CollaborationElementary Science

Coast Encounters of the Best Kind

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Who doesn’t enjoy a good tide pooling excursion?  There are so many fascinating and unusual creatures to be found existing solely at the rocky shore.  Kids and adults alike find this ecosystem extremely intriguing.

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Yet the majority of visitors to the rocky shore know very little about the animal and plant organisms they are discovering.  If you wish to explore New England’s rocky shore, you should definitely look up Coast Encounters before going on your next New England coastline journey…you will not regret it!

IMG_3246-001This past Sunday I had the pleasure of experiencing a Coast Encounters excursion.  Carol Steingart, a marine science educator, started her Coast Encounters business around twenty years ago.  She provides intertidal programs that include educational expeditions for small groups at the rocky shore, as well as onsite programs at schools and other locations.  Steingart is very passionate and knowledgeable about the intertidal ecosystem and its algae and creatures.

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Two of my sons (along with another family) enjoyed spending a beautiful Sunday afternoon with Steingart in Kennebunk, Maine. “Coastal Carol” did a great job of preparing everyone for their wet and rocky journey by ensuring they had adequate footwear and a good understanding of how to navigate this precarious, slippery ecosystem.

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Steingart guided us through the intertidal region from creature to creature and algae to algae, providing many fascinating details about each organism that were found.  Our three hour program was so full of facts and fun that it was hard to coax my boys from the shore when our journey was over.  We thoroughly enjoyed the view, the organisms, the adventure and our great educator!

If you want to learn more about “Coastal Carol” and Coast Encounters, the “Tourist News” recently wrote an in-depth article.  You should also check out Coast Encounter’s website and Facebook page!

 

BiomimicrySabbatical

Biomimicry: Innovative Imitation

IMG_3543The Kearsarge Cougars STEM Camp is an incredible two-week experience for middle schoolers of the Kearsarge Regional School District.  Participants have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of exemplary educational workshops from computer programming to bridge building to laser cutting and SO much more!  I had the privilege of being a presenter this past Friday – one of the last scheduled events of my sabbatical year.

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When I was asked to be a part of STEM Camp I wanted to make sure that I was taking my sabbatical’s focus, the rocky shore ecosystem, and creating a seminar for students about the benefits of studying biology.  I have always been fascinated with the many mind-boggling characteristics the organisms of the rocky shore display.  They live in a harsh environment, so it is imperative that they have their superhero-like features.  It was when I was studying the blue mussel a few years ago that I came across biomimicry.

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Biomimicry, not yet recognized by Microsoft Word as being a word, is the innovative process of human problems being solved by imitating solutions displayed by nature.  One prime example of biomimicry that many people are aware of is the invention of Velcro.  Human problem: fastening objects quickly and effectively without the use of adhesives.  Nature solution: cockleburs.

When I discovered that blue mussels produce byssal threads that are stronger than our Achilles tendon, can adhere to objects underwater, and are flexible at the same time, my first thought was that humans need to mimic this amazing adaptation.  After a quick Google search I found out that scientists were already on it: a soy-based, waterproof adhesive has already been invented in the process of biomimicry.  Engineers and scientists have yet to determine how to copy a byssal thread’s ability to be simultaneously strong and flexible, however.

So what did our STEM Camp workshop focus on?

  • Defining biomimicry
  • Discovering examples of biomimicry
  • Determining the importance of biomimicry (when confronted with a human problem, ask “Has nature already solved this problem?”)

Students learned about many examples of biomimicry via photos, videos, games and demonstrations:

 

Human Problem

 

Nature Solution

 

No strong, waterproof adhesives Blue Mussel Byssal Threads
Many deaths due to hospital infections Shark Skin
Bullet trains are too loud Kingfisher Beak
Large buildings are difficult to cool Termite Mounds
Fresh water is difficult to find Desert Beetle
It is hard to see proteins in the blood  Fireflly Enzymes
Industrial fans are too loud, expensive Humpback Whale Fins
Birds fly into our windows Spider Webs
Vaccines don’t survive transportation Tardigrades (aka Water Bears)
Adhesives hard to remove, make mess Gecko Anatomy

If you are curious about biomimicry, the problems and solutions mentioned in the table above are extremely brief and uninformative, so I encourage you to do some online investigations of your own.  Feel free to peruse the presentation I created below as well for more detailed facts.

