FREE Webinar: Unique Challenges of Science Ed in Post-Pandemic World

Join a FREE panel-discussion webinar on Monday, January 25, 2021 from 4-5pm EST on the challenges of teaching science during the pandemic.

Click HERE for more information including how to register.

Video: People on the Street React to Seeing the Moon Up Close

There is obviously a lot going on in the world right now and I find that monitoring the news can be all-consuming. While I feel compelled to be engaged and enraged and involved. I also know that I need to occasionally step away and sink into some content that fills me up. This is not a new video but I stumbled on it recently and it brought me a bit of a smile and a reminder of the power of science, of observing, of looking closely…of perspective. Enjoy.

WA STATE: FREE Middle School OpenSciEd Workshops

This is a short post to help publicize this FREE middle school science professional development opportunity for teachers in Washington State sponsored by ClimeTime and the WA ESD Science Coordinators. OpenSciEd are FREE OER science instructional materials that were specifically designed for engaging students in the Next Generation Science Standards. Even if you already have other new middle school science instructional materials it can be very helpful to learn about the OpenSciEd units as you will deepen your understanding of best practices and equitable strategies in science instruction.

There are workshop on 3 different units being offered this winter. Click on the unit topic below to register for the professional development.

PS- there are also remote learning adaptations available for the OpenSciEd units. Check them out HERE.

Cranky Uncle: Smartphone Game for Disarming Climate Denial

I’ve spent a lot of time on Skeptical Science over the last couple of years and have used it as a foundational resources for a couple of secondary climate science professional development workshops. If you haven’t checked out Skeptical Science it is definitely worthy of bookmarking and perusing.

In this post I want to highlight a specific resource- the Cranky Uncle app. Created by John Cook- one of the authors of Skeptical Science- this app takes many of the common arguments used by climate change deniers and allows the user to practice recognizing and responding to the arguments. This is also a great extension to Denial 101X where Dr. Cook teaches a full FREE online course on Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. I also find that the strategies used in climate denial are not much different than those used to deny many other scientific ideas (Evolution, spherical Earth, etc) so having some awareness of denial techniques is important as a science educator.

Cranky Uncle is free and is available at both the Apple App Store and Google Play. If you enjoy Cranky Uncle you might also be interested in the book Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change.

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WA STATE: FREE K-5 OSPI Science At-Home Workshop

OSPI is providing a FREE workshop on the K-5 Science Essential Question Units and Resources. This workshop will provide an overview of the existing science resources that are aligned to NGSS and are modified to support students and teachers in science learning during distance learning. You also get 1.5 to 6 STEM clock hours depending on whether you want to engage students in some of the learning experiences you will experience. Sounds like a great way to learn about some free aligned science resources and get some free STEM clock hours too. Hope to see lots of you on the Zoom on Jan. 12th.

When: Tuesday, January 12th from 4-5:30pm (other asynchronous hours optional)

Where: Zoom workshop

How: Register on PD Enroller HERE

You can preview the elementary science resources below:

My Top 10 Science Videos of 2020

It is challenging to determine the Top Videos in any category because there is just so much great content in every genre online. Having said that- here are my personal Top 10 Science Videos of 2020. There are examples here of several different content creators and entities along with a variety of kinds of science videos. There are explanatory videos, music videos, short videos, long videos, important videos, and just cool science videos. Let me know in the comments of any other science videos from 2020 that you would nominate. Enjoy!

Veritasium: These are the asteroids to worry about

Science with Tom: CRISPR (“7 Rings” Parody) – Science Rap Academy

SciShow-Bugs Aren’t Brainless! | Great Minds: Charles Henry Turner

minutephysics: Why Masks Work Better Than You’d Think

ASAP Science: What the COVID vaccine Does to Your Body

Mark Rober: World’s Largest Devil’s Toothpaste Explosion

NOVA PBS: Can We Cool the Planet?

Real Science: The Insane Biology of The Octopus

UW: Worn Tires Contribute to Chemical that Kills Coho Salmon

NOVA PBS: Signs of Life Found on Venus

My Top 4 Science Education Books of 2020

2020 has provided many of us with some extra time for reading. While I haven’t always used this time wisely (I’m looking at you Netflix and Nintendo Switch) I wanted to share the 4 books that I’ve discovered and revisited the most in 2020. The following are in no particular order.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This is not a traditional education book. You will not find a bunch of acronyms or quick strategies for teaching indigenous students. Instead you will find a series of stories that will change the way you think about your relationship with the natural world, with scientific understanding and with indigenous ways of knowing and being. You may find that your relationships with plants will be forever changed. I notice that I want to return to this book over and over- I intentionally leave it out in my office so that I have easy access to it. Not just because it is so good and captivating but because these lessons are deep and require constant revisitation in order to take hold in me. In 2020 this book really brought me a comfort and a connectedness with nature that I think I needed. One of my favorite reads in the last several years.

Ambitious Science Teaching by Mark Windschitl, Jessica Thompson, and Melissa Braaten

This book has become a touchstone for so many best practices in science instruction. While this is not a new book it is one that still feels fresh and innovative (because it is). In setting a standard for rigorous and equitable science instruction this book demands that we examine our core practices in science instruction and replace traditional methods with science learning that is focused on big ideas that allow students to uncover and revise their ideas based on evidence. This is not a book to just “take away” a couple of cool strategies to implement. This is about a culture shift in how we design and deliver science learning experiences that actually engage our students in the practices of science.

