Constructing Explanations in Science

Out of everything I have tried, failed, kept, modified, or threw out during my transition to 3-dimensional science learning, my favorite piece has been requiring students to construct explanations. This has also been (and still is) one of the biggest struggles for my students however it is such an important piece that it will forever be a permanent process in my classroom. It may take 6 months to the whole school year to see growth but it is worth it.  Continue reading

Never Stop Doing Your Best

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Today we welcome a new year, 2017! It’s day 1 of 365; many people are making new year resolutions, eating black eyed peas, remembering the good of 2016 while saying good riddance to the bad, and trying to be positive about this next trip around the sun, yet there is this feeling of anxiousness, despair, uncertainty, and gloom floating in the air more so  (I feel) than any other year. Education has taken another blow both at the National and State level. Continue reading

Creating Visuals for Nucleon Interactions

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-18-31-pmRepulsive electrostatic forces. Strong nuclear forces. Charged subatomic particles interacting with neutral subatomic particles. Stable nuclei contain a “magic” number of neutrons and protons, otherwise the nucleus will decay.

Students will act like they understand these terms  by attempting to memorize the definitions, and all the explanations written down in class. And that’s the problem…students memorizing information and not actually learning the concepts. Subatomic particle interactions has always been a complicated concept for my students. I’ve done graphing, picture visuals, number analyzing, lots of stuff that is supposed to work. Yet it’s always a lower scoring portion on quizzes and tests.

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Have a Voice – Get Involved!

screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-5-03-11-pmIt’s everywhere you look – on TV, on the radio, in the halls, in the lounge, all social media, and now this blog ;-). It’s voting season, and for better or worse you can’t avoid it. While so many focus on the presidential election, lets not forget about what we actually have control over – local offices. Including your friendly Oklahoma Chapter of the National Science Teachers Association!

Oklahoma Science Teachers Association (OSTA) is looking for science educators that want to get involved and become an officer or board member! So many things are out of our control but this is something that you can influence. Science education is in a transition period, as is the OSTA. You can play a positive role in the direction that both are heading by running for a position!

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Students Experience 3D Learning for the First Time

Picture this: A perfectly planned investigation, no unusual chemicals to hunt down, eager students, no complaining, and all actively writing down their science thoughts……sound too good to be true? It is, but maybe not for the reasons you’re thinking.

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about introducing my students to 3-dimensional learning using the investigation “Reaction in a Bag.” Now that all my quizzes are graded I’ve decided to write the reflection over how my students did with 3D learning, the thoughts of my two teaching peers who taught this way for the very first time, and what’ll I’ll do better next time (and not just next year “next time”).

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Words I Never Thought I’d Say

“Stop smacking your friends face with the pipet.”

“Why did you pinch his nipples with the tongs?!”

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 5.18.02 PMSometimes teaching science means hearing your students or yourself saying words you never thought would be in a sentence together. This can either cause some laughter or make the day seem incredibly long. After one particularly long day of “Quit shoving the wire brush down the bunsen burner” (students should have simply been identifying pieces of lab equipment) I began thinking surely I’m not alone in this. Continue reading

Developing SEP Skills: Reaction in a Bag

The shift to 3-dimensional learning in science education not only means teachers need help and time to adjust, so do our students! How do we ready our students for this change? What’s the best way to do this? I’m not sure but I’ll tell you how I’m going to do it. Before my classes start diving into chemistry concepts I’m going to have them do an investigation in which the focus will be developing the skills necessary for using science and engineering practices (SEPs) to explain crosscutting concepts (CCCs). This way when we begin chemistry concepts we have a reference point. The disciplinary core ideas in this investigation are (hopefully) review for my students (matter is made of particles and energy flows). To do this, I’m going to take an old lab (Reaction in a Bag) and refine it to fit my needs. You’ll find everything below!

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Inquiry & 3 Dimensional Science Learning

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Don’t teach this linear method!

Teaching students how to “do science” using the old, linear scientific method is not truly reflective of how scientists study the world around them. The scientific method gives a false sense that there is a step-by-step process for how to approach research, including moving from analysis to conclusion without ever reinvestigating, retesting, and revising. Science learning is not a rigid process, it is much more fluid. What is a closer method for teaching science? Inquiry! Sometimes I think this word is used so much that it no longer sounds like a real thing.  Inquiry is simply an act of asking questions to gain information. Science education researchers have been looking into how inquiry fits with science learning since the early 1960s when Bob Karplus and J. Myron Atkin published a paper based on “guided learning” or more known as the Learning Cycle (Rebello & Zollman, 1998). Guided learning focused on exploration, invention, and discovery, and was mostly used at the elementary level. Over the next 30 years, educators noticed the lack in formal reasoning skills among secondary and collegiate level students so began applying the learning cycle at the upper levels as well. There have been many different models developed but all are based on the original learning cycle. One of the more common models used at the secondary level for science education is the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E Instructional Model (5Es) lead by Rodger Bybee in the 1980’s. The BSCS 5E Instruction Model consists of 5 phases that all begin with “E” (imagine that 🙂 ): Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (Bybee et. al., 2006). See the diagram below for more information about each phase. Continue reading

Using Phenomena to Engage Students

The term “phenomena” is the newest buzzword in many education circles, including science. You know what I think of every. single. time. I hear this word? I visualize the muppets and this gem…

I smile and laugh to myself every time I hear this word, which immediately puts me in a good mood, and after a year of learning about and *attempting* to apply phenomena-based learning in my classroom, I still smile and laugh. As the new school year approaches I want to share my insights and hopefully persuade you into trying this type of student-driven learning in your classroom too!

Let’s begin at the beginning: what is a phenomenon (plural: phenomena)? The definition for this word is slightly different depending on your resource but all definitions have this in common: a phenomenon is an event that is observable. In a science classroom, students must be able to use disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts as evidence to support explanations for the cause(s) of the phenomenon in question. Hearing the term “phenomena” may connect you to the term “phenomenal” and lead you to believing a phenomenon must be an unusual or extraordinary event, however this is not true! While unusual and extraordinary events may seem like the most engaging options (i.e. What causes the Harvest Moon?Screen Shot 2016-08-02 at 9.48.34 PM Why do we see dew in the summer but frost in the winter?), phenomena can also be the more common or “simpler” observation (i.e. How does a tiny acorn become a big tree? How/why does an icy drink become wet on the outside?). There are two ways to use phenomena in the classroom: anchoring phenomenon, which needs an entire unit to explain the observation, and a lesson-level phenomenon, which is an observation explained by smaller pieces of information that’ll eventually support the bigger ideas.

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My Interview with Brett Moulding & 3-Dimensional Science Learning

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Meet Mr. Brett Moulding!

This summer I was able to complete the most challenging professional development I have ever attended and it has transformed my teaching forever. Very rarely do I come across the opportunity to attend a PD that focuses on both instructional strategies and science so when my District was approached about attending this PD I was excited! BIG THANK YOU to OKC Public Schools for bringing this amazing opportunity to teachers in Oklahoma! My teacher friend (and fellow OKSci Leadership Alumni!) is trying to bring this PD to the Tulsa/North Eastern area and I truly hope she can. Science education is changing, not only in Oklahoma but all over the US. This change is going to be hard. Teachers are going to need help with this transition. PD, like the one I attended, is going to be an important part of this process. For teachers that can’t attend PD I hope blogs like mine can provide the support they need. While I’ve done a short review of Moulding’s book, “A Vision and Plan for Science Teaching and Learning,” this post is going to focus on a short description of 3-Dimensional Learning and my interview with Brett Moulding. My posts this summer will then focus more on the 3D framework and provide examples and other links for more information.

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