Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lessons from Plants

Lessons from Plants is one of the best books I’ve read in 2021. It’s a book that makes me feel like a better person just from spending time with it. This feeling comes from the author, Dr. Beronda L. Montgomery, who is a skilled storyteller with a knack for clearly conveying key lessons that we can learn from the plants around us. (PS- I know we aren’t supposed to judge books by covers…but consider this book judged! There is something about the size, weight, shape and design of the cover with its mix of glossy and matte ink that immediately pulls you in and compels you to engage.)

The book makes me think about the personal journey I’ve been on the last 15 years or so. My work on myself and digging into equity, diversity and antiracism has been paralleled by my learning and caring about plants. As a trained biologist I’ve “understood” plants on a certain level, but I’d admit that it’s been more of a clinical or sterile understanding. Putting plants in the center and positioning them as teachers is a very new way of thinking and it immediately felt right. My wife has immersed herself in plants over the last decade- we have multiple plants in our home and I have even welcomed some into my personal home office. The presence of these organisms changes a space- for the better. I really appreciate how Dr. Montgomery discusses the hope that plants can bring. (Especially in a time like we’ve been living in during the pandemic.)

I had recently tweeted that Lessons from Plants and Braiding Sweetgrass could be best of friends. While I was trying to be “cute” I was also trying to make a legitimate point. These two books make great companions and work together to help us all develop a deeper appreciation and hopefully deeper relationship with plants while also putting us in touch with our humanity.

Below is a recording of a recent livestream of Dr. Montgomery talking about the book and her relationship and work with plants.

You may also be interested in a recent podcast Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness: Are Plants Little Geniuses? (Warning: Jonathan isn’t afraid to use lots of adult language so you may not want to listen to this with children or sensitive people around.)

Here are some recent publications by Dr. Montgomery:

Plants Were My Beacon of Hope During the Pandemic (Elle Magazine)

My Most Memorable Mentor? Plants (Nature)

Plants as Teachers and Witnesses (American Scientist)

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Problems with Problems: Improving the Design of Problem-Driven Science & Engineering Instruction

This short but powerful document from NextGenScience provides support on how to improve the STEM challenges and engineering opportunities that we put in front of students. This tool definitely helps me think about how to improve the engineering tasks I use with my preservice and inservice teachers as examples.

The contrast of “Design for Design’s Sake” vs “Design for Solving Problems” feels very helpful and powerful.

See the document HERE.

WA State: WCAS Nuts & Bolts Online Workshop 6 Free STEM Clock Hours

The last few months I’ve been trying to attend as many FREE online science-related workshops as I can find. While I’m not currently a classroom teacher I like to maintain my teaching certificate- so like others I’m always on the hunt for clock hours and especially the elusive STEM clock hours.

OSPI is currently offering an asynchronous online workshop worth 6 STEM Clock Hours titled WCAS: Nuts and Bolts. Remember that WCAS stands for Washington Comprehensive Assessment of Science…so this workshop helps you to dig into the workings of the science assessment system at grade 5, 8 and 11. In the course, you look closely at foundational NGSS documents, examine the Test & Item Specs and analyze online assessment items. I would highly recommend this workshop to any teacher of science and especially anyone who might be interested in future work on one of the many committees to support development of items for the WCAS.

Click HERE for more information and to sign up on PD Enroller and click HERE to access the Moodle Course.

WA ONLY: FREE LASER PD Opportunities March 2021

I’ve been trying to attend lots of FREE online STEM professional learning the last few months and I’ve had an opportunity to attend a few sessions put on by Washington LASER. All of the sessions have been impactful, well-designed and connected to equity and diversity in STEM education in various ways.

If you’re interested in joining me, I’m already signed up for two sessions happening this March. As an advocate for K-5 science instruction I’m particularly interested in the March 16th session. Would be great to have LOTS of K-5 educators and leaders join in. See below for brief descriptions and links for registration.

K-5 Science Every Day, Every Student: Strategic Planning for Equitable Science/STEM Learning

March 16th 3-4:30pm

Come learn from Washington State LASER leaders and school/district leaders about the impact of strategically planning for high-quality elementary science teaching and learning. During this 90 minute session we’ll make the case for improving access and quality of elementary science with data and research you can use in your context, hear from school and district leaders, explore the LASER Science/STEM District Self-Assessment tool (which can also be used at the school level), and help scope out your next steps. We will offer suggestions and examples for finding your “on-ramp” to strategic planning, whether you are a classroom teacher, principal, TOSA, district administrator or hold another STEM education role. 

Facilitated by: 

                   Caroline Kiehle, LASER Statewide Co-Director, North Sound LASER Alliance

                   Michelle Grove, Northeast LASER Alliance Director, NEWESD 101 Elementary Regional Science Coordinator

                   Tana Peterman, Senior Program Officer, Washington STEM

Register here.