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I cannot conclude this article without profusely thanking Rana Gupta, CEO of Felsuma LLC, as well as University of Massachusetts professors Duncan Irschick and Al Crosby.  Gupta provided me with extremely informative information about GeckSkin™, the technology that was invented by Irschick and Crosby.  I was able to relay this information to the students during my presentation.  The professors and Gupta also provided me with excellent GeckSkin™ products to share with the students that imitate the technology they created in their lab.  Gupta, Irschick and Crosby are not only invested in their impressive invention, but they’re also very invested in education, and I am very appreciative of their assistance and expertise.

STEM

Lastly, I wanted to take the time to acknowledge and applaud the efforts of the many people behind the Kearsarge Cougars STEM Camp (particularly Dom DiDominic and John Corley) for creating a fantastic experience for their campers.  What really makes this STEM Camp extra special is the strong bond of community that resonates from every lesson and activity.  Local businesses, community leaders and educators all play a vital role in the success of this camp and the education and enjoyment it provides.  Well done, Kearsarge!

Rocky Shore CurriculumSabbatical

Creating Critters at Andover Elementary

“Imagine visiting the rocky shore off the coast of New Hampshire during low tide and then mysteriously shrinking to a minuscule height of two inches.”

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When posing fantastical situations like this one to a classroom full of third graders, the creative and analytical juices start to flow with incredible force.  Imaginative scenarios can excite and engage students, creating a thirst for knowledge and sparking innovative ideas.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting the third grade classrooms of Andover Elementary Middle School in Andover, New Hampshire.  I presented the storyline above (referencing Ms. Frizzle and her magic bus), and then I posed the following question: What dangers would you face?  The answers that followed either reinforced prior knowledge about the rocky shore, or led to an understanding of the type of chaotic environment rocky shore organisms face every day.

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After our brief discussion of rocky shore challenges, I read a fabulous book, “Between the Tides” by Fran Hodgkins.  This non-fiction book for children does an excellent job of describing several rocky shore creatures and the many characteristics they have that enable them to survive their ecosystem.  It has beautiful illustrations, fantastic yet simple vocabulary, and its length is perfect to be an entertaining read-aloud book.

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With curiosity sparked and knowledge disseminated via Hodgkins’ story, it was time to guide students in what has become one of my favorite activities for elementary students (Lesson 7 & Lesson 19).  Students are asked to use their prior knowledge and ingenuity to “create a critter” which would be able to survive the rocky shore.  This is a life science meets engineering science lesson that can also double as a formative assessment.  Students are only provided with five index cards, scissors and Scotch tape for their creation.

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It is always a wonder to me to see what young minds can come up with in a short amount of time with short notice of their create-a-critter challenge.  The bright and enthusiastic Andover students came up with a variety of incredible creations including combinations of actual rocky shore animals – and one student had the impressive notion of using the tape as an actual sticking agent to help its critter to hold on tight to the rocks!  Everything the students built, in one way or another, reflected their understanding of both the dangers of the rocky shore, and the adaptations animals need to survive this harsh environment.

THANK YOU Mr. Hubbard and Mrs. Peters allowing me to come and visit your classrooms for an afternoon.  It was a pleasure and an honor to be able to spend time with your awesome and intelligent students!

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New Hampshire Science EducationSabbatical

New Hampshire Journal of Education Article

After having received an “EDie” because of being this year’s Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical recipient, the New Hampshire Journal of Education contacted me and requested that I write an article on a subject related to my project.

My project this year has been geared toward assisting and encouraging elementary teachers and student teachers to be better prepared to provide effective science instruction for their students.  The topic of my article focuses on providing statistics of NH’s student performances over the last several years, as well as ideas on how we can improve our science instruction (particularly at the elementary and collegiate levels).

I’ll refrain from writing anymore about it and encourage you to read it instead:

How New Hampshire’s Educators Can Stimulate Growth in Science

CurriculumSabbatical

Nearing the Finish Line

It is hard to believe that a year ago I was preparing for the end of the school year and getting ready to embark on my sabbatical journey.  Now there are only a couple months left in my sabbatical year and time seems to be washing away faster than the tides!

The Last Month:

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  • April 14th was the “release date” if you will of the marine science unit I created collaboratively with the NH Sea Grant, Seacoast Science Center, illustrator Adam Kelley, Hobblebush Design and the New England Aquarium – located on the homepage of engageyourstudents.org.

