s surroundings and about seeking answers to questions that resonate with an individual scientist. 

Investigation and design are the very activities that students need most in order to optimize science learning as well as to motivate them to explore and persist in STEM career pathways.

However, as the report points out, few middle and high school science teachers have truly experienced this type of investigation-based science themselves  and have minimal to no experience from which to draw upon to design these types of learning experiences for students.  Even fewer teachers have experience with authentic engineering design and problem solving. 

This gap between teachers’ learning experiences and research-based recommendations on how students will best learn creates an urgent need for action by all STEM education stakeholders to:

1) Profoundly change how science teachers’ professional learning is funded, designed, delivered, and evaluated for effectiveness;

2) Innovatively create new models of STEM teacher roles (policy making, state and local curriculum development, and assessment design) to better utilize teachers with investigation and design experience without removing them completely from the classroom setting;

3) Strategically invest in the development of Open Education Resources by states (OER can be shared by ALL teachers throughout the country) that provide students with strong investigation and design experiences at the middle school and high school level.

Teachers need help to make this shift to investigation and design focused science learning.   I like to use the analogy of teachers to surgeons.  Who do you want operating on you?  Do you want a practicing surgeon or someone who hasn’t been in an operating room for 10 years?   Likewise, who is best positioned to train surgeons on new surgical techniques–a current surgeon or someone who hasn’t been in an operating room for 10 years?

Why would it be different for teachers?  Teaching is a rapidly changing profession that requires multiple levels of simultaneous decision making analogous to the training and re-training demands found in surgical medicine. We need to create new infrastructures to capitalize on the expertise of excellent teachers without removing them completely from the teaching practice.  

In addition, how many surgeons design their own surgical instruments or pharmaceutical tools to fulfill their job requirements?  In contrast, most science teachers are forced to design their own tools (create learning sequences/curriculum, write or secure learning activities, identify new scientific findings that students should learn) as well as their own medicines (formative and summative assessment tools) all while learning about and servicing the individual needs and interests of over 100+ students on a daily basis.  

Schools, districts and states must do better at providing the learning resources and assessment tools teachers need to create investigation and design-focused science classrooms for ALL middle and high school students in our country, regardless of zip code or ethnicity.

Our country’s security and global competitiveness depends upon us making this shift to ensure that ALL students learn science through investigations and design activities.

Editor’s Note: This presentation was part of a Senate briefing on the  National Academy of Sciences report Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center hosted by NSTA and the STEM Education Coalition; details on that event here.

Bruce Wellman currently teaches high school students chemistry and engineering design at the Olathe Public Schools’ Engineering Academy at Olathe Northwest High School in Olathe, Kansas. He is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher (Adolescent and Young Adulthood Science, Chemistry) since 2006, a 2009 Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Math & Science Teaching (PAEMST),  and is active on several professional organization committees: the American Society for Engineering Education Board of Directors’ Committee on P12 Engineering Education and various committees at the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  He served as a reviewer for the NAS report Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center.

Posted in NSTA Reports | Tagged | Leave a comment

What Role Does the Teacher Play in Guiding Investigation and Design?

As a member of the committee charged with revising America’s Lab Report, I’ve often been asked the question, why are we updating recommendations now? The reason is simple: we know a lot more now about how students learn science and engineering, and how teachers can support students as they engage in science investigations and engineering design. As the committee wrote the report, we kept in mind the need to provide resources and information for teachers about how to guide and support their students.

Other NSTA blogs have already summarized the shifts in the roles of the students and teachers when investigation and design are at the center of student learning of science and engineering. The report builds on new research that shows that when we start with compelling questions that grow out of students’ everyday experiences, students actually learn more deeply, and in ways that they don’t when we focus on just concepts alone that are not connected to their everyday lives.

This is a dramatic shift in what science classrooms look like. Previously, science learning was often linear, with science laboratories placed in sequences of instruction that included lectures, discussions in which teachers asked initiating questions, students responded, and teachers evaluated those responses (also called IRE discussions), reading textbooks, and taking tests.

In the report, and based on this new research, we rethink and reposition student and teacher activity so that activities are all organized around and supporting the investigations and design. Kids are asking the questions, participating in sensemaking discussions, and engaging in arguments, among other activities (see Figure 4-1 from the report).

