Facilitating an Elementary School-Wide Immersive Academic Event

by Melanie Kinskey, Sam Houston State University; Mitch Ruzek, University of South Florida; & Dana L. Zeidler, University of South Florida

Traditional science teaching has tended to focus on compartmentalized academic content that is removed from the practice of everyday life. Confronting this has been a perennial challenge in science teacher education, and the impact on the stifling of students’ creativity, critical thinking, and engagement has been well documented in the literature. Progressive science teaching, however, emphasizes situating instruction in sociocultural contexts that engage children in the activity of learning by tapping into their natural instincts of wonder, curiosity, questioning, and actively seeking meaning about the world around them. This article describes week-long, immersive, inquiry-based events that university educators facilitate at local schools. The purpose of the events is to model how to engage students in inquiry-based experiences and stimulate their natural curiosity and, at the same time, facilitate professional development for teachers. These educative experiences are positioned in the notion of interdisciplinary, inquiry-based learning that drew from science, the creative arts, social sciences, language arts, and mathematics. During this week-long event, we build a community of engagement aimed at fostering heightened levels of academic commitment, developing natural inquiry skills, and cultivating authentic scientific habits of mind through inquiry that would captivate both students and teachers across multiple grade levels.

NGSS Scientific Practices in an Elementary Science Methods Course: Preservice Teachers Doing Science

by Judith Morrison, Washington State University Tri-Cities

To engage elementary preservice teachers enrolled in a science methods course in authentically doing science, I developed an assignment focused on the NGSS scientific practices. Unless preservice teachers engage in some type of authentic science, they will never understand the scientific practices and will be ill-equipped to communicate these practices to their future students or engage future students in authentic science. The two main objectives for this assignment were for the PSTs to gain a more realistic understanding of how science is done and gain confidence in conducting investigations incorporating the scientific practices to implement in their future classrooms. To obtain evidence about how these objectives were met, I posed the following questions: What do PSTs learn about using the practices of science from this experience, and what do they predict they will implement in their future teaching relevant to authentic investigations using the scientific practices? Quotes from preservice teachers demonstrating their (a) learning relevant to doing science, (b) their struggles doing this type of investigation, and (c) predictions of how they might incorporate the scientific practices in their future teaching are included. The assignment and the challenges encountered implementing this assignment in a science methods course are also described.

A Scientist, Teacher Educator and Teacher Collaborative: Innovative Professional Learning Design focused on Climate Change and Lessons Learned from K-12 Classrooms

by Mary K. Stapleton, Towson University; & Asli Sezen-Barrie, Towson University

The new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) call for a dramatic shift in science teaching and learning, with a focus on students engaging in science practices as they make sense of natural phenomena. In addition, the NGSS have a significant and explicit focus on climate change. The adoption of these new standards in many states across the nation have created a critical need for on-going professional learning as inservice science educators begin to implement three-dimensional instruction in their classrooms. This paper describes an innovative professional learning workshop on climate change for secondary science teachers, designed by teacher educators and scientists. The workshop was designed to improve teachers’ capacity to deliver effective three-dimensional climate change instruction in their classrooms. We present the structure and goals of the workshop, describe how theories of effective professional learning drove the design of the workshop, and address the affordances and challenges of implementing this type of professional learning experience.