Collaboration, Elementary Science, Planning Instruction

Friday was Sci-Day


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.


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.


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!

Collaboration, Planning Instruction, Student 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!


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?”


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 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!


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?


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