Designing Family Investigations for Remote Science Learning


It has been eight weeks since our Burlington Schools were closed due to the spread of coronavirus through our community. What was once a temporary inconvenience as turned into a remote learning trial by fire for school district’s across the state and country!

At the outset, our work at the Burlington Science Center focused on generating informal challenges that children and families could engage with and directing families to high quality, freely accessible resources like the NSTA “Think Like a Scientist” eBooks. But as we have moved from simply meeting the social/emotional needs of our students our work has expanded into multi-step investigations with students recording data, generating claims, and constructing explanations based on their observations.

Our first iteration of “Family Science Challenges” will be hitting our district’s ‘choice boards’ next Monday. Designed to be completed as a family unit, they aim to give flexibility to families with multiple children in grade school that may not have the time and energy to complete individual investigations for each and every budding scientist. They also hone everyone’s attention on to the scientific practices and content outlined as our “power standards” from the state.

Each Family Science Challenge centers on a question or engineering challenge. Family members share what they think they know, with each student recording their thinking in a science notebook designed to support each successive investigation. Families then conduct an investigation that checks their thinking and provides scientific data to apply to the next step in the challenge. Scientific vocabulary is provided through online read-alouds and/or short videos from trusted sources or created by Wendy Pavlicek and I.

Because of the shortened expectation of time on learning, usually three stages of the investigation are all that is “required” for completion of a challenge from a classwork completion standpoint. But each challenge also includes extension investigations with notes encouraging specific grade levels that would have otherwise experienced such learning face to face, or in preparation of scientific exploration in the following academic year.

While each investigation has been created in Google Slides, our district’s investment in the online classroom tool Seesaw has led us to convert mirror lessons into our district’s activity library. These lessons are freely available to other district’s that use SeeSaw as well. We have found this tool to be handy as it provides easy ways to overlay verbal instructions to students and families for each investigation stage and notebook page.

I will continue to update this post with challenges as they are produced. Feedback to improve these challenges is appreciated or the simple acknowledgement that you are using them is also welcomed!

A special thanks to our Library Media Specialists Jenn Scheffer and Michelle Ardizonni who provided support to the Science Center moving our Google created challenges over to the SeeSaw platform.

About Sean Musselman

Teacher Dad and Burlington MA Schools K-5 Science and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator. NSTA Professional Development facilitator and author of "Think Like a Scientist: Investigating Weather and Climate" NSTA Kids ebook.
This entry was posted in 3-5, Curriculum, Digital Tools, K-2 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Designing Family Investigations for Remote Science Learning

  1. Pingback: Got a STEM-themed picture book you love? Let’s talk. | Musselman / Science

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