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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Science Every Day

Marathons are run one step at a time and science content is conquered one concept at a time with each concept linking (like the stems in a marathon) to the one before. So, in my class I took the idea of the “word a day” calendars and expanded it to add some good steps to my science marathon.


Element of the Day
There is a web site that gives middle school students a template for recording specific information in their notebook:
http://www.middleschoolscience.com/elemtradcds.pdf

I like to cut up a periodic table, put the elements in a bucket and have the kids draw two elements or three that are their responsibility. They research the elements and on a specific day they are responsible for giving the class the element information while I am taking role or dealing with the multitude of administrative tasks that fill the first 5 minutes of class. The rest of the class takes notes. I have the students submit several questions for an open notes quiz on the elements later in the month. The idea is not that I want the kids to memorize the elements and the information but that they learn to take notes, present information and I always find that the students present some aspect of an element that merits further investigation or study. For example, the first student this year presented sodium and wanted to know why there was this crazy notation in the text that listed the symbol for a Neon gas and then 3s1. That was a perfect time to have the kids look at the periodic table, give them some information on the electron shells and sub shells and try to figure out what the notation meant.

That was a powerful lesson that had the students trying to solve a puzzle that was student generated.

Quotation of the Day
When the students file into my class each morning it is always frustrating that many forgot their pencils or paper. For quite a while in my early years of teaching I provided materials, chastised the forgetful, and sent them back to their lockers. I tried the whole gamut of ideas. Then, I decided that I would have some materials at the front of the room (honor system…take a pencil bring one back or two) and put an interesting quotation on the whiteboard for the students to copy into their notebook and that would be the start of the class. Students actually do like predictable routines. They would sit copy and discuss while I took care of the class start up tasks. I expanded this to allow the students to submit quotations. The only rule is that they have to do with science and thinking. I collected them over the years and some came from Einstein and others from someone’s Grandmother. It is important to include the kid quotes so that the experience becomes more personal. One student gave us the following:

“When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around.”

This student then challenged the class to identify the author and gave us a long list consisting of scientists, philosophers, politicians and rock stars. The quote is from Sting and many of the students used some deductive reasoning to figure that out. They noticed that the phrase rhymed and had a specific rhythm and Sting was actively involved in environmental issues. Quotes with critical thinking are a good mix. The best ideas often come from students.

Career of the Week
I began teaching forensic science over 10 years ago. In that time CSI was just starting to become popular.  I brought in crime scene techs, agents from the DEA, FBI and ATF to speak to the students. Since this was often the only profession that my students had seen up close and with a personal story many indicated that this was the career they were aiming for in post high school studies. This is not unique, the focus on food science spurred by the Food Network and the food shows on TV have created a great deal of interest in careers in the food industry. I thought I could encourage more interest in STEM science careers by exposing my students to a rich variety of science opportunities.

I select one career that relates to the current unit of study and that career becomes the thread that weaves the ideas together. For example, this unit I am focused on materials science. I use the American Chemical Society web site on this career for information.

The students have an opportunity to explore the work locations, job descriptions and the people who hold those jobs. It is a great idea to connect with some of these folks and allow the students to communicate via e-mail or even set up a virtual conversation using Adobe Connect Pro, SKYPE or any one of the available communication platforms.

Many science journals profile different careers in science as do many government agencies. NASA profiles earth science careers in this site:
http://kids.earth.nasa.gov/archive/career/

PBS cool careers is another favorite:
http://www.pbs.org/safarchive/5_cool/53_career.html

So, if you are looking for a consistent thread to begin your class each day you can pick something rich whether it is quotations, careers, science words or even larger concepts and create your own calendar. Archive what you do as it can be used every year with minor modifications.   post your ideas to the Hot Chalk Science site.  I am looking forward to your good ideas. My most creative friends are all teachers.

 

Shannon C ‘de Baca is a passionate educator who teaches at Iowa Learning Online. Visit her blog at HotChalkScience.com. 

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