Monday, 3 September 2012

Teaching Science Through Inquiry - Last in the Series

If you teach science and are just now joining the blog, PLEASE go back and read these August 20th & 21st posts before reading this one - A Private Universe - It will change your life! (be SURE to watch the video) and A Private Universe - Second in a Series.
Here's the thing, and oh, my goodness, do you hear Common Core goals of rigor and relevance in every phrase?

"Students at all grade levels and in every domain of science should have the opportunity to use scientific inquiry and develop the ability to think and act in ways associated with inquiry, including asking questions, planning and conducting investigations, using appropriate tools and techniques to gather data, thinking critically and logically about relationships between evidence and explanations, constructing and analyzing alternative explanations, and communicating scientific arguments." 

As promised, in this final post connected to A Private Universe, here is an annotated list of fabulous resources for teaching kids through inquiry:

1. is dedicated to parents, but who says teachers aren't parents (and parents teachers)? Many of the ideas on the site would be great in a classroom. There are 626 activities and hundreds of ideas for science fair projects, but again, who says they only belong in science fairs?

2. To Exploratorium, I say (with a smile): "There's NO reason these After School Activities have to be done after school!" 

3. Exploratorium's Explore tab takes you to 528 things to make and do, and links to 152 science learning websites!

4. How to Smile is the project of a group of science museums: Lawrence Hall of Science, Exploratorium, New York Hall of Science, Science Museum of Minnesota, and Children's Museum of Houston. Their focus is on science for children in non-classroom settings. I call that a challenge that teachers can meet with non-traditional equipment!!! There are 3,287 math and science activities on this site...need we say more?

5. Inquiry in Action  - The American Chemical Society offers a FREE download of the book Inquiry in Action. It has 7 chapters with 43 hands-on activities PLUS a review of Chemistry Fundamentals with molecular animations for teachers (we all need a refresher from time to time)!

6. The Inquiry Project "takes a unique approach to a study of matter for grades 3-5, bringing together mathematics, science content, and inquiry." The entire curriculum is presented on the website. You can purchase some investigation kits from Sempco, Inc., but most of the items needed can be found easily, and detailed specs for developing your own kits are coming soon. In the Library of Resources, there are very short videos that explain ideas and strategies that will hone YOUR skills in teaching with inquiry. This site is a treasure!

7. Science Buddies has more than 1000 Project Ideas focused on science fairs, but who says that's their only place? While these are not open-ended, there is a "Make it Your Own" section for each that could lead to a higher level of inquiry.

8. The Science Museum was founded in 1857 as part of the South Kensington Museum in the U.K., and gained independence in 1909. Most of us can't take a field trip there, but we can make use of their great Classroom Resources.

9. 24/7 Science is a product of The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. It is simply fantastic. Go. Click on the array of resources. Please. You and your kiddos will be glad.

If, as I hope, you are seeking to raise the level of inquiry in YOUR science class, I highly recommend Simpifying Inquiry Instruction, by Bell, Smetana, and Binns, an article that appeared in The Science Teacher. You will find there a modified version of the four-level model of inquiry, with suggestions for raising the level of a science activity. It is a valuable tool! 

And because I MUST make a reading connection :) - I know that time is at a premium in your classrooms. With that in mind, please consider using some of your reading/language arts block (which, with the implementation of CCSS, must include a large amount of informational text) to integrate science, which should not be left by the wayside!  NSTA, the National Science Teachers Association, has done the research for you. They have, for the past 11 years, compiled lists of Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12. Could you ask for more?


One final note: Please consider joining your state Science Teachers Association, if you haven't already. I was a member of TSTA for years as a science teacher, and I can attest that their annual conference is a wonderful professional development experience. This year's theme is Framing the Common Core. You will make friends and professional connections, and have great resources at your fingertips. Here's an example: an air pressure lesson posted on the website by my friend, Barry Farris. 
 P.S. I hope you're all enjoying your long weekend! I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a relaxing beach trip with 5 of my best girlfriends (one of whom is my only sister, Carole). I may not be posting again until I return, which is why I wanted to get this looong one up before I left. Happy September!