More Than 200 Vetted Classroom Resources on the NGSS@NSTA Hub

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With the creation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) came the question of “What does NGSS-based instruction look like in my classroom, and where will I find the instructional resources for teaching the new standards?” So NSTA put out a call and pulled together a group of 55 educators, myself included, called NGSS@NSTA Curators. The job of the Curators is to search for and vet lessons, activities, simulations, models, and other type of materials that might be used for instruction and meeting these new standards. I’m excited to note that we recently surpassed more than 200 resources now posted on the NGSS@NSTA Hub, and there are many more to come.

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STEM’s Good Samaritans

Physics and engineering undergraduates and graduate physical therapy students participating in the GoBabyGo program at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, modify electric–powered toy cars for children with disabilities. (photo by Jen Wewers)

Physics and engineering undergraduates and graduate physical therapy students participating in the GoBabyGo program at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, modify electric–powered toy cars for children with disabilities. (photo by Jen Wewers)

To help children with disabilities become more mobile, educators and students participating in a worldwide outreach program called GoBabyGo use their science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to modify electric–powered toy cars the children can operate. “GoBabyGo projects combine science, math, social studies, and embodied learning [an educational approach in which learning occurs both intellectually and through whole-body interactions],” says GoBabyGo’s creator Cole Galloway, professor of the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware. Building the cars involves “brains, bodies, physics, and materials…math and science and doing good,” he observes.

“The dominant way we learn is through physical interactions with the world. The kids who [need the cars] have little to no mobility, so their interactions [are limited]. With the cars, their brains and bodies change; they can get smarter and stronger and more social,” he maintains. In addition, the cars cost less than most pediatric wheelchairs, and only readily available materials are required for the modifications. About 4,000 cars have been refurbished during the past two to three years, he reports.

While modifying the cars, students “learn patience and teamwork…They know they have to get this right for a person in the community, so the child will be able to use the car safely and comfortably,” he points out. The project also involves “creative engineering. It’s a great starter engineering, science, and math lab,” he contends, “and a way schools can address community problems.”  

GoBabyGo is funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Galloway and the GoBabyGo staff hold training workshops for building the cars; they provide an instruction manual and resources for starting GoBabyGo programs at www.udel.edu/gobabygo. “We can advise [schools] on how [participating schools] have done it safely,” he notes.

Skye Donovan, department chair and associate professor of physical therapy at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, attended a GoBabyGo workshop and obtained a $2,000 grant from Marymount to launch a GoBabyGo initiative there. “I’m passionate about solving community problems [as a way] to learn science,” she declares. 

“It’s fantastic to get [physical therapy graduate students] involved in service learning, and [the project gives them] more buy-in to the assessment of patients. They’re making something with their hands, so they [pay] more attention to detail. And they look at patients in a different way,” she contends.

Donovan taught sixth-grade science teacher Luzdary Chamorro of Gunston Middle School in Arlington, Virginia, and sixth graders in an after-school science club to adapt the cars. Students learned how to wire electrical circuits, measure and cut PVC pipe, and use power tools, along with “basic safety principles,” she explains. “They can see how [science is] applied, instead of just learning for learning’s sake. They develop passion for something with real-life relevancy.”

GoBabyGo was “perfect with the STEM focus we have this year,” says Chamorro. “We did engineering, technology, science, and reaching out to the community,” she relates. “We’re donating cars to kids at the [Walter] Reed School” in Arlington, which offers special education programs for students ages 2–5 with disabilities.

Chamorro has taken the project to a deeper level. “We’re working on how to design the big red button [an accelerator that replaces a small button on the car’s steering wheel that is difficult for many special-needs children to use] using a 3D printer.” Eighth-grade math teacher Charles Fix, a retired electrical engineer, had the students disassemble the button, which costs $70, to learn about it, Chamorro notes. To save money, “now we’ll design the plastic components of the button and print them with the 3D printer,” she explains. 

In Ajax, Ontario, last year, science teacher Anna Farquhar and 14 eighth graders in an after-school club at Roméo Dallaire Public School built a car for a local elementary student. “We weren’t deterred when we were requested by our board of education to contact different levels of government to ensure that all safety standards were in place before releasing the car [to the child]. We learned not to give up,” she maintains. “We also had an engineer test the car to make sure it was structurally sound.”

