Category Archives: Uncategorized

Cranky Uncle: Smartphone Game for Disarming Climate Denial

I’ve spent a lot of time on Skeptical Science over the last couple of years and have used it as a foundational resources for a couple of secondary climate science professional development workshops. If you haven’t checked out Skeptical Science it is definitely worthy of bookmarking and perusing.

In this post I want to highlight a specific resource- the Cranky Uncle app. Created by John Cook- one of the authors of Skeptical Science- this app takes many of the common arguments used by climate change deniers and allows the user to practice recognizing and responding to the arguments. This is also a great extension to Denial 101X where Dr. Cook teaches a full FREE online course on Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. I also find that the strategies used in climate denial are not much different than those used to deny many other scientific ideas (Evolution, spherical Earth, etc) so having some awareness of denial techniques is important as a science educator.

Cranky Uncle is free and is available at both the Apple App Store and Google Play. If you enjoy Cranky Uncle you might also be interested in the book Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change.

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Skype a Scientist

Connecting students with real STEM professionals is one of the greatest gifts we can give them on their STEM journey through K-12. However, these opportunities may not always be equitably available for all students. Skype a Scientist looks like an innovative site that is attempting to connect a database of STEM professionals with teachers, classrooms and the public at large. You can sign up as a scientist, a teacher, a group or an individual- looks like they host several events throughout the year. Check it out!

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A Humble Request…

I have been maintaining this site with a focus on STEM education resources for more than a decade. (We are rapidly approaching 1000 posts to this site.) During that time I’ve never asked my readers for anything. No PayPal donations, no Kickstarter, no Patreon premium content, no merchandise. I’ve even paid every year (until recently) to keep advertisements off of this site.

So, as you can probably tell, today is the day I’m going to ask for something.

In February 2020, my wife was hired as executive director (now CEO) of our local food bank-The Bonney Lake Food Bank. Little did she know that she was entering this already difficult job in the midst of what would become a global pandemic generating rapidly expanding food insecurity. She saw her customer base grow from supporting 150 families per week in February 2020 to over 1000 families per week in November 2020. Notice that says families…not individuals.

Rather than maintain business as usual the Bonney Lake Food Bank has innovated during these stressful times. In order to maintain social distance and support those who cannot always easily travel, they have implemented a thriving delivery model. This has required new infrastructure, new technology, new systems, new software, new vehicles, new knowledge and beliefs about those who need support, and a generous amount of collaboration from the National Guard and the local community.

One of the greatest bottlenecks to the work has been the small dilapidated building that my wife inherited. This eye-sore was quickly spruced up to at least a baseline of usability last winter. However, that building is not a long-term solution. It is a hazard, unfit for the work that needs to be done, and it does not represent the dignity that customers and staff of the food bank deserve. Therefore the Bonney Lake Food Bank will be moving to a new site starting in December of this year. But there is much work that needs to be done at the new site.

Watch the video below to hear from leaders and volunteers at the Bonney Lake Food Bank and their vision for the sustainable new location- The Market.

So I’m asking for your support. If you have ever appreciated a resource that I posted on this site. If you’ve ever laughed at a silly science music video I posted. If you’ve ever used a picture book, a lesson plan, or appreciated a report that you found here. Then I would ask you to please donate to the Bonney Lake Food Bank. Any amount is helpful. Click HERE to donate directly to the relocation fund. This will help the organization move to the new site and to fully enact their vision for providing food, support, and dignity to those who need it most.

Thank you for any support you can give,

Kirk Robbins

Climate Clock

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 1.56.43 PMI’m assuming you are coming to grips with a global pandemic and the introduction of murder hornets. So there is no better time to add on by sharing the Climate Clock. This site features a real-time clock that displays the total global warming to date, the time left to a 1.5 degree celsius increase, and the tons of CO2 emitted.

This is a powerful image to have projected while presenting information on climate science to students, adult learners and/or the community. Could be interesting to have learners discuss why these metrics were selected to be a part of the clock. Enjoy!

inquiryHub (iHub) Biology: Free Full Year HS NGSS Bio Units

Screen Shot 2019-09-22 at 2.01.56 PMThe inquiryHub (iHub) biology landing page provides a full-year high school life science course that is 3 Dimensional and built for the Next Generation Science Standards. These materials were developed by teachers from Denver Public Schools collaborating with the University of Colorado Boulder and Northwestern University. This team designed three units that meet the expectations of the high school life science performance expectations in NGSS. These units have been content reviewed by a group of scientists and have also been reviewed for NGSS Quality by Achieve.

In my neck of the woods we have many high schools where biology is taught using either outdated or homemade materials that may not meet the vision of the NGSS. These types of readily available online materials from iHub not only model the types of instructional units that we need for high school students but also provide a cost effective way for schools and districts to access high quality materials.

iHub Biology contains the following resources:

The units are built on the founding principles of 3D science instruction including:

  • Engaging Phenomena
  • Coherent storylines
  • Student use of SEPs and CCCs
  • Assessments of and for learning

Please chime in and leave a comment if you’ve used these materials. Enjoy!

 

 

Book Study: STEM Lesson Essentials

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 2.36.32 PMWell, it’s that time of year where the ongoing countdown of number of days to the end of the summer is reaching just a few weeks for most of us. As such, I’ll be posting some recommendations for last minute professional summer reading related to science education.

A great resource for digging into elementary STEM instruction is- STEM Lesson Essentials Grades 3-8 by Jo Anne Vasquez, Cary Sneider, and Michael Comer. STEM Lesson Essentials is a timely, readable, and usable guide to STEM literacy that won’t weigh down your beach bag. (At 178 pages it is slim but packs a punch.) See some specifics below.

