Sunday, June 23, 2019

Wade Institute Science Study: Day One - Summer 2019

The Wade Institute Introduction focused on Inquiry
Educators met at Beyond Benign, an organization focused on green chemistry education, yesterday to begin a multi-day investigation of environmental education and science literacy. There were many great takeaways that will strengthen my science teaching next year. 

First of all, the course is well organized both online and offline. This makes the learning highly accessible to all. We do the same with our 5th grade science program--most resources are available both online and offline allowing all students to learn where they are when they want. 

We used a hands-on solubility activity to understand the difference between structured, guided, and open inquiry. This helped me to think deeply about the types of inquiry learning I promote with fifth graders. It was also affirming to hear middle school and high school teachers discuss when greater structure is needed for science and engineering study--that helped me to think about how I'll refine and develop inquiry that we integrate into the fifth grade program.  It also helped me to think about the difference between guided inquiry (driven by a question) and open inquiry (driven by I wonder statements/exploration). Further as we explored inquiry, the exploration supported the work we've done at fifth grade related to systematic thinking, logic, and computational thinking--the book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain further affirms our need to explicitly teach students how to maximize their brain potential/processes to learn in ways that profit from explicit teaching and practice of logical, systematic, and computational learning processes. 

We were reminded of the importance of leaving room for failure which made me think about the number of repetitions or time we build into exploration--do we just allow students to investigate a phenomena or design a solution once, or do we leave time for several iterations so students can fail, fail often, and respond to failure by analyzing, trying again and doing better.

Teachers in the room talked with excitement about the ways they teach students to write concise procedures. While many were familiar with the peanut butter and jelly lesson, one educator noted that she teaches similar procedural thinking/writing with a radish lab. This work ties nicely with Massachusetts' Department of Elementary and Secondary education computational thinking lessons and efforts. Educators also discussed the pros and cons of using phones or other digital devices to capture exploration steps. At fifth grade I'd like to integrate the iPad more into our environmental studies as a way to capture what we do, see, and analyze. It was mentioned that the phone is very helpful when it comes to microscopic work.

Specifically I began to think about how we can elevate and deepen our fifth grade standards-based environmental education problem. I realized we could start by distinguishing between engineering tasks which asks students to define a problem and design a solution, and science tasks which guide children in developing a hypothesis and conducting an investigation to test the hypothesis and explain the phenomena. 

Since our team will meet on Thursday to begin our fifth grade project work evaluation and development, I'll read the assigned articles before then so that information can inform our meeting. And then what we do at the meeting will inform the summer study that will occur both at Fitchburg State University and in the field. 

If you're interested in developing your science teaching knowledge this summer, Wade Institute summer programs are still accepting students even though the deadline has passed.