Farquhar obtained funding from the Pollination Project of Berkeley, California, which provides $1,000 startup grants to social change projects. She and her students used half of the funds to build the car. “The students volunteered; they were self-directed and very eager,” she recalls.

“We looked at the structure of the car [and how to change it] to fit the child’s [needs],” she relates. “We had to determine how much weight the car could hold…We had to find an easy-to-use seat belt; we tested materials to ensure the seat belt wouldn’t fray. We used a very large dog collar as a seat belt.” 

Farquhar’s students “earned community service hours for their diploma,” she notes. Now teaching at Michaëlle Jean Public School in Ajax, Farquhar says students there will build two cars using her remaining grant funds.

Interdisciplinary Teams

A child operates a car retrofitted by students from Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut.

A child operates a car retrofitted by students from Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut.

At Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) in New Britain, Connecticut, some of Michele Dischino’s technology and engineering education students build GoBabyGo cars. Dischino, associate professor of technology and engineering education and faculty advisor for CCSU’s Collaboration for Assistive Resources, Equipment, and Services (CCSU CARES) student club, launched GoBabyGo there. One of her students, CCSU CARES Lead Student Advisor Megan Hislop, obtained $5,000 from CCSU’s Student Government Association to fund the first GoBabyGo workshop, says Dischino. 

Since then, students in other disciplines, such as engineering and social work, have participated. “Other students bring other skills, including ‘people skills’ for working with special-needs children,” Dischino observes. 

Middle and high school teachers contact her to get their students involved, and some of their schools have provided funding. “Bringing in middle schools and high schools has made it more valuable, given that my students are going to be teachers…It makes the experience even better because we can show [younger] students how they can use their [STEM] skills.” 

At Rockhurst University (RU) in Kansas City, Missouri, GoBabyGo “is student-led and student-run. We have graduate physical therapy students and physics and engineering undergraduates bringing their unique perspectives in science,” says Kendra Gagnon, associate professor of physical therapy education at RU. “And now the physical therapy students are starting to understand wiring and mechanics, and the engineering students are learning about posture and movement, all while solving real-world problems.”

“Interdisciplinary team building is becoming part of our health care system,” observes Karen Patterson, faculty associate for University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, which works with UW-Health’s outpatient pediatric rehabilitation program on GoBabyGo. Physical and occupational therapy graduate students team with biomedical engineering undergraduates to build the cars. “We have a rough manual, but [students] have to figure it out for themselves according to the needs of each child,” she explains.

For example, one child was on a ventilator, and the students “had to build a platform for [it]…The students came up with it, all on their own,” she reports.

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of NSTA Reports, the member newspaper of the National Science Teachers Association. Each month, NSTA members receive NSTA Reports featuring news on science education, the association, and more. Not a member? Learn how NSTA can help you become the best science teacher you can be.

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

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Did You Vote for NSTA’s New Leaders? Here’s Why You Should

2015 NSTA Board of Directors

The 2016 presidential election has drawn a lot of attention in the press but there is another important election that is also occurring in 2016 – the NSTA Elections. Candidates have been selected from a rigorous nomination process for the next NSTA President-Elect, Division Directors, and District Directors. Just as it is important for U.S. citizens to exercise their opportunity to vote in the federal, state, and city elections, it is also important for NSTA members to exercise their opportunity to vote for their leaders. I challenge all of the 55,000 members of NSTA to vote.

So why is your vote important?   The new president-elect will become the face of NSTA when president as well as the leader of the NSTA’s Board and Council. New division directors will determine NSTA policy and the direction NSTA pursues in promoting science education. The new district directors will join other district directors in connecting state chapters and associated groups with NSTA and promoting the work of NSTA.

You can read the biographies and position statements for each of the candidates at www.nsta.org/nominations. When you login to the NSTA webpage you can go to “My Account” to cast your vote.

So what are you waiting for? I challenge all of the 55,000 members of NSTA to vote. The deadline is February 15, 2016 at 11:59pm eastern time. Exercise your right to vote and determine the next leaders of NSTA. These educators will represent you as NSTA moves forward to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all. 

