Category Archives: In the Classroom

Elementary Science Transition to NYSSLS

Having spent a career teaching high school science, I am now engaged with the world of elementary science. The adoption of the New York Science P-12 Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) in December 2016 has apparently rejuvenated interest in elementary science. Recently retired (meaning time on my hands?) and involved with the transition to our new science standards based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education and NGSS, I was drawn into professional development opportunities. I’ve learned a lot about how students should learn science, reasons to shift to significant core ideas, how to incorporate engineering, provide meaningful hands-on experiences, and engage with phenomena. These standards should address the needs of all students, incorporate real-world scenarios and when possible be community-based. What really excites me the most about the NYSSLS is the impact this will have on our youngest learners.

The hours spent with our elementary colleagues has given me some insight into their challenges teaching science. Besides the many times that their students are involved in activities outside their classroom, most admit their world is driven by and focused on ELA and math. Teacher evaluation, APPR, and district initiatives typically don’t elevate science learning to the level it deserves. Many are lucky if they get a couple of hours a week of science. Unfortunately, some only do “science” by using the literacy-based science in the ELA domains and modules from www.engageny.org. I’ve seen a wide variety of programs with science “push-ins”, STEM specialists, family STEM nights, STEAM classrooms and varieties of publisher and BOCES kits. Even with that support, most admit science can be short-changed. Since the past standards outlined in Elementary Science Core Curriculum Grades K-4 isn’t grade banded, each district has been left to develop their own scope and sequence so there may be a lack of coherence or much repetition based on “favorite topics.” Students that transfer between districts and sometimes other schools within a district can miss important foundations of science literacy. Sometimes, it’s the grade 4 teachers have the primary responsibility of preparing the students for the Elementary-Level Science Test given in grade 4.

Our New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards is very different for our young learners. Grade banded P-5 with specific Performance Expectations gives teachers and curriculum designers guidance as to what students are expected to know and do at the end of instruction. Coherence is presented by the progressions in grade blocks of K-2, 3-5, MS and HS for the three dimensions (Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts). This means that students learning science using curriculums developed from the NYSSLS will experience increasing expectations in how they learn (Practices), what they learn (Core Ideas), and what they look for in the questions they ask (Crosscutting Concepts). Students are expected to construct their understandings by doing science. Much greater depth in learning occurs when the focus shifts from knowing about science to them figuring out about science.

Many elementary teachers admit to me that their students say science is their favorite subject but the teachers are looking for support. The teachers I’ve worked with are among the most pedagogically talented teachers. I have seen them run with a token of an idea and turn it into fun activities, make ELA connections, and be totally appropriate to their school community. The challenge for STANYS and the science specialists across New York is how to support the transition of elementary teachers into NYSSLS. I’ve worked as a life science consultant with teams of elementary teachers and other science specialists writing grade 1 and 2 for Science21 and I can admit it is very challenging. Many elementary teachers feel they lack the background and confidence to dive into developing curriculum for science. They also wonder what these standards will look like on the student assessment which can help when developing curriculum. Our elementary programs need a good curriculum that maintains fidelity with the intent of the new standards. The elementary teachers and administrators need the training to recognize materials that are aligned and provide constructivist learning opportunities. They should be aware of the limits of the science content in the NYSSLS so they’re not compelled to teach well beyond and be sure to address science literacy for all the students.

This is an exciting opportunity for our elementary colleagues to teach science and for students to experience science as a platform for interdisciplinary learning. It has been shown that students that learn science this way not only show significant gains in science but students of high needs subgroups exhibit high gains, and positive gains are also demonstrated in subjects other than science.* Districts need a plan, decide on resources, and provide the support for the transition to an NYSSLS based elementary science program. It’s time we take advantage of our young student’s natural inquisitiveness and sense of wonder as an opportunity to teach and for students to learn science.

*Smithsonian Science Education Center. (2015). The LASER Model: A Systemic and Sustainable Approach for Achieving High Standards in Science Education. Executive Summary. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution.

IEP’s – Read them for an effective school year

Many general education teachers and new science teachers are being asked to teach special education students without support.  This is why I am here, to help, give tips tricks and support those who are given the difficult (but not impossible) task of teaching this diverse population of students the subject we all love.

As a science teacher, it is difficult to be on familiar terms with and understand which parts of the IEP are most important.  An IEP can be a very overwhelming document to read and dissect.  An IEP is the Individualized Education Plan that each special education student has.  No two documents are the same as no two students are the same.  The IEP became uniform in New York State 4 years ago.  This has made it much easier for students to go from school to school and the document is readily available.  Each part of the IEP is important, nevertheless some I have found to be more important in the teaching of science.

The first part of the IEP to give special attention to is the Academic Achievement, Functional Performance and Learning Characteristics often known as the (PLEPS).  This part of the IEP informs the teacher of the student’s academic strengths and weaknesses.  This part of the document will inform the teacher if the student has reading, vocabulary, mathematical or any other academic difficulties.  This is often where I find if the student can read independently or needs to be read to.

The next section to take a glance at is the Social Development section.  Due to the lab environment in many of our science classrooms it is important to discern how these students behave in social settings.  Many times, this section will let you know if the student is able or unable to work in cooperative learning groups. Below this section is the Physical Development section, which needs to be read to determine if the student requires any modifications in the lab setting.  Below Physical Development is the Management Needs section.  The section that important for the general education teacher are the Program Modifications that are located further in the IEP.

For the science teacher, the most important section to read and understand is the Supplementary Aids/Services and Program Modifications section of the IEP.  This section informs the educator what modifications the student needs on a daily, weekly or as needed basis.  Often this section explains if the student needs preferential seating, books on tape, copies of notes, refocusing and redirection, information broken into smaller parts, breaks, etc.  These modifications are imperative to the success of the student in the science classroom and the success of the student is dependent on receiving these modifications.   When on IEP direct, click the “Show details” and then the exact reason for the modification or how the modification needs to be given is shown.  This is a huge help in meeting the needs of students with disabilities because each one has their own set of needs and modifications.  What “special seating arrangements” means for one student may be different for another.  

Lastly, the section most general education teachers are familiar with is the Testing Accommodations section of the IEP.  This section explains what accommodations the student is entitled to for quizzes, tests and state assessments.  The IEP will explain how the accommodations should be given; for the example of “Extended time”, in the column “implementation recommendations” it will say 1.5X or 2.0X or Double time.  As the school year gets underway and you learn about your students if you feel that they are in need of another accommodation, do not hesitate to discuss it with the special education teacher, guidance counselor or school psychologist.  The input of the general education teacher is necessary for the success of the child and the coherent writing of an IEP.

All parts of the IEP are important to the success of each student and should be read and followed through.  For the science teacher and meeting the needs of the diverse population these I have highlighted are in my opinion the most important to help make the job a little easier and assist the students who already struggle.   If there is a part of the IEP that you do not understand, ask questions and inquire about the student.  As a special education science teacher it is always refreshing to have the general education teachers ask questions about their students, it shows you care and want to help them in any way that is possible.  Good Luck with the new school year! If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Calling All Elementary Science Teachers: Building Great Science Units Around Phenomena

Wild Rabbit by Tim Felce

When we think of phenomena, we usually think of things that are big and dramatic, hence the expression, “that’s phenomenal!”  The biggest science phenomenon of the summer may have been the solar eclipse – huge and spectacular (unless you watched it from Long Island, in which case it may have felt like a bit of a tease).  The devastating hurricanes that came at the end of summer are also awe-inspiring (although devastating) phenomena.

But “phenomena” has a broader meaning.  In Next Generation science, a phenomenon doesn’t have to be big –it can be anything that sparks curiosity and makes us want to know more. A tiny ant carrying a larger insect, a drop of water clinging to a leaf, a magnified grain of sand are all phenomena that can be used to introduce science units because, more than anything, they can inspire us to ask questions like:  What is this? What is happening?  How does that happen? Can we change what is going on?   In Next Generation science, phenomena may or may not awe and amaze us, but they always make us wonder.

As elementary teachers we know all about getting kids to wonder – it’s a key part of our job.  Now, as we begin to introduce Next Generation units, we’ll be thinking very deliberately about phenomena that can anchor units as well as phenomena that can introduce particular lessons within those units.  The key is to choose phenomena that will get the students wondering, questioning, and lead us into investigations that allow them to discover core science concepts and make connections across disciplines.

Phenomena can be introduced as photographs, videos, demonstrations, sensory experiences; but the best may be those we bring students outside to directly observe.  For example: Rabbits are everywhere this fall.  Take young students outside to observe them!  Then show a photograph that highlights the ears.   This will generate lots of questions: Why do they have such big ears?  Do they hear better with those ears?  What if their ears were not so big?  This can be an excellent way to induce a grade 1 unit on sound, or a grade 4 unit on external structures of animals.   After the rain, take young students out to see earthworms on the pavement. Then do some digging and observe them in the soil.   This will generate lots of questions: Why do they come up from the ground when it rains?  Will they die on the pavement?  Will they drown in the water?  How do they move in the soil?  This can be a way to introduce a grade 3 unit on environment and survival, grade K unit on push and pull.

Getting outside provides us with an endless source of phenomena to grab student interest, generate excitement and elicit the kinds of questions we need in order to build understanding as our youngest students discover for themselves the amazing way our world works.  

Live the Science, Don’t Just Teach the Science

Over the years I have realized that there is more to teaching science than just sitting in a classroom.  We should live it.  The environment of Long Island has so much to offer.  There is something for each one of our disciplines, and all we have to do is look to our waters.  As a Professional Association of Diving Instructor (PADI) Dive instructor, I have been teaching students about the wonders of diving.   Being an AP Physics 2, Physics, Chemistry, and Living Environment teacher brings so much more to this activity.

My uncle Billy was an avid scuba diver.  I remember him telling me stories of all his diving adventures from around Long Island.   Because of him, I joined the diving club, Aquanuts, at the Hampton Dive Shop.  There I learned about so many other possible diving adventures to go on locally.  Often people think that scuba diving off of Long Island isn’t very good because visibility isn’t very good, but I learned that when you know where and when to dive there is so much to see and do.

As a first year AP Physics 2 teacher a lot of things dawned on me.   The unit I teach on fluids in AP physics 2 includes everything I teach in my “open water diver” and specialties of diving classes.  Once this realization hit me, I started applying many of the concepts of diving to AP physics 2.   Many of the demonstrations and discovery activities I use in the classroom where inspired by diving.  For example, my students calculate the amount of air required to generate buoyant force to lift things off the floor, they calculate the volume of a sealed bottle at different depths, and the students develop ideas about air consumption at depths.  Because of this, all summer I have been trying to develop labs where students can go on a field trip to the Dive Shop to test and discover these principles.   I want the students to learn from real life action in the pool.   I want the students to model the phenomena and discover and explain what is happening.

Educators should explore their curiosity and try something new.   Find a dive shop and experience what you teach.   The more you experience the better you will become as an educator.   For example last year I dove the Oregon wreck.  On March 14, 1886, the Oregon collided with another ship and sank to the bottom of around 100-foot depth just off the coast of Fire Island.   She was the fastest ship of her day using sails and steam engine.   Before the dive, I was told that all that was left was a three story high steam engine and boilers.   I did not think there would be much to see.   During my plunge into the Atlantic, the steam engine came into sight in all of her majesty.   Then I spent the next 3o minutes or so lost in all of the biology and wonders hidden in all of the nooks and crannies.  I was getting lost in the science and thinking of the history and people who were on that ship that fateful day.

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Related image

Another dive was of the USS San Diego.  On July 19, 1918, the Sand Diego was sunk by German Submarine U- 156 just south of Fire Island and was the only major ship lost during WW1.   She sits upside down on a sandy bottom at about 100-foot depth.  The dive was awesome and visibility was about 40 feet.   This ship has been underwater for about a 100 years and my curiosity got the best of me once again.   The holes that Mother Nature put in her gave me great areas to look inside and see the life of that now calls her home.

Shipwreck USS San Diego

Wrecks are not the only things to see locally when diving.  The Ponqugue Bridge provides a beach dive that offers so much ecology and goes a max of 30-foot depth.  Right at Shinnecock inlet, you can spend 40 minutes underwater and your wonder and amazement will grow.  Just to see how all of the creatures interact and how they hide and even the human impact of the environment and the symbiotic relationship that exist between humans and sea life.  The two bridges offer a home to the sea life.   They are attracted there for the food source and protection they offer.   Including the utility cable that lies on the floor of the canal.   You will find more and more hiding places for sea life.   The more I dive the site the more I find.

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Some of the fun is investigating the areas that you are going to explore.  There is so much history just sitting there on the sea floor.   I try to learn about the history before I dive the location.   I do this to pre plan my activity for safety, but also to learn where a ship had been, what people were on that ship and how that ship came to meet the sea floor.   If I did not dive our local stores I would never know of the German Submarines, artificial reefs and other ships that went down for various reasons.   It is so interesting to learn about the history and to compare the original diagrams of the ship to what they look like now.

What I am trying to say is that it’s great to venture out of the classroom not just in field trips but rejuvenate our love of the subject.   Try something new each summer vacation to get out of your comfort zone to feel more alive.  The more you learn and experience and the more ways you will have to provide the information to the students.  For more information please email me and if you have any ideas for labs you would like to see developed.   Also if you would like to set up an experience or get your certification please let me know.

Bibliography
http://njscuba.net/

Looking for Some Phenomenal Phenomena & Ideas on Designing Assessments?

Here are a couple of databanks of NGSS-related phenomena that teachers from various regions of the country have put together. If you find some more, feel free to include those links in the comment section!

Georgia Science Teachers Association: GSE Phenomena Bank

San Diego Schools: #ProjectPhenomena

TJ McKenna: Phenomena for NGSS

EDUConsulting: NGSS Phenomena Resources

With the phenomena, come the assessments. Check out the NGSS Task Formats to see some ideas on how to develop NGSS-style assessments.

Deeper Dive into NYSSLS

Note:  Check out more pictures from this event here.

This past week, STANYS and the New York State Master Teacher Program co-sponsored  professional development workshops in three regions in New York State. The first of its kind model, allowed for teachers from across the state to experience the same two-day workshop. The consistency of the professional development was helpful as New York teachers came together to start to build a collection of lessons and ideas using a common understanding and template.  Key to any professional development is the quality of the presenter. Luckily, for New York, Paul Andersen, who has created countless videos on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and has led teacher training sessions all over the world was on hand to provide a deeper dive into New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS).

The workshop began with “The Wonder Tube”. During this exercise, teachers wore their “student hats” to experience firsthand modeling instruction from the other side of the desk. Teachers were provided with a demonstration of the Wonder Tube and individually developed a model for what they perceived to be the mechanism by the which the tube functioned. Key to utilizing phenomena such as this is that students are not able to google the answer and find out how it works. Participants individually drew what they believed the model to be, followed by group questioning of each individual’s model to understand what that person was thinking when they made that model. Teachers had a hard time with this task, wanting to state what they thought was happening. The pedagogical shift calls for group members to come to a consensus through the constant questioning of individual group members regarding their model, with no one group member simply telling “the answer”.  Models were presented, and the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions.  Amazingly,  no two models were the same. Paul asked the entire group to find similarities and differences within the models.  Modeling instruction is one vehicle by which teachers can begin to incorporate science practices into our classrooms. For more support with modeling, the American Modeling Teachers Association runs workshops to assist teachers.

Another teaching tool introduced by Paul called Question Formulation Technique calls for students to generate a list of questions surrounding an observable event; a phenomena. To do this participants observed termites following black lines that created the pattern of Olympic rings. Participants then brainstormed as many questions they could about the regarding the behavior of the termites they had just witnessed for five minutes. This was followed by labeling the questions as open or closed and determining which open ended question the group should investigate. The technique is easily applicable to teachers who would would like to try a NYSSLS aligned student driven inquiry approach.

Another means of rolling out NYSSLS to the participants was the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) framework, which focuses on the conclusion component of a laboratory report. After the students have completed the experiment, in essence collected their evidence, they are ready to make a claim. The teachers had the opportunity to experience this framework by investigating the question: “Are skew dice fair?” Groups then created large posters with their claim as well as a display of the supporting evidence via words, tables and graphs, followed by the reasoning which included scientific principles surrounding the experiment. Posters were stuck to the wall and shared with others through  a gallery walk and critique with post-its by other groups. Paul also provided his inquiry lab format as a resource to assist teachers in NYSSLS implementation via CER. This starts with an explanatory model, students then sort the variables in order of importance, after which comes data collection, a graphical representation and then the exercise concludes with the CER framework.  

When starting the workshop, Paul asked for what the teachers wanted to get out of the professional development and on the second day, he came back to address the topics that were of greatest interest to the attendees. One such NYSSLS concern was how to incorporate engineering design in your classroom by first defining criteria, followed by developing a solution and then refinement of that solution. Anderson suggested an activity that gave the participants the task to make a tower as tall as possible with only two pieces of computer paper, 10 cm of tape and five minutes. All participants were engaged as the clock displayed in the front of the room counted down the time. All groups frantically rushed  and at the end Paul claimed that was just the prototype and now participants were given the same task after observing what other groups had done to engineer the actual tallest tower. The activity could be utilized in any STEM classroom and adapted to a variety of tasks.  

Teachers are eager to learn about what assessments will look like with the new standards. There are a variety of resources available to help teachers get started. Paul recommends starting by printing out  cards with practices and crosscutting concepts to help generate ideas for student assessments. On the second day of the workshop, teachers of the same content area worked to create an assessment aligned to one specific performance expectation. By laying out the cards on the table, teachers were able to unpack the the practices and cross-cutting idea that could be used to assess the particular disciplinary core idea. Large posters of assessments were created and hung on the walls. Groups then gallery walked and gave feedback with post-its to improve the questions which were photographed and collected in a google drive to serve as a resource as teachers present go out and turn-key aspects to their colleagues. For additional resources on assessments, Paul suggested looking into ngss.nsta.org and nextgenscienceassessment.org for NGSS bundles and storylines for example assessments.

If one thinks of the level of comfort of the new standards, there is still much growth for all parties involved. Paul discussed how the implementation of any new teaching methodologies have an initial dip prior to rise is success rate and the same should be expected as teachers start to incorporate the NYSSLS approach. The workshop concluded with groups of the same discipline creating lessons using a common template.

Are you interested in diving even deeper? Then consider joining your fellow STANYS members at our state conference this November 4th- 6th in Rochester, where teachers will have the opportunity to learn more through a more extended content specific teacher institutes. Additionally, on the Monday of the conference, Paul Andersen is slotted to provide further workshops on NYSSLS. If you are unable to travel to Rochester please consider attending the Suffolk STANYS Fall Conference, which will be held on October 16th at Hofstra University where there will be more opportunities to learn about some of the NGSS best practices through modeling and questioning workshops.

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Attendees work together to create NYSSLS assessments.
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More attendees having an (obvious) good time!
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Teachers utilize Paul’s cards for science practices and crosscutting concepts to design assessments.
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Paul provides feedback on teacher created assessments.

Tips on Teaching Astronomy

An image of the 8.21.17 eclipse, taken by the author of this post.

The smartphone operating system will dictate which apps you use. However, many of the apps are similar, so they can be used the same way. Having the students load a sky map of some sort, will allow most of the kids not to get bored if you do an observing session at night with limited telescopes. Better yet, include an app that detects the position of the International Space Station, and plan an observing night that coincides with a flyby of the ISS. Students and parents always marvel at the sight of it as it brightly passes overhead. Passing Iridium satellites can also be predicted and observed.

If I’m teaching astronomy, I always ask the students to load a program onto their laptops, it’s called Stellarium. Stellarium allows students to see their sky at night, for that date and time (or any date and time), and illustrate it many ways. It also shows other cultural constellations, not just western culture. Stellarium can be used for H.W. Assignments, teaching constellations, mythology, teaching star circles, and learning about deep space object classification systems. Another laptop program that’s free and is a great tool for showing our place in the universe is Where is M13? It is a program that maps out our galaxy, and most of the visible celestial objects in deep space that you might discuss. It is also useful for showing the structure of our galaxy.

Now telescopes, if you are considering purchasing equipment the first thing you should buy is a solar telescope. Meade is producing a low-cost solar telescope called the PST. If you are new to solar observing, you can easily see sunspots, prominences, and solar flares with these solar telescopes during the day! For night, skip the refractors, because good ones are a fortune, and cheap ones are good for the moon only. A planet will look like a small dot, and the planet will rotate away before a student has a chance to see. At night, diameter counts, and the cheapest way to get diameter is with reflecting or Newtonian style telescopes. A 10” or 12” reflecting telescope will not break the budget and is not too heavy to move. If you get an equivalent catadioptric, it’s a back breaker and very expensive. Used equipment can be found online, so if your district is willing to but that way, you can save money by shopping on Cloudy Nights.com. Trussed reflectors are a little cheaper than catadioptric but more expensive than Dobsonians (Newtonian version), however, they are easy to set up and are light. OK, you keep hearing me mention catadioptric. I’ll save this one for last, as they are expensive. I just saw new 9.25-inch listing for $3000.00. That is a starting point, they get more expensive. They are also heavy and delicate. The advantage is that most catadioptric are compact in length, are GoTO, and most have a GPS to do self-alignment. Having a big heavy mount is important for these instruments, otherwise they will vibrate and so will your object in the eyepiece will too.

Just a few more tricks, I use Google Earth and a solar system scaling Excel program (Google it) to create a scale model of the solar system if the sun has a 9” diameter. I usually will have the class on the athletic field to build the model. I like using solar system and constellation flash cards during lessons as a quick segue into lessons. Most of my students love Scale of the Universe, and I as a teacher love UNL Astronomy Simulations. Well, that’s it for now, enjoy the rest of the summer and don’t forget the August 21st solar eclipse!

A Couple of New Websites

This is the moment of the year when I can begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel so they say. AP Exams are around the corner and I often forget the stress not only on the students but on myself as well. I am often thinking “Wow, I am not sure I will be ready for this in September again,” but then after recharging over the summer I find myself excited to start all over again.

I do try to use my time after the AP Exam to finish, start, continue with the things that have been placed on the back burner during the rest of the year. I have found two great resources I would like to pass on to the membership:

  1. An online library full of resources for biodiversity produced collectively by the California Academy of Sciences and Khan Academy. This is an online virtual expedition for high school (and adult) learners and covers more than 30 specific tutorials. It ranges from topics like why biodiversity is important, where it is found, specific case studies and how it can be protected. Each of the tutorials includes videos, articles, a glossary, quiz questions, activities, and references to dive deeper into content.
  2. A youtube channel that covers teacher tools. It is a mixed collection of teaching tools and websites that students can learn from. Each week the author, Jamie Keet presents a short (~10 minute) video on his picks of the week. I often play this in background while I am working on something else so that I can pause when something peaks my interest and pick up a new tool. Here’s a recent video from the channel:

NYSSLS Was Approved, Now What?

Floating on Water?!

I’ve been listening to many of my classroom teachers and other teachers from around my region. Many teachers at all grade levels are concerned about making the transition to the New York State Science Learning Standards too soon. To their credit, their concerns about the current assessments are very convincing since many teachers’ APPR scores are tied to the Regents or 8th Grade assessments linked to the current core curriculum. However, many of the slow transitions can be made while still maintaining the integrity of our instruction now so that students will still be successful on our assessments now.

First, we can begin to think about using anchoring phenomenon in our everyday instruction. What are anchoring phenomenon you may ask? When I started out planning my units of study as a wide-eyed first-year teacher, I used the chapters in the textbook to guide my sequence of lessons. With the NYSSLS grounded in the ideals of the Framework, the new learning standards call for sequences to be grounded in an overarching natural phenomena instead of the traditional chapter approach. Don’t get me wrong: many of these unit sequences may still revolve around a similar thematic approach like textbook chapters, but the unit plans will piece-by-piece unpack the three-dimensions needed to fully answer this anchoring phenomenon, like the image above with the man seemingly floating on water.

According to Penuel & Bell (2016), anchoring phenomenon should possess the following characteristics:

  1. Build on student everday experiences. This brings in a local dimension to our everyday instruction. Being on an island facing many environmental issues, these phenomena could be linked to perhaps groundwater resources, the formation of Long Island itself, or the loss of shark nurseries in the South Shore bays, for example.
  2. Incorporate multiple performance expectations. Bundling at least two similar performance expectations from the standards will not only help cut down on instructional time, it will also allow students to make deeper connections between multiple areas of the life sciences, physical sciences, and earth and space sciences. Furthermore, bundling could present a way to incorporate the engineering practices from each grade band.
  3. Complex. Students should not be able to answer the questions surrounding the anchoring phenomenon in one lesson or a simple Google search. Investigative phenomenon lack the complexity of anchoring phenomenon since they could be answered by the end of the lesson, so they add an overarching question to the learning objective and allow us to move toward an eventual understanding of the anchoring phenomenon at the end of the unit.
  4. Observable. Students should be able to confront the phenomenon through their everyday observations, laboratory investigations,  or through some form of multimedia presentation. Again, if the students cannot relate somehow to the anchoring phenomenon and are interested in finding out more about it, the unit of study may need to be changed to grab their attention.
  5. Can Be a Case Study or Wonderment. The pine beetle infestation of Long Island could be a very interesting anchoring phenomenon to investigate ecosystems and how the ecosystem can be adversely affected through the introduction of an invasive species. Or students may be interested in the evolution of the Big Bang over the past billions of years. The teacher could then frame the anchoring phenomenon around the formation of our universe, tying in investigative phenomenon as the students move through the sequence of lessons that break down the DCIs into observable chunks for students to dive in deeper.
  6. Include data. Students need to be confronted with real-life messy data in order to make sense of the world around them. Understanding how global climate change affects different aspects of our natural world is a highly complex process with many different variables that always don’t present themselves in a perfect straight line. Students should also be expected to deal with imperfect data and how to make valid conclusions from these experiments. The science and engineering practices, along with cross-cutting concepts, are the perfect vehicle to assist the students in designing and making sense of these investigations revolving around phenomena.

We can begin to take a look around us to see if we can find any everyday phenomenon that could drive a full unit (anchoring phenomenon) or an individual lesson (investigative phenomenon) that meet not only the current standards on which students will still be accessed, but also link well to the New York State Science Learning Standards (NYYSLS). If you find something, see if it meets the criteria listed above. Test it out now to see if students are able to make the connection. Use them as pre-assessments, formative assessments, or post-assessments in your current instruction. Test drive them now and modify them as we get closer to seeing how the new assessments will unfold and as we gain more professional learning opportunities linked to unpacking these exciting new standards. For an example of a storyline incorporating an anchoring phenomenon  in a DNA unit, please check out the Teaching Channel link here. Also, for tools on how to develop storylines (or some already piloted storyline units), please check out this website.

Penuel, W. R., & Bell, P. (2016, March). Qualities of a Good Anchor Phenomenon for a Coherent Sequence of Science Lessons. Retrieved from goo.gl/jGGGTe