Good morning Readers,
In addition to being a Biology teacher, I am also a Foods & Nutrition teacher. I know what you are thinking: I have the best teaching assignment a person could ever ask for. You are right. One movie we watched in Foods with my Grade 9 students was Julie and Julia. In case you haven’t seen the film, it is about a young lady who undertakes the enormous challenge of cooking the entire Julia Child cookbook (524 recipes) in one year. Julie documents her journey experiencing the cookbook in a blog that is so popular she ends up being published.
I hope you can see where this is going. Although Ken O’Connor’s book is out of print, it is still a fixture on many educators’ shelves, and is readily available on Amazon. According to Pearson who published the book, in order to challenge your thinking as a teacher you should ask yourself these two questions:
My honest answer to both of these is a no with a question mark at the end…or maybe a no with a “but” after it. It is complicated. Either way it is not a clear, or binary answer for me. I assume that is the case for many educators. A Repair Kit for Grading has been on my bucket list to read for years; inspired by Julie Powell, I am going to try out all 15 fixes and blog about my experiences. If we are to trust Wikipedia, Julie and Julia reached 129.5 million at the box office; the worst thing that can happen for me is that my students may learn a little bit better and I will have a blog out there that potentially no one will ever lay eyes on.
One last note before I dive in; if the book I’m following is from 2007 and the movie that inspired me is from 2009, you may ask me why I’m not following more contemporary media. That’s simple. A child learning about Bohr diagrams or the structure of DNA is the same now as it was in 2007. The physical connections of neurons and strengthening of brain pathways is identical, and it happens because of quality assessment. A thoughtful science teachers’ classroom, will be conducive to learning in 2007, and will continue to be so today. So for the same reasons people to choose to “live Biblically” for a year in a book published a a long time ago, I am going to trust the lessons in Ken’s book to also be timeless for today’s children.
Guest Blog by Craig Howard.
Craig is a Sr. Chemistry and Physics Teacher at WL Seaton Secondary in Vernon BC. He actively looks for ways to incorporate technology into his practice.@craigihoward
Science classes have always been enhanced by the use of physical models to help students visualize and understand abstract concepts or phenomena that are normally outside the scope of direct observation by their senses. Some of these models are ubiquitous and easy to obtain, while others are too specialized to justify the cost of purchasing for a few minutes use in a single lesson. 3D printing is changing the economics of using physical models for briefly discussed topics.
High school science classes expose students to events, phenomena and concepts that lie outside of their daily experience. The ability to see and interact with 3D models provides deeper understanding of the phenomena. Students can safely interact with models to understand structures, see how different parts interact with each other and make and test predictions about how real life objects will behave. Some models, because they are used throughout entire units, in several courses, or are so valuable to the understanding of a concept, are common supplies in most science departments. Teachers often work with molecular model kits, model hearts, model cells and bohr models of atoms.
In spite of the obvious benefits of using models to help teach students, supply catalogues are full of useful models that don’t get purchased and used because the cost/benefit analysis doesn’t make them worthwhile. These models sometimes cost hundred of dollars and are only really useful for demonstrating single phenomena in individual classes. As budgetary responsibility always needs to be considered, these specialized models usually aren’t purchased and students aren’t provided opportunities to work with them.
Over the past few years, 3D printing has moved from being limited to professional engineering and prototyping settings that could afford the tens of thousands of dollars costs associated with the printers, to being common among hobbyists and easily affordable to a school or school district. Inexpensive, small printers can be purchased for a couple hundred dollars and prosumer level machines are available for well under $1000.
Our science department purchased the popular and well reviewed Creality CR-10S printer along with some accessories and a significant supply of consumables this spring for under $1500. So far, the experience with the printer has been positive. 3D printers are a little finicky to work with and new users need to be prepared to do some troubleshooting and fine tuning to get useable models. But once the print is dialled in, the resulting 3D plastic objects can be just as detailed and robust as mass produced injection moulded products.
