by Elyse Grimsley, 4th grade teacher at Territorial Elementary in Junction City
Attending the OSTA Fall conference in Newport reminded me what it was like to be a classroom learner again. As a teacher, I am always reading new books and learning new strategies from co-workers, but to sit in a classroom with an instructor in front of the room does not happen as often. Students often do not have a choice in what classes they attend, but in this case, I had multiple options. You would think since I had the opportunity to choose the conference and which sessions I attended, that I would be highly engaged in all the sessions, but some utilized stronger engagement techniques that helped me remember what I learned, to the point where I could even share what I learned.
Out of the five sessions that I attended, two stuck out to me significantly more than the rest. One of these sessions was on language development in the science classroom. It was geared towards helping language learners better access the science classroom. In this session, the presenter started with a hands-on experience. We started with a plastic recyclable water bottle, something we see every day. She then asked us if when we twisted the bottle the pressure would increase or decrease. This lead to another question as to whether the temperature in the bottle would increase or decrease. This was a segue into looking at high and low-pressure systems.
A couple of elements made this a highly successful session. The instructor took something that everyone was familiar with, a water bottle, and used this to demonstrate her point. Using simple everyday objects helped me, and can also help students to find a way to relate to the lesson better. Another part of this lesson that was successful was that it was very hands on. We were interacting with a partner, jointly working on graphing high and low-pressure fronts, as well as the path of hurricanes and typhoons. We also did a gallery walk to look at the work of other groups. It is challenging to stay engaged when you have to sit for long periods of time, but in this almost two-hour class we were on the move every fifteen minutes. I think sometimes as educators we forget what it is like to be a student sitting all day, and how much more engaged we can be when given the opportunity to move more often. Also, being given the opportunity to do the work myself, graphing, versus watching a demo under a document camera, gave me more ownership of what we were doing. (I can now even demonstrate with hand motions high and low-pressure fronts.) Sometimes things are best demonstrated whole class, but many times we revert to that as a time saving technique, whereas if we gave students the time to engage in the activity themselves, they would retain the knowledge better.
The second session that I found highly engaging was Engineering the Oregon Trail. In this session, we programmed Dash robots to complete a journey on a simulated Oregon Trail. The robots also had to carry cargo on this arduous journey. Was this more engaging just because it was utilizing technology? No, not for me, but sometimes for students this is the case. What made this session engaging was a combination of old and new, yet something that for me at least, is very applicable. The old – I have some experience coding. No, I am not by any means as expert but I understand the general concept. I have used a few coding websites and apps in my classroom to introduce general block coding. The new – I had never seen a Dash robot before. When I had previously utilized robots for coding, I would call the system clunky. It was not something that was very user friendly and did not make me want to start a new class project with them. The Dash, on the other hand, had a very simple easy to use interface. Our instructor pretty much handed us the robot and iPad and turned us loose to complete the challenge that he had set forth. Having the background knowledge made the task seem manageable. Having a new challenge motivated me to learn the new robot. What made this session especially applicable is that I teach 4th grade, where most of my social studies standards can be covered in an Oregon Trail unit that takes up a month or two each Spring. This was a week-long unit that I could add to my journey West each Spring, given I had access to some type of robot. Knowing how I could use this in the year to come really motivated me to glean everything I could from the presenter about this unit and any others he had to share.
Sometimes students just don’t see the point in learning certain concepts. We have all heard the line “When am I ever going to use this?” As my husband tells his class, in short “Some of you will never use this, but we don’t know what knowledge you will need so we want to give everyone a good base to work with.” Even though some students see the long game, that they might need this knowledge in the future, others have a hard time relating to the concept unless it affects them here and now. This reminds me that I can do a better job of showing the students why this concept matters, why it affects your life. Another example of where I can better connect student learning to real world examples is through our recent science unit. My class has recently been working on a unit on natural processes where we have been talking about plate tectonics, earthquakes and volcanoes. I have talked with the students about the ramifications for us Oregonians and our placement amongst the plates, but I still don’t think they fully understand its importance. A couple of years ago in OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) there was a book called Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret. This book is about a family visiting the Oregon coast and what happens when there is an earthquake, and then in turn a tsunami. I truly love the coast, but for a few weeks after reading this book the thought of even driving over the mountains to head to Newport terrified me. For someone who has lived in Oregon my whole life, this book painted a very clear and terrifying picture of what could happen when a tsunami hits the Oregon coast. I am not trying to scare my students, but that book just jumped towards the top of my list of books for read aloud time. My students need a real-world connection to see why science is important, to see why it matters, to see why it is worth learning and investing their time in.
by Theress Stadeli, 4th grade teacher at Robert Frost Elementary in Silver Falls, OR
When educators dive deeper, they learn more! The fact is---that is just what we must do in order to refine the art of teaching science to our students today. When looking at today’s workforce, almost all of the jobs our students aspire for require a clear understanding of scientific content and skills. Repeated experience with the Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts will help our future workforce be successful when doing tasks such as presenting to co-workers, designing a plan, or testing and researching variables to solve a problem. Yes, not everyone in classrooms of today will grow up to be engineers, but they all will benefit from the collaboration, perseverance, and hands-on discovery they are being taught in order to solve everyday problems.
The shift towards NGSS-aligned teaching and learning in science education excites me because it is more engaging for students, and the skills taught cross over into all subjects. Throughout attending my sessions at the 2018 OSTA Fall Conference, I felt an even deeper understanding of this shift.
Modeling and the NGSS:
Very interestingly, many of the science and engineering practices were embedded into the old standards as well through the science inquiry process. One of these practices, Developing and Using Models, was not present in the old science standards. It is one of the main differences between the old way of teaching inquiry vs. the Science and Engineering Practices. The NGSS vision of modeling allows students to explain and predict phenomena, just as scientists would. Models are works in progress that allow visualization of phenomena. The process of modeling could be as simple as making a mystery contraption and having students model what is in the inside of the tube or box. Throughout the process, students are focused on the skills of explaining and predicting.
Place Based Science Education:
Want students to connect with their learning personally or remember it years later? The answer is place based education. Outdoor learning experiences and extended inquiry projects have lasting effects. We were posed with the task as educators to write down a learning experience connected to place that we remembered. We found common themes such as doing things outside of our comfort zone, tasks that allowed autonomy and exploration, a sense of purpose, and something where we felt competency. Being outside doing field studies, collecting data to solve an issue to help the community—these are examples of purposeful science learning that tie back to a place. The difficult part of this approach to science, despite its successful impact with students and the community, is scheduling, logistics, resources, time, and administration support. Hopefully in the near future, place-based learning will be more widely seen for students, no matter the age.
Lastly, the Crosscutting Concepts session I attended was also a good reminder of the mindset shift in three dimensional NGSS aligned science education. These concepts span K-12 and are touched on in almost every content area. They are important foundational concepts that the natural world teaches us. Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Cause and Effect, Patterns…… These are examples of some overarching concepts that re-appear in every grade band and are commonly cross-curricular. The Crosscutting Concepts are good lenses to look through to help us pose questions to our students to frame their thinking in different ways. It was unique to look at a phenomenon once—a video of Portland Swifts, and then look at it again and ask questions that were only through the lens of a specific Crosscutting Concept.
What do I hope the NGSS-aligned, three-dimensional science shift truly brings to the future of education? An increased inspiration and need for outdoor field studies, and placed based science and engineering. Let’s take the challenge---why don’t we try to find phenomena in the backyard, school property, or community next time!
You never know what might inspire the next paleontologist...
Read more here: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/21/health/oregon-child-finds-ancient-fossil-trnd/index.html
Intel employees visit a Hillsboro school and helps students build catapults! Take a look at this article that features the Oregon Connections program:
Can Oregon Connections be useful for your school? Learn more here!
We received so much interest in this interview that we're making it available as a blog post!
