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Previously I had always ran the science fair like many of my fellow science teachers. The past two years, there have been two major changes with the process which I will detail below. People will ask, well, how do you know if it has worked better than before? Where’s your evidence? Again, I will get to that part below.

First major change – I was able to recruit a few #actuallivingscientist ‘s to help mentor no more than 5 projects over the course of the first semester. Their role was to ask questions, offer advice and be a sounding board for the students but under no circumstance to do the project for them. The communication was done through weekly emails that included the scientist, myself and the students (two reasons: accountability and transparency). There was a teachable moment with how to write a formal email to the scientist.

Over the last two years, the conversations I have watched have been phenomenal. They have well exceeded my wildest expectations. There have been a couple that haven’t taken advantage but, for the most part, the students have enjoyed the conversations and will excitedly tell me they just got a new email or say it has been over a week since they last emailed me. The questions, thoughts, advice that have been shared have been fantastic. I honestly can’t thank the mentors enough for the time and efforts with my students.

Second major change – This change comes at the very beginning. Instead of trying to come up with a question to investigate, the students begin to research a phenomena that interests them. As they research this topic, they begin writing down questions they have about it. From that list, we begin to see which are testable questions and if an experiment can be developed that they can actually conduct. This has been a great change and I feel really helped bring the projects to a higher quality.

How do you know if it has worked? Great question. Here is some of my evidence from the last two years:

  • Of the 30 projects from my school that have gone on to the district fair, 18 have been from my class. The other 12 came from 10 other science teachers in the building.
  • Of those, 4 of mine have ended up at the State Science fair with two of them earning medals (First place in her category and the other Third in her category).
  • Comments from the mentors expressing how well the students are doing and how surprised they have been about it and enjoyed the process
  • Students aren’t complaining as much (not hard data I know but it has been observed)
  • Parents not complaining as much (not hard data  I know but it has been observed)

After all this, I am still looking for volunteer mentors for this school year. What would your role be? Ask questions, give advice, push the students and a time requirement of no more than maybe 30 minutes for the week.

If you would like to be a mentor for a few projects, feel free to email me at patrick.goff@fayette.kyschools.us or DM me on twitter @bmsscienceteach. I would love to hear from you. If you would like to talk to a former mentor, let me know and I am sure one of them would be more than happy to talk about their role with you. This has been a great experience for all involved and I hope you will consider signing up.

 

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At the beginning of summer, I was already thinking about next school year and how to make the science I teach more real, more personable, more relateable (I know, not the highest quality word choice) for my students. Through the last two years, I have been able to incorporate a variety of scientists through Skype or similar video conferences which have always been fantastic. These talks allow the students to interact with an #actuallivingscientist so they can see who is doing the science, ask questions and listen to some fascinating science talks. The only issue I have is that I will not ask anyone to do four talks a day as I know the scientists still have work to do and I do not want them to feel put upon or as if they are a babysitter for my class. I want these talks to be helpful, informative and enjoyable for all parties involved. I can honestly say, each year when I do one of the video-conferences at least one student will say they didn’t think a person like them could do science (race, gender, background) which makes me sad. I also have multiple students say after that they thought it was cool and would like to explore that science more in depth.

With that in mind, I was thinking how can I bring more scientists into my classroom to share with my students what they do and why it is awesome. The idea was to ask as many of my scientist friends (cool to think how many friends I have made now in the science community) if they would be willing to make a short video explaining “Why My Science is Awesome”.  I think this would be a cool way to show at the beginning of class 2 or 3 days of school each week. We would be able to show one to each class and have a short discussion about what they saw. It would be a great way to show a variety of science and a variety of scientists.

As for the videos, I am thinking for a length that is anywhere from 1-3 minutes but that is not set in stone (maybe no more than 5 minutes). I would think the videos could be as simple as filming yourself using your iPhone and just talking about “Why My Science is Awesome”maybe showing some of the equipment you use or the area you research to as complicated as using a professional video camera and integrating images.  The videos would be uploaded to a YouTube Channel so multiple classrooms could use them as long as the scientist making the video is good with that idea.

