Science Teachers Needed to Support Libraries’ Solar Eclipse Events

Public libraries across the country are receiving 2 million eclipse viewing glasses and a booklet of information to help prepare the public to view the sky event of the decade – the All American total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.  (This distribution of glasses is supported by the Moore Foundation and Google.)

Please consider helping your local library in this effort to inform the public. You can find a map showing libraries near you that are involved in distributing glasses at http://www.starnetlibraries.org/. Suggestions for how your students can be Eclipse Outreach Agents to assist libraries, your school and other community groups are in the March issues of Science Scope and The Science Teacher.  If you are planning to go see the total eclipse, you can still be a hero for your librarian in the months before the eclipse

You may also want to let libraries know about the newest NSTA Kids Press book, When the Sun Goes Dark, for 8 to 13 year olds. It’s in the form of a story, but encourages families to do activities with simple home materials to understand what causes eclipses and how to view them safely.

Thanks for considering being a resource to your local library.

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Stuck in the Middle?

A short story about one Massachusetts middle school deciding between a layered or integrated curriculum format

I’m going to date myself by stating this, but as a middle schooler, I used to love those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books that gave you the power to choose how the story unfolded.  Remember those?!  If not, the short of it was that at various points in the book you could make choices as to what direction you wanted the story to go.  The choices you made affected the fate of the characters and how the book ended.  If you didn’t like the results, you could go back and make different selections until you created an ending that pleased you.  It was awesome!  So this leads me to the question…What adventure are we choosing for our students?


“Create Your Own Adventure”

As middle school educators, we are also given a choice of story direction when we decide how and what we teach.  Collectively, we are responsible to tell the complete science story by providing essential chapters for our students as they move from one grade level to the next.  So, as it pertains to content delivery, what path is best for your students?  Does an integrated curriculum format lead to better story comprehension for your students versus if they experienced a layered approach?  Proceed with caution: you will not find the answers to those questions here!  Sorry, it’s not my place.  This is more of a food for thought piece that will provide you with a little insight into the curriculum transition experiences of one Massachusetts middle school.

To give you some background, I am a seventh grade science teacher and I also serve as the science academic coordinator at my school.  Two years ago, our department began to look at the proposed draft of the new MA standards and it didn’t take us too long to realize that we were going to have a decision on our hands.  Should we stay with the “layered cake” format that we have been utilizing for years or do we make the change to a spiral/integrated approach?  Both formats have benefits, but which option is the best fit for our students?  The Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education (DESE) recommends an integrated curriculum delivery but leaves the decision in the hands of the districts.  For those districts that are considering to spiral, a range of approaches are provided.  These include:  Both feet in (e.g., all grades 6-8 start at the same time), phase in by grade level (e.g., gr. 6 one year, gr. 7 the next, …), phase in units/topics (e.g., everyone change a few units this year, a few more next year), phase in science & engineering practices first, then content later, and/or plan for different structure (e.g., move to ES science specialists; MS science teacher looping).  To help us make our decision, we focused on the vision of the new standards.

The science and technology/engineering standards are intended to drive engaging, relevant, rigorous, and coherent instruction that emphasizes student mastery of both disciplinary core ideas (concepts) and application of science and engineering practices (skills) to support student readiness for citizenship, college, and careers.  

We also took a look at several documents provided by the MA DESE to help us understand the shift in vision from that of the MA 2001/06 standards.  You can find these documents here.  A few of the resources that we relied heavily on were:

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Summer suggestions

I teach fourth grade, looping with them to fifth. I’m thinking of ways to keep my students and their families involved with science over the summer. I don’t have a lot of money to spend.  —D., Florida

Since you’ll see the students next year, you have a wonderful opportunity for action research on the results of summer enrichment opportunities and the extent to which students participate. You’ll get a range of responses— some families will participate readily, while others may have different priorities or time constraints.

Start with a letter to parents describing the project, emphasizing that it will not be graded. Provide a list of books available in a local library and websites related to the topics students will address next year, giving students the opportunity to preview and increase their prior knowledge and experiences.

Students could make journals with suggestions on each page for something to observe, illustrate, and write about (e.g., weather observations, phases of the moon, stars, pet behavior, insects, clouds, their neighborhoods, reflections on readings, vacation adventures). Having made the journals, they may be more motivated to use them.

Avoid sending home worksheets that are not effective learning opportunities (e.g., word searches, mazes, coloring pages).

Share information about free events at local parks, nature centers, libraries, or museums. Encourage students to record their experiences and photographs in their journal or online class resource.