Science in the City by Bryan A. Brown

I have mentioned Science in the City previously and I just can’t say enough positives about it. Dr. Brown skillfully uses stories to ground this work and to teach us about the relationship between language, identity, and culture. If you give this book the opportunity, it can help you to change the way you think about your instruction in a diverse science classroom. I feel like this book makes a great partner to Ambitious Science Teaching and helps to expand and push on the importance of language and talk in science learning as an equity issue. This is an essential book to add to your equity and diversity resources and I’d argue that even if you are not a teacher of science that you will find this book to be meaningful and important to your work supporting students.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How to be An Antiracist is a popular book and for good reason. I’m assuming that many of us in education have purchased or received this book. Hopefully it isn’t just sitting on the shelf. This resource (like Braiding Sweetgrass above) demands repeat readings…especially if you are a white person like myself. Becoming an antiracist educator isn’t simple work. This book isn’t like a vaccine where you read it once and then have “immunity”. It requires doing some work on ourselves (which I think is always challenging for us as human beings) and then interrogating the policies and beliefs in whatever domain we work in from education to health care to non-profit, etc. Dr. Kendi has an amazing talent for using his own life story to introduce us to the work of antiracism and to guide and support us to go deeper in our own journey to becoming antiracists. If you haven’t picked this up or if you haven’t looked at it since the summer then I highly recommend digging in.

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WA Green Schools: At-Home Certification

Washington Green Schools is a non-profit organization working to empower students to become environmental leaders by certifying their schools and conserving resources. During the pandemic Washington Green Schools has added the option for students to apply for At-Home Certification.

I would argue that while the usual school certification process is powerful this is one of those instances where the pandemic can lead to interesting modifications to our procedures. Encouraging students and their families to make changes in their home practices is where the real environmental impact can happen.

Teachers and families can download the Washington Green Schools At-Home Certification Kit HERE. The kit provides a menu of projects to choose from (with their family’s permission and support). Students then conduct a home audit and collect data on the change (project) they selected. Families will also get access to the Carbon Calculator tool and multiple other learning resources. I can image this being a powerful at-home STEM learning experience for the winter and/or spring of 2021.

WA STATE: Climate Justice League Workshop Series

Here in Washington the state K-12 teachers have a cool opportunity to join an ongoing workshop series on Climate Justice. Plus you get to join a group that sounds like a combination of the Justice League and Captain Planet and the Planeteers... The Climate Justice League!

Who: This is designed for any K-12 teacher in WA and is lead by Puget Sound ESD, Northwest ESD 189 and ESD 112 in partnership with Washington Green Schools.

What: members will receive support to develop learning opportunities to share with students around issues of social justice through the lens of climate change. Participants will be expected to work on lessons, deliver learning to students and bring student work samples to the final meeting.

Where: It’s all online via Zoom!

When: four 2-hour Zoom meetings:

January 12, 2021

February 2nd, 2021

March 10, 2021

April 27, 2021

Why: Learn about social justice related to climate, get resources (A People’s Curriculum for the Earth), collaboration, $480, and clock hours

How: Check out the registration information below!

Check out the Climate Justice League flier HERE.

If you are interested you can register FREE HERE.

My Top 5 Science Picture Books for 2020

I’m a former elementary teacher- therefore I love picture books. But to be honest I feel like I’ve always loved picture books. I loved them myself as a kid and have so many great memories of reading them to my own two kids. A couple of decades ago in my teacher education program I can remember we had an assignment to read 50 picture books…it didn’t feel like an assignment to me. That was probably my favorite literacy assignment- and then we got to do a read aloud to our class- just the best!

So now as a teacher educator and consultant I love to integrate picture books into my teaching. I read picture books to my college students and my inservice teachers to teach them about engineering design, the science and engineering practices and the crosscutting concepts. We discuss how to use picture books in authentic and engaging science lessons.

As someone who is always on the hunt for a good STEM picture book- here are my personal Top 5 favorite science and STEM-related picture books from 2020 in no particular order. NOTE: Some of these may not have a 2020 publication date- they are books that I became aware of in 2020.

Top 5 Science Picture Books of 2020

A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanne Slade

We’ve seen a few children’s books about the incomparable mathematician Katherine Johnson depicted in the movie Hidden Figures. I think this is my favorite of all of them due to the focus on Mrs. Johnson’s motivation and drive.

Look Up with Me, Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Life Among the Stars by Jennifer Berne

I am always a fan of sharing (with students and teachers) the early lives of people who entered STEM fields. I think it’s important to see the rich experiences that lead young people to pursue STEM careers. This excellent book shares how Neil’s early curiosity about planets and stars led to his love of science.

Nine Months by Miranda Paul

I have a very strong memory of my mom (a nurse) buying me a book about baby development when I was around 7 years old. I was fixated with that book and all of the pictures of the stages of human development. That’s probably where my interest in science- and specifically biology- was solidified. Nine Months reminds me a lot of that book I had in the mid-1970s. Check it out and try to get someone hooked on the life sciences 🙂

What Miss Mitchell Saw by Hayley Barrett

The true story of Maria Mitchell and her discovery of a comet which led to her becoming the first American female astronomer.

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty

The true story of Emily Roebling who helped guide the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband (the lead engineer on the project) fell ill.

Lots of great picture books were left off of this list. What science-related picture books have you fallen in love with recently that deserve a mention here?

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