If you have never done a video like this before, I will get a couple examples soon to put up for you to model after. I really think this could be a great way to introduce your science and yourself to many school kids while talking “Why My Science is Awesome.”

Feel free to send your video to patrick.goff@fayette.kyschools.us and I am looking forward to your submission. Also, if you know anyone who would be great for this project, please send this link to them. My motto on this project is, the more the merrier. Any science is welcome so we can showcase as many different disciplines as possible.

Lastly, thank you. Thank you for being willing to participate and help show everyone “Why My Science is Awesome.”

Sincerely,

Patrick Goff

Evening everyone,

This entry maybe a bit short but I wanted to get back into the blog again. I have neglected this for too long at this point and feel bad. I doubt I have anything of real interest to say but here it is anyway.

Point 1: It has been very enjoyable to watch @NGSS_tweeps take off as well as it has this year. With the help of Wendi Vogel, Kathy Renfrew, Jaclyn Austin and Taylor Sullivan, we have made a large leap in numbers of followers. I am very excited to see how it turns out each week as each host adds their own personal twist/flavor to how they are approaching and implementing the NGSS. I really, truly love it. Thank you to everyone who has hosted and thanks to everyone who participates each week. This is definitely one way we will help each other improve.

Point 2: I started another project, not like I had anything else to do with all my ample amounts of free time right? I called it #scistupartner and created the website scistupartner.weebly.com. The whole goal of this website is to help teachers get in contact with practicing scientists to Skype in for a virtual talk with their kids. We are growing slowly but feel it will pick up once people start to see how it works. I firmly believe that having experts talk with your kids should be a priority. They get to see #actuallivingscientist (by the way that was an awesome hashtag), talk to them in real time, ask questions and get to know them! Those types of interactions can be inspirational for the kids. As far as I know, the scientists have loved them as well. There are so many scientists that have helped me with this project, that are excited and waiting to talk with kids and who are just super human beings. Check it out!!

Point 3: As for my teaching this year you ask? If I had to grade my teaching on a five point scale, 1 being bad and 5 being awesome, I would put myself around a 2.5 to be honest. This has not been my best year. I have let myself get pulled off in the mud and get stuck in the weeds. I am not happy with what I have accomplished this year as a whole. I am reflecting, taking notes and already back at the drawing board, not just for next year but for the rest of this year. Have you had a year where you are just like, “what happened?”. I am in that year at the moment and fighting to get out of it. For whatever reason, finding that inspiration has eluded me but I will not give up. That is not who I am as a teacher. I know I can do better. My kids deserve better. I will keep working to be the best teacher I can be for them. I just hope it is enough.

Well, that is what I had on my mind and will try to have a better, more thoughtful blog next time. I would love to hear what you all think about my thoughts.

Enjoy your evening!

 

Hello world. I have been neglecting my blog for far too long and there are no excuses. My plan is to at least put out one new blog each month. That being said, I would like to make this my start, my do over.

I would like to start by talking about my summer experience. This past summer I was allowed to attend the International Marine Conservation Congress in St. Johns Bay, Newfoundland. This is a marine science conference that was one of the most exciting times I have had at a conference. I met some of the most amazing people while I was there like Samantha Oester, Keni Rienks, Edd Hind, David Shiffman, Amy Freitag, Brett Favaro, Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley, Andrew Lewin, Andrew Thaler, Ken Hall, Matt Tietbohl, Vanessa Robetizch, Marianne Teoh and Michelle LaRue (I know there are so many others that I didn’t list here but they are just as awesome!). These are just some of the many fantastic people I was able to meet in real life and some for the first time to make new friends.

My experience at this conference was eye opening. I had the opportunity to talk to so many scientists about what they do, how they use the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in their work. It was definitely worth it! The conversations I had helped me to better understand, to better be able to help my students do what scientists do. My highlight was being able to present a poster and have some great conversations about how I am working with scientists to make connections and impacts with my students. Many times I was able to have conversations that helped me to better understand how the scientists use the nature of science to investigate and do their work.

As a science educator, being able to spend time with practicing scientists was very refreshing. It was a great way to help me professionally better my science skills and knowledge. I hope I was able to make a good impression on many of the scientists that I met that we, science educators, are doing our best to help our students to better understand the process of science.

