Rethinking Science Teaching and Learning

I am inclined to believe that science is not learned using textbooks, study guides, worksheets, or tests.  Rather, I think science is learned by thinking, processing information, constructing models, doing laboratory activities, and testing theories.  When I think of my science learning in elementary school, I remember reading about science in textbooks and completing numerous worksheets, or only having science class when my teacher had the time to teach it – it was often placed on the back burner, and I quickly became bored with it all.  I wanted to do science, not just read about it.

 

Do something different

During middle school, my science learning was similar, however, I was introduced to laboratory activities and I soon became hooked on the discovery portion of science learning!  I wanted to learn and discover more…  In high school, I fell in love with the sciences; however, I was disappointed with how I was learning it – copying notes from a chalkboard while the teacher was reciting what she wrote, memorizing standardized test content, or being told what I needed to think.  Hmm, I thought, where was the application of what I was learning?

I decided soon after to pursue a career in science teaching and learning, and made a promise to myself, my future children, and future students: I would teach it using an inquiry approach rather than a traditional one.  I wanted my children and students to learn how to do science, not merely read about it.  To teach science to them, rather than at them.  In recent years, data collected nationally and from state assessments has indicated a need to improve student performance in science, especially in the physical sciences and in performance-based learning tasks.

Involve your students

Throughout my teaching career as a high school science teacher, I supported and implemented an inquiry-based approach to my teaching, since it was the application component of science my kids appeared to struggle with.  When my students were active rather than passive in their science learning, they experienced many “Eureka!” moments: they learned to apply what was learned by participating in laboratory activities, made the connection to what they learned in lectures and class readings, as well as to the real world.  

STELLA (Science Teachers Learning from Lesson Analysis) is proving to be quite a reform method in science education, much like the Full Operation Science Systems (FOSS), a K-8 student-centered program that emphasizes student inquiry, thinking, and application.

Programs such as STELLA and FOSS are based upon the premise that if instructors are provided with well-developed teaching materials which promote student inquiry, and professional development that helps them learn how to effectively use the materials, they are more likely to implement hands-on science programs, so student achievement improves.  Both programs provide instructors with extensive professional development, and appealing, well-developed materials to help them use inquiry and laboratory approaches to teach science to improve student achievement.

Create a habit

Inquiry science learning is based on the following cognitive processes: observation, communication, comparison, organization, cause and effect relationships, inference, and application.  Inquiry during science learning is enriched by conceptual knowledge and supports a “habit of mind” philosophy.  Students need to be given the opportunity to demonstrate habits of mind skills which include curiosity, open-mindedness, and respect for evidence, persistence, and a sense of stewardship and care when they are engaged in science learning.

Students should be given time to explore, experiment, make observations, test ideas, construct physical and mathematical models, and be given the opportunity to think in different ways – all of which are components of the inquiry approach, where they are encouraged to be actively involved in their own learning.  Both the inquiry approach and the use of hands-on learning in science give instructors and students this opportunity.  Here’s hoping that these methodologies persevere well in the twenty-first century and beyond, so all kids learn to love the discipline as I did many moons ago as a kinesthetic, naturalistic, and logical-mathematical learner sitting in a boring, traditionally-centered science classroom.


Our Search Toolbar

Search Toolbar

Last week we unveiled our new search toolbar, and we have received great feedback. The search toolbar is now also available on our homepage, and as you can see, you can apply filters to search thousands of resources by resource type (eBook, video, vocabulary set, etc.), language, grade, creator, and subject.

Here is a video to help show how the toolbar works:

Search Toolbar

Once you click “Search,” you will see your search results, as well as a “Share Search Results” button. When you click that button, you will see the URL has been copied, allowing you to share that URL with others.

Finding the Content You Need

Now teachers will be able to find supplemental content to help them achieve their goals. You can find math, language arts, and science content for grades PreK to 12th, in English and Spanish.

 

The search toolbar is very user-friendly.  For example, when I searched for ninth grade math content in English, here is what I would find: https://www.geniusplaza.com/bank?rtf=&lf=1&cf=3&gf=16

 

Tell Us What You Think!

We will continue to find ways to optimize the platform, and invite you to share feedback via chat, or email me at monica@geniusplaza.com.


Don’t Miss the Great American Eclipse!

Great American Eclipse

#SolarEclipse2017

A total solar eclipse will cross the continental United States on Monday, August 21st. It begins around 9 a.m. or 1 p.m., depending on where in the country you are. The total eclipse will only be viewable from within the “path of totality,” but most parts of the U.S. will be able to see a partial eclipse.

During a Total Eclipse, Several Things Happen at Once

When you’re in the direct path of a total eclipse, several things happen at once. The moon completely covers the sun, and the air temperature drops about 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The horizon becomes vibrant with the colors of the sunset, and the sky fills with stars. Depending where in the world you are, crickets may start chirping and birds may become suddenly louder or quieter. Bugs and mosquitos may emerge, and spiders may destroy their webs. Humans will look to the sky and watch this spectacular and rare event through the index-card-sized screens of their phones instead of with their eyes. Because the moon’s shadow moves at about 2,000 miles per hour, most solar eclipses only last for two or three minutes.

Valuable Moments for Scientists

Scientists

The rarity of total solar eclipses makes them valuable moments for scientists. We still don’t know much about the effect eclipses have on animals, insects, and plants. Scientists encourage people to observe the area they will be viewing an eclipse from. What animals might be in that area? Are there any slow moving creatures like ants or spiders that would be easy to observe? Though most people may not be able to conduct research with the same level of standards and methods as scientists, an eclipse is a chance for anyone to make discoveries and observations.

If you will be within a few hours of the path of totality, you should make the trip! Not only is it such a spectacular event that some people become “eclipse chasers” and fly all over the world to witness the phenomenon, but it’s also incredibly rare that it will happen to pass through where you live. On average, any point on Earth will experience a total eclipse once every 375 years, and no one can afford to wait that long.

Viewing The Great American Eclipse

Solar Eclipse

If you plan on observing an eclipse, make sure to use proper viewing glasses, which your local library may offer for free! They are thousands of times darker than sunglasses, so unless you plan on wearing 2,000 pairs of sunglasses at once, wearing multiple pairs of shades will provide no protection. Be careful, and avoid permanent damage to your eyes! If you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can make a pinhole viewer with a cardboard box, paper, and aluminum foil. To do this, make a small rectangular hole in one side of the box. Tape aluminum foil over the hole, and poke a small hole in the foil with a pin. Tape the piece of paper on the inside of the box opposite from the hole, and hold your mini-projector up so that the sun’s light passes through the pinhole and projects its image onto the paper! The only time it is ever safe to look directly at an eclipse without glasses is during the few minutes of a total obstruction.

Watching the Great American Eclipse

Few astrological events are as dramatic or observable as eclipses, and anyone who has seen one will urge others to make the trip to the path of a totality. You can find out how close you will be to the path of totality on nasa.gov. Just make sure you use genuine eclipse glasses or a pinhole viewer! Don’t miss out on this rare and beautiful event that will have everyone looking to the sky.


Weekly Education News Update!

This past week, EdSurge discussed the lack of female leadership and diversity on corporate boards, specifically among startup technology companies. “If, as a company, your goal is to make an impact in education, then you need representation in your leadership that can relate to the population you are trying to impact.”

The goal is not just to add a diverse group of leaders to your board because you think it’s the right thing to do, but there has to be real support and accountability on both ends for people trying to improve the pipeline and those coming through it.” The key is to promote diversity from the very beginning, making it easier to maintain a diverse work culture once the company starts growing and more people are hired.

US News reported earlier this week that students in Madison, Wisconsin were asking the Madison School District to hire more teachers of color. Many students from this school district used signs, speeches, and poetry to get their message across, the message being they wanted teachers who could relate to their experiences and connect with their identities.” Research shows that having diverse teachers can help students of all backgrounds and students of color to graduate.”

There was a recent discussion on KPCC Radio about an all-girls science camp and the power this one week of camp had on these middle school students. This camp specifically exposes underprivileged girls to fun science experiences with more one-on-one interactions.  For instance, the girls were taught how to make different types of makeup and perfumes, and learned that perfume chemists are one of the highest paid chemists in the science business.

One of the middle school girls at the camp stated, “The boys, they like being the leaders, but here, girls [have to] be the leaders and they’re telling us the girls are powerful to do whatever they want.” On the last day of camp, it seemed the efforts to sell these girls on science, math, technology, and engineering careers had worked. “How many of you think you might be a scientist?” one of the adult camp leaders asked. Almost all of the girls’ hands shot up.

Recently on Edscoop, it was reported that more educators are becoming more confident about the use of technology in the classroom. Edscoop examined a survey that consisted of more than 1,200 K-12 teachers and administrators. It was discovered that 65 percent of these educators are confident in their ability to use technology in the classroom, which is a seven percent increase from 2016.

