Learning About Environmental Issues With A Desktop Virtual Reality Field Trip

by Alec Bodzin, Lehigh University; Robson Araujo-Junior, Lehigh University; Chad Schwartz, Lehigh Gap Nature Center; David Anastasio, Lehigh University; Thomas Hammond, Lehigh University; & Brian Birchak, Lehigh Gap Nature Center

This article describes a design partnership with university faculty and informal environmental educators that developed a desktop virtual-reality field trip (dVFT) to learn about the environmental changes that occurred during the past two centuries because of a zinc smelting plant operation in the Lehigh River watershed. Our watershed is historically significant because it was a driving force of the industrial revolution in the United States during the 19th century. We provide background on place-based learning and the affordances that virtual reality (VR) and VR field trips can provide for learning. We describe our design and development approach and present the resulting dVFT. We discuss how the dVFT was used in an environmental education course during a global pandemic. The course included preservice and inservice secondary science teachers. The students experienced both immersion (i.e., sensory fidelity) and presence (i.e., subjective psychological response) when using the dVFT. The dVFT served two main purposes in the course. First, it provided students who were unable to attend the optional field trip with a meaningful experience to learn about an important environmental issue and remediation process. Second, the dVFT served as a valuable foundational learning activity for students to familiarize themselves with the actual field site prior to going to the physical site location. Implications for science teacher educators interested in developing a dVFT are discussed.

Making It Personal: Focusing on Food and Using Concept Maps to Promote the Development of Environmental Identities Among Elementary Teacher Candidates

by Rachel E. Wilson, Appalachian State University

This article explores the use of food as a focal topic in an environmentally focused curriculum course for elementary teacher candidates (ETCs) to help them personally connect to the content. Environmental topics are interdisciplinary; therefore, as we prepare ETCs to teach them, consideration of the social dimensions of science is imperative. This article discusses how the design and implementation of a unit on food allowed for exploration of elementary science and social studies environmental content with the goal of developing ETCs’ environmental identities. A focus unit on food as a daily practice that connects ETCs to the environment is described to highlight the personal salience of environmental issues and how ETCs impact and are dependent on the environment. Concept maps of daily activities that connect them to the environment were used as initial and final assessments for the course, along with an oral reflection with the instructor on their final maps. Examples of initial maps, final maps, and comments from students’ oral reflections show that ETCs deepened their understanding of how salient environmental issues were to their daily life activities, such as eating. Implications of the implementation on how to increase ETCs’ explicit connections with their identity positions relative to their experiences of and responses to environmental issues and proposed solutions are discussed.

Reflection in Action: Environmental Education Professional Development with Two Cohorts

by Lauren Madden, The College of New Jersey; Louise Ammentorp, The College of New Jersey; Eileen Heddy, The College of New Jersey; Nicole Stanton, The College of New Jersey; & Suzanne McCotter, The College of New Jersey

This article shares lessons learned from a 2-year environmental education professional development initiative with two cohorts. Each cohort consisted of school-based teams of elementary teachers. The professional development included a series of five workshops aimed at integrating environmental education across the curriculum, and each teacher team developed and implemented a school-based project to put these ideas into practice. The project team modified their approach between Cohorts 1 and 2 based on strengths and shortcomings of the first experience. Key takeaways to inform future professional development efforts include ensuring the timeframe of the project allows teachers to build momentum in their work, recruiting teams of teachers with diverse classroom experiences, and including presenters who can offer tangible and actionable ideas to use in the classroom.

Supporting Middle and Secondary Science Teachers to Implement Sustainability-Themed Instruction

by Sheron L. Mark, PhD, University of Louisville, College of Education and Human Development, 1905 S 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40292

In today’s society, we face many complex environmental, social, and economic challenges that can be addressed through a lens of sustainability. Furthermore, our efforts in addressing these challenges must be collective. Science education is foundational to preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to engage in this work in professional and everyday capacities. This article describes a teacher education project aimed at preparing middle and secondary preservice and alternatively certified science teachers to teach through a lens of sustainability. The project was embedded within a middle and secondary science teaching methods course. Work produced by the teacher candidates, including case-study research presentations and week-long instructional plans, is described.

Supporting Schoolyard Pedagogy in Elementary Methods Courses

by Kelly Feille, University of Oklahoma; & Stephanie Hathcock, Oklahoma State University

Schoolyard pedagogy illustrates the theories, methods, and practices of teaching that extend beyond the four walls of a classroom and capitalize on the teaching tools available in the surrounding schoolyard. In this article, we describe the schoolyard pedagogy framework, which includes intense pedagogical experiences, opportunities and frequent access, and continuous support. We then provide an overview of how we are intentionally working toward developing schoolyard pedagogy in elementary preservice teachers at two universities. This includes providing collaborative experiences in the university schoolyard and nearby schools, individual experiences in nature, opportunities to see the possibilities in local schoolyards, and lesson planning that utilizes the schoolyard. We also discuss potential barriers and catalysts for schoolyard pedagogy during the induction years, future needs, and potential for continuous support.

