Category Archives: teaching

Authentic Science Experiences: Designing High School Science Learning to Reach All Students

WestEd recently released a report titled Authentic Science Experiences: Designing High School Science Learning to Reach All Students. Authentic Science Experiences (ASE) have become an integral part of modern science education, offering students the opportunity to engage in real-world scientific practices and inquiry-based learning. This comprehensive document provides educators with insights and strategies for implementing ASE in the classroom, fostering curiosity, critical thinking, and a deep understanding of scientific concepts.

The resource begins by defining Authentic Science Experiences and their significance in science education. It emphasizes the importance of hands-on activities, genuine scientific inquiry, and connecting students to real-world scientific phenomena. ASE enable students to work like scientists, exploring the process of asking questions, designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and drawing evidence-based conclusions.

The document outlines the 5 Features that make up Authentic Science Experiences, providing educators with a framework to guide their instructional design.

  • Students integrate skills with core knowledge of science and engineering professions
  • Students‚Äô interests, culture, identities, and experiences are positioned as
    fundamental assets in the learning process
  • Students use science to explain the world around them and solve problems that matter to society
  • Students learn by engaging with both peers and adults
  • Students engage in a variety of assessment processes that showcase ongoing learning and promote confidence .

By integrating these elements into science lessons, teachers can create meaningful and impactful learning experiences for their students.

The resource offers practical strategies and examples to help educators integrate Authentic Science Experiences into their teaching practice. There are four vignettes that highlight different high school science projects. The document also elevates the importance of designing open-ended investigations, providing opportunities for collaboration and discussion, and incorporating real-world connections. There is also a focus on the role of technology in facilitating data collection, analysis, and communication.

This tool from WestEd appears to be an important resource that empowers educators to enhance science education by integrating real-world experiences into their curriculum. By immersing students in the practices of science, these experiences ignite their passion for inquiry and equip them with the skills needed to become scientifically literate citizens. Through ASE, students not only learn scientific content but also develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills that are essential for success in the 21st century.

Note: The resource can be accessed at:


NSTA Article: Enhancing Science Lessons to Support Multilingual Students’ Engagement in Science & Engineering Practices

I’ve been collaborating with several science teachers on ways to support multilingual students in the science classroom. In a recent workshop we examined the NSTA Science Scope article Enhancing Science Lessons to Support Multilingual Students’ Engagement in Science & Engineering Practices by Maria Gonzalez-Howard, Sage Andersen, & Karina Mendez Perez. We found the article to be very helpful and the text provides strategies for science teachers to create an inclusive classroom environment that supports multilingual students’ sensemaking. The article suggests using the 5E instructional model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate) and provides specific strategies for each phase of the model (I really appreciated how this was organized). The strategies include providing opportunities for small-group talk before whole-class discussions, highlighting cognates in science, and allowing students to use both content-specific and everyday registers to express their ideas. There is an emphasis on the importance of teachers understanding why and how a certain strategy is helpful to meaningfully apply the strategy to their own instruction in different contexts. At the end of the day, the authors aim to help science teachers create a classroom environment that supports multilingual students’ sensemaking and improve their learning experiences. I highly recommend checking out this article.

My Top 5 Science Picture Books for 2020

I’m a former elementary teacher- therefore I love picture books. But to be honest I feel like I’ve always loved picture books. I loved them myself as a kid and have so many great memories of reading them to my own two kids. A couple of decades ago in my teacher education program I can remember we had an assignment to read 50 picture books…it didn’t feel like an assignment to me. That was probably my favorite literacy assignment- and then we got to do a read aloud to our class- just the best!

So now as a teacher educator and consultant I love to integrate picture books into my teaching. I read picture books to my college students and my inservice teachers to teach them about engineering design, the science and engineering practices and the crosscutting concepts. We discuss how to use picture books in authentic and engaging science lessons.

As someone who is always on the hunt for a good STEM picture book- here are my personal Top 5 favorite science and STEM-related picture books from 2020 in no particular order. NOTE: Some of these may not have a 2020 publication date- they are books that I became aware of in 2020.

