With my new focus on elementary science this year, the National Science Teacher Association’s National Conference in Indianapolis was the perfect opportunity to pick-up some alternative perspectives and styles to teaching my new curriculum. I did not leave disappointed. The conference not only sent me back to Boston with over a dozen new, easy to implement demos and class activities but also a range of new connections from across the nation with passionate, eager science educators.
Before returning to the Science Center and the collection of back-up emails, resource requests, and programming, I thought it important to more firmly connect myself with some of the more stand-out lessons and people I learned from. So in no particular order here we go!
The Council for Elementary Science International’s “Elementary Extravaganza” was by far the most fantastic ninety minutes of professional development I’ve personally experienced. With at least fifty teachers from across the world sharing their favorite activities I moved from one table to another finding new takes on great lessons. “Squishy Circuits” gave kids the opportunity to make simple circuits with conductive and insulating play-dough (recipe included.) “Birdseed Mining” gave kids unfamiliar with the mining process a frugal, hands-on activity that left students better understanding the difficulty and economics of finding rare-earth minerals. “Body Building” turned old pizza boxes, toothpicks, and yarn into the different system models of the human body. A fascinating demonstration turning a simple pie tin into a stereo speaker got my mind turning for an electromagnets application activity and this model toilet called “Flush and Flow” had a great engineering connection for any K-5 water science unit.
Hats off to kindergarten teacher, Katherine Poindexter and her fabulous work integrating children’s stories into her science curriculum. Her use of story to introduce units around seed development, weather, and seasons just to name a few were extremely thoughtful and better still… documented! Her blog can be found at http://kpoindexter.wordpress.com. I’m a follower now!
Continuing with the children’s literacy piece, I was fortunate to sit in on a portion of a panel discussion and small group breakouts with a collection of children’s book authors, including Massachusetts native Loree Burns and college level educators Juliana Texley and Suzanne Flynn. Juliana’s roundtable gave greater perspective to the “NSTA Recommends” process and the painstaking evaluation thousands of books go through each year to bring the best to the forefront of the science education community’s attention. Later in the conference, Loree and her publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was gracious enough to sign a free copy of her book on flotsam, jetsam, and the science of ocean motion, “Tracking Trash” to the children of Burlington.
Ruth Paglierani’s of UC-Berkeley shared some of the resources from Project FIRST’s “Eye on the Sky.” Her success with developing an understanding of the scale of the sun, constructing simple sundials, and using pizza box solar cookers inspired me to think bigger with our own early elementary units on the sun and energy.
The final session I attended also shared some excellent use of the creative tools found on the iPad (and its apps) designed by Pennsylvania teachers in conjunction with Penn State. Their presentation included kindergarteners documenting living and non living objects in their classroom with the camera and higher level elementary students creating informative “zines” using Skitch, iBooks Author, and the ePub feature in Pages. Collaboration through Google docs was also noted as an important tool in the creation process.
The list goes on and I hope to highlight some of the great takeaways in future blogposts as I adapt them for use in the Burlington science curriculum. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all comes from my reinvigorated sense of purpose and the alternative perspectives gained from the conference. It was a reminder of the importance of ongoing professional development in educators to keep our teaching at the highest level possible for our next generation of scientists!