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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One response to “My Top 4 Science Education Books of 2020

  1. Thank you Kirk! Always thoughtful suggestions. Best in 2021, Kim

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