Weaving ‘Book Talks’ into Science, Weaving Science into ‘Book Talks’

 

Over the past several months I have been participating in a district-based book club centered on Pernille Ripp’s, “Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.” The club has been facilitated by our literacy coach, Renee Sacco and has boosted my leisure-reading by 1000% while connecting me with several educators across the district whom I previously did not intersect with on a consistent basis.

Perhaps most importantly, the club has brought a heightened awareness in me around my role in encouraging passionate readers and supporting the educators who do this important work day-in and day-out. While I do not have a classroom where a library can draw in students, nor regularly connect enough with our students to know their personal reading-tastes, I can use the time I have in front of our students during my grade-level programs to heighten their awareness of one of our school’s most important resources, the library media commons!

 

 

Today marked my first step into this realm, leaning on the expert knowledge of Burlington librarians, Cathy Myer and Rachel Small. Hearing Pernille’s charge to “be a spokesperson for your classroom library” and that “most things can be adapted or squished in order to book talk a great book or show a new book trailer.” I shortened my “Superfish” aquarium preview for Kindergarteners to make time to point out several marine-based titles available at the Pine Glen and Memorial libraries. This required me to make a few cuts to the long-standing program, including my bit on mollusks at the touch-tank (… and can you guess which one is Mr. Musselman’s favorite?!) and a Horseshoe Crab skeleton that had seen better days.

 

IMG_5380.JPG

Cathy Myer shows her Kindergarteners where to find all of her genre-fied “Ocean” titles in the Memorial LMC during my “Superfish” aquarium preview.

 

While Kathy was generously able to join us and share her favorites between the Shark and Octopus bit, I was on my own due to a scheduling conflict at Pine Glen. Luckily, Ms. Small has rolling, genre-fied bookshelves which made it easy for me to bring the entire collection to our Kindergarten while picking a handful to display and discuss!

The program went off without a hitch and the book talk was well received by teachers and students alike. I present this photo of smiling faces at the conclusion of our program as evidence!

 

View this post on Instagram

Smile for the Superfish!

A post shared by Burlington Science Center (@burlingtonsciencecenter) on

 

In the short term, I hope to bring more book talks into my programs, especially as I connect more titles with specific topics or segments that best align with the phenomena we commonly investigate. Looking longer term, connecting with more children’s books and our teachers’ desire to include them in their classroom routines is a goal of mine as I work with several elementary science coaches from the surrounding communities to develop a course supporting teachers understanding and awareness of the Crosscutting Concepts and their prevalence in children’s literature.

 

 

A working document outlining our goals is already taking shape and I’m hoping to have a meeting with my interested counterparts some time in the next few weeks to hammer out some of the details on how its going to work. We already received a boost from Michigan educator and general consultant for the Manistee Intermediate School District, Kim Rinehart, whose current work using the book “Sharing Books, Talking Science” by Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz she so generously shared freely with us. Safe to say this #NSTA20 session is going to be a must for me!

 

 

Posted in 3-5, K-2, Professional Reflections | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Better Integrating “Keys to Literacy” Scaffolds and Strategies Across the Science Curriculum

x4oxgsgr_400x400

Over the past several years our Burlington elementary educators have been inundated with changes. Besides the upending of our K-5 science and engineering curriculum classroom educators were introduced to “Keys to Literacy” a K-12 ranging program designed to boost student literacy skills through scaffolds and instructional strategies that build over time and can cross all disciplines. While initially this work was being done seemingly in parallel to the science overhaul, enough institutional knowledge around the “KTL” practices were able to be integrated into the units developed toward the end of our staged curriculum turnover.

Screen Shot 2019-11-18 at 2.17.39 PM

Google Slide “presentations” with links to copyable KTL scaffolds made by BPS teachers such as this one can be found in our grades 2, 3, and 5 curriculum resource pages.

Last week, we were graced with time and opportunity to face the reality of our disconnected work in the earlier units and allow teachers to adapt and revise some of our templates while developing exemplars of commonly used KTL scaffolds for their peers to lean on, saving them valuable prep time for scaffolds to use on their own so they might direct their attention instead to the host of other needs to meet.

Teachers spent their afternoon creating paper and digital versions of two-column notes, top-down webs, question/sorting activities, and more in an effort to lessen the collective burden of everyone and better reinforce the use of these strategies and (hopefully!) their students’ own synthesis and understanding of science’s “disciplinary core ideas.”

