3-Dimensionalize That Eclipse Lesson!

Unless you’ve been living in a cave somewhere you’ve probably heard of this little thing being called the Great American Eclipse. While an eclipse is actually not a rare phenomenon (one happens somewhere in the world every 18 months!), this event is being so publicized because the last time the path of totality crossed the US, coast to coast, was nearly 100 years ago! Either way a solar eclipse is a pretty cool phenomenon and a GREAT way to engage students in the wonder of science!

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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


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