This report came from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), which also “revealed that 98 percent of respondents use some form of educational technology to aid their work.” Technology continues to increase its impact on K-12 classrooms, so making the technology process for educators more straightforward is key to the proper use of technology in the classroom.


Weekly Education News Update!

The Tennessean discussed the need for diversity among teachers in schools, whether it be more teachers of color, or increasing the number of teachers from rural settings.  It has been proven through research that diverse teachers have a positive effect on student’s educational experience.  Having a diverse staff allows more students to be able to relate to their educators.  “In the spirit of giving every student the best education possible, we should aim to have that diversity reflected in our staff as well.”

More recently, the main goal for teachers is to make their lessons interactive and captivating.  For instance, in a Forbes article, virtual reality is stated to be one of the six transformative technology trends occurring in education.  Virtual reality “enhances teacher instruction while simultaneously creating immersive lessons that are fun and engaging for the student.”  Many schools are now offering technology devices such as iPads or laptops to entire classrooms.  This concept is revolutionary for education, especially for schools with a high rate of students who come from low-income families.

Another increasingly popular technology trend in education discussed in Forbes is blended learning.  Blended learning “gives more responsibility to the student, as it involves less direct instruction from the teacher and more discovery-based methods of learning.”  As teachers incorporate blended learning into their classrooms, students can go at their own learning pace.  Another transformative technology trend mentioned in Forbes is increased use of educational gaming in classrooms, in an effort to make lessons more fun for students.  These games are created to provide immediate feedback; students are motivated to keep playing the games while gaining knowledge and skills.

This past week, The Strait Times examined how bilingual kids can pick up another language easier than a monolingual child.  A study was conducted with monolingual and bilingual toddlers to see if they were able to notice the differences in the change of wording stated aloud to them.  “The findings supported the theory that exposing children to two languages at the same time has cognitive benefits.”  A child is able to learn a language quicker from birth to around three years old.  Knowing this, Genius Plaza’s newly launched Pre-K program is a perfect way to help parents teach their young children Spanish or English. There are many videos, lessons, and educational games available on Genius Pre-K, a great place to start immersing your son or daughter in English or Spanish.

Black Enterprise covered the new Oakland Startup Network initiative. In this piece, Lili Gangas, Chief Technology Community Officer at the Kapor Center for Social Impact said, “The goal is to bring in a lot of the other ecosystem players in Oakland that are focused on increasing the number of underrepresented entrepreneurs.”

This week, we also learned on Medium about the “skyrocketing” growth of girls taking the AP Computer Science exam. According to this piece, “The growth among female students has been incredible, increasing participation in AP CS exams by 135% since 2016. Not to be outdone, underrepresented minorities have increased participation by nearly 170% over last year!”

 


Black History Month: Celebrating Today’s Leaders

Black History Month: Celebrating Today’s Leaders

“I always want to be a leader,” 

Kenyana Caesar, Senior Manufacturing Engineering, Johnson & Johnson

This month, we join the Nation in paying tribute to the men and women who helped, and are helping, shape our country. Our African American Learning Champions are contributing everyday to our efforts to ignite the genius in every child.

We focus on profiling diverse professionals in STEAM careers throughout the year as part of our efforts to provide access to information on these professions.  We call these leaders our “Learning Champions,” and we hope they inspire students to become doctors like Lynn, engineers like Sherman, or scientists like Norris.

Bryan and our other Learning Champions share key insights like this one, and talk about their journey, their families, about overcoming failures, and about enjoying their successes.

“I have been to China, Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, and every time I travel I take a deep breath and I look around, and I am like, ‘I am here…I’ve done this.” 

– Dr. Bryan Baugh, Global Medical Affairs Leader Infectious Disease and Vaccines, Johnson & Johnson

In addition to video interviews, educators and parents have access to eBooks at six reading levels in both English and Spanish, vocabulary sets, exercises, and even an animated video to begin exposing students to potential careers at a young age. These non-fiction stories have a great impact on all students as they see leaders who share similar experiences, who look like them, and to whom they can relate.

 

Our goal with STEAM careers content is to close the achievement gap by exposing students to fields and professions they may not have heard of, or don’t believe are for them. Learning more allows them to dream big, while providing teachers and parents with the tools and resources to ignite the genius in every child.

 

When you hear our Champions speak, you can’t help but be inspired, and ultimately, we hope to create the next generation inspirational leaders to follow in the footstep of Learning Champions like Lana, Bryan, and Noris.