We know from research that these kinds of learning experiences are most effective when students are provided with thoughtful guidance and facilitation from their science teachers. These learning environments are not simply ‘hands-on,’ but go much farther. They involve the careful and mindful guidance of the teacher to help students make meaning of the evidence they are collecting in class, to share and argue their ideas, and to revise those ideas as they learn.

To support teachers as they learn to support students in this way, the report provides a number of resources to make explicit the things that teachers can do as students engage in investigations and design in middle and high school classrooms. Chapter 5 is entitled “How Teachers Support Investigation and Design,” and includes rich descriptions of what teachers can do to guide and support students as they make sense of phenomena, gather and analyze data and information, construct explanations and design solutions, communicate reasoning to self and others, and connect learning through multiple contexts. These are summarized in a helpful infographic prepared as part of the report’s release.

Multiple research studies have also examined how teachers use what have been called ‘Talk Moves’ as they interact with students one-on-one, in small groups, and in whole-class discussions throughout the different kinds of activities shown in Figure 4-1. These talk moves serve a number of purposes, from drawing out student ideas, to marking those ideas’ importance, to linking student contributions and building on students’ prior knowledge. These questions are all open-ended and designed to truly draw out and push student thinking in ways that research has shown to be generative and supportive of developing students’ science ideas as they engage in science investigation and engineering design. The report includes a helpful table that summarizes these kinds of talk moves (see Table 5-2).

Several vignettes from the classroom of Bethany, a high school Chemistry teacher, are also sprinkled throughout the report.  Bethany starts off a new sequence of investigations by introducing the phenomenon of an oil tanker that crushes after it’s been steam-cleaned and sealed, and the video of this lesson shows 11th graders exclaiming, “Whoa!’ “Holy smokes!” “Why’d that happen?” Bethany wisely responds, before leading students into a multiple-day investigation in which they ultimately learn about the ideal gas law: “That’s a good question, that’s what we’re trying to figure out.” Bethany then asks her students to draw initial models that help to elicit students’ first ideas about what might be happening so that she and the students in class can interact with and build on those ideas, and Bethany and the students return to and revise those models multiple times as they complete a series of investigations to better understand this phenomenon (see Figure 5-1 from the report).

If you’d like to see Bethany and her students in action, the Ambitious Science Teaching website includes videos not only of this lesson, but of Bethany guiding her students through a sequence of learning experiences in which she unpacks students’ initial questions and models about what might be happening with the oil tanker. Teachers might use Figure 4-1 to rethink the way learning experiences are organized in their classrooms, or watch videos of Bethany (or other teachers) while using the ‘talk moves’ table or infographic as resources to track exactly how she guides students in their learning. It is our intention that these resources embedded throughout the report will provide new and helpful supports as teachers learn to guide their students as they engage in science investigation and engineering design.

Erin Marie Furtak is professor of science education and associate dean of faculty in the school of education at the University of Colorado Boulder. Previously,she was a public high school biology and earth science teacher. She is a member of the Committee on Science Investigations and Engineering Design Experiences in Grades 6-12.

Posted in NSTA Reports | Tagged | Leave a comment

Engineering in early childhood

In early childhood settings both educators and young children solve problems using available materials and an engineering design process. The process is not step-by-step because it looks different depending on the age of the children, the time available, and their engagement with adults helping them reflect on their work and process. A quick internet search for “The Engineering Design Process” shows that there are many variations, and they all include “evaluate” and “redesign” or “improve” as part of the process, and most of them are labeled “The” rather than “An” engineering design process. “Communicate” is another common part of the process, located centrally in some designs and often as a single moment. Some graphics communicate how the cycle repeats, the iterative nature of engineering design in working towards a better solution.

Engineering Design Process Graphics from a quick internet search.

This cycle of trying to create a solution, testing it, then finding it needs some changes is familiar to most of us as we jury rig to deal with everyday problems. A childcare provider whose home business meets the needs of families with children five-years-old and under found that in addition to providing a stable step for small children to use at the sink, she also needed to move the water stream closer to the children. She devised this inexpensive homemade solution after trying several other designs: a just-the-right-size cup with the bottom removed, placed over the faucet to direct the water stream forward. Other homemade problem-solving designs by adults that I’ve seen include a way to hang a roll of toilet paper, a paper stand made from a cup, and using a hair rubber band to hold up a shower hose. 

“Children have their own creative ideas to build and are intrinsically compelled to act upon them. In their process of construction, children grapple with systems thinking, growing to understand that the effect of changing one part of the system may have unintended consequences for the performance of another. They problem solve and often communicate with peers to collaborate in their perseverance to be successful. In the process, children have the opportunity to wrestle with their ethical use of materials and navigate social relationships.

