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Sunday, December 08, 2013




A New Book Worth The Read
 
 
 
A new book has been recently authored by Lee Shumow and Jennifer A. Schmidt, both Professors of Educational Psychology at Northern Illinois University, titled, Enhancing Adolescents’ Motivation for Science research-based strategies for teaching male and female students.  After reading the book I am struck by the critical need for positive relationships in the science classroom between peer and peer and between teacher and peer.   The essence of achievement in the classroom results from listening, helping, accommodating new ideas, communicating and follow-through to obtain shared goals.  Collaboration is another hallmark and life-long attribute that students need to develop, which fosters discussion, relationship and problem-solving abilities among students.  
The research shows that female students respond more dramatically to positive caring relationships in the science classroom given more immediate and constructive feedback.  It has been shown that female students are prone to issues of lack of confidence not motivation.  The ability gap between male and females students does not exist, so it boils down to relationships in the classroom.
The promotion of relevance during instruction goes a long way helping to sustain interest.  The authors site research that champions the effort to use everyday and well known material in labs, to model enthusiasm for the process of doing science,  tell stories to convey ideas, use analogies or metaphors to further describe events and associate what is being studied to students’ own interest and their understanding.
From the book on page 60-61 it is stated, “Emotional experience in science also appears to exert particularly strong influence on girls’ confidence in their abilities.  In our research, girls were far more likely than boys to report feeling stressed in science, and feeling stressed during class was related to a decline in confidence.  In several studies, female students have attributed their confidence about doing well in STEM fields to their teachers’ qualities more often than have male students.”
The book provides great case studies and researched results explaining the motivation of students to learn science in the high school classroom.  The findings described in this book are a testimony to the effectiveness of Project-Based-Leaning (PBL).   PBL models address the development of these same attributes within students lending to their understanding.  This model for learning provides students with autonomy, inspired challenges, relevance and rigor and an emotional supporting learning environments that transfers into academic success!

Sunday, November 17, 2013




GAME CHANGER
 
 
When studying the history of the Ottoman Empire on the European continent, my son explained to me that the revulsion and exclusion of science education pervaded throughout this Muslim society at this time in history and was one of the major influences catalyzing the empire’s downfall, dwindling dominance and final collapse in the 1900’s. Western powers such as Germany and France embracing scientific reasoning seized the moment in history and became the dominant forces in Europe.
It can be argued that as United States public school districts double-down on their efforts to reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), through standardized curriculums and summative testing, it begins to reek of the same disillusionment experienced by the educationally blinded Ottomans.  Even with the Common Core Standards now in place complimented with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the rest of the world is moving toward the relevance and the rigor of Project-Based Models of Learning in the science classroom.  The new standards cannot be laced into traditional content-based curriculum with a test-heavy reliance on assessment.
The new standards require that innovation in the classroom to be the hallmark of Project-Based Learning.  Inquiry-based approaches to learning and problem solving require deeper reflection by teachers on student skills, abilities and understanding.  Assessment becomes performance-based and it is on a continuum reflecting growth. Denmark, Singapore and China have embraced this new reality of science education and other nations will follow suite.  To keep pace with the changing educational dynamics it is up to progressive leadership on educational reforms to help our school districts rise to this challenge.
It does not take a stretch of the imagination to perceive the gap forming between nations in knowledge, understanding and ability to cope intelligently with the complexities of problems facing society in the 21st century.  The traditional content-based approach to learning science fails to address the skills, aptitudes and abilities needed to be successful in the new world economy. Project-Based Models of Learning will be the “game changer in the world of science education.  Real-world problems solved along with adherence to growth-oriented assessment, in the form of digital portfolio dossiers for example, will become the mainstay of learning in the science classroom.
Lessons learned by studying history can in some ways provide guidance for progressive thinking today.  It will be a test of our commitment, as a nation, to maintain our dominance in science and technology by now addressing these needed reforms in science education.  Project-Based Learning is the means through which public schools can meet these new challenges in science education in the 21st century.


Sunday, November 03, 2013



A LETTER TO THE PRINCIPAL

 
SEIZE THE MOMENT!
 
