Last school year, my students were able to work with scientists in a variety of ways. I thought that having my students work with experts in their field would be a huge benefit. Many of the students were excited to hear the talks and some even mentioned they had no idea that was an option to study. There were three main ways that my students worked with the scientists, virtual Skype sessions, asynchronous communication (twitter, email, Google Docs) as experts on a certain Performance Expectation and/or as mentors for their science fair projects.

At various points through the school year, I would be able to get a scientist to Skype (I also used Google Hangouts and Zoom) in and talk with my students. These virtual conference calls were not just random talks but would be about a specific task or Performance Expectation. My goal was to find a scientist who was researching in the field that we were investigating at that time in class. Before the talk started, I would talk with the scientist about what my goal was for the conversation but would let them choose the day, time, platform and length of the talk. These talks allowed my students to ask deeper questions to the expert and allow them to see the variety of people who were scientists. My students would look forward to these conversations and did a great job of asking questions. Over the course of the year, each class had at least three virtual talks on a variety of talks from scientists from all over the planet.

The second method would be centered around a specific unit such as ecosystems. When the class was working through this set of PE’s, a variety of ecosystems were used. I was able to find a scientist who was an expert in each of the specific ecosystems. The students would use Google Docs/Twitter/Email to converse with their scientist to help with questions or deeper understanding through their project or investigation. These interactions were fantastic for my students. It made the students think about the types of questions they were asking and how can they use the Cross-Cutting Concepts while in the class. All of the scientists went above and beyond in their interactions with my students.

The last main interaction between my students and a scientist was in a mentorship role. Scientists would act as a mentor to no more than five science fair projects. They would be there for advice, help answer questions about the design and be there if something went wrong. In the first semester we used a software called Acclaim and the second semester we used Google Docs. This coming year I am leaning toward using email and having the students CC me on every email they send. This will be done during class each week since we have access to multiple devices in my room. I would have to say this interaction did make a difference as this is the first year that three of my students made it to state with one winning first in her category.

Getting in touch with the scientists is easier than you think. It takes some time to make those connections but when you do, it opens up a whole new set of experiences for your students and your classroom. Talking with all these scientists has been a fantastic experience for me, professionally and personally. I can’t thank them enough for their time helping my students. Thank you.

If you have any questions about how to do any of this, feel free to email: Patrick.goff@fayette.kyschools.us or find me on twitter @bmsscienceteach. I look forward to hearing from you.

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