Category Archives: elementary


Planet Nutshell Climate Science Videos

Screen Shot 2013-07-26 at 1.06.59 PMThe Next Generation Science Standards contain a strong K-12 focus on climate science and this focus may be missing in some of our instructional materials. Planet Nutshell contains several short well produced educational video clips and they have a series of 11 videos on climate science. See What is Climate? embedded below. These could provide a useful supplement.

NSTA July 2013 Journals: A Focus on Argumentation

The July 2013 issues of NSTA‘s journals all feature a focus on argumentation and explanation. Explanation and Argumentation are both Practices of Science & Engineering in the new Next Generation Science Standards. These two practices connect nicely with the Common Core Math and ELA Standards and are typically not well understood or implemented in K-12 classrooms.

These journal articles might supply a much needed focus on explanation and argumentation while also providing some tools and resources for our own professional development. I happen to be working on multiple projects this coming year related to explanation and argumentation so I hope to have much to share as the year progresses.

As usual, NSTA provides a few articles for FREE.. see below:

Science & Children (elementary science)

Science Scope (middle school)

The Science Teacher (high school)


STEM Practices

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 11.10.24 AMYesterday I recommended the book STEM Lesson Essentials Grades 3-8 as a wonderful resource for any K-8 teacher looking to dig deeper into understanding STEM education. One of my favorite parts of the book is a simple (yet powerful) page that organizes the Practices of Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics in a way that helps us to make connections between these practices. I’ve adapted it into a one page document with some hyperlinks to source documents. This might be a useful resource of those of you who are building leaders, professional development providers, or teachers looking to design integrated STEM lessons. Enjoy!

STEM Practices 1 pager


WA State: FREE Online Workshop- From Systems, Inquiry, & Application to the NGSS

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K-8 teachers of science in Washington state may be interested in a FREE online workshop I created using as a platform.

The workshop is titled- From Systems, Inquiry, & Application to the NGSS. The goals of the workshop are for participants to:

  • gain a deeper understanding of Systems, Inquiry, and Application in the WA Science Learning Standards
  • gain an awareness of the 3 dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards (Practices of Science & Engineering, Crosscutting Concepts, & Disciplinary Core Ideas)
  • gain multiple tools and resources for teaching students about Systems, Inquiry, & Application with connections to NGSS (Systems Handbook, Application Handbook, and lessons based on narrative text)

The workshop is:

  • Asynchronous- (You attend when you want and engage with materials in the order you want)
  • FREE
  • Based on a series of mostly short video “lectures” where participants engage with articles, videos, links, and make sense of the materials
  • and it’s FREE


A. I view this as a pilot and would love feedback from participants on what worked for your learning and what could be improved. I hope to create future courses with a better production value.

B. This workshop has an intentional focus on the Washington Science Learning Standards. Participants looking for a workshop with a sole focus on the NGSS should look elsewhere.

Click HERE to access the course. Enjoy!

Summer Reading: STEM Lesson Essentials Grades 3-8

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 school year is reaching single digits for most of us. As such I’ll be posting some recommendations for professional summer reading related to science education in the coming weeks.

My first recommendation is a new book titled- 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.


  • 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!
  • 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
  • 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


  • K-2 examples would be appreciated (as would High School)
  • Clearer connections on how to obtain some of the materials in sample lessons
  • No e-book version?
  • Easy connection to some online supports- video, links, website, etc

Let me know if you would like to join me in a virtual book study over the summer. I’ve only touched the surface on this great resource.

5th Grade Science MSP Practice Kit

Hi all, I wanted to repost about the Grade 5 Science MSP Practice Kit. My post from last year is below. I have received lots of good feedback from multiple schools, districts, and teachers regarding this resource so please give it a look and share.

Tom Hathorn of the Bethel School District (here in Washington state) has created a brilliant resource for 5th grade teachers: the 5th Grade Science MSP Practice Kit. This toolkit assembles and modifies many science assessment resources from OSPI into an organized and useable form that pushes beyond “drill and kill” test prep.