Just as effective science teachers look for science in their children’s world to find meaningful entry points for science investigations, elementary teachers can look for engineering in their children’s world to find meaningful entry points for engineering experiences.” —Dr. Beth Van Meeteren

2018. Guest Editorial: Elementary Engineering: What Is the Focus? Science and Children.  55(7): 6-8.

Child carrying the bag she made out of paper and yarn.






What problems that arise in your setting have children tried to solve through an engineering design process? Making their own bandage or bag? Building a stable tower? Or creating a fair way—a system—to share materials? By identifying this kind of engineering design work you’ll be better able to help children reflect on their design and extend their work to improve it.

Posted in Early Years | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ed News: How Much Influence Do Teachers Have in Their Schools?

News Roundup banner

This week in education news, Baltimore resident is using the city’s bike culture to introduce more children to STEM; climate change is still just starting to make its way into classrooms, and many teachers don’t have the training or the resources they need to teach it; Education Department releasing a plan to help teachers who have been wrongly hit with debts because of troubled grant program; Minnesota teachers welcome proposed science education standards that would teach that humans are the primary cause of climate change; new study says scientists are leaving academic work at unprecedented rate; physical computing has established a presence in a small number of schools around the country; and report finds that 96 percent of principals surveyed feel that teachers are involved in making important school decisions, while only 58 percent of teachers do.

Bridging the Gap Between Science and Government

Research universities rely on government agencies for funding, but the latest word on those agencies’ science policies doesn’t reach campuses instantly. That’s why a few universities have created senior leadership roles dedicated to communicating between Capitol Hill and campus research laboratories. Read the article featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

How a Baltimore Resident is Taking the City’s Dirt Bike Culture and Turning it Into STEM Education for Youths

Brittany Young remembers Sundays in West Baltimore as a child, when she’d hear the distinct buzzing and revving of engines. It was the city’s signature soundtrack for the summer, a sound that said: It was dirt bike season. Still, in the city long considered the capital of dirt bike culture, the sport endures. And Young, an elementary school technology instructor and former chemical engineer, is tapping into that love as a platform for something bigger. Through her grant-funded B-360 program, Young is using bike culture to introduce more black children to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. At the same time, she hopes to decrease street riding in Baltimore and to challenge the negative perception of this popular hobby. Read the article featured in The Baltimore Sun.

Continue reading …

Posted in Education News Roundup | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tackling Misconceptions and Personal Beliefs

How do you overcome misconceptions that many students will have coming into your classrooms? What is the best way to handle and approach situations when personal beliefs are involved?
— M., Arkansas


Misconceptions abound in almost every topic we could study in science! To help anticipate some common misconceptions search NSTA’s The Learning Center and other sources.

An excellent method to uncover misconceptions is to poll your students’ prior knowledge using a Know-Want to Know-Learned (KWL) activity. Use misconceptions and half-truths as springboards to teach the nature of science. Investigations that give empirical evidence are probably the most powerful way to combat misconceptions. Some misconceptions are difficult to prove in class so teach students how to differentiate between reputable and poor sources of information and data.

With respect to faith:
Your job is to teach science, not to produce a secular society. NSTA’s position statement on Teaching Science in the Context of Societal and Personal Issues (https://www.nsta.org/about/positions/societalpersonalissues.aspx) states that science instruction should:

  • approach decisions based on scientific evidence in an open unbiased way, while acknowledging that different perspectives, views, beliefs, and other ways of knowing exist;
  • prepare students to become future citizens who understand science and engineering and are willing to engage in making responsible and informed decisions.

It’s okay to tell your students that you will teach science and how science works in your classroom. I don’t believe that faith should have any footing in a science class much the same way that we don’t teach German in French language classes.

Hope this helps!

Posted in Ask a Mentor | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NSTA Legislative Update: America’s Strategy for STEM Education

On December 4, 2018 the Trump Administration released a five year strategic plan for STEM education that calls for expanding the nation’s capacity for STEM education and preparing workers for jobs in the these fields, and charts out a strategy which federal agencies with STEM education initiatives can use when developing their programs.

The Administration also suggests the report is an urgent call to action on STEM education and should be considered a “North Star” that all STEM stakeholders can follow.

