Getting Started with NGSS

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There are many resources out there to help you learn about and implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Our science specialist recently found an excellent article that we’ve found particularly helpful in framing how to get started with NGSS.

Authors Mary and Russ Colson write with experience and in a voice that makes you want to keep reading.  Here’s a bit from Mary’s perspective on the need to allow students to ask their own questions to generate curiosity and persistence:

“I’m learning to let students pursue their own questions more often. The result is almost always greater engagement.

Two years ago, as we looked at patterns of rock ages on a national geologic map, a student asked: “Can we use the scale of this map to measure how wide the United States is?” I said yes, and the students dove in with the special urgency born of ownership.

Scale, spatial-thinking, and problem-solving started right away. I overheard a student say: “I got 13 miles wide for the U.S., but that can’t be right. I drive 75 miles to my grandmother’s house.” After the first day, a student asked: “Can it just be our class that does this?” I realized that if the other classes did it, too, the activity would become just another teacher-initiated lesson.

Give yourself—and your students—permission to pursue ideas that students find interesting. Let driving questions originate from the students even if they don’t exactly track your goals for the lesson. Then, seize the opportunity to join your students in making sense of their measurements, observations, and tentative explanations.

In 2011, my students and I watched a video of a tsunami rolling over the east coast of Japan. As the water pushed houses, ships, and cars inland like bits of driftwood, questions tumbled from my students like flotsam. One student asked: “Are we having more and bigger earthquakes than we used to?”

What an interesting question. Maybe your students can answer it. Earthquake data is available online. Join them in the journey.”

Read the entire piece here.

You can find many more resource and articles about NGSS at the NGSS Hub.



Math in the Garden

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The Atlantic recently ran an interesting piece titled Math in the Garden by Nadra Kareem Nittle.

“As class got under way on a recent fall morning, the first-graders Jessica Brimley teaches at Los Cerritos Elementary in Long Beach, California, still hadn’t mastered the concept of estimation. When Brimley told the children they’d be using the technique, a boy’s hand shot up to ask for a definition.

But Brimley wasn’t just going to give him the answer or point him to a dictionary. Instead, she used nature to demonstrate; after all, her classroom isn’t indoors, but in the school’s 48,000 square-foot garden, an approach teachers at Los Cerritos and elsewhere are using more and more to engage students.

To help the students understand estimation, Brimley held up a ruler, explaining how some farmers use the the measuring tool to plant precise rows.” Read the rest of the piece here.

Garden-Based Learning

flickr photo by wamblicious shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

We’re lucky to be at a school with a passionate group of gardeners (both students and adults)! Edutopia recently ran a post by Kristin Stayer with additional ideas for gardening at school.

“A study from Rutgers Cooperative Extension, Learning Through the Garden, shows that gardens can function as living laboratories. Students who participate in gardening have a considerable increase in grade point average, utilize new learning styles, and develop their perspectives and ways of learning to incorporate critical 21st-century skills such as “curiosity, flexibility, open-mindedness, informed skepticism, creativity, and critical thinking.”

Here are some activity examples that could be used in a gardening unit:

Read the entire piece here.

Two Great Science Bloggers to Follow

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by erase:

If you enjoy learning about the latest scientific discoveries or news, you should check out these two blogs housed on the National Geographic site.

1. The Loom is written by Carl Zimmer, who writes for the New York Times. He has written numerous articles and books. You can find his site here.

2. Ed Yong’s blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science can be found here. Yong’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Guardian, Nature, the BBC, and Wired. Yong has a regular post called “I’ve got your missing links right here,” which includes the best science links from around the web. You can see an example here.

Yong recently shared this excellent piece, Epigenome: The symphony in your cells. You can read it here.

Motivation in the Science Classroom

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In this Educational Leadership piece, authors Lee Shumow and Jennifer A. Schmidt write about the importance of making science relevant for students. They provide four strategies for helping students see the value of learning science.

A hush fell over the trigonometry class, heads swiveled around, and my classmates stared at me (Lee), dumbfounded. A few told me later they couldn’t believe I’d had the nerve to ask the teacher, with some exasperation, to explain the purpose of the function he was teaching. But I simply couldn’t imagine the purpose of the abstract and tedious work we were expected to do, and I wasn’t interested in doing a set of problems just for the sake of doing them. Luckily, I had an experienced teacher who provided several concrete examples that illustrated how very useful the function was in the real world. The reassurance that this was actually useful satisfied me, so I did the problems without complaint. All these years later, I still remember the respect I gained for both him and the value of trigonometry.”  Read the entire piece here.

Nature is Speaking ~ Environmental Films

Conservation International recently released these Nature is Speaking Films to inform and inspire young people to take action.

Andrew Revkin writes in the New York Times, “The writing is engaging and just a bit edgy and aimed at increasing young people’s awareness that a thriving environment is an underpinning of human wellbeing.” Read more of his piece here.