So I challenge all of the 55,000 members of NSTA to vote. Since I have voted we only need 54,999 to go!

NSTA President, Carolyn HayesCarolyn Hayes is the NSTA President, 2015-2016; follow her on Twitter at caahayes.

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

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“Knowledge” — how to use the term to illustrate the “doing” of science 

“Knowledge” has several meanings for its use with student learning! A definition of “Knowledge” is traditionally considered information to help reform science education.  It refers to information that can be used to indicate what others have learned.   

A search of five dictionaries has yielded several examples of the meaning for the term “Knowledge.” Some include recognizing facts and truths from study or investigations.  Another indicated “familiarity” one has with a subject, for example, language or branch for learning. Another dictionary indicates it is the perception of fact or truth.  Another states it is practical understandings of an art or a skill. Still another states it is the sum of what is known, including facts accumulated by mankind over the course of time. Yet, these definitions do not include specific reform efforts resulting in teaching science in K-12 classrooms. 

Knowledge is also referred to as cognitive or intellective mental components acquired and retained by study and experience. But, none of these definitions reveal the changes needed in teaching that are central to 2016 discussions including those recently offered by the New York Times (November 22, 2015).  There it was asserted the biggest problem in education is having 50 states, 50 standards, and 50 ideas for testing related to learning.  How do we really know what students are learning?  How well have they learned?  What do students really “know” about the information comprising the meaning of science content or from the explorations of nature encountered in their lives? Assessing students’ knowledge requires students to communicate what they have learned to provide evidence of their understanding.   This occurs when students construct explanations for observed phenomena, judge the merits of a science based argument, or use mathematics and computational thinking to describe and represent relationships and use these relationships to make predictions based upon evidence.

Science learning for some students is difficult to achieve. Most educators derive great satisfaction in thinking they are helping students learn the what and that of science. However, this approach neglects the real challenges. Perhaps the focus should instead be on the how and why of science. Few recognize the measurements for learning if students are only asked to repeat and recite what is included in science classes and textbooks. Standardized tests may not measure learning in ways needed to change teaching.  Some educators insist learning can be demonstrated by test scores which merely identify information students must remember and recite!

Science needs to be a “real” and “personal” learning experience.  If we want students to learn and be successful, we must not treat all students alike; we should not just present information from lectures and textbooks nor just ask students to recite information from memory. We should not have students simply compete to be “number one.” Changes need to be made if we expect teaching to be successful. As science educators, we need to teach students to think like scientists, not memorize facts.

There are few who recognize the needed changes that result in correcting wrong explanations 50 years later. Few even consider most textbooks are out-of-date. One research study conducted by the University of Iowa Chemistry Department head identified over 100 content errors found in textbooks being used.

Perhaps we need to avoid encouraging students to “know” definitions and terms included in the curriculum provided for students from states and districts which often assess without attention to how student knowledge is connected and organized around core science concepts.  We need to identify “knowledge” and how it can be used to indicate successful learning as well as illustrating the power of questioning, use of questions, evidence for changes, and the need for continued questioning. 

Learning remains central to science and other courses in K-16 education. It is not something needed to help some students become “number one” in reciting what they read or what teachers say. It is not merely recalling information found in textbooks and teacher directives. As Nobel Laureate, Herbert Simon stated, “the meaning of “knowing” has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and apply it. Students need more active learning that provide indications of useful knowledge appropriate for learners of ALL ages. Students need to construct their own explanations and designs for solutions of problems which they have identified themselves.

There is little concern for accomplishing changes needed that indicate what humans really “know.”  What information is central to what is taught about concepts to be learned? Knowledge is often used as a “term” to illustrate what students are expected to learn. But, what is accomplished as a result of using the term? What is it? How is “knowledge” used to get all students to “do” science and for using it in their lives? Science must be seen as a way of learning and knowing and not a body of largely unrelated facts.

Co-authors

Robert E. Yager

Professor of Science Education

University of Iowa

 

Kenneth L. Huff

Science and Math Teacher

Williamsville Central School District

 

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My students don’t study!