Carol Steingart

  • Carol Steingart, a local marine science educator and former Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA) president, promoted the curriculum at a National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Los Angeles, California in April.

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  • More recently I had the privilege of promoting this curriculum at the New Hampshire Science Teachers Association (NHSTA) Spring Conference.

 

The Next Two Months:

  • I will be seeking out New Hampshire educators who are willing to pilot this curriculum so that I can take their feedback and build upon and refine the curriculum.

 

  • Next week I will be teaching a couple of lessons from the curriculum to students at the Andover Elementary Middle School.

 

  • I will be traveling with docents from the UNH SeaTrek Programs to schools around the state in order to learn from them and promote the curriculum.

 

  • The Seacoast Science Center (SSC) and I will be collaborating to create a workshop or two centered around the curriculum I am offering, as well as planning ways to promote the curriculum – including having it available on their website.

 

  • I will be teaching a few summer institute classes at New England College and Keene State College in late June.

 

  • The Kearsarge Regional School District’s Middle School has asked me to present at their STEM Camp this July and I was more than willing to participate!

 

  • I will be presenting a workshop at the New England Aquarium on July 30th.

 

I am so grateful for all of the people who have encouraged and supported me throughout this sabbatical.  I know it is not over yet, but as I near the finish line I can’t help but begin to lament how quickly it has passed, and at the same time reflect on how thankful I have been for this amazing opportunity.

 

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CollaborationRocky Shore Curriculum

Rocky Shore Curriculum Release Date – Friday, April 14th!


It is ALMOST complete!  The Rocky Shore Marine Science Curriculum: An Ecosystem Unit for Elementary Educators will be accessible to anyone, for free, on April 14th.

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I met with Kirsty Walker yesterday, the President of Hobblebush Design, and we thoroughly examined the rocky shore ecosystem curriculum for adjustments that needed to be made.  Kirsty is remarkably talented, and for those who have had the chance to get a sneak peak at the ecosystem unit, they have been extremely impressed with its professional appearance and organization.

The following preparations still need to occur before it is deemed “ready for use”:

  • Complete the Atlantic Ocean Rocky Shore Guide and Life at the Rocky Shore Fact Sheets sections (additions need to be made).
  • Make final modifications to lesson plans based on classroom teachers’ feedback.
  • Have experts in the field of marine science and education examine the curriculum one more time before giving it their final approval.

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This NGSS-aligned, Ocean Literacy Principles-aligned, 7-week ecosystem unit will prove to be a very valuable and helpful resource to all elementary educators who access it.  And one of the coolest features – it will be a “living” document that will be modified from time-to-time to continuously improve it based on teacher and student input.

Lastly, a HUGE thank you to Carol Steingart, President of the Gulf of Maine Marine Education Association (GOMMEA) and owner of Coast Encounters for promoting this curriculum at this week’s National Science Teacher’s Association Sun, Surf and Science conferences in Los Angeles, California.  Your efforts and passion for marine education and conservation are immensely appreciated!

Carol

Carol Steingart, GOMMEA @ 2017 NSTA Conference

CollaborationRocky Shore Curriculum

Tuning the Unit – The Rocky Shore Ecosystem Curriculum is Almost Ready for Instruction!

When members of an orchestra tune their instruments before a big concert I imagine there is a high level of anticipatory excitement.  That is exactly how I felt yesterday at the Seacoast Science Center (SSC).

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Radula

I had the fantastic opportunity to spend the entire day with two tremendous employees of the SSC, Kate Leavitt and Sarah Toupin.  The twenty-four lesson, seven-week rocky shore ecosystem unit is complete, but it will not be ready for its debut until a lot of “tuning” has been done.  We spent many hours going over the curriculum with a fine-toothed radula to ensure it aligns extremely well with the Next Generation Science Standards.  If you don’t know what a radula is, you should look it up!

While examining the curriculum we also did something that I was not planning for but am very excited about – we aligned each lesson to the Ocean Literacy Principles.  These seven detailed principles were created by educators from kindergarten through college, researches from multiple ocean science disciplines, education policymakers, science coordinators from departments of education and federal agency representatives involved in education.

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The seven principles were developed to promote ocean literacy: the understanding of the ocean’s influence on humans and our influence on the ocean.  You can find the seven principles HERE.  The correlations between the Next Generation Science Standards and the Ocean Literacy Principles and Concepts can be found HERE.

Besides ensuring that the standards and the lesson content aligned, we also spent a lot of time making necessary revisions to produce a user-friendly document for educators.  A major objective of mine in the creation of this unit is to guarantee teachers that this curriculum will be an easy and enjoyable unit to implement in their classrooms.

 

SSC

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The “finished” curriculum should be available at some point in April!  However, my continued hope will be that this FREE ecosystem unit available to all educators will be a “living” document.  As time passes and I receive valuable feedback from educators, necessary improvements will be made to increase the learning experiences of all students participating in the lessons provided by this resource.

A HUGE thanks once again to the Seacoast Science Center for all their collaborative efforts in the development and promotion of this curriculum.

One final question and answer to reflect upon…What did the ocean say to the beachgoers?  Nothing…it just waved.

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Featured Article Image by Adam Kelley
CollaborationElementary SciencePlanning Instruction

Friday was Sci-Day

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Yesterday was chock full of science!  Thanks to Kevin Johnson, the Hillsboro-Deering School District’s Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Coordinator, I had the privilege of working with his district’s Vertical Science Team during the day.  It was a professional development day for their teachers, and I had the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions with their educators on how they could assist their elementary colleagues with enhancing science education.

The team was composed of a group of talented and determined individuals – Joseph Donnelly, Brian McGinn, Carolyn Stiles and Sam Brown.  Dialogue revolved around adapting science units to correlate with the Next Generation Science Standards, providing elementary teachers with the necessary resources to instruct effectively, and making efforts to ensure adequate time was allotted to meet elementary students’ science needs.

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After spending the morning in Hillsboro I then traveled to the school I’ve been teaching at for the last nine years, Kearsarge Regional Elementary School in Bradford.  It was the third grade’s annual “24 Hours of Space,” and I wanted to be a part of this incredible, educational tradition.  For those elementary educators looking to enhance their science lessons, one piece of advice I can provide is to create a culminating event to celebrate the conclusion of a unit of study.  “24 Hours of Space” is a prime example.

What is this event?  The third graders at KRES at Bradford learn about outer space, specifically the solar system, for several weeks.  The last day of the unit includes the following:

  • a morning field trip to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center
  • an afternoon at the school full of space-related crafts and games
  • a time to present projects they created during the unit to their families
  • a potluck dinner at the school’s cafeteria
  • a program put on by the New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS)
  • a time to stargaze in the school’s playground
  • a space-related movie in the school’s multi-purpose room
  • a sleepover in the school’s multi-purpose room

For many children this is one of the most memorable days of their elementary student years – and it is all made possible by the many volunteer hours put in by families and colleagues, the hard work and invested time of the third grade teachers, and the support of the administration.

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Lastly, this occasion would not come close to being as meaningful as it is to students if they had not had the significant opportunities to learn about the subject of outer space before participating in their many space-themed events.  Why?  It is because this culminating event is a chance for students to take what they have learned and apply it to real-life circumstances.

Well done Mrs. Corbyn and Ms. Purington, Principal Spadaro, family volunteers, volunteers of the NHAS, employees of the planetarium and other behind-the-scenes individuals that made this wonderful day a reality for the third graders!

CollaborationNew Hampshire Science EducationStudent Teaching

Franklin Pierce University Collaboration

img_5480This past week has been a flurry of activity that did not involve interacting with a computer for several hours a day.  Don’t get me wrong – I am THOROUGHLY enjoying creating a rocky shore curriculum, but it is also very exciting to get back into the classroom and work toward improving science instruction and performance at the elementary level.

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I recently had the privilege of collaborating with Franklin Pierce University’s professors and students.  Professor Doug Gilroy asked me to speak to his Scientific Inquiry and Teaching Methods class, and Dr. Jacqueline Kelleher requested that I talk with the university’s Education Club.  I also had the wonderful opportunity to discuss science and education with the Education Division Chair, Dr. Alana Mosley.

Last Thursday Professor Gilroy’s class focused on learning about what to expect when teaching science at the elementary level.  We covered science instruction, curriculum, professional development and inquiry-based learning.  We also looked at data from surveys like the one below that indicate an overwhelming lack of preparedness elementary teachers believe they possess in terms of teaching science at the elementary level.  This led to positive conversation on what we can do to change that educational shortcoming.

prepared

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Professor Douglas Gilroy & FPU Students

Yesterday Professor Gilroy’s class conversed about how to create and plan instruction that promotes engagement and inquiry.  We reviewed different strategies that invoke inquiry, and we also discussed the biggest challenges educators face when attempting to engage their students.  I shared with students my instructional planning method and classroom management fundamentals which can be found on the homepage of this website.

I also had the privilege of meeting with FPU’s Education Club last night.  This was a potential lecture that turned into a question and answer session, and I appreciated this time immensely.  Students were able to ask me any question they wanted regarding education and I attempted to answer them as comprehensively and honestly as possible, because, I believe, collaboration between school districts and postsecondary schools needs to increase and improve in order to comprehensively prepare new teachers to face the many challenges educators encounter today.

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Dr. Jacqueline Kelleher & FPU      Education Club Members

The Education Club asked very thoughtful, challenging and detailed questions on topics ranging from instructing students with diverse learning needs to IEP meetings to collaborating with parents to teacher evaluation processes and performance-based pay.  I am hoping I provided adequate answers that will assist their work now as student teachers and beyond into their teaching careers.

One last aspect that needs attention regarding this collaboration with Franklin Pierce University: yesterday morning I was writing back and forth with the Department of Education and a member of the Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board, Casey Sylvain, sixth grade teacher at Grantham Village School.  We are working on creating new elementary education science certification standards for New Hampshire educators in efforts to better prepare new teachers and to help guide future science professional development for current elementary educators.

When I explained to the new Director of Science Education, Barbara Hopkins, that I was not going to be able to physically attend the meeting in Concord because I would be working with Franklin Pierce University I discovered an incredible connection:  Barbara Hopkins’ alma mater (Class of 1977) is Franklin Pierce University.  Also, Barbara Hopkins was the 1998 Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical recipient for her project on the development of a scientific instrument sharing system.

How cool is that?!

CollaborationRocky Shore Curriculum

Collaborating with the SSC Using the NGSS (and more)!

img_4898The rocky shore curriculum I am developing is nearing its final stages, so I recently met with the Seacoast Science Center (SSC) to see how their institution might be able to assist me at this time.  I met with Kate Leavitt, Director of Mission Initiatives, to discuss fine-tuning the curriculum as well as promoting it.

The following ways we are going to collaborate include:

  • Analyzing the entire curriculum to ensure it is user-friendly and standards-based.
    • Kate, Sarah Toupin (School and Group Program Manager) and I will take a day to review each lesson of the curriculum to check for any errors to areas in need of improvement.  We will also us the EQuIP Rubric to provide evidence on the quality and alignment of the rocky shore science unit with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  You can check this rubric out HERE.
  • Promoting the curriculum via SSC website.
    • We will explore various ways the rocky shore curriculum might be able to be accessible via the SSC website so the curriculum can have as much exposure (and get as much use) as possible.
    • Part of the objective of creating the curriculum is to provide elementary school teachers with a free science resource, and advertising its existence as much as possible is very important.
  • Possibly offering webinars to educators and/or science workshops using SSC’s facilities. 
    • SSC has the technology to provide quality distance learning opportunities for educators, and they also have a great onsite room that can be used for teacher or student education – the Gregg Interactive Learning Studio (GILS).  Doing one or both may be in my future.
  • Helping educators who benefit from SSC’s services be aware of the curriculum’s existence. 
    • Whether by handing out flyers or sending out emails, we are considering ways to promote the rocky shore curriculum to educators who visit the SSC for a variety of educational purposes.
  • Gathering more image / illustration resources with the much appreciated help of Karen Provazza, SSC’s Director of Marketing.
    • Karen has been a wonderful, behind-the-scenes help in the development of this curriculum.  Several images and illustrations featured in the curriculum will be from the SSC (and were found and virtually delivered by Karen).

I am so thankful for Kate, Sarah and Karen and the entire SSC staff.  The rocky shore curriculum would be lacking a great deal without their help, and it will prove to be of high quality thanks to their collaborative efforts.  I am also very grateful to their continuous dedication to encouraging ocean literacy and advocating for ocean conservation!