Dr. Lozier, 
From further research into the information provided last week showing such large declines in test scores for science literacy at Streamwood High School, it is obvious the problem is not based on how we teach or due to an influx of students lacking skills and abilities, but in changes implemented, at the state level, with respect to how these tests were assessed.
Look at some of the quotes posted from a recent article published by the Daily Herald on October 31st, 2013.
“The decline is largely due to a change in the way the state board grades standardized tests
“Educators stress that lower scores don't mean more students are failing.”
“It doesn't mean that a student has any different knowledge,” said Suzanne Colombe, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at Elgin Area School District U-46, which saw between 20 and 32 percentage-point decreases in ISAT reading and math scores.
“Colombe said the drop in scores is nothing to be alarmed about, and district officials have been preparing parents for the change since new cut scores were put in place.”
“With the old ISAT cut scores, you could actually meet state standards being in the 30th percentile. Now you have to be at the 55th percentile,” Colombe said.”
“While U-46 administrators are reviewing how to better adapt curriculum and instruction to meet the new standards, individual schools are refining their own internal measurements, she added.”
“Teachers are really going to focus on formative assessments that are ongoing. The report card gives us trend data in subjects and areas”, Colombe said. “This is just one measure of student achievement. We don't want to take one measure and use that to change curriculum.”
 
With that being stated I do see the public heightening of this issue as another opportunity  for educators to “seize the moment” and implement science curriculum initiatives that are in the same venue as the Gold Seal Lesson Plans.  Learning models, in science, based upon doing projects provide the means to meet these common core standards and the expected adoption of new science standards coming from the state.  Science projects, embedded within the curriculum, provide both increased rigor and relevance, while at the same time lend to the development of personal attributes such as critical thinking skills, effective means to communicate ideas and solutions and the willingness to share results with a global audience of peers, experts and the general populous.  Project-Based Learning strengthens the foundation by which we educate our students.  An example of this is expressed by Dr. Tim Kubik as he shares his experience in working with ACE Leadership and Health Leadership High Schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which organizes authentic learning experiences around work in the construction and health industries.
 They changed, and began to do quality work, not because their teachers held them to rigorous expectations day in and day out until they learned to deliver what was expected. They changed because their teachers designed learning experiences for them that the students could actually see as learning opportunities, rather than mere “assignments.” If we had this kind of “design rigor” in more schools around the country, I’m quite certain we could stop talking about rigor in our schools, and start celebrating more results.”
 


Friday, October 25, 2013

 
 
 

The Blooming of Project-Based Science

 

Green Peppers Grown Hydroponically

in the Classroom.

 
Concepts in Chemistry are learned and reinforced through projects, such as the Earth Stewardship Project. Project like these help provide both relevance and rigor to the learning environment. The project goals help to drive the learning as students become problem-solving experts in their pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The intrinsic motivation to learn is reinforced through hands-on and inquiry-based scientific research.
 
 
 


 Aquaponics experimentation is ground-breaking new research that is being conducted in the classroom.  It could result in new solutions to achieve the goals of the Earth Stewardship Project.

 
 
 

 A Classroom Greenhouse provide the means for students to do research on different soil mediums, while looking for a mixture of potting soil, vermicompost and organic fertilizer that will maximize crop production.

 
 
 
 
Classroom Worm Farms are at the center of
the research conducted during the Earth Stewardship Project.  Students investigate the means to increase production of vermicompost from each farm. These farms provide the necessary organic material that is harvested and processed into nutrient-rich worm tea.  The liquid organic fertilizer that is produced is one of the essential ingredients needed to insure a successful crop production.



Friday, October 18, 2013

Did we really go to the moon?



Did We Really Go to the Moon?

 

It starts out as one of those good ideas.  It is the last day of Homecoming Week at school and I decide to show a movie about Apollo Missions to the Moon.  The movie documents the heroic effort by men and women of our country working on the spacefligh project, destined to have man walk on the Moon.