The report, titled Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education, is based on a vision where “all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation and employment.”

It was shepherded through an inter-agency process lead by Jeff Weld—a former science teacher and head of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council in Iowa—who worked extensively with the STEM education community over the course of several months to develop the plan. (NSTA Executive Director David Evans is vice chair of the STEM Education Advisory Panel that is advising NSF/Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (CoSTEM) on this report and other STEM education related issues.)

Here are some highlights from Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education.

The vision for a ensuring the United States becomes the global leader in STEM will be achieved by pursuing three goals:

  • Goal 1: Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy
  • Goal 2: Increase Diversity and Inclusion through Broader Access to STEM
  • Goal 3: Prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future

The federal strategy for STEM education is built on four pathways:

Develop and Enrich Strategic Partnerships

Strengthen existing relationships and develop new connections between educational institutions, employers and communities by bringing together schools, colleges and universities, libraries, museums and other community resources to foster STEM Ecosystems.  Increase work-based learning and training through partnerships of educators and employers, and explore opportunities to blend formal and informal learning with curricula so students can complete both core academic and applied technical curricula in preparation for higher education.

Engage Students where Disciplines Converge

Make STEM learning more meaningful and inspiring to study by engaging learners in transdisciplinary activities such as project-based learning, science fairs, robotics clubs, invention challenges and gaming workshops. Make mathematics a magnet, not a barrier, to the further study of STEM subjects.  Teach learners to tackle problems using multiple disciplines.

Build Computational Literacy

Advance computational thinking as a critical skill for today’s world and make it and integral part of all education.  (Computational thinking is defined as including computer science, but not just using computing devices effectively; it means solving complex problems with data). Expand the use of digital platforms for teaching and learning that enable anytime/anywhere learning; make individualized instruction possible; and offer engaging learning through simulation-based activities and virtual reality experiences.

Operate with Transparency and Accountability

The federal government must use open, evidence-based practices and decision making in STEM programs, investments, and activities. Specifically, it calls for federal agencies to:

  • Leverage and Scale Evidence-Based Practices Across STEM Communities
  • Report Participation Rates of Underrepresented Groups
  • Use Common Metrics to Measure Progress
  • Make Program Performance and Outcomes Publicly Available
  • Develop a Federal Implementation Plan and Track Progress

Federal agencies with STEM programs will be developing their plans to implement the goals outlined in this plan in the next few weeks.

Vignettes of best practices and profiles of effective federal STEM programs are sprinkled throughout the report. The Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) was cited as a best example for Documenting the Participation of Underrepresented Students in STEM programs (sidebar, page 30). NSTA administers several programs for AEOP, including eCYBERMISSIONGains in the Education of Mathematics and Science (GEMS), the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium (JSHS), and oversees the Camp Invention sites that are sponsored by AEOP.

Under the section Blend Successful Practices from Across the Learning Landscape, NSTA’s Connected Science Learning is cited as an online community resource that “shares effective practices and research for bridging the gap between in-school and out-of-school settings” (page 13 of the report).

The report can be found here.

Read articles about the report:

EOS: White House Releases STEM Education Strategy

Education Week: Trump Team Outlines Its STEM Education Vision

Education DIVE: White House releases five-year STEM education strategy

Science magazine: Trump emphasizes workforce training in new vision for STEM education

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon
Posted in Legislative Update | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ed News: Using Teacher-Leaders to Improve Schools

News Roundup banner

This week in education news, students chalk up three times the learning gains in classrooms with the most effective teachers; virtual reality can be a powerful tool for improving environmental learning gains and attitudes; new report finds climate change may have a more permanent, major impact on the future of learning; a key method to support skill development without taking away content time is to embed supports; new survey reveals that two in 10 teachers said their students are not taught any computer science; and for co-teaching to work, teachers need time, training, and resources to effectively integrate their distinct instructional expertise; and managers have a hard time hiring and keeping millennials.

Using Teacher-Leaders to Improve Schools

Edgecombe County Public Schools in rural North Carolina has long had trouble filling all of its open teaching positions. Historically, there just hasn’t been enough interest among qualified candidates. But that’s changing. Read the article featured in The Hechinger Report.

Virtual Reality Could Serve as Powerful Environmental Education Tool

Utter the words “ocean acidification” in mixed company, and you’ll probably get blank stares. Although climate change has grown steadily in the public consciousness, one of its most insidious impacts – a widespread die-off of marine ecosystems driven by carbon dioxide emissions – remains relatively unknown. Enter virtual reality. Read the article featured in Science Daily.