I struggle with getting my biology students to prepare for assessments. What are your thoughts?  — J., Arizona

This is not an uncommon problem and J. was able to provide some additional details:

“I give them study ‘helps’ that outline the concepts to be tested and extra points if they complete them. I do flashcards each day with the vocabulary. I give them a daily study tidbit—it might be rereading a section or highlighting and annotating their notes. I also use games such as Jeopardy and online tools such as Quizlet  and Kahoot. I have even developed an online site where I can electronically host study sessions with students prior to a test. But they still seem unprepared.”

It sounds like you do a lot of work for the students: creating study guides, hosting review sessions, and designing vocabulary games. Perhaps students become dependent on teachers for these materials and don’t realize what they could or should do on their own. (I even had students who were absent on the day we reviewed ask whether they had to take the test!) I suspect many students, even in high school, are not sure how to study or review. So you make a key point when you asked about ways for students to help themselves prepare for assessments.

Review games can be helpful, assuming students understand their purpose and relate their performance in the game to their learning. These games may be fine for vocabulary and factual knowledge, but I wonder about their value in preparing for higher-order assessments.

Rather than, or in addition to, a review at the end of the unit, try spacing formative assessments throughout so that students can monitor what they are learning. Several teachers on the NSTA e-mail lists and forums have described their use of practice quizzes as a preview of the types of tasks on an assessment:

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President Obama Gives Shout Out to Computer Science and STEM in SOTU

LegislativeUpdateChangeTheTextEachTimeAndTheDateV3 Jan.15

In his last State of the Union address on January 12 President Obama called for schools to “offer every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one.”

The President also mentioned the newly defunct No Child Left Behind, calling the new education bill (Every Student Succeeds Act) an important start, and pointed out his achievements to increase childhood education, lift high school graduation rates, and “boost graduates in fields like engineering.”

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Students communicate their results

4438634434_28b4c94fc6_mI am interested in strategies to help students write lab reports. I have gone over this at the beginning of the year and a few times in between. But students still have trouble explaining the purpose, hypothesis, process, and conclusion. I want the students to describe and analyze their lab activities and to communicate their findings. Any help will be appreciated.   —M., Wisconsin

Many older textbooks provide templates for students to fill in during “labs” but these do little in terms of students creating their own reports to summarize and reflect on their investigations. The Next Generation Science Standards describe eight practices of scientists and engineers investigating phenomena and solving problems, including carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations/designing solutions, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. If students do not have much experience in these practices, they will need guidance and scaffolding to become proficient.

When I started teaching, I was excited about doing inquiry-based investigations. But my middle school students were similar to yours. They were confused about observations vs. inferences, and their conclusions were simple summaries of their observations. I did a lot of reflecting: Are my students academically clueless? Am I expecting too much of middle school students?

After observing my students during a few activities, I concluded that my explanations and guidance were insufficient, given that many students were not experienced in basic skills such as questioning, observing, summarizing, formulating hypotheses, graphing, or drawing conclusions. In earlier grades the students did cookbook activities where the purpose and procedures were already determined and the data tables already set up. They may have used some skills in isolation with few opportunities to apply the skills in new situations. Their written reports reflected this lack of experience.

Once you have observed your students and identified baseline data on the skills your students do or do not have, you can begin to scaffold your students’ learning with direct instruction to help them acquire the missing skills, guided practice in a variety of contexts, and opportunities to choose and use the skills independently (even if they make a few mistakes). Here are some ideas:

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Rich source for lesson plans?

Do you “Pin?”

Pinterest logoEarly childhood preservice teachers on the NSTA Learning Center forums are recommending Pinterest as a source for lesson plans and activities: “Dig into pinterest!!!! It has been my best friend as a student teacher this year!”

How can educators looking for science explorations or science content knowledge find resources that are supported by the fabulous research into how children learn? In “An Open Letter: To Pinterest, from a Teacher,” blogger Mary Wade wrote about her questions that help her choose more “truly inspiring, learning-based” Pinterest pins, questions such as:

  • Will this help me better understand and reach my students?
  • Will this enhance student ownership over learning?
    Will this encourage the 4 C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, or creativity)?”
  • Will this help my students investigate concepts?
  • Is this centered more on empowering student-directed learning, or on getting students to sit still and listen?