A typical print of a model large enough to be seen across a classroom and robust enough for student handling will require 8-24 hours to produce. This is much too slow for an entire class to print their own projects, but is much faster than ordering a demonstration model from a catalogue and waiting for it to be shipped to the school. Since purchasing the printer, it has been running most days and slowly building up our supplies of models. It doesn’t matter if the model is only needed for 10 minutes to supplement one Chemistry 11 lesson, it is still financially worthwhile to print the object. The cost in plastic is often less than a quarter per model, compared to tens or hundreds of dollars for ordered models.
One of the wonders of the modern world is the ready access we have to information. Most of the models that a science teacher would want to print have already been designed and shared by others. A convenient source of free models is www.thingiverse.com The models of the s, p, d, and f orbitals shown above were found here https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1194700
If one is truly ambitious, or in need of such a specialized model that it hasn’t yet been shared online, any CAD program can be used to design objects to be printed. Regardless of the source of the model, specialized software called a slicer needs to analyze the model to write instructions for the printer to follow to print the object. Fortunately for budget conscious districts and departments, there are several free and effective slicers available. The program we have used with positive results is Cura https://ultimaker.com/en/products/ultimaker-cura-software
At the early stages of experimenting with 3D printing educational models, the process is producing high quality teaching aids at minimal cost per item. This looks to have been a good choice for our science department and it might be a good choice for yours too.
If you’re looking for a fresh take on your favourite (or not so favourite lesson), how about designing your lesson upside down? Jennifer Gonzalez, from @cultofpedagogy, has a wonderful video giving an example of how to teach an inductive learning lesson. Although this strategy is not suitable in all situations, it is a powerful tool to add to the toolbox when you are in need of a change-up and the content fits.
In a conventional, deductive approach to learning, students are 1) presented with the overall concept or rule and then 2) work with examples to apply the concept or rule. In an inductive lesson design, this order is reversed.
By incorporating an inductive approach to learning, we simultaneously create a learning opportunity that allows students to access higher level thinking. Students are propelled into analysing and making connections between the examples that are presented to them.
Check out the video for a fantastic example of how one teacher used this for an exploration of natural selection and adaptation (1:23).
If you regularly use this strategy, or just tried it out for the first time, let us know how you applied inductive learning in your classrooms.
The BCScTA’s Catalyst Conference is held annually in October during the PSA Professional Development Day. For 2018, Catalyst will be held at Kelowna Secondary School in the sunny Okanagan, October 19th. This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Dave Harper. Dr. Harper is a science educator, researcher, and technology CEO. He is an advocate for education, and is passionate about the importance of fostering critical thinking and skepticism in students.
In light of the new curriculum, we have decided upon “The Changing Face of Science” as our theme for Catalyst 2018. Come learn about ways to foster curiosity in your students, scaffold and assess inquiry-based learning with passionate and accomplished colleagues. With big picture trends in BC science education, workshops on approaches to the new science curricula, assessment of both the curricular and core competencies, as well as First Nations Education will be offered. Keep checking the website, as more presenters are still applying. A full list of presenters will be shared once we finalize the details. We are looking forward to seeing you in Kelowna.
The Spring Intake for the BCScTA Roots Grant is underway. We are currently accepting application until May 31. Please go to the following link to apply.
Communities of science teachers are the roots of the BCScTA.
The BScTA is offering another two Science Roots Grants to support collaborative groups in quality science education initiatives to its current members for the 2018-2019 School Year.
In recognition of this, The BCScTA is hoping to support several collaborative groups consisting of its members by providing funding for quality science education initiatives. These initiatives can take many forms and we are open to unique and creative submissions.
Examples of such initiatives could be: a collaborative teacher group developing assessment tools or science lab activities; developing methods of integrating more inquiry-based approaches; an exchange or articulation between elementary and secondary science teachers so that both levels vertically align with each other; a book club to expand on a teaching approach or idea; or sound approaches to authentically integrate First People’s Principles of Learning.