Top 5 Science Picture Books of 2020

A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanne Slade

We’ve seen a few children’s books about the incomparable mathematician Katherine Johnson depicted in the movie Hidden Figures. I think this is my favorite of all of them due to the focus on Mrs. Johnson’s motivation and drive.

Look Up with Me, Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Life Among the Stars by Jennifer Berne

I am always a fan of sharing (with students and teachers) the early lives of people who entered STEM fields. I think it’s important to see the rich experiences that lead young people to pursue STEM careers. This excellent book shares how Neil’s early curiosity about planets and stars led to his love of science.

Nine Months by Miranda Paul

I have a very strong memory of my mom (a nurse) buying me a book about baby development when I was around 7 years old. I was fixated with that book and all of the pictures of the stages of human development. That’s probably where my interest in science- and specifically biology- was solidified. Nine Months reminds me a lot of that book I had in the mid-1970s. Check it out and try to get someone hooked on the life sciences ūüôā

What Miss Mitchell Saw by Hayley Barrett

The true story of Maria Mitchell and her discovery of a comet which led to her becoming the first American female astronomer.

Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge by Rachel Dougherty

The true story of Emily Roebling who helped guide the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband (the lead engineer on the project) fell ill.

Lots of great picture books were left off of this list. What science-related picture books have you fallen in love with recently that deserve a mention here?

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Equity & Diversity Resources Pt. 1

I know that a lot of educators are digging into books on equity and diversity this summer. Here are a few resources that have been key in my personal journey as a white male looking to become more culturally aware, equity-focused, and anti-racist. I will keep adding to this list. I‚Äôm aware that many excellent resources are currently not included here. I‚Äôm not trying to make an exhaustive list on this first post- but instead providing a ‚Äėplaylist‚Äô of the resources that I‚Äôve used personally and that feel like good starting places for others.

TITLE Overview Author Link
Culturally Responsive Teaching & The Brain THE book on culturally responsive teaching. Provides tools and strategies to dig into CRT. Clear discussion of how a lack of CRT affects students. Zaretta Hammond Click HERE
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People Describes the Project Implicit implicit association tests. Discusses how we all have unconscious biases (even ones we don’t want) and how these may affect us. Makes the case that we must confront and think about these ‚Äúmindbugs‚ÄĚ. Mahzarin R. BanajiAnthony Greenwald Click¬†HERE
For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Y’all Too Provides stories, a framework, and strategies for effectively teaching urban students of color. Lots of wisdom here. Christopher Emdin Click HERE

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Resources for Supporting Science Learning During School Closures

Our friends at STEM Teaching ToolsScreen Shot 2020-03-23 at 3.52.54 PM have organized some resources from Council of School Science Supervisors (CSSS) to support families with science learning while practicing social distancing at home. Some of these could be great for use in school districts as reminders of best practices and others contain ready-made resources that are available in English, Spanish and Arabic.

The Sample Learning Menu is a particular favorite.

Click HERE to get to these thoughtfully designed resources.

Great Picture Book: Cece Loves Science

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 6.59.01 PMOVERVIEW: My daughter Cece is 9 years old and last fall we were walking through a Barnes & Noble (yes they still have those!) and we saw a display for a picture book titled Cece Loves Science. My daughter saw the display and shouted, “I DO love science!”

I’ve been using science and engineering related picture books for two decades- both with children and adult learners. I look forward to thinking about how I will use¬†Cece Loves Science¬†(by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Vashti Harrison)¬†with the preservice and inservice teachers I support.

The picture book tells the story of a young girl of color, Cece, who loves to ask questions and figure things out. In the story, Cece and her best friend Isaac, are trying to figure out the best way to conduct an investigation involving her dog, Einstein.

This book has been out for over a year and I’m interested to hear how folks have used this picture book with students. I’d love to hear some stories.