Suggest topics for family activities:

  • Story-starters (What was your favorite outdoor adventure? How have inventions and technology changed over the years? Where does our food come from?),
  • Games such as I Spy to find objects that match a given characteristic.
  • Cooking together, reinforcing measurement and nutrition
  • Planting seeds and observe plant growth

Next year, look at the students’ journals to see what interested them.

 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fontplaydotcom/504443770/

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Legislative Update: ESSA, STEM Funding, and More

Every Student Succeeds Act

Looking for funding sources for STEM activities, resources and professional learning this fall? Take a look at this powerpoint on the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new federal education law, which includes key highlights that will be in place later this year and federal funding for STEM initiatives.

Update on FY2018 Appropriations

 “I think it’s likely the kinds of cuts proposed in this budget will not occur, so we really need to fully understand your priorities and why they are your priorities,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos during opening remarks at the recent Senate hearing on the FY2018 budget submitted by President Trump.

Continue reading …

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Ed News: More Must Be Done To Strengthen Girls Interest In STEM Fields

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This week in education news, more must be done to increase girls interest in the STEM fields; Florida needs a scientifically literate public; an English teacher’s video explains why teaching is so tiring; misconceptions about climate change common among science teachers; and cash-strapped school systems are turning to traveling teaching teams to help supplement their course offerings, especially in STEM.

Iowa Teaching Standards Don’t Say Humans Cause Climate Change, But…

At first, people who reject predominant scientific findings that humans are the main cause of climate change may be glad that new public-school science standards don’t require teachers to teach that. But if inquiry-based teaching guides under development in the Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative are used, students may reach that determination on their own, educators say. Click here to read the article featured in the Des Moines Register.

More Must Be Done To Stoke Girls Interest In STEM Fields

The gaps between genders, in terms of STEM interest and proficiency (as well as concerns about a shortage in the number of qualified applicants for future STEM jobs), has spurred private industries, the public sector and educational institutions to respond. Women make up only 24% of STEM workers, despite being 48% of the country’s workforce, according to information from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Click here to read the brief featured in Education DIVE.

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folder icon  Safety

The Requirements of Emergency Showers and Eyewash Stations

Most science teachers know that emergency showers and eyewash stations are needed in the presence of potential biological, chemical, and physical hazards. But which ones should they choose, and how should they be installed, operated, and maintained? The best place for answers is the American National Standard for Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment (ANSI/ISEA Z358.1).

Plumed vs. self-contained showers

Science labs and lecture rooms should only use plumbed showers (which are connected to a continuous source of drinking water) instead of self-contained showers (which contain their own flushing fluid). That’s because laboratory accidents require a continuous flow of water for at least 15 minutes. Note: Some elementary science classrooms with limited use of hazardous chemicals might only require an eyewash station. To make sure, conduct a hazards analysis and risks assessment to determine if a shower might also be needed.

Shower specifications

The ANSI/ISEA Z358.1 standard suggests that:

• the shower must provide tepid flushing fluid (15.6–37.8°C or 60–100°F).
• the valve can be activated in one second or less.
• the shower heads should be positioned from 208 to 244 cm above the work surface.
• the spray pattern will have a minimum diameter of 50.8 cm at 152.4 cm above the work surface.
• flow rate should be equal to 75.7 liters/minute for a minimum of 15 minutes at 20.7 Newtons per square centimeter.
• the center of the spray pattern must be located at least 40.6 cm from any obstruction.

Installation

• showers must be located in the same room as the hazard, in a well-lit area with appropriate signage and within reach to hazards such as caustic acids.
• the pathway to the shower must be free from obstructions.
• provisions must be made to prevent an unauthorized shutoff, if shutoff valves are installed in the supply line.

Maintenance and training

• plumbed emergency showers must be flushed weekly to make sure they operate correctly.
• all employees must be trained to use the equipment prior to working with or near hazards.
• all showers must be inspected annually to make sure they meet ANSI Z358.1 performance requirements.
• showers must have tags with the date of the last inspection printed on them.

Eyewash specifications

The installation and maintenance and training requirements for eyewash stations are virtually the same as emergency showers’. The specifications, however, are a bit different. The standard states that:

• eyewash stations must provide tepid flushing fluid (15.6–37.8°C or 60–100°F)
• valves should activate in one second or less.
• the fluid should flow between 83.8 to 134.6 cm from the work surface.
• eyewash stations should be 15.2 cm from the wall or nearest obstruction.
• stations should deliver 1.5 liters per minute of tepid water for 15 minutes, at 20.7 Newtons per square centimeter.
• shower heads and flushing fluid units must be covered with plastic caps to protect them from airborne contaminants.
• the removal of any protective devices, including eye and face protection and protective clothing, must not require a separate motion by the user.