From the back of the classroom yells a student, “That is all fake.  That never really happen.  It was all just made up.”  I then snap back, “I believe in the science and it did happen.  I lived it.”  The argument persists and I add that it is belief in pseudoscience that you are talking about if you do not believe that historically America once put men on the Moon and brought them back alive.

The furor in class dies down and the movie continues, but a girl in my class whispers a question to me.  “Did we really go to the Moon?  Did we really do that?” And I gleefully and quietly comment back “Yes we did, It really happen.”

With computer technology no more sophisticated than that of a high school calculator, we conquered the challenge of going to another planet and we looked back upon ourselves with amazement and humility.  Stunned by the history and ideas presented in the movie and championed by her science teacher, the young lady might realize things differently with eyes now full of wonderment and glee too!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The 2013-2014 Earth Stewardship Project

at Streamwood High School

 

 

With the2013-2014 school year in full throttle I have been successful in getting the “mothership”  of Project-Based Learning (PBL) off the ground in my high school science classroom. 
For weeks, months and years I have been working to establish a project-based format in my physical science classes that effectively contribute to the development of a learning environment producing critical thinkers and problem solvers!
The Earth Stewardship Project presents the driving question to all the  2013-2014 newcomers to the world of physical science.  What is the most effective means to maximize the production of both organic fertilizers and the harvesting of organic plants in the science classroom? The question simultaneously presents itself as both a challenge to produce quantities of substances in the classroom, while at the same time begs for understanding the chemical and physical nature of these substances. 
Students are using what they know, and learn to enhance the quality and quantity of harvested organic plants like basil, lettuce and chives with the aid of homegrown vermicompost organic fertilizers.  Student involvement in the project is a very natural reflection of a stewardship attitude toward our environment.
By utilizing the resources of grants, I have designed a curriculum reflecting a new learning model of a 21st century classroom. The goal is to meet common core standards, while achieving learning outcomes of critical thinking and competent articulated decision-making.
Beginning second quarter students, working in teams, will produce experimental designs that increase understanding of the production of vermicompost and the growth of organic crops.  Becoming experts in the chemistry of these naturally produced substances will help students to link discoveries to real-world understanding and problem-solving.
Some of the outcomes associated with this learning model are increases in student intrinsic motivation to learn science, documentation of scientific results and the articulation of their findings through multiple means of presentation.  Students take ownership of their scientific investigations and defend their conclusions with  evidence derived from their own experimental designs.


Sunday, September 29, 2013





DELIVERING THE TRUTH ABOUT PROJECT-BASED SCIENCE IN THE CLASSROOM

 

The delivery of project-based science, in the high school classroom, is the hallmark of progressive educational reform in our schools.   Effective models of learning in the science classroom should include the following aspect as presented by the Buck Institute for Education  (http://www.bie.org/about/what_is_pbl/):

In Project Based Learning (PBL), students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. While allowing for some degree of student "voice and choice," rigorous projects are carefully planned, managed, and assessed to help students learn key academic content, practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking), and create high-quality, authentic products & presentations.




Buck Institute outlines essential components of Project-Based Learning in the Science Classroom

  • is intended to teach significant content. Goals for student learning are explicitly derived from content standards and key concepts at the heart of academic disciplines.

  • requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication. To answer a Driving Question and create high-quality work, students need to do much more than remember information. They need to use higher-order thinking skills and learn to work as a team. They must listen to others and make their own ideas clear when speaking, be able to read a variety of material, write or otherwise express themselves in various modes, and make effective presentations. These skills, competencies and habits of mind are often known as “21st century skills,” because they are prerequisite for success in the 21st century workplace.

  • requires inquiry as part of the process of learning and creating something new. Students ask questions, search for answers, and arrive at conclusions, leading them to construct something new: an idea, an interpretation, or a product.

  • is organized around an open-ended Driving Question. This focuses students’ work and deepens their learning by framing important issues, debates, challenges or problems.

  • creates a need to know essential content and skills. Project Based Learning reverses the order in which information and concepts are traditionally presented. A typical unit with a “project” add-on begins by presenting students with knowledge and concepts and then, once gained, giving students the opportunity to apply them. Project Based Learning begins with the vision of an end product or presentation. This creates a context and reason to learn and understand the information and concepts.

  • allows some degree of student voice and choice. Students learn to work independently and take responsibility when they are asked to make choices. The opportunity to make choices, and to express their learning in their own voice, also helps to increase students’ educational engagement.

  • includes processes for revision and reflection. Students learn to give and receive feedback in order to improve the quality of the products they create, and are asked to think about what and how they are learning.

  • involves a public audience. Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher – in person or online. This “ups the stakes,” increasing students’motivation to do high-quality work, and adds to the authenticity of the project.

 



Student intrinsic motivation to learn is by far the most benefitted aspect of this methodology employed in the classroom to learn science.  This process (doing science) demands commitment by both teachers and students to seize opportunities for knowledge, creating new avenues to learn, and foster greater understanding while solving real-world problems.

The genius of the Earth Stewardship Project stems from years of research and design of new educational pedagogy that most effectively addresses the learning of concepts in science.  This new project involves student research and experimentation into the physical and chemical conditions necessary to optimize plant growth while utilizing natural organic fertilizers and carbon-free sources of energy.  The goal of the project is to find the best means by which to produce organically grown herbs and vegetables.

A number of innovative methodologies will be pursued by students conducting experiments during this year-long project.  The essential components of the project are the following: Developing hydroponics plant systems, designing aquaponic fish- plant systems, creating multiple greenhouse plant production units and cultivating the production of vermicompost from worm farms.

 

Another PBL educational initiative is the scientific investigation into the use of alternative sources of energy and the conservation of energy.

Introduction:  The use of alternative energy sources is an avenue to clean energy.   Scientific investigation will include literature readings on the topic of interest and designing a model of an experimental research project that will lead to greater understanding of the concepts of energy production, consumption and the transfer process involved in delivering energy to specific locations.

 

Design Models:  The experimental design problems will include one the following sources of energy output:

1. Solar panels technology producing electrical energy output.

2. Wind Turbines technology producing electrical energy output.

3. Fuel Cells powered by hydrogen gas producing electrical energy output.

4. Design of Storage Mediums allowing for the capture and retention of sources of energy for future use.  Storage mediums will include batteries, hydrogen gas and potential energy of water, air or other forms of mass.

5. Transfer of light radiation energy and the biochemical energy of macronutrients and micronutrients from vermicompost into biochemical energy held within the structure of plants.

Students working on these PBL assignments begin by brainstorming new ideas for long-term scientific research.  One of the goals of the project is to address the need to increase carbon-free sources of energy when producing electricity.  Students also seize upon the opportunity to grow crops in the classroom without a carbon-footprint.  The challenges faced by students working to solve these problems provides the model for learning science that increases students’ understanding while helping to fosters higher levels of intrinsic motivation to learn and achieve.

For weeks students in physics and physical science classes at Streamwood High School have learned fundamental concepts on the physical and chemical nature of matter. Innovation and inspired problem solving have quickly become their focus as they employ learned skills and abilities to produce electrical energy from non-carbon means and to grow organic herbs and vegetables in the classroom carbon-free.

The challenge is to rise to the level of leadership, innovation and collaboration necessary for success in the 21st century classroom.  A glimpse of this sacred effort by PBL driven teachers executing PBL based curriculum, is expressed by Thomas Friedman in the book called Hot, Flat and Crowded.  In his book he notes that being a world leader in the 21st century means leading in the innovation of clean power and energy efficiency. “It means inspiring an ethic of conservation toward the natural world which is increasingly imperiled.”

Educational initiatives in science education can be the ground-zero genius of this innovation and discovery.  This is where America can unite and be propelled socially and economically by a common purpose.  This commonality is expressed in Project-based learning models fueling the driving questions, while becoming the catalyst for discovery and solutions to problems.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Carbon Neutral and the will to take action



Three times this summer I have approached the idea of linking up with NASA on some of their projects and three times I come away empty.  I can be involved with them, but there is always some limitation, like money or time commitment with fellow teachers or classroom curriculum schedule problems. FRUSTRATING.  I am back again designing and implementation of new and potentially radical pedagogy that will break down the silo mentality of science disciplines and stress cross-disciplinary research and problem solving by all students in the classroom.
 
The reason I am writing is to express to you an idea that I am brainstorming which would not only help spark enthusiasm by students in the science classroom, but would contribute to student-initiated solutions to the problems of climate change. I am sending to you a copy of the most recent scientific evaluation on the effects of carbon dioxide emissions on the temperature of our planet.  The bottom line is that the crisis point is imminent and I believe that the only chance of changing the course of events will be through education of the populace, thereby creating the will to take action and save our world as we know it.
I would like to start a nonprofit called “Carbon-Neutral” that would be an educational institution networked with scientists, engineers, business associates and policy-makers.  This organization will help to provide influence and leadership that is necessary to make changes in our societies that will deter the ramifications of climate change resonating from global warming.
One of the main goals as outlined by this report by the International Energy Agency, “Redrawing the Energy Climate Map”, details the current need for  action to secure investments in low-carbon and more efficient infrastructure to preempt future crisis issues of eliminating carbon-intensive assets later on. As teachers we have an opportunity to lace this issue into our curriculum providing a unifying theme, idea or goal to work for during the school year.  This effort lends well to science education, but other disciplines can also contribute in this collaborative effort to change the world.

Early in the school year I discuss this issue with my students and I lay down the challenge to make a difference this year in their lives and in the lives of everyone around them.  I try to embed, within the science curriculum, the goal of carbon dioxide emissions reduction as a constant issue demanding students’ thoughts and efforts to come up with solutions.  The Greenhouse Project, Worm Farm Project and Alternative Energy Project are the means through which students create that sense of engagement and success in the classroom and within their community.  Other projects such as the Solar Cooker Project and The Energy Conservation Project can lend to more effort by students to reduce the carbon footprint of our society helping to educate others of the need for change.

REPORT:

http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/media/weowebsite/2013/energyclimatemap/RedrawingEnergyClimateMap.pdf

 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

STEM EDUCATION -Inquiry-based research in the classroom



 EARTH STEWARDSHIP AND A SUSTAINABLE LIFESTYLE

Greenhouse Project

Worm Farm Project

Hydroponic Project

Aquaponics Project

As a science educator my initial concern is to help create, within the minds of my students, the desire to champion the cause of preserving Mother Earth for future generations.  It is understood that greater understanding of science leads to greater appreciation for our planet and the environment that we all count on for life.

Physical and chemical characteristics of soil, plants, fertilizer, water and air are game for scientific inquiry.  To become more knowledgeable about the environment is to be more powerful in your ability to take on challenging problems and put forth the effort to provide timely solutions.

The goals of the project are to develop within students an appreciation for factors that impact changes in our environment and our quality of life.  Students develop the skills, attributes and understanding to be critical thinkers, problem solvers and effective communicators of both creative ideas and arguments based upon fact.  This multifaceted approach to learning provides the instruction and key learning experiences to support students in their development of more sophisticated understanding.

These are long-term inquiry-based research projects provide a wealth of opportunity for formative assessment of by teachers.   Formative assessments provide the needed snapshot measure of students’ abilities and their growth in understanding.  It utilizes the assessment of performance expectations that are designed to improve 21st century skills such as information processing and communication, thinking and problem solving and personal and workplace productivity.  The instructional methodology is grounded in the 5E instructional model that features the following learning components:  Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.

There is an abundance of research on the pedagogy of teaching science that points to the fact that students engaged in project-based learning opportunities not only learn the same content as in lecture-based units but also gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills.  When students are in control of their own learning while conducting long-term research projects, then they are more motivated and it creates a strong sense of ownership.  Authentic research experience has the potential to provide high school students with scientific reasoning skills desired by both high school and university instructors.

Using practices in the science class is the means by which to develop understanding of science ideas.  The learning of science requires doing science.  It requires both scientific and engineering practices.  These projects provide the means to include performance expectations that challenge students to demonstrate knowledge-in-use.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Science Fair Experience



 
STUDENTS SHOWCASE THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS AND THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF SOLUTIONS TO COMPLEX PROBLEMS.




Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century

The 2013 U46 Science Fair

The elation felt by participants at a finale, whether it is a sporting event or a science fair, is ultimately driven by the sheer pleasure of the accomplishment of tasks of no simple means.  This is why School District U46 moves heaven and earth each year to marshal the effort needed to provide science fair opportunities for students.  This is the essence of what science education is all about.   It is about making the case for students to take on challenges, tax their learned skills and abilities and present evidence-based arguments that support their scientific discoveries.

If science education is to move forward in the 21st century it has to place these types of project-based challenges in front of our students to learn.  The genius of the learning process comes from inquiry-based scientific investigations that utilize the knowledge and understanding brought into the classroom by students. 

The Next Generation Science Standards envisions science education in America to be thought of as a process of doing science to achieve understanding and not as the attainment of absolute knowledge.  Student achievement is measured in the movement from conceptual understanding to conceptual understanding and this demands performance.  It requires students to implement this understanding by solving problems and posing new questions.  Doing science leads to student performance outcomes that are real and aligned with the learning of fundamental concepts in science.

Participation in the district science fair is one avenue that educators in School District U46 are able to connect with project-based science providing the means to help motivate students to learn science.  It is a hook that can engage students in the process of doing science.  This engagement is outside the textbook, outside the classroom and placed into the homes and within the community. 

Science Fairs are STEM educational initiatives that become incubators for inspiring young minds. It provides a forum by which student achievement is applauded and their effort and commitment to excellence is recognized.  The science fair experience provides the opportunity for students to work independently for their own education using the abilities and skills they have mastered over many years of schooling.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Earth Stewardship Project

THE EARTH STEWARDSHIP PROJECT
 
 
 
 


The Earth Stewardship Project is a cross-disciplinary project-based scientific endeavor that addresses concepts in physics, chemistry, biology and environmental science.   This project provides students with the opportunity to develop 21st century skills and abilities and the self-efficacy to confront complex multidisciplinary challenges as both problem solvers and as innovators.

The genius of the Earth Stewardship Project stems from years of research and design of new educational pedagogy that most effectively addresses the learning of concepts in science.  This new project involves student research and experimentation into the physical and chemical conditions necessary to optimize plant growth while utilizing natural organic fertilizers and carbon-free sources of energy.  The goal of the project is to find the best means by which to produce organically grown herbs and vegetables.  A number of innovative methodologies will be investigated by students conducting experiments during this year-long project.  The essential components of the project are the following: Developing hydroponics plant systems, designing aquaponic fish- plant systems, creating multiple greenhouse plant production units and cultivating the production of vermicompost from worm farms.

Students will be involved in the physical and chemical alteration of plant growing mediums.  Scientific measurements of soil densities, moisture content, pH, nutrient concentrations, and plant vitality will help to frame the desired plant growth process.  The objective of the project is for the students to discover optimal growing conditions that will maximize the overall garden productivity.  Throughout this long-term scientific research project students will be in consultation with plant experts, experiment with new ideas to increase plant vitality, collect data, analysis results, write conclusions, design prototype models and publish their findings.

The Earth Stewardship Project challenges students initial understanding that they bring to the classroom in chemistry, physics and biology, but it goes further emphasizing the need to test and design more productive plant systems.  Students will focus upon critical factors that influence plant growth.  This process of doing science requires applying researched ideas into the development of new prototype designs that contribute to plant growth and vitality.

From the genius as an isolated classroom science project, the Earth Stewardship Project will grow to have influence upon the entire school building community.  Besides the direct hands-on learning aspect of this project in the science classroom, it can influence curricula in math, business and the language arts as these students are asked to contribute their skills and abilities to help support the project.  This rippling effect is influential upon other academic disciplines and will be an important contributing factor to establishing a culture of inquiry within the school creating an institution of learning.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Letter to a Colleague




Letter to a Colleague

The Merits of Project-based Science

Hello Marty,

Tis the grant writing season!  Along with the application ritual of grant writing is the benefit of the opportunity its opens for us as educators to innovate in our classrooms.  The process of writing grants helps the teacher to coalesce thoughts about doing inquiry, creates new methodologies to employ in the classroom and extracts the effort needed by the teachers to achieve greater understanding and achievement by all students in the classroom.

Grant applications demand that teachers formalize their new curriculum ideas into structured projects which are the means by which learning is achieved.  Once the projects are realized then the innovation occurs and it fuels new models for learning science in the 21st century classroom.

The process of science is not complete without repeated trial-and-error, therefore attempts to continually bring projects-based science into the classroom is a fundamentally necessary first step for all science educators.  It is the crucial step necessary to create the type of learning environments expressed in the published writing of Next Generation Science Standards.

My experience with developing long-term research projects is that it opens up a slew of concerns for the students’ skills and abilities. The process we go through as educators is similar to watching a child learn how to walk with trial-and-error, discomfort and ultimate success.  Our students need to develop, within themselves, the self-efficacy to take the initiatives and explore for themselves their own learning.  This is a difficult but necessary attribute to develop within each of our students. To have a quizzical nature wanting to learn and figure things out is the essence of what needs to be accomplished.  This takes practice, time and commitment.  The learning environment created in the classroom helps to determine the effort needed by students to achieve and be successful.  Long-term research projects integrated with real-world problems provide the means by which students can produce solutions and become experts with respect to both the subject matter and the scientific investigation.

Aquaponics, hydroponics, greenhouse production and worm farm harvesting are tools and projects we can use to bring changes in the way our students learn science. The Life Sciences as expressed in NGSS can be brought into the classroom through these long-term science projects. This will require students to develop solutions to problems related to the studying the growth of plants, developing optimal fertilization processes and producing high quality natural liquid organic fertilizer.

Grant awards can help support our efforts in the classroom as teachers to become experts in the development of new 21st century models of learning in the classroom.  As presenters at the National Science Teachers Convention, we can share our experiences and network with similarly minded teachers from across America.  I would encourage that we apply, by April 15th  and be presenters at the 2014 National Convention in Boston.  The most current grant application under consideration is due April 30th.  These are two incredible opportunities that we can capitalize upon to help bring to Streamwood High School 21st century models for learning by all students in science.

 

 

Sunday, March 17, 2013


THE PHYSICAL SCIENCE COMMITMENT


Since 1995 (for the past 18 years) I have taught Physical Science at Streamwood High School in Streamwood, Illinois.  This week I read an article in Science Teacher Magazine titled, “ The Next Generation Science Standards,  A Focus on Physical Science” magazine written by Joe Krajik,  professor of science education at Michigan State University and director of the Institute for Collaborative Research for Education, Assessment, and Teaching Environment for Science, Technology, and Engineering and Mathematics.

The article begins to unravel new ideas that NGSS presents to the science education community.  For years I have worked to employ cutting-edge technologies and inquiry methodologies into the physical science curriculum.  The best means to bring these new ideas of practice into the classroom is through project-based learning.

At the high school level, the students in science class must be held accountable and use the learned outcomes achieved in middle and elementary school.  It is important that high school teachers utilize these student abilities and skills developed in the earlier grades, because it will lends authenticity to the practice that is employed by teachers at the high school level adhering to the NGSS.  The practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas can then be capsuled in real-world science research projects fostering problem solving and a commitment to rational evidence-based solutions.  These projects help produce the interest and motivation by students to deliver outcomes and solutions that are a real benefit to our society.

My concern is for the development of systematic and performance based approaches to learn science in the elementary and middle school levels.  The professional development and mentoring that needs to be implemented is crucial.  This schooling by teachers for teachers is necessary to align and bring to fruition performance-based outcomes in the classroom that lead to deeper thinking, questioning and ultimately greater understanding by all students.

The STEM Forum scheduled for May in St. Louis, Missouri  (www.nsta.org/conferences/2013stl/) is an example of an excellent opportunity for science educators at the elementary and middle school level to share ideas, concerns and come up with creative innovative practices to be employed in the classroom.  I am looking for leadership within the school district to commit to their teachers by sending teams of teachers to attend these science conferences and forums.  This supportive investment, by school districts, will help fuel the innovation that is necessary to redesign the practice delivered to students in the science classroom. The experience and knowledge gained from attending these meetings will inspire and motivate a new generation of science educators that are committed to delivering inquiry-based learning into the classroom and addressing the educational needs of our children in the 21st century.

SCIENCE RESEARCH IN THE CLASSROOM:

The modeling method of teaching physics involves students performing inquiry-based experiments investigating the transfer of energy from one form to another within a closed system.  Studetns use PASCO probes, plastic cars and a frictionless track to perform experimental investigation.  Graphical Analysis 3 computer satistical modeling software is utilized to assess the data collected.


In the physical science clasroom a team of students are completing a long-term independent research project on the effect of increased concentration of carbon dioxide upon the growth rate of basil plants.  Students burn a candle until it is extinquished due to lack of oxygen.  PASCO probes monitor the level of carbon dioxide concentration within a closed system.  The effect of the increased carbon dioxide upon the plant is compared to other basil plants under normal conditions.

 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Practice over Content




Practice over Content

The Inquiry-based Science Classroom

It has been a remarkable week for students in the inquiry-based science classroom at Streamwood High School.  With just over a month away until the Elgin School District U46 Science Expo there is a sense of urgency as students prepare their final lab proposals, which function as a blueprint for scientific investigations.  This process in science that students create is embedded within a science curriculum that is originally geared toward covering content.  This causes stress within the learning environment as both teacher and students struggle to maintain effective time management of class activities, create open-ended learning environments and work to move forward on their research and experimentation.

Innovative STEM curriculum initiatives require redesigning of how learning opportunities are presented to the students that emphasis practice over content.  The curious interplay between science content and inquiry requires producing subtle strategic learning opportunities that are driven by the pace of learning in the classroom, problem solving and the development of a clear sense of purpose.  Students working in groups pool together resources, experience and understanding and create scientific experimentation.  The depth of students’ perseverance and understanding, when conducting inquiry, are determined by the quality of their research and personal commitment to excellence.

Karen Ostlund, the current President of NSTA has stated the following in the most current issue of the publication NSTA Reports, “The scientific and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts should be used throughout the curriculum and instruction so students have many opportunities to become proficient at using the practices to deepen their understanding of disciplinary core concepts by connecting them with crosscutting concepts.”

Students test the design of wind turbines to determine electrical power and efficiency.
 
The debate between content and process in science education has been raging for decades, so teachers need to aim high to strike a balance in the science classroom. It comes down to adding skill-building opportunities within the science curriculum as essential steps to meet the new standards presented by the Next Generation Science Standards. New priorities in science education are for students to develop the abilities to interpret graphs and data, plan and carrying out scientific investigations and assess the validity of scientific claims and conclusions.

Students design scientific experiments to determine
the effectiveness of worm tea upon the gowth of herbs
 and vegetable plants.
 

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

21st Century Models for Learning




New Models for Learning in Our Schools
 
The Next Generation Science Standards require new thinking with respect to how we deliver learning opportunities to our students.  It is critical that at its core it is the pursuit of the development of problem solving abilities for all students is now our educational focus.

Recent federal legislative effort on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is lending support to this new thinking strategy.  Congressional sponsorship of the legislation reflects this need.

"Today's students will need more than the basics to succeed in tomorrow's workforce" agreed Rep. Loebsack (D-IA), "We need to provide them with an education that will make them competitive in 21st century careers, which means they need skills like creative problem-solving, the ability to communicate well, and to collaborate in diverse teams. This bill makes these skills an explicit aim of federal education policy, which allows states like Iowa to continue with and expand on their leadership in 21st century education."

Our school district with its curriculum writing initiatives and forward thinking educators can lead on this issue.  The students that we serve need our help to develop these 21st century skills and abilities.  Project-based learning can facilitate this transition into a new model for educating our students.  As stakeholders in this effort we need to unite and become innovators in our classrooms bringing forth new models for learning.  Let’s get started!