Rocky Shore Curriculum

Where Is It?

Where It Is

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The Rocky Shore Marine Science Curriculum that I wrote last year in collaboration with the Seacoast Science Center and the New Hampshire Sea Grant is starting to go places!  Just recently it made itself home in the teacher resource center of the New England Aquarium.  It is also available at the Seacoast Science Center, and at the Seacoast Science Center’s website.

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It can also be found at my Engage Your Students website and it has been accessed by several people from many countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, Brazil, China, and more!

Where It Is Going

The curriculum will soon be flying to Atlanta, Georgia with Carol Steingart of Coast Encounters.  Atlanta is hosting this year’s National Science Teacher’s Association (NSTA) “Share-A-Thon,” and I am so appreciative of Carol’s desire to share it with science teachers from acround the country!

I have thankfully had several requests for hard copies of the curriculum and will be snail-mailing them shortly.  Many New Hampshire schools have recently requested them, including East Kingston Elementary School, Saint Mary Academy, North Hampton Elementary School, and Hillsboro-Deering Elementary school.  Eliot Elementary School in Maine will also be getting a hard copy soon!

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The Casco Bay Estuary Partnership just recently contacted me as they have tremendous interest in the curriculum.  The tentative plan is share my curriculum with educators at the Brunswick High School on August 4th.  The curriculum will be available to participants during this summer professional development opportunity.

Where I Hope It Will Go

In efforts to spread the use of this curriculum, I am going to be contacting several aquariums and science centers on the Atlantic coast in hopes that they might house a copy or two of the curriculum at their facility.  I am hoping to have the curriculum available on multiple websites as well.

I have recently set up a Twitter account to spread the word of this curriculum, as well as to post topics about science at the elementary level, about inquiry-based instruction, and other topics revolving around elementary education and marine science.

Please consider helping me spread the word of this curriculum – the purpose behind its development was to offer a free resource to elementary teachers, and my hope is that it will be utilized by many educators and students across our state, region, and beyond!

Elementary Science, Uncategorized

Our Solar System Unit: Learning At Its Best

 

IMG_9455Our third grade solar system unit is more than just another teacher-made, elementary school science unit – it is learning at its best.  Why?  Because it is a whole child approach to education.  This unit does not just address the academic needs of our students.  It presents students with a variety of opportunities to develop and succeed, with the collaborative efforts of educators, families, community members, and local organizations.

There are five main characteristics of this unit that make it so successful:

  1. Interdisciplinary Teaching
  2. Utilizing Local Resources
  3. Collaborating with the School Community
  4. Character Building
  5. Culminating Event

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Our outer space unit is a prime example of interdisciplinary teaching.  We take our science theme and spread it throughout multiple academic disciplines.  We read, write, explore data, study historical figures, create artwork, utilize a variety of technological devices and programs – all involving outer space.

 

IMG_9360-001The culminating event of this unit (which will be described soon) requires accessing amazing local resources.  One of them is the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.  This fabulous organization is dedicated to providing valuable learning opportunities to visiting schools.  More recently we have had the privilege of securing the services of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society (NHAS).  One of their volunteers, Steve Rand, has visited our school on multiple occasions to provide wonderful presentations and assist us with stargazing experiences.

This unit would not be possible without the collaboration of many school community members.  The long list of people that help make this incredible unit a reality include: the principal, several teachers and paraprofessionals, the nurse, the secretary, the media specialist, the bus driver, the janitors, the kitchen staff, the technology integrator, the art teacher, and more!  And last but certainly not least – we are extremely grateful to the abundant amount of family members of our students who volunteer their time and resources to make this unit and its culminating event a success.

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How does character building come into existence when students are learning about outer space?  In many ways.  First off, students are often working in pairs and groups to accomplish various tasks during this unit.  The ability to work well together is often discussed, practiced, and reflected upon.  Also, the topic of space exploration inevitably covers many facets of building character such as teamwork, courage, perseverance, and grit.  Lastly, when preparing for an entire day of different educational experiences, our students are consistently reminded of their school’s code of honor, and how this code still applies outside school walls.

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Thankfully, as our solar system unit comes to a close, it is not met with sadness but extreme excitement instead.  The “24 Hours of Space” is this unit’s famous culminating event.  Students get to experience an entire day, from Friday morning to Saturday morning, of outer space learning and fun. The day’s itinerary includes a field trip, crafts and games, presenting three completed projects, a potluck dinner, an NHAS presentation, stargazing, and a space-themed movie and school sleepover.  One of the most important aspects of this event is that it presents several opportunities for students to show off, and be proud of, what they have learned throughout the unit.  In many ways during this day their learning becomes much more valid; meaningful.

This year I received an email the day after our “24 Hours of Space” from the mother of one of my students.  She wrote that as her son was leaving the school on Saturday morning, he remarked that our “24 Hours of Space” was “the best day of my life.”  I have received numerous emails and cards that include similar sentiments over the last decade I have helped lead this event.  Comments like these are proof of this unit’s success and importance.  It truly is learning at its best.

Collaboration, Elementary 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!

 

Biomimicry, Sabbatical

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.

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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 Curriculum, Sabbatical

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 Education, Sabbatical

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

Curriculum, Sabbatical

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.

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  • 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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