I’d like to take this time to thank the Grade 2, 3, and 5 teachers of Burlington for their dedication to this work and their craft. You’ll find links to all of their models shared publicly at the very top of our grade specific curriculum resource pages. While our Grade K, 1, and 4 teachers were tied up with other trainings, we hope to repeat this model and support their units in similar ways moving forward.

Direct links to the Grade 2, 3, and 5 KTL resource pages can be found below:

KTL Grade 2 Examples (Produced and shared by Burlington educators 11/2019)

KTL Grade 3 Examples (Produced and shared by Burlington educators 11/2019)

KTL Grade 5 Examples (Produced and shared by Burlington educators 11/2019)

Posted in 3-5, Curriculum, K-2, Professional Development | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Supporting Informal Educators Navigating the Currents of NGSS

 

05d2756959b5a0e94044797c074a1826

Over the past two months I have had the pleasure of supporting NSTA’s pivot to a more inclusive “National Science Teaching Association” by assuming the role of editor for the NSTA’s “Next Gen Navigator” monthly e-newsletter. The role provided me the opportunity to connect with several Massachusetts based science institutions, including the WADE Institute, the New England Aquarium’s Teacher Resource Center, and the Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning.

A web version of the October 2019 publication, “Refashioning Informal Education to Support 3-D Learning” can be found here. You’ll find my editorial remarks there as well. 🙂

Science educators of all kinds interested in making shifts in their practice aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards should consider signing up for the Next Gen Navigator on the NSTA website linked here. Along with three or four articles from NGSS practitioners you’ll find classroom and professional development resources included in each monthly installment, all aligned with a different theme relevant to NGSS curriculum and instruction.

Posted in NGSS, Professional Development | Tagged | Leave a comment

Seeking Patterns in Workshops: Making a NSTA Conference – Part 2

Roughly a year after our NSTA Boston 2020 arrangements team met for the first time, I was back in DC for our next big step toward making the national conference a reality. With Programming Coordinator, Pam Pelletier and the NSTA conference arrangements team, roughly one-thousand workshop proposals were reviewed and sorted in roughly a day and half’s time. The work cemented the hundreds of hours already put in by 60+ volunteers from the Massachusetts Science Teachers Association and New England more broadly.

While the NSTA team had already sorted proposals by grade level before our arrival, Pam and I took the time to dig a little deeper, using our “human instinct for patterns” to uncover a trove of subtler themes. On several occasions we stopped to take in the descriptions and summations of the great work that will be on display next April. While our conference’s four strands are and will be explicitly highlighted in the months leading up to the conference, NSTA2020 in Boston will also have a number of recognizable undercurrents including:

Human Impact and Student Activism:

After just a few hours on day one it was clear that K-12 science educators have been paying attention to ESS3 in their NGSS standards. What really excited us was the inclusion of opportunities for students to act on their new found understanding of the role humans are playing in changes to our planet. While the spotlight certainly centered on climate data and action, several proposals took on biodiversity conservation, soil, water, air degradation, and even light pollution!

Equity and Social Justice:

Challenges around access and equity in science have been well documented and hold a prominent place in the Framework for K-12 Science Education, so it was great to see just how many educators are working so hard to do something about it! Many workshops highlighted partnerships where urban students and communities connected with scientists to do authentic science work, changing their perceptions and/or doubts about themselves as scientists. Others focused on supporting English Language Learners access and understanding of scientific language while still more centered on research and work being done to improve access to high-quality science education in underserved urban and rural areas alike.

Engineering for all:

Many hands-on workshops and presentations hit on the integration of engineering and use of the engineering design process across the PreK to 12 realm. While there will always be bridges to build, workshops diverged to coastal erosion mitigation, rocketry, polymers for soft-bodied surfaces, and solutions to fairy-tale dilemmas. Some took the extra step of integrating such art in the way of origami, and the beauty in the balance of forces and motion.

Tech Integration:

Makerspaces, programming, robotics, oh my! Lots of workshops, presented by individuals or teams from schools or school districts, will bring to life the interplay between building strong foundations in computer science and three-dimensional learning. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality has also made its own space next to 3D printers, dash-and-dots, LEGO Mindstorms, and other technologies on display at past NSTA conferences. Interested in using NASA, NOAA, and citizen science data sets? NSTA Boston will have that covered for you too.

