So You’ve Been Hired as a Science TOSA | Part 1

This is the time of the year when a new group of science TOSAs (teachers on special assignment) tend to enter the realm of school district office science support. Now you may have a different term than TOSA in your neck of the woods- but basically this is a position where a classroom teacher continues to be paid a teacher salary (with perhaps a few extra hours thrown in) but does district office administrative level work to support science implementation.

Over the last 10 years I have worked with and supported many people in these Science TOSA positions and I’ve noticed that many school districts do not adequately support¬† those who take on these positions. The skillset of a successful classroom science teacher is often not the same skillset necessary to be a successful science education leader. I’ve also noticed that there are a huge variety of roles that these Science TOSAs might be expected to take on- here are a few that come to mind:

  • Science Curriculum and Assessment expert K-5, MS, HS or all 3
  • Mentor teacher
  • Instructional coach
  • Professional Development Designer and Provider
  • Meeting coordinator and facilitator
  • Science Materials Manager
  • Science Curriculum Review Committee Leader
  • and so much more

Some skills that Science TOSAs may need (that may differ from classroom teaching):

  • advocating for science instruction within your own district
  • working in uncertain and ever-changing environments
  • working with mostly adults (vs mostly kids)
  • navigating school district politics
  • managing a budget

While the following is not an exhaustive list- here are a few books that I highly recommend for the beginning Science TOSA. By the way- most of these are not science education specific. I’ll post a Part 2 in the future with some of my favorite science ed resources for new TOSAs.

Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Math and Science (3rd edition) This is an oldie but a goody- the framework for developing and planning PD is just as effective and useful today.

Leading Every Day: 124 Actions for Effective Leadership A set of short snippets that can be used personally or with small groups to focus on leadership.

Cognitive Coaching: A Foundation for Renaissance Schools Another oldie- but this book provides an excellent framework for coaching and working with adults.

Choreography of Presenting A short and readable guide on effectively presenting to adults.

Evaluating Professional Development So you’re delivering PD…but how are you evaluating the effectiveness of that PD? This is the book to get you started.

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OpenSciEd Save the Date: Aug. 15, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 10.13.22 AMOpenSciEd just launched a new web presence and will be releasing the first set of FREE middle school science instructional materials designed specifically for NGSS and 3D instruction. The upcoming units are:

I’m excited for these resources to launch- stay tuned. Here is an e-announcement with more details.

Video: Travel Deep Inside a Leaf

Back in the day (or a couple of years ago) I used to post lots of cool science videos on this site. I got away from that in order to focus on more “important” science education resources. Well- I think it’s time to start sprinkling in some fun science videos again. So here we go. This is not a brand new video but it is cool. Here is Travel Deep Inside a Leaf courtesy of California Academy of Sciences. Feels like it could be useful for high school biology and thinking about Scale, Proportion, & Quantity.

Book Study: STEM Lesson Essentials

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 2.36.32 PMWell, it’s that time of year where the ongoing countdown of number of days to the end of the summer is reaching just a few weeks for most of us. As such, I’ll be posting some recommendations for last minute professional summer reading related to science education.

A great resource for digging into elementary STEM instruction is- STEM Lesson Essentials Grades 3-8 by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, and Michael Comer. STEM Lesson Essentials is a timely, readable, and usable guide to STEM literacy that won’t weigh down your beach bag. (At 178 pages it is slim but packs a punch.) See some specifics below.

PROS:

  • The Front Matter (chapters 1-5) are essential reading for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of STEM literacy and what it means- Every K-8 principal should read this book by the way!
  • Contains authentic and engaging standards-based STEM activities that a teacher might use in a classroom or that a professional development provider might use in a workshop.
  • Chapter 8 provides a great framework for thinking about integration. I feel like we throw this word around in elementary education and we rarely define it or provide a continuum of what integration might look like.
  • Chapters are well-written, engaging, and short… perfect for summer reading.
  • Makes the case for technology and engineering as central aspects of STEM education.
  • Uses the STEM Practices as a central storyline (see p. 38).
  • Includes support on PBL, assessment, and STEM lesson resources.

