Ah! The end is so near and probably by the time you read this, it will have come and gone. So, I’d like my future self to remember, in the words of my favorite band, that “that day was such a wonderful day”! This is my last post for my last class at Warner. It’s been a long ride and I’m certainly happy to move on, but I wouldn’t change my experiences for anything. I think the best thing I have learned at Warner is the importance of teaching through a social justice lens. It truly transformed my teaching and affected my outlook on life. Thank you, Warner!
So as I was walking around Barnes & Nobel on Saturday, I stumbled across a book titled “Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future” by Chris Mooney. Usually, it would hold very little interest for me, but it caught my eye because of our recent class discussions on ’scientific literacy’. It discusses the disconnect between the general public and scientists (there’s a link below if you’re interested) and how religion and science can fit together.
I wonder how this book could be used to start conversations with students or as a way to introduce scientific literacy to graduate students?
So our data collection plan did not go as we planned, and it’s not a bad thing! We were planning on collecting samples on Sunday the 6th, but were able to do it during class time on the 3rd. I totally appreciated that we were given time to complete it during class. Our group had to rethink our testable question since the bathhouses were not open during the week. We also had to work around the absence of one group member. The question we eventually developed was better than our original (I think) since it did not involve taking samples from the public bathrooms at the beach!
Thursday was my first experience taking samples, recording data and plating what we collected. It was, dare I say, fun to mix the broth and then pour the mixture onto the plate. I did not know the extensive planning that goes into a study and data collection and analysis. I have not yet seen the bacteria growth on the samples, but I am excited to see what has grown in the past 4 days. Though we’ve discussed counting the growth, I’m interested to see how that part is done. And since I’ve spent most of my time at Warner in Dewey Hall, it’ll be nice to experience a different setting as well.
Every once in a while a teachable moment comes along that is so irresistible, you have to take advantage! We were writing in journals for bellwork when one friend mentioned aloud she knew that “tuna fish is made from tuna and dolphins” (we were deciding on lunch choices and tuna was on the menu). I asked her what she meant and she explained that when fishing for tuna, dolphins are sometimes caught in nets and are “ground up” along with the tuna fish. Of course there were exclamations of “ew!” and “I’m not eating tuna EVER again!” and “Is that true, Mrs. Metras?”. It just so happened that we were going to begin our oceans unit that day and this was a perfect opportunity to use student questions to drive instruction. We read two books- one about dolphins and one about large ocean fish and decided that it was possible for tuna and dolphins to be fished together since their habitats were similar, though we still did not have an answer as to whether it actually occurs. We were able to include most of the material I had planned for the lesson through the lens of student questions. It is difficult to always drive instruction through student interest and I’ve learned to take advantage of it whenever possible. The kids were engaged throughout the week on the question of dolphin tuna fish and were able to research answers and information with the help of the librarian, other students and literature. It was exciting to be part of genuine learning! And we learned that there is no way to guarantee dolphin-free tuna, but there are methods fisherpeople can use to protect dolphins.
I was driving early Sunday morning and tuned to NPR where a conversation was occurring about space, matter, stars and Einstein. I listened closely to the language being used by the guest and the host and heard terms that stretch across multiple disciplines. The host asked a question about discovery versus invention and the guest responded with a mathematical equation. I was excited to hear this since in our last class we spoke about scientific literacy and the “hybrid language” of science. I knew I had to get the podcast of the show to link on my blog, but I was parking my car and they were still chatting without mentioning the name of the show. I waited an extra minute or two and when they cut to commercial, the host announced the name of the show as Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippet. I was shocked! A faith-based show about math and science? That really is an example of hybrid language!
After hearing this, I reflected on my practice and realized that even though I know the vocabulary and concepts are interdisciplinary, I have not been explictly telling the kids how the terms interrelate. My Tier 3 kids get it and connect the dots so to speak, but my Tier 1 and 2 do not yet have the knowledge to successfully navigate the language. So this week I began to make more of an effort to explicitly state the links between words in science and reading or math and social studies. We discussed how scientists have hypothesises and so do readers. I noticed more and more kids using the word interchangeably when talking about predicting a story or an outcome of a particular experiement. Yay!
Astrophysicist Mario Livio works with the Hubble Telescope’s findings on phenomena like dark energy and white dwarfs. We explore edges of discovery where scientific advance meets recurrent mystery — questions richer than any of their current answers.
One of my all time favorite books (children or adult) is THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle. It has wonderfully bright illustrations, engaging text and a loveable character. Every time I’ve read it, I’ve found a new way to use it with a class (kids continually give new insights!). Obviously it is a strong reading piece, but it is a perfect example of how to integrate science and literacy. You can focus on vocabulary development, sequencing, inquiry, life cycles, reality/fantasy, hypothesis, and on and on. Since Eric Carle uses insects in much of his writing, it is easy to include other books to study a particular discipline (like biology) or focus on a broader topic (like life science).
It seems that I am the only person in class who teaches a lower elementary grade level. Since I do not know much about secondary science, I wonder how much course work and professional development is spent on integrating literacy and other disciplines? I have the luxury (or curse!) of teaching all subjects so I can decide how or what to integrate to meet standards and engage students.
It’s only day 2 of a six week course, but I’m already questioning my thoughts about being a teacher of science and not a science teacher. Since I do not have a background in science, I felt teaching science was a weakness in my practice. After our first two classes, I’m beginning to wonder about that!
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