Drench hoses

For some schools, emergency shower and eyewash stations may be outside of their budget. These schools may opt for the drench hose system instead, as long as it meets the performance requirements in the ANSI Z358.1standard.

A drench hose is a supplemental device connected to a laboratory sink. Drench hoses flush the eyes, face, and body. The installation and maintenance and training are the same as those of emergency showers and eyewash stations.

In the end

Contractors who install these units, facility managers, and/or safety compliance officers have the responsibility to certify that the emergency eyewash and showers meet the ANSI Z358.1standard. The custodian is usually responsible for inspecting and activating the emergency shower, eyewash station, and drench hoses each week. The annual inspection, as recommended by the ANSI standard, should check for problems such as valve leakage, clogged openings and lines, and adequate fluid volume. A work record of these inspections should be kept.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at safesci@sbcglobal.net, or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

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New Book: Perspectives on Science Education

What is the purpose of science education? As science educators it’s important to take time to analyze and discuss the reasons why we teach science to children.

How does science affect our daily lives, how can it inspire and motivate us, how can it help to change the way we see the world? What solutions can we create? It’s essential to wrestle with these questions so that we can engage students in similar debates.

Perspectives on Science Education: A Leadership Seminar, the new NSTA Press book by Rodger Bybee and Stephen Pruitt, originated through a series of ongoing discussions begun a decade ago. These discussions have evolved as policies and practices have also evolved. This unique book is designed to have the feel of a seminar, where participants share different perspectives. It will appeal to education leaders at the national, state, district, and school levels who make decisions affecting education policies and curricula.

“This book is not so much about answers; it is more about questions. It is not about persuading you of the need to reform; it is more about developing your understanding of science education and recognizing the challenges and opportunities of leadership,” Bybee and Pruitt state in the preface.

Perspectives on Science Education addresses topics such as the purposes and goals of science education, national and state policies, and changes in classroom practices for science teaching.

The goal is to provide educators and education leaders with a clear and informed history of varying perspectives. “Looking at the science education community, there is a clear and – we think – compelling need to develop a new generation of leaders who understand science education and are willing to confront the challenges of reform. This book is our response to those ready to face the challenges and provide leadership for education reform,” Bybee and Pruitt state.

For example, in Chapter 3, “Science Education in America,” the authors examine several historical models of curricula programs and associated instructional practices. Tracing science education from the colonial period to today, the authors explore the central questions that have historically guided different models of science instruction and shaped how teachers, administrators, and curriculum developers have determined what information students will learn and how they will learn it. They also look at how social pressures and industrialization both affected science education and discuss how curriculum changes have been made in response to the larger social demands of the time.

Read the sample chapter “National Standards and Science Education: Historical Perspectives” to learn more about the discussions that have served to inform our national policies over time and to understand better how we arrived at the current Next Generation Science Standards.  

The book intends to foster an important discussion. Get your copy of Perspectives on Science Education here and join the conversation. This book is also available as an e-book.

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Pollinator Week June 19-25, 2017

Butterfly on a child's sleeve.Unexpectedly a butterfly flew around a group of preschoolers, repeatedly landing on one and then another. We had been outside on a hot day last week and were sweating underneath our sun screen lotion. What did the butterfly taste as it touched its proboscis to our skin? Hopefully nothing toxic! One child was extremely nervous about a close encounter with any insect but so proud of herself after she let it move from my arm onto her hand. Amazingly every child got a chance to have it on their hand as we gently encouraged the butterfly to move from one arm to the next hand to the next. The school has planted a pollinator garden with annual flowers and some native perennials such as the local variety of milkweed. This chance occurrence is the perfect opportunity to continue learning about pollinators and to celebrate Pollinator Week, June 19-25.

Yes, butterflies and many other animals can pollinate flowering plants. See if you can guess all the kinds of animals that pollinate plants in addition to insects (see the answer in an illustration by Paul Mirocha on the Forest Service Pollinators webpage). 

I attended a discussion at the National Museum of Natural History  where I learned about projects that are benefiting both people and pollinators in urban environments, including the Pollinator Partnership and the City of St. Louis’s Butterfly Project, “Milkweeds for Monarchs.” Pollinator Week was initiated by the Pollinator Partnership  and it has now grown into “an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.” Governors often issue proclamations declaring the importance of pollinators to agriculture and economic development. 

Monarch Fueling Planting Guide Map.The Pollinator Partnership has information fact sheets about pollination for farmers, gardeners, and educators. The activities such as “How to Build a Pollinator Garden” include ideas to implement, such as, “A bowl with mud in the garden gives butterflies a place to drink and obtain minerals. (They need the mud in order to drink water, which they do through a process called “wicking”).” The website has a free Monarch Fueling Planting Guide for four East Coast regions.

