Category: Collaboration

CollaborationElementary Science

Coast Encounters of the Best Kind

IMG_3535

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.

IMG_3512

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.

IMG_3221-001

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.

IMG_3490

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!

 

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.

Image result for hobblebush design

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.

teach

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).

radula

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.

principles

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

EYS_logo-01

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.

IMG_6657

 

Featured Article Image by Adam Kelley
CollaborationElementary SciencePlanning Instruction

Friday was Sci-Day

HD

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.

bradford

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.

IMG_5806

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.

fpu

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

img_5481

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.

img_5512

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!

CollaborationElementary ScienceNew Hampshire Science Education

New Hampshire Working Toward Stronger Science Education

nhdoe2

This past Monday was an experience I wish all parents of public school students and their fellow community members could have witnessed. It was a remarkable spectacle of dozens of science educators, curriculum coordinators and administrators from every region of New Hampshire (including a few postsecondary faculty) collaborating enthusiastically and thoughtfully on how to improve science education for all schools in our state. Outside distractions were checked at the door and an analytical and energetic mindset was put forth in the process of determining what was best for New Hampshire educators to meet their students’ science education needs.

Every eight years there is a New Hampshire Science Credentialing Standards review. This is an analysis of the current state standards for credentials in science to determine if necessary changes need to be made. This year is that year, and it just so happens that it coincides with the initiation of the new NH Career & College Ready Science Standards. You can read about the adoption of these new standards HERE.

ngssnh

Considering these new standards are different from our state’s previous K-12 Curriculum Frameworks for Science in that they are designed to address the pedagogical and scientific advances over the past several years, as well as provide deepened inquiry experiences for students at all grade levels, it is imperative that the state standards for credentials be examined and adjusted where appropriate.

What are the state standards for credentials? They are the standards that have been established to determine whether or not a candidate attempting to receive an educator license has the appropriate knowledge and skills. When investigating the state standards for credentials for incoming educators, current educators of Monday’s standards review worked diligently to determine the changes that needed to be made and mindfully considered each word of each modification and addition. This review is necessary in ensuring that the candidates that are being accepted for educator certification are specifically qualified for those teaching positions. Suggested changes could also help to define direction for professional development opportunities for our current science teachers.

img_4996

Elementary School Fossil Dig, Bradford, NH

One position’s certification standards that are being closely examined are that of the elementary teacher. Although the elementary education certification requirements are not up for review this year, they were still meticulously inspected by a subcommittee of committed elementary educators. This was done so that a full review of all science involved teaching credentials could be accomplished and with the active engagement of experts at all primary, elementary and secondary levels.

The subcommittee that I had the privilege to be a part of looked at the current certification standards as well as the possibility of creating the standards for an elementary science specialist certification. This examination was done in order to take the first steps toward adjusting the credentialing standards so that new elementary educators are more prepared to teach science (as college education programs must also adjust to meet the preparation requirements set forth by the state) at the elementary level. The potential proposal of an elementary science specialist position would be another strong effort toward bolstering science education in our state.

hopkins

Barbara Hopkins, Director of Science Education, NH

Monday’s Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board (led by Barbara Hopkins, our state’s new Director of Science Education, and William Ross, Education Consultant of NH’s Department of Education) took into account several aspects before making any suggestion of change, including the different challenges each region of New Hampshire faces, as well as the various compositions of schools and districts throughout the state. There are still two more meetings scheduled and a lot of collaboration in between before this committee completes their recommendations to the Professional Standards Board, who in turn review and recommend to the NH State Board of Education for approval. Still, this first meeting was a tremendous first step toward strengthening NH’s science credentialing standards and securing a stronger science education future for our children.

CollaborationSabbatical

Behind-the-Scenes: The Unseen Action

craftsMany of my friends who are not teachers often don’t know how to approach the “how is work going” conversation.  They have no clue what elementary teachers do for the most part, just as I have no idea what many of my friends actually do all day.  Assumptions abound, however, regarding the responsibilities of elementary educators – such as the presumption that we are continuously preparing arts and crafts projects.  And my favorite conversation go-to: “You have a vacation coming up, right?”  Right…

There are NUMEROUS behind-the-scene responsibilities of teachers many are not aware of, and I am hoping some big-wig director decides to create a documentary on the day in the life of a teacher someday to inform the unaware.  Until that day, friends, you’ll just have to believe me – professional educators do A LOT more than you might think.

