New Ways of Thinking Science
The important thing in science is not so much to obtain new facts as to discover new ways of thinking about them. ~William Lawrence Bragg
A major focus in my classroom this year is to encourage students to make their thinking visual; to increase student discourse when they are explaining their conceptual thinking.
This summer I participated in PASTL – Partnership for Ambitious Science Teacher Leaders. PASTL is a unique collaboration between Puget Sound ESD, Olympic ESD, Northwest ESD, University of Washington’s Ambitious Science Teaching Group, the Physics Education Research Group at Seattle Pacific University, Federal Way School District and Bellevue School District. Basically a group of science and math teachers willingly gave up a few weeks of precious summer to sit in a middle school cafeteria to collaborate on incorporating puzzling phenomenon, student discourse, best practices and alignment to NGSS. It. Was. Awesome.
For more information – PASTL PSESD newsletter
Beginning with Rethinking
Where do students begin to understand science concepts? Students have to talk to make sense of science. So then, how do you help teachers help their students to know “how to talk science”? After a spending the summer thinking and talking about how to think and talk science, I have actively worked to put these tools into practice this year. My classroom is nosier, but more focused. My classroom is social, but more science. I have asked my students to listen and respond to their lab partners, asking for evidence, and they are.
Currently my students are actively working on explaining solids and liquids to elementary students. If they can explain states of matter to each other, can they explain it someone younger and still keep the science intact? Yes, they can. My 7th graders are collaborating with 1st graders. We Skyped an introduction call between the classes last week. This week they will be producing a science lesson – either with a Sway, Office Mix, song or a video to teach and explain the scientific concepts of Solids, Liquids and Gasses. The conversations my students are having about word choice, phase change concepts, explanations and evidence are insightful, funny, and encouraging. My students are rock stars.
This morning, as I was pursuing through science social media, I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged to find a STEM teaching tool supporting what I have been trying in my classroom. “How Can I Get My Students to Learn Science by Productively Talking with Each Other?”.