So why all the fuss? To minimize the amount of overlap among similar workshops of course! Conference regulars know the “FOMO” feeling they inevitably get when having to select between two or more outstanding workshops. While I am 100% certain that you will be unable to avoid this feeling at NSTA2020, we’ve tried our best to give attendees the opportunity to catch similarly-themed presentations at another time.

IMG_6317

A quick selfie at NSTA with Program Coordinator, Pam Pelletier and NSTA’s Conferences Director, Delores Howard.

Before we left Pam and I got to sit down with long-time NSTA Conference Coordinator, Delores Howard and layout our favorite recommendations for the conference’s keynote and conference strand speakers. While I can not share who they will be until NSTA finalizes agreements, I am very excited about the possible lineup to be! Before leaving, Pam and I snapped a few pictures in the lobby and with our NSTA colleagues that we are so very grateful for. The grind that the NSTA conference team goes through to host not one, but five conferences over a calendar year can not be understated and I am so appreciative of their work. Thank you, Delores Howard, Beverly Shaw, Dayna Ward, Donna Fletcher, and Linda Crossley!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How do you “Choose Your Own (PD) Adventure?”

coolandcollected_forsale_119b.0

A quick glimpse at the 25 most recent emails in my inbox included three seemingly outstanding upcoming professional development opportunities. A stipended opportunity to learn about engineering design and the physics centered on designing your own hand held vacuum at MIT’s Center for Materials Science and Engineering:

Still another was a reminder from my NSTA Professional Learning Community about an upcoming NSTA web conference around STEM instruction and ELs, and still another regarding the summer offerings by the Wade Institute (previously known as MITS) in the local Northeast MA region.

Oh, and how can I forget the Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz book, “Sharing Books, Talking Science” I just purchased? When will I take the opportunity to read that? And let’s just forget that Twitter feed (as we’ve already pointed out a few cross posts above, a mere tip of the iceberg…)

“Personalized Learning” is a best practice that gets batted around not only in our students classrooms but among professional development facilitators as well. As educators we don’t always have control around what forms of professional development we need to participate in, but when we do have choice its important to have some framework for decision making.

For me, I try to select around personal needs just as much as professional ones during a time when my children are young and me-time precious! PD needs to be:

  • Timely (flexible or over a day typically)
  • Engaging (stretches me beyond my current strengths and/or into new learning domains)
  • Applicable (I should be able to put this learning to good use in the upcoming academic year, if not sooner!)
  • Credit-worthy (keep moving on that schedule… cost of living in the Boston area isn’t getting any cheaper!)

But despite these seemingly appropriate criteria, opportunities of interest continue to present themselves that are difficult to shy away from. Are they too vague? Probably. But before I go under the deeper reflection hood I’m curious to hear how others approach their own professional development learning adventure? What criteria do you use? What kinds of learning and opportunity have your criteria led you to or how has it held you back? What suggestions can you offer a parent of toddlers still unwilling to give up on that “never stop learning” mindset?

Oh and if you were looking for awesome “Choose Your Own Adventure” references here you are sadly out of luck. But I will share this amazing atlasobscura blog post in which every Choose Your Own Adventure book from the series has been data mapped to show all the possible outcomes.

Posted in Professional Reflections | Leave a comment

#NSTA 2019 Takeaways

NSTA 2019 marks my sixth national conference and the start to a 51-week countdown to NSTA’s 2020 National Conference in Boston! Plenty of personalized learning opportunities and professional networking happens at an NSTA conference, even if you can only attend a day or two! Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s conference in St. Louis.

#1: “Where we start is no indicator of what we can become”

Astronaut and spacewalker, Scott Kelly’s message as the conference keynote did not include instructional takeaways or pedagogical know-how. Instead his reminder that those we do not identify as “model students” are still capable of great accomplishments and exceeding our own self-identified potential. His quote, ““where we start is no indicator of what we can become” is echoed in the K-12 Science Framework’s emphasis on “Science for All Students” and a message I hope will percolate in my mind the next time I find myself doubting my own students’ potential. His acknowledgement of Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book,  “The Right Stuff” as his inspiration spoke to the power of a spark that lights a student’s imagination, and the power of literature to carry ideas and experiences to our audience with perspective and authenticity. Plus, there was this: 

