Category Archives: K-12 General Science

FREE: Smithsonian National Education Summit July 18-20, 2023

Are you looking for some free professional development that you can attend online this summer? Well, here you go!

The Smithsonian will host the National Education Summit from July 18 to 20. This three-day event offers teachers the chance to explore important topics and connect with others, both online and in person. The summit will cover subjects such as sustainability, STEAM education, the Smithsonian’s “Our Shared Future: Reckoning With Our Racial Past” initiative, and arts education. The event will feature presentations by renowned experts, including 2023 National Teacher of the Year Rebecka Peterson, actor and activist Maulik Pancholy, psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Cantor, and Smithsonian educators.

This is not a science/STEM specific conference but several of the threads relate directly to science and STEM education:

  • Life on a Sustainable Planet
  • STEAM Education
  • Reckoning with Our Racial Past
  • An Integrated Arts Education

The event is free to attend either face-to-face or online. Click HERE to register. I just signed up (for online) and hope to see some of y’all there.


Virtual Meeting: Looking Ahead to the Next Decade of Science Standards

I was just talking with some science leaders about the fact that the NGSS are a decade old and it still feels like we have lots of good work to do in implementing them in equitable and meaningful ways across our educational systems. We also started wondering- will there be a new set of science standards on the horizon? Or maybe NGSS “the Next Generation” (get it)?

Then today I got an email that The Board on Science Education at the National Academies of Science will be hosting a virtual (and face to face) meeting on June 7th titled Looking Ahead to the Next Decade of Science Standards. This feels like great timing to start to set the vision for the next decade in science education. I’m very interested to see what various speakers and panelists have to say.

I quickly registered and hope that others will be able to join in too. (I’m excited about that 6:00am PST start time.)

Click HERE if you want more information and/or to register. See the agenda HERE.

WestEd: Evaluation of NGSS Instruction Implementation

WestED has a short report titled NGSS Instruction: A Powerful Lever for Equitable Learning, Language Development, and Learning in Other Subjects. This concise 4 page brief provides take-always and lessons learned from the supported implementation of the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) in multiple K-8 settings. The evaluation brief provides ideas such as:

  • Focusing on science in students’ lives and cultures engages them
  • Science supports language development
  • Science integrates effectively with other core subjects.

The report highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with implementing NGSS. It acknowledges that shifting to NGSS-aligned instruction requires significant changes in teaching practices, curriculum development, and assessment strategies. The report emphasizes the need for teacher support and professional development to ensure successful implementation. It also suggests potential benefits, such as increased student engagement, improved scientific literacy, and better preparation for college and careers in science-related fields. The report concludes by emphasizing the importance of collaboration among educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to effectively implement NGSS and enhance science education nationwide. This feels like a valuable guide for educators, administrators, and policymakers involved in the implementation and assessment of the NGSS in any context. Check it out.

NSTA Article: Exploring Phenomena

The recent article “Exploring Phenomena: Connecting Science Learning” from NSTA’s Connected Science Learning journal dives into the importance of connecting science education to real-world phenomena. The article emphasizes that when students investigate and explore natural phenomena, they develop a deeper understanding of scientific concepts and practices. It highlights the significance of incorporating phenomena-based instruction, where students engage in authentic and meaningful investigations that spark curiosity and foster scientific thinking. A video HERE provides a case study of teachers engaged in phenomenon-based investigation at The Exploratorium. The article provides insights into how educators can design and implement phenomena-based lessons, showcasing examples and success stories from classrooms. The authors underscore the value of connecting science learning to phenomena, as it enhances student engagement, promotes inquiry-based learning, and cultivates a deeper appreciation for the natural world. A great piece to add to your phenomena-based science instruction resources.

Working on State Science Assessments

Twenty-two years ago I was just wrapping up my first year of teaching. Teaching was my second career- I’d spent almost a decade working in Biotech as a STEM professional. Of course back then we didn’t use the term “STEM professional”…I was a lab tech. My career change went well and I really loved teaching those 5th graders. But I also knew that I wanted to find ways to advocate for elementary science and to prepare myself for whatever might come after my time in the classroom.