PURPOSE: In the last few years we have seen a much-needed increase in the number of STEM-focused picture books with main characters representing populations who have traditionally been marginalized in STEM- females and people of color. Cece Loves Science is another resource to add to our toolbox that highlights the exceptional thinking of young ladies and positions them as the determined problem-solvers  that they are.

AUDIENCE: children, adults, educators, teacher educators, librarians, informal science educators

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OpenSciEd Save the Date: Aug. 15, 2019

Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 10.13.22 AMOpenSciEd just launched a new web presence and will be releasing the first set of FREE middle school science instructional materials designed specifically for NGSS and 3D instruction. The upcoming units are:

I’m excited for these resources to launch- stay tuned. Here is an e-announcement with more details.

Next Generation Storylines Update

OVERVIEW: I first mentioned on this site in the spring of 2016. At that time there was only one elementary and one high school storyline. Those storylines were also not fully developed units of instruction. Well, if you haven’t visited recently, you should really check it out. There are now multiple units at each grade band with more coming soon. Each unit (storyline) features a clear storyline along with a teacher guide and supporting documents.

The storylines are excellent examples of three-dimensional units of instruction that feature anchoring phenomena and problems. There are many design features that might be useful to others who are creating science lessons and units:

  • 3D learning objectives
  • storylines written from the student perspective (what will students be wondering and thinking about now…)
  • How to structure a unit around the evidence that students will need… rather than the activities “I like” or the content “I’m supposed to cover”.

PURPOSE: This site provides exemplars for what intentional 3-Dimensional instruction looks like, It also provides a structure and tools for teachers to design their own units. The tools are structured around the 5 Routines that the design team follows.

AUDIENCE: teachers of science, professional development providers, curriculum writers, school and district administrators, teacher educators, others



NSTA Journals March 2016

If you are a teacher of science and you are not a member of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) then I would highly recommend joining- lots of good resources. However, even if you are not a member you will still be able to access lots of articles, blog posts, lessons, and more for free.

One great way to check for FREE NSTA resources is through the NSTA Blog. Every month the NSTA Blog lists all of the articles from each of the 4 NSTA journals.. and a few of these are made available FREE.

An example of this is an excellent FREE article from the March 2016 issue of Science Scope (middle school journal) titled What We Call Misconceptions May Be Necessary Stepping-Stones Toward Making Sense of the World

Click HERE to check out the March 2016 NSTA Journals.

Helping Administrators Understand the NGSS

It is critically important that building and district administrators in K-12 education have a solid understanding of the Next Generation Science Standards. If administrators have a limited understanding of NGSS then they are more likely to design NGSS implementation plans via professional development, curriculum adoption, assessment writing, etc in a shallow way.

Here are some key resources for guiding administrators to understand the vision behind and shifts required by NGSS:

  1. A powerful Practice Brief (What school building administrators should know about the new vision for K-12 science education)
    from designed specifically for administrators. This is a “slick” 2 sided pdf with intentional hyperlinks to key resources.
  2. Document on the overlaps between NGSS and Common Core Math and ELA
  3. New Vision for Science Education Document (A 1-pager of shifts)
  4. Key resources on the NSTA NGSS site for NGSS Professional Learning
  5. Video: A New Vision for Science Education
  6. All Standards, All Students Case Studies from NGSS (These provide a snapshot of what NGSS instruction looks like with a focus on Equity)
  7. Guide to Implementing NGSS (This is a must read for anyone who is guiding NGSS implementation work… lots of great guidance here. Even skimming the Table of Contents will give you lots to consider…)
  8. Designing Professional Development for Teachers of Science and Mathematics¬†3rd Edition (This is the “Bible” for designing thoughtful science professional development)
  9. The Logan Center for Education at the Institute for Systems Biology has a great series of 3 Case Studies with a facilitation guide that tell the story of how science education has shifted over the last few decades of reform.

What other resources might be useful for building and district administrators who are just starting to learn about NGSS? What might be the important entry points for working with administrators who are juggling multiple initiatives with limited resources?