Ciarra “C” Greene wears many hats: Nez Perce woman, chemist, science educator, ecologist, community leader, consultant and communicator. C grew up on the traditional homelands of the Nez Perce in Lewiston and Lapwai, Idaho. Despite sobering high school graduation and college entrance statistics for Native students (in Oregon, for example, 60% of Native students graduate high school in 5 years, and of those, only half enter college within 16 months, based on recent state data), C moved away to attend college at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, earning a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry. While completing her Bachelors, she researched environmental transport and stabilization of uranium taking place within Diné/Navajo communities, and completed internships with the Nez Perce Tribe, Dept. of Energy (Hanford), EPA, and Institute of Tribal Environmental Professionals. She recently completed her Masters in Science Teaching at Portland State University, focusing her graduate thesis on the intersections of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and the Nature of Science (NOS) in a middle school science curriculum. Apart from academic endeavors, C has worked as a curriculum developer, camp instructor, and water resources specialist.
Below, we ask C a few questions about her master's thesis and what Oregon science teachers can take away from her work.
TOST: Many of us might not know what Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) is. How did you decide to focus your Master's thesis on TEK and STEM education?
C: Being raised in the mountains, in the creeks, and along the rivers, from a young age I learned about relationships between plants, animals, land, water, and air; the patterns of when, where, and how things grow; Nez Perce words for things and phenomena, which in themselves hold knowledge about the place, the significance, and purpose- this is my traditional ecological knowledge. TEK is a base of knowledge I did not realize I had acquired throughout my life, let alone that is was knowledge with equivalent value and depth as scientific knowledge- to me it was just part of life. Learning about TEK from an academic perspective, I learned that although TEK has unique foundations (i.e. the inclusion of spirituality and cultural values like respect and reciprocity), some of the organizing principles, habits of mind, skills and procedures, and knowledge of both TEK and Western science have common ground.
TOST: In terms of STEM education, where does TEK “fit in”? C: A common approach is supplementing lesson plans and activities with tidbits of examples of how Native Americans used to use the land. Like TEK, Western science is unique (i.e. evidence-based on observation, measurement, and experimentation, with a quantitative written record), yet the TEK - Western Science Common Ground provides an intricate overlap of the knowledge bases. It wasn’t until I learned about the Nature of Science that I realized the possibility of authentically integrating TEK with STEM education. The Nature of Science describes how science knowledge is developed, who contributes to science, and what characteristics those people have. Included in the Next Generation Science Standards, the NOS learning expectations can be directly associated to the TEK - Western science Common Ground (click image to enlarge). This is where I developed my research question: What is the impact of integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge in science curriculum on middle school students’ understanding of the Nature of Science (NOS)?
My research was conducted with two middle school summer camps that emphasized STEM practices and careers. One camp integrated TEK throughout camp activities and focused on STEM careers related to Native American cultural resources (salmon, roots, berries), while the other camp was more academic focused on pre-algebra, college preparation, and a broad range of STEM careers. Camp participants were from tribal communities of the Nez Perce, Yakama, Umatilla, and Warm Springs. Camp participants completed a pre- and post-survey which was developed to gauge their understanding of NOS. I developed keywords associated to NOS concepts (i.e. Science knowledge is cumulative and many people, from many generations and nations have contributed to science knowledge- keyword: Generations). Throughout camp, participants demonstrated their understanding of NOS through the incorporation of a keyword in the daily portfolio entries describing their experience during the day. As the researcher, I documented how and when NOS and TEK concepts were apparent.
TOST: What are the conclusions from your research that are most applicable to Oregon science teachers?
C: Student surveys (pre/post) and portfolio entries were evaluated for understanding of Nature of Science (NOS) concepts. In survey responses, participants at the camp that integrated Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) improved their understanding in two NGSS NOS categories: Science is a way of knowing, and Scientific knowledge assumes an order and consistency in natural systems. Portfolios are recommended as a culturally responsive assessment method and for NOS assessments. The camp with TEK-integrated curriculum also scored higher for portfolio entries in comparison to the camp that was focused on STEM academics and careers. Higher portfolio scores and improvement in survey scores demonstrated that both camps had an impact on student understanding of NOS...or simply, relating concepts to daily experiences helps us better understand those concepts. Overall, integrating TEK in science curriculum improved middle school students’ understanding of some components of the Nature of Science- particularly those comparable to the TEK- Western science Common Ground concepts.
Through my literature review, I was able to find recommended teaching methods for NOS, which were aligned with methods of how TEK is taught. For example, “teaching the NOS in alignment with philosophy, psychology, sociology, and anthropology” is exhibited when TEK is taught. This further supports the compatibility of integrating TEK into science curriculum to improve NOS understanding. Furthermore, Oregon school districts will soon be required by the state of Oregon to teach curriculum that is culturally responsive for Native students (SB13), and integrating TEK into the science curriculum is one way to do this.
Aside from NOS benefits of incorporating TEK into STEM education there are lessons and best practices rooted in the knowledge itself: TEK is place-based, intergenerational, hands-on, culturally-relevant and responsive, and directly connects to environmental education, sustainability, epistemological diversity, community engagement, applied learning, environmental literacy, history, storytelling, cross-cultural, cultural and academic identity, and decolonizing education. Traditional ecological knowledge builds our knowledge portfolio with emphasis on holistic systems thinking for social, economic, and environmental sustainability for future generations. To continue advancing our knowledge and holistically address issues we are facing, we should honor and include more ways of thinking; some of your students may already have this knowledge that hasn’t yet been acknowledged.
Tentative timelines with more details to come: Peer Reviewers to respond to the application by the end of February, complete the Peer Review Training in March and review the High School Success Plans the first two weeks of April.
The High School Success Team at the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is seeking peer reviewers (field readers) to read and review submitted high school success plans.
About the High School Success Plan
Districts and charter schools receiving High School Success funds are required to submit plans for approval by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). The plan must address a four-year vision (2018-2021) to improve high school engagement and completion and college and career-readiness. In order to improve graduation rates and college and career readiness, districts and charter schools must identify and focus these new resources specifically to support students that current programs are not successfully reaching or impacting.
Qualifications: The High School Success Team is seeking peer reviewers with expertise that is not limited to, but includes:
Requirements: In addition to the expertise highlighted above, peer reviewers will independently read, review, and provide written feedback for plans submitted to the Oregon Department of Education. Expectations for peer reviewers selected are:
How to Apply: If you would like to be considered as a peer reviewer for High School Success plans, please complete the Peer Reviewer Application (click on the hyperlink below). If you are on multiple listservs for ODE, you may receive more than one “Call for High School Success Plan Peer Reviewers”. You only need to apply/respond to one call.
Peer Reviewer Application
Peer Reviewer Applications will be reviewed promptly and individuals will receive replies and additional guidance, including instructions and a timeline for Peer Review process. State government employees are not eligible.
More Information: For more information on serving as a peer reviewer contact Mary May at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello OSTA members!
We're excited to share a new feature at oregonscience.org: a calendar showcasing science events for teachers, students and families across Oregon. Unless otherwise noted, these events are not sponsored by OSTA.
We're using a Google calendar to store and share this information. If you are a Google user, you can easily add events to your personal calendar by clicking "options" and selecting "copy to [your calendar name]".
We will also share a curated list in TOST with events sorted by region.
Our goals in creating this calendar are to provide a one-stop-shop for finding information and resources, increase member engagement with our website, and to showcase and promote the educational STEM events that are happening across the state.
Please let us know if there are events we should include by filling out our form or inviting TOST@oregonscience.org to your event. Thanks for reading!
Read more about the cookbook created by female students who met at Beverly Cleary: http://portlandtribune.com/pt/11-features/383336-269105-saving-chimps-one-recipe-at-a-time . Contributors include Michelle Obama, Michael Pollan, Jane Goodall, Ina Garten and more! Forward by Jane Goodall.
Visit their website to purchase a cookbook. Proceeds go to the Jane Goodall Tchimpounga Chimanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.
There's no limit to what motivated and passionate students in Oregon can accomplish!
4110 SE Hawthorne Blvd, PO Box 1025Portland, Oregon97214