Now on to the objective of this post – to share with you some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of my project that are currently happening:

  • Illustrator Adam Kelley is currently working on the cover page of the rocky shore ecosystem curriculum (the first draft is the featured image of this blog post).
  • Kirsty Walker, president of Hobblebush Design is currently working on formatting the curriculum.
  • Mark Wiley, Assistant Director of Marine Education at UNH is reviewing and revising the curriculum.
  • Kate Leavitt, Director of Mission Initiatives at the Seacoast Science Center and the education team at the SSC is reviewing and revising the curriculum.
  • Corrine Steever, Teacher Services Supervisor at the New England Aquarium is reviewing and revising the curriculum.
  • Pam Castor and Wendy Corbyn, elementary educators from KRES at Bradford, are going to be reviewing and providing feedback on the curriculum.
  • Plymouth State University – I am meeting with student teachers for the third time next week to assist them with science planning and instruction.
  • Keene State College – currently in discussions of how I can assist their student teachers.
  • Franklin Pierce College – currently in discussions of how I can assist their student teachers.
  • New England College – currently preparing a 2017 summer institute course.
  • Hillsboro-Deering School District – in a couple of weeks we are meeting to discuss how I might assist their educators and students.
  • Hopkinton School District – currently in discussions of how I can assist their educators and students.
  • Last but not least…I’m currently working on my twelfth lesson out of twenty-five lessons for the rocky shore ecosystem curriculum I am developing for New Hampshire educators and beyond.

That’s what is currently going on behind-the-scenes with my project, in a “seashell.”

img_2544

“The Rocky Seashore” by my son, Gabe

CollaborationCurriculum

New England Aquarium Collaboration

img_2293

Corrine Steever, NEAQ Teacher Services Supervisor

I have had the opportunity to visit the New England Aquarium several times.  None were anything like the experience I had yesterday, however.  Yesterday I had the pleasure of not only being an observer of a fantastic organization but a collaborator, as I met with Corrine Steever, Teacher Services Supervisor at the New England Aquarium.

Corrine has supported my project to advance science education at the elementary level, as well as my efforts to create a free rocky shore ecosystem for curriculum available for teachers and students.  Her assistance for the past two years in advocating for my sabbatical application was extremely appreciated and needed.

neaq

NEAQ’s Teacher Resource Center Staff

In our meeting Corrine agreed to help with revising and editing the rocky shore curriculum.  She also provided me with a lot of helpful ideas of how to proceed with organizing the curriculum for educators.  The New England Aquarium’s teacher resource center will also be a valuable resource – just as it has been to numerous educators and students for several years.

At the end of Corrine’s letter of support for my sabbatical application process, she stated “Any professional development that will help raise teacher and student knowledge about the Oceans benefits all by allowing a deeper understanding of how to protect the planet.”  And this is perhaps the most important aspect of this project – education that will improve the health of our planet.  The New England Aquarium will certainly prove to be an invaluable collaborator for this endeavor.

 

CollaborationPlanning InstructionStudent Teaching

Plymouth State University Collaboration, Part Two: Creating Effective Lessons

Looking to hire a new early childhood educator?  Look no further than the student teachers that will be graduating in 2017 from Plymouth State University’s Early Childhood Studies department!

img_1765

I recently had the privilege of teaching these impressive students for a second time this semester.  Our focus was investigating how to create and plan an effective instructional unit.  We also delved into difficult questions like “Why focus on engaging your students when planning?” and “What is the biggest challenge to engaging students?”

img_1766

Well, why focus on engaging your students when planning?  Looking at definitions for the word engage you will find phrases similar to “get and keep someone’s attention” or “to hold the attention of” and “induce to participate.”  Are we as educators looking to get and keep out students’ attention?  Do we desire to hold our students’ attention and induce them to participate?  Absolutely!  Why?  Engaged students are invested learners.

Here is an analogy I presented to PSU’s students about the importance of focusing on engaging your students when planning:

olive-garden

Olive Garden wants to create a new entrée.  They get their top chefs and administrators together to discuss various aspects of the entrée.  They consider very carefully the ingredients, the complementary appetizers and sides, the compatible beverages, the perfectly-sized portions, and also the appearance of the entrée.  But they forget one thing – how the entrée will taste! 

Creating a lesson without focusing on how to engage our students is like making an entrée without considering how it will taste to the customers.  Yeah, it’s that important!

img_1767

And what is the BIGGEST challenge to engaging students?  Is it making the subject matter appealing?  Is it exhibiting an attractive teaching style?  Is it planning instruction that produces quality lessons?  Is it classroom management that creates an effective learning atmosphere?

img_1769

When considering this question, Dr. Elisabeth Johnston’s students wisely came to the conclusion that the answer to this question is most likely dependent on the teacher’s strengths and weaknesses.  They also pointed out that it is important for teachers to be aware of their own weaknesses so that they could work hard on improving in these areas.  I was in total agreement with their insight, and impressed with their self-awareness in such an early stage of their educational career.

When all is said and done, I did advise PSU’s Early Childhood student teachers that I believe that creating effective teaching experiences can boil down to the following:

  1. Instructional planning that focuses on engaging students by preparing, reflecting and refining our lessons
  2. Classroom management that is constructed with a foundation of trust between teacher and students

Okay, so I didn’t get to my second point (epic fail on the instructional planning of my own lesson) but I intend to!  I am excited and thankful to be preparing, reflecting and refining my future lessons for PSU and other colleges/universities around New Hampshire.

Click HERE for the instructional planning method I have created to support both new and seasoned educators

Click HERE for the classroom management fundamentals I have created to support both new and seasoned educators