For our last intake, the Science World kindly supported the Roots Grant recipients with admission for up to 90 students from their respective schools and $750 each for reimbursement of transportation.
One of the questions that I often get asked is, where do I find text that meets the reading level of all my students? There are 2 go to websites that I frequently use to support literacy learning in Science classes:
What are some other places, resources, and ideas you have to integrate literacy learning and supports in your science classroom? Please leave your comments below.
I hope that many of you were able to attend the PSA Superconference that took place in October at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and at Science World. Planning it was a monumental undertaking by all accounts and there may have been a few hiccups along the way. But, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Not in all my 25 years of teaching have I seen so many high-quality workshops and opportunities for networking with colleagues from across the province. I felt a new connection to the education professionals in this province and a new excitement for all the great work that is going on in classrooms across the province. We talked about how to improve student engagement or improve our assessment practices. Our colleagues shared their personal experiences with trying new approaches to student inquiry, or their first brave attempts at wading into the new curriculum.
I collaborated with a team of great teachers from Abbotsford as we shared our experiences transitioning to Project Based Learning at the Rick Hansen School of Science and Business. The journey has been challenging and eye-opening. But, it was so encouraging to hear how others were trying renew their classroom practice as well.
All of this made me wonder. In what ways could we keep this open-conversation about our professional practice going? Are there some ways that we can maintain the networking that started at the Superconference? We at the BCScTA are eager to learn about ways that we can work with science teachers across this province. If you have an experience, an idea, or a problem to share, we’d love to hear about it. Will you accept my challenge to keep the conversation about science education going?
John Munro, BCScTA President
The BCScTA is really excited to be offering grants for grassroots projects that inspire our membership. This year, the BCScTA introduced the Science Roots Grant to support collaborative groups in quality science education initiatives.
The funding for these projects are targeted for TTOC costs as the successful applicants collaborate with one another during school time. In our first intake, we received six applications for the grant. A sub-committee reviewed these applications and have awarded up to $2500 towards two projects.
The first project involves a group of elementary teachers collaborating in a book study which will lead to the development of more inquiry opportunities for students in kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 5. The book our members are reading is Totem Pole Carving by Vickie Jensen.
Using the concepts and ideas in Jensen’s book, the project team hopes to connect students to the environment around them and to understand that environment from another perspective. More specifically, their goal is to have their students build an understanding of the importance of cedar trees to Salish communities. Essential questions for these grades will be created to inspire and guide students in their inquiry of First Nation scientific concepts and relating them to established concepts within the scientific community.
The second project involves the science department of a secondary school. This group has found that they have had little time to implement meaningful and thoughtful ways to address and assess the curricular competencies at the Grade 8 and 9 levels. This very collaborative science department plans to use release time to create useful resources that they will use collectively as a whole. They are working towards creating meaningful and useful assessment tools, such as rubrics, of those curricular competencies. The assessment tools are meant to be customized and used with all labs and inquiry activities that students already perform. Further to the assessment tools, they are planning on looking at the new resources available for inquiry activities and build those into their repertoires and pair them with the correct assessment tools.
The BCScTA values the sharing of ideas and looks forward reviewing their documentation of their experiences. We plan to read a short report and images of their initiatives that could be shared on the BCScTA website. We hope that these successful applicants’ experiences will inform and inspire other members of our science community. In addition, these successful applicants will be invited to present the outcomes of their initiatives at a future Catalyst conference and/or participate in a future Twitter chat.
Canada 2067 is a national initiative to shape the future of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning, focusing on Kindergarten to Grade 12.
Using the perspectives and opinions of Canadians, Canada 2067 will develop an action plan and a national vision for STEM learning that will ensure young Canadians are prepared to compete, thrive and contribute in the rapidly changing world of tomorrow.
We’re going nation-wide in search of perspectives and opinions on STEM learning. Join us and share yours!