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.

 

Project Drawdown: Everyday Solutions for a Changing Climate

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 6.21.26 PMOVERVIEW: In the state of Washington we are committed to engaging K-12 students in learning about climate science and climate change. For the 2019-20 school year our state has continued funding an initiative that will provide tools and professional development to support thoughtful implementation of climate science learning opportunities. I’m hoping that this space will be able to promote many of the resources that are developed and used during this process. You can check out our state climate site here- ClimeTime.

One resource that has bubbled to the top for me is Drawdown.org. Drawdown provides 100 everyday solutions that humans can implement to reverse global climate change. I know several teachers who worry that the teaching of climate change- especially with younger students- can be scary for the children. Draw Down (while not sugar-coating anything) is very solution-oriented and can put students in a positive space rather than doom and gloom. We know that students want solutions to this problem- and Drawdown helps provide a menu of solutions- many of them non-intuitive.

I also own the hardcopy of the Drawdown book that you can order HERE. I find that sometimes it’s just nice to have a hardcopy for making notes and also sharing with others.

PURPOSE: The proposed solutions on Drawdown are completely research-based and include some intuitive solutions that you might have predicted (rooftop solar) and others that might seem less intuitive (educating girls & telepresence). The book Drawdown is a “must-have” climate resource to add to your collection.

AUDIENCE: all the humans

LINK: https://www.drawdown.org/

@projectdrawdown

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Engineering Design Anchor Lessons using Picture Books

In my work with elementary students and elementary teachers (inservice and preservice) I love to use children’s literature to introduce the engineering design process in NGSS. Learning about engineering design can feel overwhelming for some folks (I’m mostly talking about adults here) and I find that using picture books provides a welcoming, engaging and positive experience that hopefully can launch fruitful engineering experiences in the classroom with K-5 students.

Below is a list of picture books that I’ve used with a variety of audiences to teach kids and adults about engineering design. The links will connect you to the books themselves (most of these are common in school libraries) and also to free lesson guides for each book. Each resource has been assigned to specific grade levels and aligned to specific CCSS & NGSS standards but the books could be used at any grade level. Let me know if you use (or have used) any of these books- I’d love to hear how these books and lessons work with learners.

NOTE: Just reading these books to students (or adults) does not constitute a complete engineering design learning experience. These books and guides are designed as anchor lessons that can help launch full engineering lessons and units.

Grade Picture Books (Amazon Links) Teacher Guide Link
Pre- K Stuck by Oliver Jeffers Stuck TG
K Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem by Chris Monroe Monkey TG
1 If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen If I Built a Car TG
2 If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen If I Built a House TG
3 Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri Those Darn Squirrels TG
4 Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty Rosie Revere Eng TG
5 Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming Papa’s Mechanical Fish TG
ALL Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh and Melissa Sweet Many of the above guides refer to readings from this informational text- an excellent book.
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How We Teach Science: What’s Changed and Why It Matters by John L. Rudolph

how we teach science

Click HERE to order

I was thinking about leading an online summer science book study during July & August- but I think I may just join one instead. TJ McKenna (@tjscience) will be co-leading a Twitter-based book study of How We Teach Science: What’s Changed and Why it Matters with the author John L. Rudolph. John is a former secondary science teacher and a current professor of science education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This book looks like a fantastic resource and should be added to your reading list even if you are unable to join the Twitter book study via #HowWeTeachScience

The Amazon preview provides a nice overview of the book. Chapters include:

Chapter 1: From Textbook to Laboratory

Chapter 2: The Laboratory in Practice

Chapter 3: Student Interest in the New Movement

Chapter 4: The Scientific Method

Chapter 5: Problems and Projects

Chapter 6: The War on Method

Chapter 7: Origins of Inquiry

Chapter 8: Scientists in the Classroom

Chapter 9: Project 2061 and the Nature of Science

Chapter 10: Science in the Standards Era

I’m intrigued by the chapter titles and what I’ve seen on the “Look Inside” preview. I just ordered my copy and hope to join the learning online.

What other science education books will y’all be digging into this summer?

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