I am hoping that these new connections and friendships will allow me to keep expanding my professional relationships working with science professionals. These connections will only further help me to better serve my students. One of the neatest things about working with practicing scientists is I get to see how the NGSS is being used in their practice which only helps my students through new opportunities such as virtual talks (Skype) and/or mentorships with science fair projects.

I can’t thank Samantha Oester enough for allowing me to attend and encouraging me to present. It was through her generosity and encouragement that I was able to attend such an awesome science conference and make so many new friends. Thank you.

Currently I am looking forward to the next similar opportunity.

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.

I sit here with a simple question, Why NGSStweeps? Why do I want to put time into another program about NGSS? For me it really comes down to a simple truth. I love the NGSS and what they stand for in science education. I look forward to the #ngsschat each time. That chat helps invigorate me, pump me back up and get ready to go at it again! After each chat though, I’m like, we only get one hour? I could keep it up for a lot longer. I know there are amazing things going on out there with some amazing people leading the way. We need avenues to share these amazing stories along with our challenges and difficulties.

As a science nerd, I follow @realscientists, @astrotweeps and @biotweeps on twitter. I LOVE those accounts! It has been through those accounts that I have found some of the most fantastic folks to work with and help my students. Following those accounts got me to thinking? Why can’t we have a feed like that for science education, and specifically NGSS? I know there are folks out there who could easily fill a weeks worth of time about what it is they are doing. We need to share these stories. We need to share our adventure in implementation. I have heard it from many people that this is a marathon, not a sprint. I think this account can reach a wide audience and be a help to many of us. I think this can be a great tool for online PD as a sounding board, share a thon, idea generator and a great way to expand your PLC. I am excited to help this project move forward.

With all that being said, I talked about this idea with some of my online PLC friends (@vogelwendi, @tcmssciteach, @jaclyn_austin, @tdsull0518, @KRScienceLady) early this year and we decided to give it a go. We decided to form the admin team and see if we could get this project off the ground. Everyone felt this was a great idea and an excellent way to help teachers see what was happening in various NGSS classrooms across the country. We were able to break up the construction of the website, twitter site, emails and publicizing the account. It was truly a team effort to get this account off the ground. At NSTA16, we went live with it during the #ngsschat hour and the excitement was there for sure.

Currently, we have at least 16 people who have agreed to take a week, from elementary all the way through university instructors. I believe this will be a great mix of educators and will really give us a great chance to share and collaborate in a more in depth fashion. Our first week was handled by Taylor Sullivan and she did a wonderful job of showcasing her class. By sharing her work, thoughts and students with us, everyone who watched that week was able to walk away with a good idea of how she implements NGSS and what her students are able to produce.

If this sounds of interest to you, stay tuned for more details and please give @NGSS_tweeps a follow.

Over the last few months, maybe a year at this point, I have had the honor of talking and learning from Dr. Samantha Oester. She has been a wonderful mentor to both myself and my daughter, great to talk to and get to know, and willing to help my students out. I have learned so much from following her on Twitter that I can’t thank her enough. She isn’t the only scientist that I can say this about but that would be for another blog story. This story centers around a little observation I made following her. After getting to talk with Dr. Oester for awhile, I was invited to join #hearttheoceans movement, a movement to help bring awareness to the importance of the oceans. I wanted to do something for that but wasn’t sure what I could do, especially being in landlocked Kentucky! Well, I had noticed that Dr. Oester and Dr.Januchowski-Hartley had been writing conservation minded Haikus. I figured, my students could watch a part of a the Life Series episode on Fish from the Discovery Channel and then write their own haiku’s. So I asked both Dr. Oester and Dr. Januchowski-Hartley if I could use a couple of theirs as examples (which they both graciously said yes). Now at this point, if you thought 8th graders would think this was dumb, some did, but others took it as a chance to shine and be creative. I posted the best ones to twitter and if you want to read them (please do and let me know which one you liked) go to #conservationhaiku and mine are by my account name @bmsscienceteach. I am proud of what my students did and will try to get another activity like this in the mix for later. It was a fun and different way to let my kids express themselves. Thanks for listening and as always, I am open to feedback!