The NAEYC Early Childhood Science Interest Forum's Pinterest page

The NAEYC Early Childhood Science Interest Forum’s Pinterest page.

Science Educator Maureen Stover shared her “mental checklist” that she uses when evaluating any internet resource, in an NSTA Learning Center forum comment:

  1. Is this an activity/resource that meets my lesson objective/goal?
  2. Is this activity on grade level (or can I easily modify it)?
  3. Is this activity reasonable to complete in my classroom?
  4. Is this activity safe?
  5. Is this activity affordable?
  6. Will this activity engage my students?

Maureen also tries to validate the content knowledge information from several sources to ensure the information is accurate.

I am going to try to make my Pinterest pin choices richer by reflecting on Mary Wade’s questions, and using Maureen Stover’s questions to be sure I add information about the concepts in the activity, links to the source and research about ECE, and explain how the science activity extends student understanding.

What makes a Pinterest pin a valuable resource for you?

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NSTA’s K-College January 2016 Science Education Journals Online

NSTA’s K-College January 2016 Science Education Journals Onlinev2

Looking for ways to engage preschool students in physical science? Are your students curious as to how animals communicate and make decisions? Want to expand your students interest in engineering? Looking for new ways for undergraduate teaching assistants to work with college students in entry-level STEM courses? The January K–College journals from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have the answers you need. Written by science teachers for science teachers, these peer-reviewed journals are targeted to your teaching level and are packed with lesson plans, expert advice, and ideas for using whatever time/space you have available. Browse the January issues; they are online (see below), in members’ mailboxes, and ready to inspire teachers!

Science and Childrensc_jan16_cov

Starting in preschool, teachers can engage students in physical science through creative, hands-on lessons. This issue of S&C delves into physical science lessons that involve derby cars, UV-sensitive lizards, and more.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

Science Scopess_jan16_cov

New Caledonian crows are master tool makers and users. They have even been known to stash their favorite tools in the hollows of trees so they can be retrieved and reused for another meal. Check out this issue’s Tried and True column for a crow-foraging activity that is sure to engage and inform your students as they explore animal communication, cooperation, and decision-making.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

The Science Teachertst_jan16_cov

Science is all about asking questions and constructing explanations, while engineering focuses on defining problems and designing solutions. Think of science as the quest for timeless truths and engineering as the search for design solutions to problems rooted in a particular time and situation. To be sure, there is overlap. Scientists often must complete engineering tasks such as designing experimental apparatus and testing prototypes, and engineers sometimes explore new phenomena and develop scientific models. In our schools we need to educate students about engineering careers, especially our young women, who are dramatically underrepresented in engineering fields. We cannot waste precious human capital by creating another generation of students who can say, “I have no idea what an engineer is.”

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

Journal Of College Science Teachingjcst_janfeb16_cov

Read about a study that investigated the learning gap between students with strong prerequisite skills and students with weak prerequisite skills and concluded that these skills are critical to subsequent learning. See the Research and Teaching article that examines the development of peer mentoring skills and deepening of content knowledge by trained undergraduate teaching assistants working with students in entry-level STEM courses. And don’t miss the Case Study that looks at a flipped classroom approach in which students both produce and watch videos in preparation for class.

Featured articles (please note, only those marked “free” are available to nonmembers without a fee):

Get these journals in your mailbox as well as your inbox—become an NSTA member!

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Do You Have Adequate Time to Teach Science in Middle School?

clock“I have all the time I need to teach my science content and processes,” said no teacher, ever! When I was an elementary teacher, I often felt pressured to spend more time on math and reading than on science because, after all, those were the subjects tested most often by the state. So, I did my best to weave science into the math and reading curriculum, whenever I could. However, I never felt that my students received the depth of what I could expose them to with additional time.

Moving to middle school, grade six, I was thrilled to think that I had dedicated time for science because we were governed by a bell schedule. However, as testing season came around, students were pulled from classes to receive interventions for, you guessed it, math and reading.

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