Using Critical Case Studies to Cultivate Inservice Teachers’ Critical Science Consciousness

by Lenora M. Crabtree, University of North Carolina Charlotte; & Michelle Stephan, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Culturally relevant and responsive science instruction includes support of students’ socio-political, or critical, consciousness. A lack of experience with marginalization, and limited attention to critical perspectives in science content and methods courses, however, may leave educators ill-equipped to address intersections of diversity, equity, and science instruction. Curriculum is needed that supports critical consciousness development among science teachers and their students. We describe an innovation, a critical inquiry case study, designed to address this essential facet of culturally relevant pedagogy. Design research methodology guided our development of an interrupted, historical case study employed as part of a four-day professional development workshop for secondary science teachers. In addition to provoking critical awareness and agency, the case study was designed to highlight ways that science itself may create or perpetuate inequities, or serve as a tool for liberation, a content-specific construct we call critical science consciousness. Implementation of the critical case study and participating teachers’ interactions with case materials are described. In addition, we highlight learning goals developed to support critical science consciousness and provide insights into ways teachers exhibited growth in each area. Teachers report heightened understanding of the role science plays in perpetuating inequities, transformations in ways they think about systemic inequities that impact students and families, and growing awareness of the possibilities inherent in teaching science for liberation.

Facilitating Preservice Teachers’ Socioscientific Issues Curriculum Design in Teacher Education

by Jaimie A. Foulk, University of Missouri - Columbia; Troy D. Sadler, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; & Patricia M. Friedrichsen, University of Missouri - Columbia

Socioscientific issues (SSI) are contentious and ill-structured societal issues with substantive connections to science, which require an understanding of science, but are unable to be solved by science alone. Consistent with current K-12 science education reforms, SSI based teaching uses SSI as a context for science learning and has been shown to offer numerous student benefits. While K-12 teachers have expressed positive perceptions of SSI for science learning, they cite uncertainty about how to teach with SSI and lack of access to SSI based curricular materials as reasons for not utilizing a SSI based teaching approach. In response to this need we developed and taught a multi-phase SSI Teaching Module during a Science Methods course for pre-service secondary teachers (PSTs), designed to 1) engage PSTs as learners in an authentic SSI science unit; 2) guide PSTs in making sense of an SSI approach to teaching and learning; and 3) support PSTs in designing SSI-based curricular units. To share our experience with the Teaching Module and encourage teacher educators to consider ways of adapting such an approach to their pre-service teacher education contexts, we present our design and resources from the SSI Teaching Module and describe some of the ways PSTs described their challenges, successes, and responses to the experience, as well as considerations for teacher educators interested in introducing PSTs to SSI.

Service Learning for Science: A Transformative Field Experience for Preservice Elementary Teachers 

by Jenna Porter, CSU Sacramento; & Corinne Lardy, CSU Sacramento

Preservice teachers are often faced with tension between theory about effective science education and practice. Service learning is one method for helping bridge the disconnect in meaningful ways that are mutually beneficial for both preservice teachers and community partners. With the recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in most states, and the upcoming accountability testing for science, some elementary schools are beginning to shift toward more science instruction that supports students’ developing understanding of science concepts, as well as the practices in which scientists engage. This transition time provides an excellent opportunity to purposefully partner universities with elementary schools in an effort to support science education (for preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and elementary school students). We have redesigned our science methods course to integrate service learning to provide our preservice teachers with authentic experiences for teaching the effective pedagogical strategies and theories learned in the course. This paper describes the service learning component of our science methods course, which includes a unique field experience. It also illustrates evidence of the positive impact this service learning approach has had on our preservice teachers and community partners, and lessons learned through the process.

A Framework for Science Exploration: Examining Successes and Challenges for Preservice Teachers

by Keri-Anne Croce, Towson University

Undergraduate preservice teachers examined the Science Texts Analysis Model during a university course. The Science Texts Analysis Model is designed to support teachers as they help students prepare to engage with the arguments in science texts. The preservice teachers received instruction during class time on campus before employing the model when teaching science to elementary and middle school students in Baltimore city. This article describes how the preservice teachers applied their knowledge of the Science Texts Analysis Model within this real world context. Preservice teachers’ reactions to the methodology are examined in order to provide recommendations for future college courses.

Enacting Wonder-infused Pedagogy in an Elementary Science Methods Course

by Andrew Gilbert, George Mason University; & Christie C. Byers, George Mason University

Future elementary teachers commonly experience a sense of disconnection and lack of confidence in teaching science, often related to their own negative experiences with school science. As a result, teacher educators are faced with the challenge of engaging future teachers in ways that build confidence and help them develop positive associations with science. In this article, we present wonder-infused pedagogy as a means to create positive pathways for future teachers to engage with both science content and teaching. We first articulate the theoretical foundations underpinning conceptions of wonder in relation to science education, and then move on to share specific practical activities designed to integrate elements of wonder into an elementary methods course. We envision wonder-infused pedagogy not as a disruptive force in standard science methods courses, but rather an effort to deepen inquiry and connect it to the emotive and imaginative selves of our students. The article closes with thorough descriptions of wonder related activities including wonder journaling and a wonder fair in order to illustrate the pedagogical possibilities of this approach. We provide student examples of these artifacts and exit tickets articulating student experiences within the course. We also consider possible challenges that teacher educators may encounter during this process and methods to address those possible hurdles. We found that the process involved in wonder-infused pedagogy provided possibilities for future teachers to reconnect and rekindle a joyful relationship with authentic science practice.