OVERVIEW: I have owned Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Monroe (Creator of xkcd) for about a year. I keep it in my office and a few times a month I find myself opening it up and spending several minutes examining the brilliant labeled diagrams (they are amazing systems models) that show how common and important living and designed systems work. Mr. Monroe committed to using only the “ten hundred” most common words. This constraint creates a beautiful simplicity that gets to the essence of these systems. As science teachers we can learn a lesson from this. Too often we value vocabulary words as evidence of student understanding. Perhaps we should push more for simplified explanations that use everyday language.
PURPOSE: I think that any human being will find this book to be interesting and any scientist, engineer, or STEM educator will also find it to be inspiring and valuable. There is something about the clearly illustrated systems models that seem to mesh perfectly with the Next Generation Science Standards. This book also makes a wonderful gift.
A belated happy birthday to the Science for All blog. I wrote my first post on July 10, 2009. Since then there have been over 800 posts on a variety of K-12 science education resources. I apologize that there have been fewer posts the last 2 years than in the past. I hope to renew my engagement in sharing resources in year 6 of the blog. With the ongoing implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards I think there will be a lot to share in the 2014-15 school year. I hope you keep following and reading and finding things that are of interest and use.
NBC Learn, NBC Sports, the National Science Foundation, and the National Science Teachers Association have partnered to provide resources for teaching science and engineering ideas related to the Winter Olympic Games.
Links to Resources: (NSTA will continue to post resources on the NSTA Blog during the games)
Here is a simple structure for scaffolding a science video clip with students.
Predict: What will happen when you wring out a soaking wet washcloth in the microgravity of the International Space Station?
Observe the video below. (Click HERE if you cannot see the clip.) Where does the water from the washcloth go?
Explain why this happened. Make a claim and support it with evidence and reasoning.
Imagine scientists attempting to describe their work to the public… using only the 1000 most common words in the English language. Well, that is exactly what is happening. A program inspired by Up Goer Five a strip by online comic xkcd (if you do not follow- you need to check it out) is promoting graduate students in science fields to attempt this challenge. Read a blog post HERE to learn more about the challenge and read the outcomes. Below is the winning entry by Yasmeen Hussain- note the scientific conference language versus the 1000 word challenge language:
Yasmeen at a scientific conference: I study the link between sperm chemotaxis and fertilization success. Eggs in animals such as sea urchins release chemicals that act as sperm attractants. Sperm use chemotaxis – that is, orientation towards the source of a chemical gradient – to find the eggs. However, it is unknown whether sperm chemotaxis directly contributes to reproductive success.
Yasmeen’s 1000 entry: I study tiny things that are man and woman parts of an animal. The woman part talks and the man part listens. The tiny things have a conversation so that they can find each other and make babies. Some man things are better at listening than others. I want to know if the man things that are better at listening are also better at making babies.
I think this work has implications for us in science education- How can we take vocabulary-rich and conceptually dense ideas and help students to explain them in everyday language?
John Green has a new YouTube channel called Mental Floss. The first episode was on 50 common misconceptions. While most of these are not conceptual science misconceptions they are still pretty interesting and fun to watch. See embedded clip below- Enjoy!
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.