Clarification: The intent of this toolkit is NOT to promote abandoning authentic science instruction for test prep. The purpose of the kit is to provide:

  • 5th grade students some familiarity with a scenario-based test structure
  • a structure for teachers to engage students with science assessment items
  • students with an opportunity to talk about their science ideas and to revise their thinking
  • teachers and students with formative opportunities focused on science standards

The 5th Grade Science MSP toolkit contains:

  • An overview of the 5th grade Science MSP
  • A lesson structure for students to take a set of test items and then engage in discourse and revised thinking
  • Teacher tracking tools and suggested calendars for planning
  • Student-friendly scoring rubrics and student work samples- These are intentionally NOT identical to the OSPI rubrics. For example- the Writing a Conclusion rubric is based on Claims, Evidence, and Reasoning rather than Conclusive Statement, High/Low Data, and Explanatory Language.
  • Survey tools for checking student confidence during the course of the practice

Download a copy of the MSP Practice Kit Gr 5 (2012)  and feel free to share. I’m hoping this will be a useful tool for several districts, schools, and teachers. Please SHARE BACK any improvements, modification, etc that you make to these materials.

Seeking Advice and Encouragement for Preservice Elementary Teachers of Science

Next week I will start teaching K-8 Science Methods courses to three different groups of preservice teachers. In my state, this is typically the ONE science education related course that elementary educators receive. It always feels like a huge responsibility… that in just a matter of hours over the couse of 10 weeks I am charged with conveying all of the necessary habits of mind, pedagogy, knowledge and beliefs necessary to be a successful teacher of elementary science.

So on that note, I’m asking all of you to help me out. What would you like to share with this group of emerging elementary teachers regarding science education? Perhaps a bit of advice, a quote, a tip, or a word of encouragement. What do you wish someone would have shared with you? Please leave some thoughts in the comments and I will pass it on. Thanks.

Early Childhood STEM: Less Talk More Action

Doug Haller posted a piece on SmartBlog on Education titled Early Childhood STEM: Less Talk More Action. The post is well written and makes some important points about the overwhelming focus on literacy and mathematics in K-5 education… a focus that tends to marginalize the importance of science (not to mention social studies, health, and the arts.) Check out the post HERE.

STEM-IT: Elementary STEM Resources

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 7.42.45 PMSTEM-IT is a math science partnership project in Washington state involving ESD 123, ESD 189, and multiple partners. A requirement of the grant is to provide developed resources online. The STEM-IT site currently contains resources for K-5 STEM education that connect STEM literacy, science standards, English/Language Arts standards, and Design Challenges with some common elementary science instructional materials.


The site contains tools for providing professional development on the STEM-IT resources.

The Design Challenges include:

Design Process Graphic 2011 Link to Design Process Graphic
Saving Gaveo City from Flash Flooding Link to STEM It 2012 Land and Water Design Challenge
Electric Circuits STEM Enhancement Link to Electric Circuits STEM Enhancement
Ecosystems STEM Design Challenge Link to Ecosystems STEM Design Challenge
Vandalism at _________Elementary Link to Rocks and Minerals STEM Enhancement

Another great set of STEM materials to add to your bookmarks.

Practices of Science & Engineering- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

This month the various NSTA journals will be sharing an excellent article by Philip Bell (et al) titled- Exploring the Science Framework: Engaging learners in scientific practices related to obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

This article provides some much needed clarity on the 8th practice of science and engineering- obtaining, evaluating, and communication information. You will find examples of what this practice looks like when engaged in by students in pre-K, grade 5, middle school, and high school life science. This article could be very useful for any teacher seeking depth of understanding of the new practices or district administrators, professional development providers and informal science providers who support teachers. Click HERE to download the article. This article could also be used to make some connections with Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts.