Category Archives: Teaching Moments

Tragedy in Colorado – The Science Behind a '100 Year Flood'

The Colorado Front Range is still reeling after a major storm dumped more precipitation on areas in 24 to 48 hours than they receive in an entire year. The result was 20-foot walls of water rushing down the sides of mountains, rivers coming over their banks, roads and bridges washed away and houses flooded. Hundreds of roads and bridges washed away across the Front Range. Some places, like the town of Lyons, became islands completely surrounded by water.

The Science Behind 100-Year Floods

Lefthand Canyon washed away Submitted By: Laura
Courtesy 9News, Denver

The flooding has effected 17 Colorado counties with the most devastating in Boulder and Larimer counties. Parts of Jefferson County around Golden and Evergreen and Arapahoe County in Aurora are also affected.

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What Are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them?

A few weeks back, we demystified the Common Core State Standards to clearly explain what they are all about. Common Core does not cover science. The Next Generation Science Standards were designed to set a national standard in science and give teachers and their students direction towards college prep and careers in science.

What are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them? | Steve Spangler Blog

Before the NGSS came into play, the states used the National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to guide their state science standards. The standards were high quality and worked well, but are now over 15 years old. In that time, major advancements in science have taken place along with a better understanding of how students learn science.

In 2007, a report from a Carnegie Foundation commission concluded, ”the nation’s capacity to innovate for economic growth and the ability of American workers to thrive in the modern workforce depend on a broad foundation of math and science learning, as do our hopes for preserving a vibrant democracy and the promise of social mobility that lie at the heart of the American dream.”

Not surprising, they also found the science and mathematics education in the U.S. was far below expectations and set to leave millions of young Americans unprepared to succeed in the future global economy. In 2009, the United States ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics out of 34 countries.  In 2012, 54% of high school graduates did not meet the college readiness benchmark levels in mathematics and 69% of graduates failed to meet the benchmarks in science.

Science and mathematics education is not just for students preparing for careers in engineering, technology, science or accounting. In our constantly changing, always updating society, the need for higher education in skilled jobs is much higher than unskilled jobs. Many of the fastest growing career fields involve science and math. Information, technology and knowledge turns over about every 17 months in our modern society. Think about how fast a smart phone becomes out of date.

Normally we teach out of context. The biology teacher is teaching here. The mathematics teacher there. The english teacher over here. And when it’s time to synthesize? Guess what? We aren’t there.
- Fred D. Johnson, Past President National Science Teachers Association.

The National Association of State Directors of Career Education grouped all occupations into 16 clusters. Fourteen of the clusters require four years of science while the remaining two require three years. The message – “to keep all options open and maximize their opportunities, all students should follow a rigorous program in both science and mathematics,” according to the NGSS website.

It’s not just careers that depend upon advances in society.  We face global problems from pandemics to global warming and climate change to energy shortages. The solutions lie in science and technological discoveries and advancement. Our survival is dependent on our abilities to train future scientists and problem solvers.

What are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them? | Steve Spangler Blog

From all of these needs and demands for the present and the future, the Next Generation Science Standards were born. The NGSS will provide students a content-rich education across the STEM subjects to prepare them for college and careers. This will ensure all students receive an internationally benchmarked science education. They aren’t a curriculum, but a content plan that all students should learn from kindergarten to high school graduation. States and local districts who adopt them will need to develop their own specific content and curriculum.

Science isn’t just a mere bunch of facts. Science is about the way we think about the world. The way we question the world. The way we communicate about the world. Developing that is a huge piece of the new standards.
- Jonathan Gerlach 2011-2012 Einstein Capitol Hill Fellow, U.S. Department of Energy.

Twenty-six states, a 41-member writing team and educational partners worked to develop the Next Generation Science Standards. The framework was developed by 18 experts in science, engineering, cognitive science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and education policy. The framework was then presented for public feedback and opinion. Then state policy leaders, higher education, K-12 teachers, the science and business community developed science standards grounded in the framework. Those standards were also open for public feedback.

What are the Next Generation Science Standards and Why Do We Need Them? | Steve Spangler Blog

The federal government is not involved or funding the Next Generation Science Standards. It is up to each individual state to choose the NGSS and adapt them. They will also individually decide whether to create assessments connected to the NGSS. The 26 states currently involved are Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Georgia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Maine, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware and Massachusetts.

Why NGSS? from Achieve on Vimeo.

 

Information in this article courtesy Achieve, Inc. on behalf of the twenty-six states and partners that collaborated on the NGSS.

 

 

Texas High School Student Gives His History Teacher a Lesson

A video of Duncanville High School student Jeff Bliss has gone viral after a classmate recorded his rant in the classroom last week. Bliss is an 18-year-old sophomore who returned to 10th grade after dropping out. He says he realized the importance of an education for his future. He now takes his education and the learning of others very seriously.

http://youtu.be/3bYv2AKPZOk

Bliss had questioned why the teacher didn’t give the students more time to prepare for a test. She asked him to leave the classroom and he began sharing his opinions of why students were not reaching their true potential. He claimed the teacher only passed out worksheets and packets instead of creating lively and engaging discussions.

In Bliss’ opinion, the classroom time was a waste and challenged the teacher to get the students excited about learning. He also felt teachers must reach out and touch the hearts of their students to truly engage them.

“Just as much as the students need to give an effort, the teachers need to give an effort too.” said Jeff Bliss.

A local television station reached out the school district for comment. The district said they want both students and teachers to be engaging in the classroom but believe Bliss could have expressed his concern in a better way.

One of Steve Spangler’s mottos is to “get it to the dinner table.” Lessons should be so engaging and exciting that the kids can’t wait to share it at the dinner table. Packets and worksheets should support the lessons but not be the entire lesson. No one has ever gotten inspired over doing a worksheet.

So many teachers are inspiring and engaging but some fall short. Teaching shouldn’t be constantly entertaining, but it should spark and excite the students’ interest in learning. Students must meet the teachers halfway. Education is a collaboration.

Where do you land on this issue? Has the teacher been given a fair chance? Did Bliss unfairly rant about his teacher or did he have a point? He obviously touched a nerve, because his rant went viral.

http://youtu.be/VbwMbsMNj_Q

10 Simple Tips for Bringing Science into your Home

By Kim Vij, The Educators’ Spin On It

Do you ever wonder if your child is getting enough Science?

As an educator and parent I have observed over the years that with more and more time focused on Reading, Writing and Math our children are not getting enough time for deeper levels of understanding of in science at school.  Children need more opportunities for hands on exploration and time to process the experiments and concepts at their own pace.  Are you thinking this is something I can help with at home but where to start? Do you know what concepts your child is supposed to be learning in science at school?  It’s easy you can just check the Standards for their Grade Level and support from home.  Your local school board website will have a link.

At The Educators’ Spin On It we try our best to insure that our children have the opportunity to explore science with our After School Express Series and our Tot School Series. We share ideas that you can incorporate as a stay at home parents, after school or on the weekends with your child. You would be surprised how many other subject areas a simple science experiment can lead to… Reading, Math, Writing and more!

10 Simple Tips for Bringing Science into your Home

  • Create a Science Station at Home

Include a Microscope, Binoculars, Magnifying Glass, Tweezers and Containers which are all tools a Scientist Needs to explore.

  • Create Science Trays

Provide items on a science tray such as Magnets, Rocks, Shells or Fossils to provide opportunities to explore and investigate and question.

  • Visit your local library to check out books from the Non Fiction Section

A deep understanding of a concept can come from a self-driven question.  Before you get there ask your child what they want to learn about prior checking out books.  Reptiles, solar energy, volcanos, insects, or chemistry, which topic will it be?  Keep a list posted of the Dewey Decimal System as a menu to choose from and to record on what you’ve discovered already.

Stepping out and into your garden has so many benefits to your child.  Simple good nutrition is the first step as well as discovering the process from seed to plant to fruit or vegetables and all the stages in between.  Does your child know where potatoes grow?  Or how many peas grow in a typical pod?

Have you ever really talked about the chemical & physical changes that happen while something cooks?  Observe active yeast?  Egg or no egg, baking soda or no baking soda?  How can kneading bread change from a sticky mess to something extremely soft and smooth? It’s all explained with science.

Have your children record observations of the world around them.  Create a Hypothesis for an experiment they want to do.  Encourage them to look at the world as a scientist would.

  • Plan Family Outings

Plan trips that support Science Concepts they are learning at school.  A local trip to a science museum or park might be the first step to learning about the land forms and animal life in your area.  Zoo, local nursery, Pet store, Animal Rescue, or even your neighborhood can provide real life experience of many science concepts.

  • Keep simple items on hand for experiments

You would be surprised with how much you can do with baking soda, vinegar, sugar, food coloring, dish detergent, glycerin, corn starch, dirt & seeds. Plus check out Steve Spangler’s Store for some amazing options for teaching children about science.

  • Don’t be afraid of a little mess
  • Ask questions that are open ended

This is one of the biggest keys to remember.  We need to encourage our children to think about a topic and originate their own questions and answers it prevents them from thinking outside the box.  As you see them observing something, encourage them to talk about their questions and observations.  It’s also a great way to build vocabulary too!    

Bonus Tip:  Follow Steve Spangler’s Science Experiment of the Week.  Plus don’t forget you can use Pinterest as a source for Science Experiments.  There are always amazing experiments being shared.  We have a Science Board that we encourage you to follow.

We hope that you’re able to bring science into your home with these simple tips. With these simple tips you can create great thinkers and develop a strong science background.  Plus these experiences will help to build their imaginations to form the skills necessary to discover new things for our future!

 

 

Kim Vij is the co-author of The Educators’ Spin On It . As an early childhood teacher and a mom of three, she’s learned many tips and tricks of parenting and teaching along the way in the past 20 years. She shares her “Educator’s Spin” on parenting issues and how to make learning playful and playtime meaningful. You can also join The Educators’ Spin On It on Facebook and Pinterest.

The Work of Scientists: Reasons to Read and Write

By Becky Spence – This Reading Mama

Real scientists read the newest research to keep up with the latest trends. Real scientists write their hypotheses, observations, and ultimately their findings in research journals and articles. Real life scientists have real life, authentic reasons to read and write. And as teachers, we can also create authentic reasons for our students to read and write about science!

Just recently, my son (1st grade) and I spent a couple of weeks learning about rocks and minerals. We also spent a significant amount of time reading and writing.

Reading about Rocks & Minerals

We read several rocks and minerals books, not to mention online websites  to learn more about them. I personally love experiment books, like Miguel’s Treasures and picture books like Let’s Go Rock Collecting.  {These were definitely two of his favorites.} Reading nonfiction text spawns curiosity, which leads to more reading in an effort to satisfy the questions. It’s a very cool process. And a scientific one at that!

During our study, we also went to our local science center and perused the rocks and minerals display. He was highly interested in reading the labels beside the minerals and asked LOADS of questions; which lead to more reading when we returned home.

Writing about Rocks & Minerals

We took a little field trip into our own yard and collected all kinds of rocks, digging some out of the ground. We made observations as we collected them such as: This one is smooth. This one is really bumpy. or This rock has shiny parts. He wrote down his initial observations on a Rock Observation Recording Sheet  (free download, several pages included in download).

After scrubbing the rocks with an old toothbrush and drying them off, we got out the magnifying glass and he examined each rock, making more observations. He recorded his observations on the Rock Observation Recording Sheet. We compared our new observations to the initial observations and he wrote about his findings again on the Rock Observation Recording Sheet.

One of the last things we did during our unit study was a rocks and mineral hunt, searching for ways that rocks and minerals were used outside and inside our home. After finding many examples, like this penny, he recorded his findings on this (Rock and Mineral Hunt Recording Sheet) (free download).

The way that reading and writing seamlessly integrate themselves into the learning process is one of my favorite things about literacy. When integrated in this manner, students are typically more willing to read and write because they can clearly see the purpose it serves in satisfying their curiosity to learn. And that, my friend, is the real work of scientists.

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Becky Spence is a homeschooling mama to four little blessings (ages 7, 4, 2, & 8 months). She is passionate about teaching, specifically literacy. She is the author of This Reading Mama, where she shares reading and writing activities as well as free literacy curricula and printables. You can also join This Reading Mama via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.