Continue reading …

Posted in Education News Roundup | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Absentee Student

One student in the class I currently teach has only been present one day out of four weeks. How should I keep this student up to date with the work that he is missing? Any tips and advice are greatly appreciated!
— O., Ohio

Talk to your cooperating teacher to learn what strategies have been used in the past and how assessments and grading have been handled. Also, find out if any communications with the family have occurred and if there is support at home for the child to catch up. As a student teacher, you should leave these communications to the cooperating teacher and I strongly advise against giving the family your e-mail or direct contact information.

Since this student is chronically absent, you should keep notes of the lessons and activities he has missed and collect any handouts in a folder. If the student frequently loses or forgets the work he does get, then don’t send work home—keep a binder in class for him.

You can also be a little proactive and differentiate your teaching for this student as having a special need. Assemble booklets or binders of material that the student can work through at his own pace. These binders will be very useful on the days the student is present and you are in the middle of a project or an intensive class activity. Similarly, prepare some take-home activities that can replace in-class labs and hands-on work.

Hope this helps!

Posted in Ask a Mentor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Did You Get My Message?

Curiosity and non-conformity are two traits that have served science educator and eBooks+ Kids author Martha Harney very well throughout her professional life.

Harney, an elementary science specialist for the Northeast Elementary School in Waltham, Mass., grew up among people who instilled in her a lifelong love for learning new things.

“For me, the curiosity was always there,” she said.

Harney’s path to the teaching profession followed a circuitous journey. In college she majored in French. She operated her own DJ business while her children were young, giving her more time to spend with them during the day because she worked nights. Upon completing a teacher certification program, she first taught English to adults. Then she became a “roaming scientist” offering educational programming across many schools.

Approximately five years ago, while being well-established into her elementary science career, Harney applied for and was accepted into the Boston-based Museum of Science Teacher-in-Residence Program. There she met a fellow teacher-in-residence who introduced her to the NGSS@NSTA Curator program. She entered the competitive application process and was accepted into nationwide cadre of educators tasked with establishing a library of NGSS-aligned and vetted resources that teachers could use to help make the necessary instructional shifts to align their teaching with the new standards.

“The NGSS encourage curiosity rather than the memorization of facts,” said Harney. “The ‘correct’ answer doesn’t matter as much as the process required to conduct the type of investigation which leads students to the answer,” she explained.

The expertise Harney gained from becoming an NSTA Curator helped her realize that many teaching and learning resources are “stamped with the NGSS label, but do not necessarily align with the standards and/or do what they are intended to do.” She knew that science educators needed richer resources, and Harney found a great way to bring them one—by writing an NSTA eBook+ Kids.

“I’ve had a lot of books in my head for years,” Harney said, so when she received an email for NSTA seeking book ideas, she jumped at the idea.

Her eBook, Did You Get My Message? allows first graders to explore communication systems, and learn how each has both benefits and drawbacks. Specifically, the content focuses on how sights and sounds help us to send and receive messages. By exploring this eBook, students discover that usage is determined by the method that works best for the situation, and will be able to design their own communication devices after reading it.

Given that she’d taught her own first grade students how to design communications devices, the topic was also a natural one for her to explore in an eBook.

“I started with fire trucks—kids love fire trucks!—because I wanted students to design communications devices that featured light and sound,” she explained. “My students and I watched lots of videos about firetrucks and talked about how they were sending out information via their flashing lights and honking horns. And then I gave them the opportunity to design and build their own communications devices, ones that would give directions across the room.”

The eBook includes messages that students can encode or decode as well as send. Additional  opportunities are provided, via the accompanying teacher’s guide, for educators to extend learning beyond the eBook and into the classroom.

Harney credited NSTA’s creative publishing team as well as her own students for making her eBook a truly collaborative effort.

“I was writing the book last year, and during the school day, I would talk to my students  about my content as it was progressing. They helped me write it and provided feedback when they thought that the content was confusing,” she said.

“It’s always a good sign if kids can ask if they take the material home with them to work on it more!”

Never one to stop learning and exploring new topics of interest, Harney shared that she’s already at work on a new eBook about waves for fourth graders.

Follow NSTA

Facebook icon Twitter icon LinkedIn icon Pinterest icon G+ icon YouTube icon Instagram icon


Posted in Enhanced eBooks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment