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.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Science in the City: Culturally Relevant STEM Education by Bryan A. Brown of Stanford University is a true gift to the science education community. I’ve been using a YouTube video of Dr. Brown discussing science, language and identity for several years in workshops and with my pre-service science teachers (see embedded video below). Dr. Brown has taken the ideas in the short video and built them into an engaging, readable and important book.
Science in the City is an easy read largely due to Dr. Brown’s writing style and his use of story to couch the ideas that he’s presenting to us- he’s also modeling for us what he wants us to do with students! The stories are everyday events that illustrate language, identity, and race. One of my favorites is from early in the book when Dr. Brown reminds us of a post-game interview that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston gave on TV in 2014 following a victory in the national championship game. After the interview Mr. Winston’s interview was met on social media with a barrage of criticism including a tweet saying, “Am I listening to English?” This criticism was countered by tweets from Lebron James and Reggie Bush praising Mr. Winston’s leadership, interview skill, and talk. Dr. Brown puts this in front of us to make the point that schools tend to value “academic English” and that many folks working in educational systems have a bias for (and against) certain types of talk. We are often missing out on the brilliance of students of color based on these biases.
If you have done any work on student discourse in science this book will resonate with you and likely push you to think deeper about how to interrogate educational systems for more culturally relevant language practices in science classrooms.
Here is a quote from the book that illustrates what Science in the City is all about:
If there is a single message that serves as the foundation for this book it is the idea that there is no cultural distance between students of color and a successful science education.
The final chapter of the book does a clear and concise job of presenting a small but powerful set of instructional practices to implement in science classrooms:
- Disaggregate Instruction
- Generative Formative Assessment
- Culturally Based Cognitive Apprenticeship Instruction
- Technology as a Cultural Mediator
I highly recommend adding Science in the City to your set of science education resources. I’d also love to hear from anyone else who has been digging into this book.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
OVERVIEW: The Smithsonian Science Education Center and the Shell Oil Company have collaborated to compose a document titled- Fostering Change: Ideas and Best Practices for Diversity in STEM Teaching in K-12 Classrooms. This playbook provides support in trying to diversify the STEM teaching ranks.
PURPOSE: Here is some wording directly from the playbook that describes the purpose of the document.
The nation faces challenges to achieve excellence in its science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce; and, the importance of fostering diversity in STEM teaching is fundamental to this success. Several theories support the importance of having educators in the classroom who reflect the background and experiences of the students in their schools. Across the nation, there are programs that aim to increase the number of STEM teachers or programs to increase the number of teachers from diverse communities at large, but very few programs aim to do both at the same time. In 2015, an effort was launched by Shell and the Smithsonian Science Education Center to bring together individuals and organizations with the unique ability to foster change through a series of activities designed to assist school districts in implementing systemic reform to increase diversity in their STEM teaching community.
Together, these experts identified several opportunities that can impact a school district’s path toward increasing the diversity of STEM teachers in the classroom, while preparing these same STEM teachers for science leadership opportunities. One identified need was a playbook of recommended discussions, practices, and tools that a school district could use to foster change. This playbook will provide school district decision makers and change makers with a starting point to begin their efforts. The playbook is designed to be responsive to district needs and will be revised as we collect feedback from school districts and individuals who offer best practices for success.
I recommend skimming the Table of Contents to get a clear overview of the playbook.
This is a thoughtfully designed resource to add to your toolbox of equity-focused science resources.
AUDIENCE: school district leaders, human resource departments, college of education administrators and recruiters, supporters of equity and diversity in STEM teaching and learning
OVERVIEW: WestEd recently published a free report titled- Developing District Plans for NGSS Implementation: Preventing Detours and Finding Express Lanes on the Journey to Implement the New Science Standards. This report describes how the NGSS Early Implementers project in eight California school districts has supported thoughtful NGSS implementation. The report shares lessons learned and also provides appendices with samples of district NGSS implementation plans. The report also provides tools, processes and recommendations for developing NGSS implementation plans.
PURPOSE: Provide tools, resources, support and stories of authentic NGSS implementation.
AUDIENCE: School District leaders, consultants, teacher leaders, etc
OVERVIEW: Achieve and the U.S. Education Delivery Institute recently developed the NGSS Adoption and Implementation Workbook to support states (and districts) in thoughtfully adopting and implementing the Next Generation Science Standards.
PURPOSE: The workbook provides a series of scaffolded exercises that a group can use to do everything from establishing a leadership team to articulating a vision and identifying stakeholders and developing a plan.
AUDIENCE: State and district science education leaders (while I am none of these roles- I also find this helpful as a PD provider and consultant in providing guidance for my work)
LINK: https://www.achieve.org/publications/ngss-adoption-and-implementation-workbook Download the full NGSS Adoption and Implementation Workbook as a PDF here or as a Word doc here.
OVERVIEW: The Instructional Leadership for Science Practices (ILSP) is a project to support school principals and other instructional leaders in supporting shifts in science education practices. Their site provides multiple tools for instructional leaders to use in developing their own understanding of the required shifts in practices and how to support teachers in these same shifts.
PURPOSE: The ILSP project seeks to support instructional leaders in providing ambitious supervision of science teachers that provides a focus on engaging students in the science and engineering practices. The site provides supervision tools, instructional tools, example lessons and lots more. This is a great way for building principals to find science-specific support to supplement TPEP frameworks such as Danielson and CEL 5D.
AUDIENCE: Building principals, district leaders, coaches, TOSAs, lead teachers, professional development providers