#2: “We are all in this together”

While cliche to say “there’s always more to learn” it is powerful to hear this message from noted leaders such as Paul Anderson, creator of the Youtube series Bozeman Science and now his own education consulting business, “The Wonder of Science.” During his packed presentation Andersen shared acknowledgements to those he continues to learn from…

… while sharing his own resources designed to support teachers in bolstering their instructional methods and train their eyes to identify strong, three-dimensional curriculum and assessments. His hat tip to elementary educators as teachers who should be stood with and not over as deliverers of science education spoke to me personally – noting that they are teaching “half the science education in our students’ K-12 schooling.” Putting his message that “we are all in this together” to practice, his fantastic, Creative Commons stamped materials can be found on his website under the resources tab including his SEP and CCC graphic organizers and new three-dimensional “Inquiry Cards”. This reminder, like Scott Kelly’s, was also one shared at NSTA and will aim to keep with me from a science, education, and science education perspective:

#3: Interest and resources for Standards Based Grading is growing across grades K-12

I was both floored and heartened by the number of high school teachers present at the presentation “Standards-Based Grading: Impact on Student Engagement in a Science Classroom” as SBG remains an enigma in our 6-12 Burlington grades. The connection between the SBG criteria and standards they made visible to students through their “I can” statements (replacing the more traditional “objective” statement). Time and encouragement of student-to-student support to achieve for mastery was also a shared staple. Room for improvement remains as examples shared centered around parochial school practice-based standards unfamiliar to me and did not explicitly connect with SEPs, DCIs, or CCCs. Admission that their SBG system had yet broken free from the requirements and mindsets of a school’s point scale system also demonstrated work to be done. Nevertheless their willingness to share in front of a packed house and their status as pioneers in this space should be honored!

#4: NSTA’s “Elementary Extravaganza” never disappoints!

Friday’s learning started with the dopamine hit that is the Elementary Extravaganza. Every turn of the head brought about an interest-piquing investigation, new and delightful trade book, or connection with an organization such as CESI or NEAYC leaving me ready to enlist in their membership ranks as well! I loved an ocean-oriented variation on the bird beaks lesson involving fish mouths and a balloon joust requiring clever engineering of a ramp car to both pop and defend. An inheritance variation tree innocently introduced the idea of dominant and recessive traits while a three rope tug-of-war brought about force diagram arrows to kindergarten children!

I hope that others will share their learning from NSTA 2019 and also come to Boston in 2020. Boston is NSTA’s largest national conference and never disappoints with its rich learning and cultural opportunities. See you there!

 

Posted in NGSS, Professional Development, Professional Reflections | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What will you share at NSTA 2020?

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 3.16.02 PM

The due date for submitting proposals to present at NSTA 2020 in Boston is just one month away. Why not share the great learning do you and your students do everyday with the broader science education community?

The best part about having the National Conference in your backyard is the opportunity to connect with other local educators and share relevant strategies, lessons, units and nearby partnerships. How would I know? Five years ago Burlington teacher, Jane Lynch and I presented a science-social studies interdisciplinary unit on engineering water wheels connected to student learning around the industrial revolution and Lowell mills. We presented alongside three Burlington third-graders, who had a wonderful time exploring the exhibit floor before proudly sharing their learning and expertise in designing, testing, and improving water wheels. They practically ran the workshop for us! Of the several educators who attended, four of them went on to adapt the unit for their own classrooms, sharing their thanks and appreciation with us long after the conference was over.

Students and Mrs. Lynch ready to present and facilitate a water wheels engineering challenge!

There are four learning strands associated with every national conference. While not required, proposal that align with one of these four domains tend to take higher priority when being accepted to present at the conference. 2020’s learning strands are:

  • The Long View: Building a Lifelong Passion for Science
  • Learning Science in All Spaces and Places: Near and Far
  • Thinking, Acting, and Communicating Like Scientists: A Focus on Disciplinary Literacy
  • Aligning the Lenses: Authentic, Three-Dimensional Measurement of Student Learning

Greater detail about what precisely these strand titles are referring to can be found here on this Google Doc developed by the local planning committee. To learn more about proposal guidelines, tips for writing a successful workshop proposal, and to submit a session proposal online visit nsta.org/conferenceproposals. Remember that the due date is April 15th. It will creep up on you so don’t wait!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment