Why Students with Special Needs Need Science in Your Classroom
Posted: Friday, August 19th, 2016
by Scott Campbell
I am a resource-level special education teacher. Like you, I teach students. As in most classrooms, my students’ skill levels run the gamut from very low to approaching grade level. Unlike you, I do not specifically teach science. Students in my resource program do not qualify for services in science. They qualify for services in the specific areas of reading, writing, math, listening, and speaking. They are pulled out of the regular education classroom for those services. I do my best to schedule these services so there is minimal disruption to you, but the number of students to be seen and the number of minutes available to me limits me. I want us to be partners in the education of our students and I need you to know that my students need to have science in your classroom.
For years Special Education Resource services focused upon filling gaps in skills: decoding, computation, speaking, and writing in complete sentences. For the 12 years I have been teaching the main curriculum has been direct instruction programs which are highly scripted and effective in certain areas, like decoding and grammar, but very boring and not related to the general education classroom. I have had a large number of students that I call word callers. They can read the words but do not really comprehend what they read.
Research shows that the learning gap is not being closed but in reality it is being shifted. The state of California has now set a target goal that students receiving special education resource support should be in their general education classrooms 80% or more of the time. This means our shared students will be in your rooms more. How can you help these students?
The answer, in my opinion, is through the use of science. Research shows that science has one of the richest academic vocabularies and when taught from a constructivist approach is highly engaging. Unfortunately, my students often miss science when they are pulled out for support service. Additionally, the new science framework (now in the second draft) calls for science to available to all students.
Although I don’t specifically teach science to my students, I have used science concepts as my vehicle to deliver academic instruction in reading comprehension, and writing. Physical science is very engaging for my students. In order to give my students a common experience they could write about I used an engineering challenge based upon what I had learned from the Engineering is Elementary program developed by the Museum of Science, Boston (http://www.eie.org). I started out with my 5th graders as their science standards involved understanding forces such as the pulling force of gravity.
Specifically my students had to build a structure that would support the mass of a toy car. Their building materials were limited to index cards and painters’ tape. This challenge was my hook and it worked. All my students were eventually successful.
Next, using a strategy from Project GLAD “the cooperative paragraph” we wrote about the challenge. We edited, revised and revised again making the paragraph better. The students worked in groups, pairs, and eventually alone. The students illustrated the final version and they had to read it aloud to others.
I have also been able to support reading and writing skills on what has happened in the regular classroom. Although I used an engineering design challenge directly with my students for a specific writing lesson, I generally do not have time to have the students do science. However, I can work with students to read content text and write about what they have learned in their regular classroom.
Here is a sketch done by a 5th grade special education student at my school. This student’s regular education teacher worked to ensure that their special education students were present for science, especially for the hands-on inquiry lessons. In this activity, students were trying to determine if air took up space. Based on the conversation with the student and his sketch, the student demonstrated an understanding of the concept. With that understanding based on his experience, he was better able to access the content text. He also was less reluctant to read. That was a major step for him.
I have found that science is a very effective hook to motivate students. It can help them feel a part of their classroom. When they are included in the hands-on activities, they acquire experiences that assist them in accessing content in text and writing. It can help demonstrate to themselves and others that they are learning. And isn’t that what we want for all of our students?
Scott Campbell is a resource level special education teacher in the Central Valley.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…