PROS:

  • The Front Matter (chapters 1-5) are essential reading for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of STEM literacy and what it means- Every K-8 principal should read this book by the way!
  • Contains authentic and engaging standards-based STEM activities that a teacher might use in a classroom or that a professional development provider might use in a workshop.
  • Chapter 8 provides a great framework for thinking about integration. I feel like we throw this word around in elementary education and we rarely define it or provide a continuum of what integration might look like.
  • Chapters are well-written, engaging, and short… perfect for summer reading.
  • Makes the case for technology and engineering as central aspects of STEM education.
  • Uses the STEM Practices as a central storyline (see p. 38).
  • Includes support on PBL, assessment, and STEM lesson resources.

CONS:

  • K-2 examples would be appreciated (as would High School)
  • Clearer connections on how to obtain some of the materials in sample lessons
  • Easy connection to some online supports- video, links, website, etc
  • Would be nice to have deeper and more intentional connections to NGSS (this book was published in 2013 which is part of the reason for this).

Click HERE to order a copy of STEM Lesson Essentials. I’d love to get some conversations going about this book- I know that several teachers have been digging into this resource over the years. What has been valuable? What have you implemented?

 

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Summer Reading: Ambitious Science Teaching

ast coverIf you are anything like me, then the very end of July and beginning of August is a time when you start thinking about getting back to your “school brain”. By this I mean that I’m still in vacation mode, but I start to think about a few things I want to implement in the new school year and maybe start reading a professional book (or two) to get reenergized and ready for the year.

A perfect book for us science-minded folks is Ambitious Science Teaching. This book came out last year and is a long-awaited companion and synthesis of the great work by the Ambitious Science Teaching group at the University of Washington. Here is a post I wrote almost 10 years ago on Ambitious Science Teaching when this blog first launched (dead links and all).

I ran an online book study of Ambitious Science Teaching last school year with a group of regional science leaders and found that leading a study of the book really helped me to dig in closely- in contrast to my usual “skimming” of professional books. Working with a group of science education leaders rather than practicing teachers brought a different lens to the conversations and allowed us all to think about how we could implement the methods, strategies, and vision of the book in multiple contexts as we continue to support shifts in classroom science instruction.

AST table 1-1

Table 1.1 above is one of the initial text features you encounter early in the text. I appreciate how this table is different than the typical “more of this…less of this” type of table about science instruction. Here we are able to see strengths and honor those strengths while acknowledging that there are serious struggles… and that the struggles may be different than what many classroom teachers, district administrators and others in the system might predict. If we rally around these struggles then we can focus our energy and professional learning on solving these. And that is exactly what the rest of Ambitious Science Teaching does- it provides us with a multitude of strategies and instructional behaviors to implement in our science classrooms in order to supplant the struggles.

I hope to keep chatting about AST throughout this school year and to hear from others who are using the book. By examining the book we will be able to dig into some important topics in science instruction:

  • asking effective questions and managing productive discourse
  • engaging students in developing and using models
  • teaching for understanding
  • leveraging students’ ideas over the arch of learning and figuring out

Here are some initial questions to respond to in the comments:

Have you read (or are you reading) Ambitious Science Teaching? What are you finding most useful about the text? How are you planning to implement ideas from the book in your classroom?

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Science for All Blog- 10 Year Anniversary

I started this blog in July of 2009- so it is celebrating a 10 year anniversary this month. There have obviously been ebbs and flows in terms of the amount of content that I’ve posted over the years. I’m hoping to refresh and reinvent this site a bit this year- so stay tuned. And thanks for being a part of this for all this time. I hope you all find some useful STEM education tidbits here.

Grade 1 NGSS Unit Exemplar: How Does Light Help Me See Things and Communicate with Others?

The Nextgenscience.org site continues to highlight exemplars of NGSS-based instructional units with their Quality NGSS Units. One of the latest is a 1st grade unit– which is great because many of the initial science units to arise have tended to be middle school and upper elementary.

How Does Light Help Me See Things and Communicate with Others? is a 1st grade unit from the Next Generation Science Storylines group. (If you are not aware of this resource you need to check it out NOW!) The unit contains:

These units are excellent as objects of study in professional development or in science methods courses. Because the idea of 3D science instruction based on a thoughtful storyline is new for many folks (and definitely different than the science instruction that most of us adults experienced as learners ourselves) we need to see multiple examples of the “target”. This unit provides a great example of primary teachers of science.

Princeton University: Climate Stabilization Game

climate gameIf you are a high school science teacher looking for some engaging and thought-provoking climate science learning activities, then here is a great resource for you. Princeton University has a Stabilization Wedges Game that engages students in identifying and justifying eight strategies (wedges) to reduce carbon emissions over the next several years.

This simulation is very solution-oriented with students learning about a menu of strategies that could drastically reduce our global carbon emissions and therefore reduce the impacts of climate change. Students work together to make a visual model of their proposal that takes into account multiple stakeholders. Groups of students then also provide feedback on other groups’ proposed solutions. The focus on solutions is something that many high school students crave and it brings a positive focus to a topic and challenge that can feel daunting.

This activity aligns nicely with not only Next Generation Science Standards on climate but also on engineering design. Students break down a complex problem into smaller problems, evaluate potential solutions, and consider criteria and constraints including social, cultural and environmental impacts.

The Climate Stabilization Wedges Game is FREE online and comes with:

I have used this as a professional development activity with teachers and it has been very successful. I’d love to hear from anyone who has used this with high school students. Enjoy.