Schools that have large areas of grass to mow (not including playing fields) might implement some of the modifications to maintenance recommended for roadsides to reduce costs while expanding habitat for pollinators—and providing an area for young scientists to observe pollinators in action. The modifications include planting or seeding native plants and reducing mowing. 

Bumblebee on a flower.I’m going to bring magnifiers out to the play area so children can look closely at the flowering plants to see what pollinators are landing on when they visit. If we see the somewhat slow moving bumblebees, we may even get to watch them work. 

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Ed News: Climate Science Meets A Stubborn Obstacle, Students

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This week in education news, what President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord means for teachers; aquariums and zoos stepping up to try and make climate change easier to teach; the Nebraska Dept. of Education wants the public’s input to revise the state science standards; new survey shows room for STEM education improvement; senators call out phony science materials sent to teachers; and exploration is the gateway to magically transforming circle time into toddlers learning science.

Climate Science Meets A Stubborn Obstacle, Students

To Gwen Beatty, a junior at the high school in this proud, struggling, Trump-supporting town, the new science teacher’s lessons on climate change seemed explicitly designed to provoke her. So she provoked him back. Click here to read the article featured in The New York Times.

What Trump’s Decision To Withdraw From The Climate Accord Means For Teachers

President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the landmark pact that nearly 200 nations signed two years ago in an effort to curb global warming. When the Paris agreement was forged, that event caused at least some teachers to reconsider how they had been approaching climate change in the classroom. Noah Zeichner, a Seattle social studies teacher, wrote on the Center for Teaching Quality blog that he had previously “felt some pressure … to present the other side. … But facilitating a debate about the causes of climate change was probably the wrong move.” And it seems teachers are already now grappling with how to present the recent overhaul in the federal government’s stance on environmental issues. Click here to read the article featured in Education Week.

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STEM Sims: Dronopter

Stem Sims: Dronopter

Introduction

STEM Sims provides over 100 simulations of laboratory experiments and engineering design products for application in the STEM classroom. One particular simulation found on this site, Dronopter, challenges students to build a drone in the form of a quadcopter (helicopter with four motors). Subsequently, students design, build, and fly their very own quadcopter in order to complete the simulation. This simulation’s mission is to challenge students to build the most efficient drone possible and fly it through a course of obstacles to reach its destination. In doing so, students can incorporate and develop STEM competencies in mathematics, science, and mechanical knowledge to complete this simulation. Dronopter is aligned with national (NGSS) standards  and is compatible with state standards as well:

  • MS-PS2.B – Types of Interactions
  • MS-PS3.C. – Relationship Between Energy and Forces
  • MS-ETS1.B – Developing Possible Solutions

The simulation provides students with a brochure (see link below) with a pre-assessment quiz as well as introductory information about the uses of drones as well as basic concepts related to flight. Dronopter engages students who have a variety of learning styles by having them build and test their design. Moreover, students who struggle with science concepts but have interest in mechanical or mathematical areas will have a chance to contribute to the experiment. Students will utilize metacognitive strategies to determine why any given test failed and choose new strategies to try in future attempts.

Brochure: https://stemsims.com/simulations/dronopter/brochure/brochure.pdf?version=2017-01-10

 

Sample Assessment

STEM Sims provides a lesson plan for this simulation (see link below); once again providing an excellent learning opportunity for students while minimizing the planning needed by teachers.

Lesson: https://stemsims.com/simulations/dronopter/lessons/lesson-1.pdf?version=2017-01-10

Conclusion

Dronopter is an excellent learning opportunity for students that is challenges students to design a drone capable of flying through a difficult course. Students will learn about STEM concepts in a manner that brings enjoyment to learning concepts that are meaningful and relevant. Please consider taking the opportunity for a free trial to evaluate this simulation for your classroom to determine where this simulation fits into your classroom’s instruction.

For a free trial, visit https://stemsims.com/account/sign-up

Recommended System Qualifications:

  • Operating system: Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.7
  • Browser: Chrome 40, Firefox 35, Internet Explorer 11, or Safari 7
  • Java 7, Flash Player 13

Single classroom subscription: $169 for a 365-day subscription and includes access for 30 students and 100 simulations.

Product Site: https://stemsims.com/

Edwin P. Christmann is a professor and chairman of the secondary education department and graduate coordinator of the mathematics and science teaching program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Anthony Balos is a graduate student and a research assistant in the secondary education program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

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