CONS:

  • K-2 examples would be appreciated (as would High School)
  • Clearer connections on how to obtain some of the materials in sample lessons
  • Easy connection to some online supports- video, links, website, etc
  • Would be nice to have deeper and more intentional connections to NGSS (this book was published in 2013 which is part of the reason for this).

Click HERE to order a copy of STEM Lesson Essentials. I’d love to get some conversations going about this book- I know that several teachers have been digging into this resource over the years. What has been valuable? What have you implemented?

 

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Summer Reading: Ambitious Science Teaching

ast coverIf you are anything like me, then the very end of July and beginning of August is a time when you start thinking about getting back to your “school brain”. By this I mean that I’m still in vacation mode, but I start to think about a few things I want to implement in the new school year and maybe start reading a professional book (or two) to get reenergized and ready for the year.

A perfect book for us science-minded folks is Ambitious Science Teaching. This book came out last year and is a long-awaited companion and synthesis of the great work by the Ambitious Science Teaching group at the University of Washington. Here is a post I wrote almost 10 years ago on Ambitious Science Teaching when this blog first launched (dead links and all).

I ran an online book study of Ambitious Science Teaching last school year with a group of regional science leaders and found that leading a study of the book really helped me to dig in closely- in contrast to my usual “skimming” of professional books. Working with a group of science education leaders rather than practicing teachers brought a different lens to the conversations and allowed us all to think about how we could implement the methods, strategies, and vision of the book in multiple contexts as we continue to support shifts in classroom science instruction.

AST table 1-1

Table 1.1 above is one of the initial text features you encounter early in the text. I appreciate how this table is different than the typical “more of this…less of this” type of table about science instruction. Here we are able to see strengths and honor those strengths while acknowledging that there are serious struggles… and that the struggles may be different than what many classroom teachers, district administrators and others in the system might predict. If we rally around these struggles then we can focus our energy and professional learning on solving these. And that is exactly what the rest of Ambitious Science Teaching¬†does- it provides us with a multitude of strategies and instructional behaviors to implement in our science classrooms in order to supplant the struggles.

I hope to keep chatting about AST throughout this school year and to hear from others who are using the book. By examining the book we will be able to dig into some important topics in science instruction:

  • asking effective questions and managing productive discourse
  • engaging students in developing and using models
  • teaching for understanding
  • leveraging students’ ideas over the arch of learning and figuring out

Here are some initial questions to respond to in the comments:

Have you read (or are you reading) Ambitious Science Teaching? What are you finding most useful about the text? How are you planning to implement ideas from the book in your classroom?

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Science for All Blog- 10 Year Anniversary

I started this blog in July of 2009- so it is celebrating a 10 year anniversary this month. There have obviously been ebbs and flows in terms of the amount of content that I’ve posted over the years. I’m hoping to refresh and reinvent this site a bit this year- so stay tuned. And thanks for being a part of this for all this time. I hope you all find some useful STEM education tidbits here.

Grade 1 NGSS Unit Exemplar: How Does Light Help Me See Things and Communicate with Others?

The Nextgenscience.org site continues to highlight exemplars of NGSS-based instructional units with their Quality NGSS Units. One of the latest is a 1st grade unit– which is great because many of the initial science units to arise have tended to be middle school and upper elementary.

How Does Light Help Me See Things and Communicate with Others? is a 1st grade unit from the Next Generation Science Storylines group. (If you are not aware of this resource you need to check it out NOW!) The unit contains:

These units are excellent as objects of study in professional development or in science methods courses. Because the idea of 3D science instruction based on a thoughtful storyline is new for many folks (and definitely different than the science instruction that most of us adults experienced as learners ourselves) we need to see multiple examples of the “target”. This unit provides a great example of primary teachers of science.