Ready, Set, Science! Golden Lines

Please share the lines from Ready, Set, Science! that speak to you.


"Students recognize that predictions or explanations can be revised on the basis of seeing new evidence, learning new facts, or developing a new model."

With meaningful learning experiences, and enough time to process, the line above is so true. As I strive to develop critical thinking skills and an emphasis on the learning process, not the "right answer" or product, it becomes more and more imperative for students to have authentic learning experiences.

Another line (or two): "Students recognize that there may be multiple interpretations of the same phenomenon...They also recognize the value of explanations in generating new and productive questions for research."

-(Strand 2 includes) recognizing when there is insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion and determining what kind of additional data are needed. (p 19)
This is one aspect of “scientific practice” I find hardest to achieve with my students. I can guide them to recognize ‘insufficient data’ in isolated controlled instances but they do not reach the “second nature” phase.

-(If all strands are present,) students...see science as valuable and interesting, (and) tend to be good learners and participants in science. They believe that steady effort in understanding science pays off—not that some people understand science and other people never will. (p 21)
I agree with this wholeheartedly, and it’s one of my most important goals- to ‘sell’ science as not just for a few but accessible, and useful to everyone.

-…major part of his college course on biodiversity had been preparing a local field guide based on weekend trips to a field station (p 23)
Here is where my interest in Vital Signs comes in. My program lacks something in terms of ownership - I dream of starting an ongoing project that would be of valid service to the community and thus extend beyond the classroom walls. The community has a long, well established history of maintaining beautiful, scenic snowmobile trails and ATV trails. Recently a new trail association for non-motorized activities such as walking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing has been formed. I’m hoping to get my students to create a guidebook to sections of the trail as a way to fan the spark of stewardship. I also hope that this will be a way to get enough realistic scientific practice in the form of identifying species to improve my students’ proficiency at making reliable judgments about whether or not they have enough evidence to draw a conclusion.

I think that the biggest thing here for me is also the strand four. It is really hard to take the time at times to go over everyone's thoughts and processes. Yet, that 45 minutes is so essential in their learning and ability to see outside of the box for many of the kids. I notice that in the classroom, as time goes on, the quieter and less certain students begin to gain confidence in their ability to contribute to the conversation which is essential. I also notice that very quickly the students will notice that answers are not often black and white and that there may be many different ways to look at things. For myself, the longer that I teach, the less important the amount of content covered is. I feel like I cover more being relaxed and letting them experience the process of learning and rethinking. The bottom line is that no matter what test we throw at them in the end if they have the skills to think through scenarios and the confidence to do so then they will do it.

I agree, it's that confidence that's such a golden ticket. I try to cover a lot of ground but it's not going to do one speck of good if no one really sees the whole point. So- often I find myself trying to pick and choose. The longer I teach, the deeper my own understanding gets, and the more confident I become in planning instruction to balance out the time investment of 'practice' and the introduction of new content, hopefully at the right time, when they are getting to a point when they are questioning something and "ready to receive"!

... (for some students) unlikely to arrive at that understanding without explicit instruction.

I love the book's phrase "science as practice" p 34. I strive to teach in a way where the doing and the learning are intricately linked. I'd love help figuring out how to document what type of learning is happening (without getting into too much edu-speak).

the whole concept of "do" science in the next to the last para is why I'm here

I particularly resonated with the following lines from the case study:

"The young students in Mr. Walker’s and Ms. Rivera’s classes were not starting their study of biodiversity completely from scratch. They all came with some foundation of prior understanding, the result of personal interests and previous experience or interaction with nature."

I think these stood out for me as important statements because in my work as an educator at Acadia National Park I regularly work with students from multiple grade levels and from many different schools throughout the region, and the wide variation in student experience, knowledge, skill and interest is astounding. It is always a challenge to tailor my teaching on a given program (lesson) to each particular class, and I try to build on the knowledge and experience of advanced students without overwhelming the students who have less experience with the subject. Every student has some important and relevant previous experience, however, and I try hard to help the students use those prior experiences and personal interests to enhance their learning in the national park setting.

It is so important to know our students and to realize that they all bring their experiences along with them to any learning situation. Learning in the outdoors can be very comfortable (physically and emotionally) for some students and feel very risky for others, but the knowledge and experiences that are gained from learning and investigating in the field is immeasurable.

Totally agree - why is is that Strand 4 is overlooked? Is it because if kids are talking, up and moving around, going outside, etc. it doesn't "look like" traditional learning? I would hope in this era of education, that would not be the case. My golden line - "[Strand 4] calls for students to understand the appropriate norms for presenting scientific arguements and evidence AND TO PRACTICE PRODUCTIVE SOCIAL INTERACTIONS WITH PEERS IN THE CONTEXT OF CLASSROOM SCIENCE INVESTIGATIONS." I believe this speaks to character education and social and emotional learning.

