Science Teaching 2.0: From Average to Exemplary

What was your favorite activity you ever did in a science class at school? It could have been building bottle rockets, exploring a local creek, hatching a chicken egg, or a myriad of other activities that were unique, fun, and interesting. The point is, you remember that activity because it was memorable. Most students don’t remember the lectures, power points, and worksheets because those activities are, on average, well… average.

So how do we, as teachers, take science education from being average to being exemplary?

Exemplary teaching differs from the average by:

  • Being student-oriented
  • Linking concepts to student interests and everyday applications
  • Inspiring curiosity, inquiry, creativity, and discovery
  • Being experience-dominated
  • Promoting individuality, diversity, critical-thinking, and problem-solving
  • Authentically communicating observations, ideas, and perspectives

To be an exemplary teacher, I want to 1) Go Beyond the Classroom, 2) Engage Students in Exploration and Spark Curiosity, and 3) Make Science Accessible to all Students.

1. Go Beyond the Classroom

Source: https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/teaching-outside-the-classroom/

Exemplary teachers go beyond the classroom to allow their students the opportunity to explore, make observations, ask questions, and learn through discussion and experimentation. In this way, students can connect the content to the world around them. To go beyond the classroom, exemplary teachers can foster learning by:

  • Exploring the outdoors with students– walk around the school grounds and/or go on local field trips to creeks, parks, natural areas, etc.
  • Partnering with area businesses, universities, and funding agents to conduct student research studies on a local issue/interest
  • Inviting professionals to class to talk about how they use science, math, and technology in their jobs

Real-World Activity: Take a field trip to a local stream. Have students explore, make observations, discuss findings with the class, and relate findings to course concepts on stream morphology and habitat. Then, allow each student to choose an object or organism observed near the stream to research further and present later to the class.

Source: https://www.catamountinstitute.org/outsideclassroom/

2. Engage Students in Exploration and Spark Curiosity

Exemplary teachers engage students in real experiences and create opportunities for students to learn more. When grounded in real science, students are doing more than just memorizing content for a test. This can be done through:

  • Long-term observation stations placed around classroom
  • Student-led research and experiments based on their own questions that model the ways in which science is done
  • Introduction of a topic with a demonstration, activity, investigation or problem the students have posed, and class decides that they need to know in order to understand the topic more fully

Real-World Activity: Begin a lesson with a demonstration on how a carbonate rock reacts with dilute HCl acid. Open a class discussion on why a reaction occurs and how the class can go about determining how/why the reaction occurs. Have students work in pairs to test their hypotheses in the lab.

Tyler Dewitt, a science teacher, shares his thoughts on ways to help students understand science and become engaged in it

3. Make Science Accessible to All Students

Our classrooms are filled with students of varying cultures, experiences, and perspectives. As exemplary teachers, we need to make science accessible to all students by letting them know that their ideas have merit and their questions and contributions are welcome in the classroom. To do so, we can:

  • Provide proper learning supports
  • Have high expectations for learning
  • Challenge students with meaningful work
  • Recognize the contributions of a diverse array of scientists

As a final thought – I see exemplary teaching as a journey, where we take risks, extend the classroom into the margins, and learn how to best help our students become science literate citizens.

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6 Responses to Science Teaching 2.0: From Average to Exemplary

  1. Lauren Colliver says:

    Hi Emilia,
    Thanks for reading my blog post!
    I really enjoy learning in the outdoors and it’s something I definitely want to share with my students. For older students, I think it can be difficult sometimes to get students excited about science, so being creative and making it interesting and age appropriate is key. Perhaps, we could go canoeing/kayaking down a river for a day to explore the river and nearby areas. I also know a geologist at the Butler Co. Soil and Water department who would be a great resource for showing students how environmental monitoring is done locally and what each of us can do to help keep our soil and waterways clean here in Butler Co. Maybe the students could even help with water or soil sampling! Learning by doing can be a really powerful way to get students interested in science.

    Cheers!
    Lauren

  2. Lauren Colliver says:

    Hi Brooklyn,
    Thanks for reading my blog post!
    To put the text next to the image, there were little icons available when the photo was selected that allow you to move the photo to different locations (they look like vertical lines). Hopefully that makes sense.
    For me, I love exploring outdoors and one of my favorite activities was going to a local creek and coming up with ideas on how I thought the creek formed along with looking for fossils and interesting rocks. I hope to take my students outdoors and introduce them to the geologic history that is present in our own backyard!

    Cheers!
    Lauren

  3. Lauren Colliver says:

    Lauren V.,
    Thanks for reading my blog post! I tried to keep my post simple, but informative and organized. I did have some difficulty pairing down the information – there was so much great stuff to include!

    Cheers!
    Lauren C.

  4. vajentle says:

    Lauren-
    The set up of your blog is so great! I also really really love your “real-world activity” sections. This is such a smart and helpful way to provide actual activities that teachers can utilize to go along your tips to take teaching to the exemplary level. Thank you for including them, they were so helpful!

    -Lauren Vajentic

  5. wilsonbp says:

    Hi, Lauren! You have such a clever title! I love 2.0 after Science Teaching! As a side note, please tell me how you were able to put text next to an image? LOL. I tried to google it as well as look at the documents Dr. Ann added to Canvas, but I must have missed something. I really like the way your publication flows – beginning with questions then transitioning to answers. Your opening question is a great hook that keeps your readers involved! Before reading the second statement I found myself reminiscing on my favorite science class activity – it was definitely determining the pH of different sour candies. What was your favorite science class activity that you will one day use in your own exemplary science class?

  6. kamisem says:

    Hi Lauren!

    Great post. I love how you set the example of being an exemplary science teacher in this blog by using a variety of media to demonstrate your point! It is really powerful. Your outlined methods for taking average to exemplary by bringing the classroom “outside the classroom” is something with which I resonate. I think that this is a fabulous way to make your science class memorable and to reach students in a new way while connecting them with nature where curiosity can spark questions about science. Have you thought of any ideas to relate nature activities and outdoor explorations to older students?

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