January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Starting the School Year Right

Posted: Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

In my position, I teach hands-on science for an entire elementary school (Kindergarten-5th grade). I begin my school year about a week after the first day of school, after the classroom teachers have begun establishing their room protocols. Even though I see the students year after year as they come into my classroom, because they change over the course of a year, and especially over the summer, we often need to start as if I have never seen the students before.

My sample to show younger students

My sample to show younger students

One thing that I started doing this past school year was to initiate the mindset that everyone is interconnected to each other as students in the same school, that every person is unique, but is an integral part of the school. I found some interlocking puzzle piece figures online, and bought a class set for each of my 18 classes (they were on clearance!). On the first day of class for each of my classes, after going over the expectations, I handed out colored pencils and the people. I gave very few directions, other than they should look like them (whatever that meant). For the younger classes, I created one for myself, made a “shirt”, and drew the NASA symbol, as space exploration is something I am very interested in. The students were only given the rest of their time with me (about 20 minutes) to complete their puzzle piece, put their name and room number on the back, and handed it in.

What roughly 400 students’ puzzle people look like, all intertwined on the classroom wall

What roughly 400 students’ puzzle people look like, all intertwined on the classroom wall

As the classes finished, I started putting the people together on the wall. The effect was amazing- as students and parents came in, they could not see definitive lines between grade levels, but rather a color wall, made of individual people and their hobbies. The attitude in the classroom was incredible as well- they immediately took more of an ownership to the classroom, since it was THEIR work that was on the wall. For the 4th and 5th grade students, I truly think it was a type of wake-up call that there are so many other kids, so many younger ones that were going to be looking up to them. They loved looking at it throughout the year, and asked for them at the end of the year, to see how they changed. Most schools have die-cut machines with a puzzle piece cutter that can be used, or even just simple square pieces of paper that are lined up like a quilt can set the tone for your classroom.
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Science is fun, and can be extremely messy and “gross”. One of my favorite expectations is that I tell the students they are not allowed to say the word “gross/icky/nasty/ negative adjectives describing a noun” when doing an activity. Instead, they are to say the word “interesting”. The students always giggle, but I hold them to it! My mindset is that the majority of the time, what they are seeing is so out of their comfort zone because they have not seen it before, and they are not sure how to respond. There are so many much more incredible words out there- why say that something is gross, over and over again? By getting them to say the word “interesting” rather than “gross”, it starts to connect the two in their minds. As the school year goes along, they start to automatically say “this is so… interesting!!!” with a hesitant tone to their voice, and then they begin to smile. They know it’s silly, but they actually begin to believe it- this gooey pile of whatever, the animal before them to dissect, even the combination of solids and liquids congealing in the bowl isn’t gross anymore, but actually is interesting! After multiple years of doing and saying it, even while giggling, their mindset changes- they look forward to the “interesting” labs and activities, so they can practice!

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

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STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators, and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information, and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching. Register online today!

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

NSTA Los Angeles Conference Features Many CA Science Leaders

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

The early-bird registration rates for the 65th NSTA National Conference on Science Education in Los Angeles is just days away (ends Feb. 3). And as the early-registration deadline approaches excitement is building for what is anticipated to be the largest gathering of science educators (both California and nationwide) – with attendance expected to reach 10,000 or more. If you have never had the pleasure of attending the NSTA National Conference, I recommend you visit their website with tips for newcomers that describe the various components of the event. A conference preview is also available for download. Learn More…

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Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.