I remember seeing an opportunity to be a part of a committee/focus group that was looking to start building a science assessment for the state of Washington. We had new science standards and would soon be implementing a state-wide science assessment system. I remember being very interested in what the elementary test might look like. I signed up. I got accepted. And over the following two decades I would work on multiple committees to usher in three different sets for state science standards and assessments (including NGSS). I did item writing, data review, content review, range finding (so much range finding!), standard-setting, work on test and item specs…I can’t even remember every committee. We designed released scenarios & items, PCAs, and lots of professional learning for teachers. Back then most of the meetings were week-long events. Lots of time spent in hotels in Bellingham and Olympia. I also think I maintained my teaching certificate almost entirely from clock hours from those events- a nice perk.

Photo by Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo

I would say that that initial science assessment committee work in the summer of 2001- really propelled me into the work that I do now- working in teacher education and working as a consultant to support schools and districts with STEM instruction. The assessment committee work built my skills in understanding standards deeply, in interrogating the purpose of science assessment, in understanding how to construct clear items, tasks & rubrics, and in building connections with like-minded science folks from across the state.

As it happens, OSPI is currently seeking applications for a new round of science assessment work that will engage in Range Finding in July and Content Review in September. I highly recommend applying to be a part of this work. You will bring key learning and resources back to your district and it just might launch you professionally in ways you cannot even predict.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been on a committee- so I completed the application. We’ll see if they are interested in having an old Science Assessment Leadership Team fossil involved in the work. Either way- I hope that we get lots of “first timers” to apply. We need to take pride in that fact that since the beginning our science assessment work in Washington has been guided by the work of teachers.

Click HERE to see the Science Assessment Professional Development page on the OSPI website. This site shows you the dates and events coming the summer and fall of 2023. Invitations to apply are sent to those on the science assessment listserv but I’m assuming you could also contact the science assessment team (see link under Contact Information on the right side of OSPI page) and ask for a link to the application. Good luck.

Ocean Tracks

Ocean Tracks is an educational website that provides interactive maps and visualizations of oceanographic data to help people learn about the movement and behavior of marine animals. The website allows users to track the movements of tagged animals such as sea turtles, sharks, and whales, as well as view oceanographic data such as temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll concentration.

Ocean Tracks also includes lesson plans and activities for educators to use in the classroom. The website aims to increase awareness and understanding of ocean ecosystems and the animals that inhabit them. I can imagine this being a great source of data sets to engage with SEPs Analyzing and Interpreting Data and Using Math and Computational Thinking in the domain of life sciences. Definitely worth checking into and adding to your bookmarks. See the short video embedded below.

It’s a Tradition: Survive the Sound- Enter Soon!

In many classrooms around the Pacific Northwest (and beyond) participating in Survive the Sound has become an annual tradition. Survive the Sound is a website that aims to raise awareness about the survival of endangered salmon species in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. The website allows users to adopt a salmon and track its progress in real-time as it attempts to navigate through a virtual obstacle course that simulates the hazards that salmon face in their natural environment. The website also provides educational resources about salmon conservation efforts and encourages users to take action to protect these important fish species.

The migration starts May 1st so assemble your team now for some friendly competition. And yes- there are prizes!

Science Education in an Age of Misinformation

Stanford University recently released a report titled Science Education in the Age of Misinformation. The report makes the case for why misinformation is a problem and how scientists and science educators might address the problem. The report provides some clear recommendations and also some compelling examples.

You can access the full report as a pdf HERE. You can also visit the accompanying website HERE.

Have You Seen the Latest STEM Teaching Tools?

If you are someone who follows this blog then you most likely are already a fan of the brilliant STEM Teaching Tools site. If it’s been awhile since you’ve visited then I highly recommend heading there now. The last several Practice Briefs are powerful (not that the previous ones were not) and tackle some important topics in equity-focused science instruction. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started:

BSCS: Limited Time FREE Access to Videoverse

As an educator of preservice teachers and a consultant working with inservice teachers I’m always on the lookout for FREE quality videos of science instruction. There are some entities that have great videos but they are now behind a subscription wall (I’m looking at you Teaching Channel). So when I saw that BSCS was offering FREE subscriptions for their BSCS Videoverse platform I quickly jumped on it.

Now, I will admit that I have only signed up today so I haven’t had time to give the videos a thorough review but I’m encouraged by the mix of videos at multiple grade bands. Videos are organized by different practices and instructional moves such as Revealing Student Ideas and Using Models and Representations. There are also places where multiple short clips from the same lesson have been collated together for viewing.

To sign up click HERE and then you’ll be directed to enter your name, email and make a password. If you enter the code FREEACCESS you will not need to enter any credit card information.