Your Role in Supporting Equitable STEM Pathways for Washington Students: Interrupting Bias and Addressing Myths

March 23rd 3-4:30pm

All adults in a young person’s life can play a key role in supporting–or inhibiting–their exploration of STEM pathways, beginning before elementary school and all the way through post-secondary. In this workshop, you’ll surface your biases by reflecting on your own school-to-work pathway and exploring data that can interrupt bias about available pathways, cost of postsecondary options, and student aspirations. You’ll also come away with a deeper understanding of the wide range of pathways available to students, and be better equipped to support students’ exploration. This workshop is designed for classroom teachers, school/district administrators, TOSA’s and STEM coaches, and informal educators. 

Facilitated by: 

                   Tana Peterman, Senior Program Officer, Washington STEM

                   Jenée Myers Twitchell, Chief Impact Officer, Washington STEM


Register here.

How Empowering Women & Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming

When I facilitate professional learning on climate change one of the core resources I use is Project Drawdown. Before examining the Drawdown site I ask participants to jot down 2-3 solutions they are aware of to help mitigate climate change. Then I give folks a few minutes to peruse Drawdown and examine some of the top-rated solutions listed. I then ask participants to share some solutions that were surprising to them- or that they probably wouldn’t have thought of. It is not uncommon for me to have a few people mention the educating girls solution as a surprise. Below is a TED Talk where Katharine Wilkinson describes the power underlying this solution. If you enjoy the video, you may also be interested in Dr. Wilkinson’s new project- the All We Can Save Project.

NextGen Time: Tools for Science Instructional Materials Review

For the past several weeks I have been involved in an online training of NextGen Time– a set of tools and procedures for evaluating, selecting and implementing new NGSS-based science instructional materials. The NextGen Time tools are the result of a collaboration between BSCS, WestEd and Achieve. The process and tools are built around 5 phases: Prepare, Prescreen, Paperscreen, Pilot, and Plan (implement). Click HERE to dig deeper into the 5 phases.

For the online training, we spent several hours (over multiple days) immersed in the Paperscreen phase. We practiced the Paperscreen by reviewing the middle school Disruptions in Ecosystems unit from the American Museum of Natural History. One of my key take-aways was the power in being required to go public and visual with our review process. While this would have happened using posters and sticky notes in a face-to-face training we instead used Google Jamboards, shared documents, and FlipGrid along with a healthy dose of Zoom breakout rooms to interrogate our assigned chapters in the materials. We worked in small groups with each group being responsible for becoming an expert on one chapter in the materials….a bit of a jigsaw process. We came together as a whole group often to connect and to “tell the story” of our section of the materials. We also mixed into heterogeneous groups occasionally so that we could easily hear about other parts of the materials. We highlighted phenomena and problems in the unit, SEPs, CCCs, DCIs, assessment opportunities, and much more. By the end we had a crazy but clear public tapestry of virtual sticky notes, colors, dots, arrows and drawings to tell the story of the unit.

I have co-facilitated a few science instructional materials over the last few years and I’ve primarily used a process based on the EQuIP Rubric for Science. After learning about NextGen Time I will definitely be making some modifications to the tools and processes that I recommend to my school district partners. One of the great benefits of the rigorous and ambitious NextGen Time process is the professional learning that accompanies the review process. This isn’t just a process to examine materials- it’s also a way to learn about the shifts in NGSS and to analyze the design of high-quality science materials. If done right this process can lead to great professional learning and increased expertise in school districts.

Teaching K-12 Science & Engineering During a Crisis

The National Academies Press (NAP) has a free online resource titled Teaching K-12 Science and Engineering During a Crisis. The report describes what effective STEM education can look like during turbulent times such as shifting to distance learning during a pandemic. The report provides guidance and examples that will be helpful not just for teachers of STEM but those who support those teachers.

You can see the interactive overview of the resource HERE. You can read and access the report in your browser HERE. You can also download a pdf HERE

Picture Book: We Are Water Protectors

I’ve been doing lots of learning and thinking about climate justice recently. I’ve also been revisiting the amazing book Braiding Sweetgrass in order to deepen my awareness about Indigenous ways of thinking in science. During this work, I stumbled on the incredible picture book- We Are Water Protectors and I wanted to make everyone aware of this powerful work of art… this new classic picture book.

We Are Water Protectors is written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated beautifully by Michaela Goade. The book is inspired by true events and tells the story of Indigenous peoples and their work to stand up for and protect the water of the Earth. I can’t say enough about the illustrations and the powerful images that show the connection between Indigenous peoples and the water and the land. If I was back in the classroom I would find any reason to use this book with students.

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .

Below is a YouTube video of Carole Lindstrom reading the book aloud. Enjoy.

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Video: Acapella Science- Vaccine Wellerman Let’s Go

File this under fun, trendy and topical. Acapellascience is back with a (too) short music video about the COVID vaccine in the tradition of a sea shanty. If you loop the video it aligns perfectly and you can just listen non-stop all day. Enjoy.

FREE Webinar: Unique Challenges of Science Ed in Post-Pandemic World

Join a FREE panel-discussion webinar on Monday, January 25, 2021 from 4-5pm EST on the challenges of teaching science during the pandemic.

Click HERE for more information including how to register.