NSTA is unveiling a new “Think Like a Scientist” series of eBooks at the #NSTA17 Conference in Los Angeles for elementary age students. While NSTA has been producing eBooks for teachers and older students for some time now, these eBooks may be new to the elementary eBook audience so I’m taking this opportunity to share some of the advantages to this eBook that separate it from a traditional text and how teachers can use the eBook in their everyday classroom.
#1: Interactive Graphs
While most climate books for kids focus on sharing facts about a specific climate or climates, this eBook is designed to get students engaging with data to draw conclusions about the given climate they are investigating. Finding climate charts openly available on the internet designed for children can be a near-impossible journey, so all of the charts used in this Weather and Climate eBook have been made with the third-grade elementary student in mind.
Tapping a bar on the graph highlights the corresponding data point on the table. The graph background associates weather descriptors with different ranges of temperatures to help students describe patterns in the weather data across days, months, and even seasons or years. Highlighted words in the text link to a visual glossary with student friendly definitions.
To help students with computing graph quantities many of the graphs include numerical information embedded or alongside the graph so students can spend more mental energy uncovering and analyzing the patterns that exist in the data. Line plots and pictographs are also used in the book with scales and unit values aligned with Mathematics Common Core learning standards in mind. A tap of the “metric” button associated with most of the graphs provided also gives students a glimpse of how their climate data would look in metric form, unveiling the simplicity of visualizing above and below freezing temperatures when using celsius instead of fahrenheit.
#2: Scaffolded Data Analysis
Embedded alongside the graphs and text are formative assessment questions on nearly every page, encouraging students to consider the patterns evident in the data and breaking down the fundamentals of how a scientist might systematically break down a chart in search of patterns and evidence to support or refute their claims. Tapping the answer checks gives students immediate feedback on their thinking and how they might rethink a particularly challenging data point or points. The Teacher’s Guide includes an appendix of sentence starters for the teacher and students to use when dissecting the graphs provided.
This page on polar climates includes both formative assessment questions that ask students to consider similarities and differences between conditions in the arctic and antarctic along with a metric units button that immediately turns fahrenheit charts into celsius ones.
#3: End of Chapter Investigations
No book, paper or digital, can provide students the experiences needed to become scientists and engineers of the next generation on their own. That’s why I poured a great deal of personal time and energy into a Teacher Guide to accompany the eBook every page of the way. The Teacher Guide explicitly outlines how each page of the eBook addresses the three dimensions of NGSS and outlines end-of-unit investigations to perform as a class to reinforce and assess student understanding of the eBook’s text and interactives. In some cases background information is provided to support the teacher to give them a greater understanding of climate patterns beyond those outlined in the book. Between using the eBook and the end of unit investigations I am confident teachers will be supporting their students in being able to personally perform the Performance Expectations associated with weather and climate at the third grade amongst their peers.
#4 Exploring the Nature of Science Together
Whether students are using this eBook independently, in pairs, or as a classroom read-aloud, the “story” told through this tale is one of the nature of science and how science is a human endeavor of collaboration and that our way of knowing comes from the use of a variety of tools and techniques that have evolved over time.
Each chapter opens with fun pop-ups students can explore to learn about weather and climate data collections technology used over time. From the kites and meteorographs used at the Blue Hill Observatory featured in the opening pages of the book to the GOES-Satellite just launched by NASA in 2016 being calibrated for atmospheric weather data collection as I type. Such fun facts will capture the imagination of your students without distracting from the narrative along the way.
I’m excited to hear from teachers like you (who have no doubt reached the end of this post because you either purchased or are thinking of purchasing the book) about how you have used the eBook and what features have stood out to you as unique and valuable to your students. Please share your feedback in the comments section below, especially if there is something you think I failed to share here that should be included in this feature!
I want to add that a very special thanks goes out to Don McCasland of the Blue Hill Observatory for supporting this eBook with data and multimedia. The Blue Hill Observatory has a wonderful website for all to explore their trove of data and class programs with tours for those within busing distance. Sincere thanks and gratitude to my fellow Burlington educators, Jane Lynch, Renee Sacco, and Carrie Fortunato for their guidance and support in making this book a tool that will genuinely serve third graders from a science, math, and language arts perspective!