I 'hear' you! It seems to take huge determination on my part, but I keep at them all year to have PRODUCTIVE interactive science discussions. I kind of make it a game, teasing them a bit. Like oh I'm so evil, I am a very mean teacher, on the prowl for someone who hasn't been listening. Get them looking at each other smiling, call on someone, ask something impossible, loosen everyone up. The idea is that no one is perfect but together we can make progress. It has to be safe to put yourself out there. The goal is to slowly pull back until they are having an actual serious discussion without me facilitating.

I found it really interesting that the "new way of thinking about science proficiency" has actually been in science all along.... the Circle of Life... everything is interconnected... etc. It just took the educational profession a while to apply the "real word" model to its science classrooms. My A-ha Moment in this chapter was something that I think I intuitively knew all along, but struggled to make it work using the old paradigm for teaching science... "Underlying the arguments in this book, however, is a new way of thinking about what it means to be proficient in science and a new framework for moving toward and achieving proficiency. This framework rests on a view of science as both a body of knowledge and an evidence-based, model-building enterprise that continually extends, refines, and revises knowledge. This framework moves beyond a focus on the dichotomy between content or knowledge and process skills, recognizing instead that, in science, content and process are inextricably linked."

"Students bring certain capabilities to school and then build on those capabilities throughout thier K-12 science education experiences, both inside and outside the classroom".

To me this is what science is all about. Building upon previous knowledge, which allows students to become a knowledgeable science student. When students are giving the opportunities to actually perform scientific experiments, they retain so much more of the concepts being taught. Anyone can learn definitions, but it is the investigation/inquiry that allows students to truly grasp the big concepts! I enjoyed reading the four strands and look forward to learning how to incorporate an experiential learning into my own curriculum.

I found that Strand 3, Reflecting on Scientific Knowledge, and Strand 4, Participating Productively in Science were my "golden moments" this chapter, particularly the line " students learn that they can subject their own knowledge to analysis" from strand 3, and "Like scientists, science students benefit from sharing ideas with peers, building interpretive accounts of data, and working together to discern which accounts are most persuasive." from Strand 4. In my experience students often focus solely on getting the work done and not reflecting on it, and are rarely given the opportunity to talk about what they learned or to discuss the outcomes with one another. When given any opportunity to discuss learning in general, students often freeze up. As a novice Science teacher (next year will be year 1 for me), and a former teacher of Language Arts (7 years) I wonder what the "trick" is to get students to engage enough with their learning for the reflection and discussion to come naturally and without the resistance science and all teachers face currently.

I'm looking forward to the next few days as the jumping off point for my science teaching career :)

On page 24 it is mentioned that Ms. Rivera and Mr. Walker had students prepare for monthly meetings and later on in the chapter more regular "cross-talk" activities. I think this is a major piece (student sharing and reflection) in education that is skipped, missed or dropped due by teachers who do their best but also feel the pressure to squeeze as much content in before the yearly standardized test. The (student) sharing and reflection time moves the science practice into the "Doing and Learning Together" as mentioned on page 34 and 35.

I second this. My wheels are already turning about the monthly meetings, and about the idea that consistent themes and threads throughout the year can allow for us to bring in the content that I might try to be squeezing into units of study.

From Strand 2: "For example, this strand includes recognizing when there is insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion and determining what kind of additional data are needed." I find this to be one of the more challenging concepts to teach middle school students. Often resources and time dictate that they cannot test their ideas thoroughly, yet they discover an inquiry based trial. I'd like to further develop such models for the middle school classroom, so that the student is not discouraged with little evidence. I apply this to team projects that I encourage students to try and test products.
It takes a sophisticated level of analytical thinking to determine valid evidence for research. Possibly we could develop a rubric that will help students discern between a good project proposal (one that can be validly tested) compared to a weak project proposal. This is also where we can apply the concept behind Strand 3 to revise as needed.

p. 28, top: "[Mr. Walker and Ms. Rivera's study of biodiversity] provided students not only with a deep and personal relationship with their subject but also with an understanding that learning science is based on continuous and creative investigation: questioning, mapping, reflection, systematic observation, data analysis, presentation, discussion, modeling, theorizing, and explaining. The most exciting part was that their continued investigations inevitably led to more questions."

I chose these lines because they swirl around the notion of "curiosity," which is to me an essential element of scientific pursuit and of an engaged life. I get excited about encouraging curiosity in learners of all ages.

Thank you to everyone participating in this discussion - I'm looking forward to tomorrow!

Strand 4 is often COMPLETELY overlooked by educators, yet research indicates that it is a critical component of science learning, particularly for students from populations that are underrepresented in science.

This line caught my attention as I constantly struggle to find the time to allow for students to share their lab results with the entire class. I often put aside the importance of presenting their data for review by the class and to take part in the social interaction aspect of interpreting data and presenting arguments. It is difficult to balance the importance of the strand with the limited time I have them in class. It always seems as if something new is added to the schedule, the curriculum or both and time is more and more precious.

Struggle for time! Isn't it a battle? Lately I discovered that I was maybe expecting too much, and I just had to step back...a lot. We can share our lab results a lot more quickly if I let go of some of my rigidity....thinking things have to be done a certain way. I've gotten better about using time well, but it's still a battle. That sharing time---why even bother to do the lab otherwise? I have to remind myself sometimes. Well, not sometimes. Constantly.

I completely agree with you about the fact that Strand 4 is overlooked by educators (in all content areas...); however, this is the piece that provides motivation for students-internally and externally- and shows that the work that they do is worth something. The time you devote to this strand will pay off in the long run because your students will see the importance of what they do (or don't do) for themselves and with their peers and teachers.

“Scientific knowledge builds on itself over time. Proficient science learners understand that scientific knowledge can be revised as new evidence emerges. They can also track and reflect on their own ideas as those ideas change over time.”
Living and teaching in rural Maine , our students have a wealth of information about nature and their surroundings. Most of them go hunting, fishing, hiking, swimming and some even take care of their farm animals. Through their observations, they have first hand scientific knowledge of nature and the world around them. Being sponges they take in everything and it does get stored! Our young scientist are ready to investigate, argue, contribute to new phenomena and the means used to investigate those phenomena. Some of their ideas change, some get reinforced but their knowledge is definitely not static. So it is up to us educators to keep this “flame burning” and guide them to expanding their knowledge.

I found this chapter to interesting and informative. I especially liked reading about the case study and that it was the students' own thoughts, methods, and questions that were the engine behind the investigation they continued to work on.
My "golden line" is the following: "the students’ decision to use systematic measurement had to be motivated by their own theories and investigations in order to be seen as a necessary and useful technique." I find this to be so true. It is up to our students to make up their minds whether a topic, assignment, lab is worthy of their attention and how well they will work on it, if at all. Giving them the opportunity to study something that is worthwhile to them is important, but I think they also need to know that there are connections they may find that will lead to something more personal for them. Looking at the work, again and again, from a different angle with a new set of eyes, can help lead to these possible connections.

I also like that it is up to the students to make up their mind about their topic and how it is to be done. It is, however, really hard to stand back and let them do it knowing that some of the work will need to be redone since they aren't ready yet or don't have a reason to want to do it using a certain set of skills . . .ie the suggestion to systematically keep track of the species by a grid method that the students initially rejected.

This probably qualifies as a "golden paragraph" but I found it meaningful:

"Science as practice involves doing something and learning something in such a way that the doing and the learning cannot really be separated. Thus, “practice,” as used in this book, encompasses several of the different dictionary definitions of the term. It refers to doing something repeatedly in order to become proficient (as in practicing the trumpet). It refers to learning something so thoroughly that it becomes second nature (as in practicing thrift). And it refers to using one’s knowledge to meet an objective (as in practicing law or practicing teaching)."

I also like the way that inquiry is discussed as a part of the practice of science. I look forward to learning more about Vital Signs and how I can use my learning in this institute to enhance my students' classroom, and out-of-classroom, science experiences.

My favorite golden line from Chapter 2 is towards the end of the chapter: "Like scientists, science students benefit from sharing ideas with peers, building interpretive accounts of data, and working together to discern which accounts are most persuasive."

I think is a helpful reminder that students will see themselves as scientists more readily if we create an atmosphere that puts them in the role of scientist. Not just in "doing" science, such as a assigned experiment, but also by "discussing" science and thinking critically to evaluate the data or situation at hand. Of course, this process takes a lot of time and I'm hoping to discuss the issue of time and how to change our preconceived notions of needing to cram information into students later this week!!

My "boiler plate" version of this chapter is: Talk, Think, Do (Repeat) Science

With the students I teach I try to show them why these things matter to them. They get bombarded with information but it seems like most of the time they aren't connected to the content. I like this line from the beginning of the chapter: "Strand 4 puts science in motion and in social context, emphasizing the importance of doing science and doing it together in groups." It does on to say that this is the strand most overlooked by educators and I completely agree. It is vitally important for our students to care about what they are doing. Now putting things into "social context" sounds kind of simple but what I have a hard time figuring out sometimes is what their social context is. They are living completely different lives than me and it's up to me to figure out what is important to them so that I can reach them.

I agree with how very difficult it is to figure out what is important to our students today. Most of them are so into technology that being outside is like being in a foreign country. I find this particularly true for students as they get older. Most younger students are still thrilled with "saving the earth," but most high school students aren't very interested unless it can text back or be a new bff.

After reading Chapter 2 (and enjoy the work of Mr. Walker and Ms. Rivera), I think the line that catches my attention the most is the following: This link between content and process is vital because scientific processes almost always take place when students are considering specific scientific content. I choose this line because I have watched curriculum in my district move from one to the other over the years. When I first started teaching, 17 years ago, science was all about reading content in the book, memorizing vocabulary, and answering the questions at the end of the chapter. Then, there was a drastic switch. Students now were using kits that came with several labs and activities for the children to perform. It was like playing as the content was dropped - well you might have to draw a poster as a concluding activity. Now, we are trying to find the right balance between the two. Students need to "do" science, but also must understand the concept of what they are doing. For me, there is no separation.