A quick overview of an idea I am working on for an upcoming Ecosystem Unit. A large portion of the PE is to construct an argument that changes in an ecosystem affect the population and to evaluate possible design solutions to maintain biodiversity. To this end, I planning on having the students work in small groups and investigate an ecosystem. I could do the traditional research and present of their findings. I could, but I’m not. The big twist, has been to recruit a number of scientists who are willing to help act as experts in their selected ecosystem. There has been an overwhelming amount of support to help my students which is very humbling. They are willing to communicate with my students through twitter, skype or google hangouts, and through Google Docs. I have had scientists volunteer to help from around the United States, Peru, England, France and even Saudi Arabia! I am super pumped about this project. The big ideas are getting firmed up, now to move on to the little ideas, firm up the use of the Science and Engineering Practices and Cross-Cutting Concepts in an intentional manner.


Over the summer I had an idea on how to upgrade the science fair process for my students. There were many parts that I changed but the biggest, and one of my favorite was to get practicing scientists to help mentor my students. The mentors were there to offer advice, ask questions, prod and challenge my students through their process. I can now say, I know it helped. You may ask how do I know? Well I could say that the projects were of an overall better quality than before. More importantly, I can point to the fact that of the 7 students I sent to the district fair, 5 of them earned a medal and are moving on to the Regional Science Fair.

I want to thank the scientists that took their time to help. That took time from their jobs, family, personal time to help my students. I can not thank you enough for your help. I know it helped my students. I know they appreciated your help.

Thank you.

The mini-task my students have undertaken is centered around the following PE: 08-ESS3-2. Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. Previous to what I am about to describe the students completed an infographic on a particular Natural Hazard of their choosing. Students were looking at data and developed this infographic to help inform people about the likelihood of another occurrence. Part of that was a Google Hangout with an earthquake specialist out of Colorado who helped talk with students about forecasting earthquakes.

In this mini-task (phenomena was damage from natural hazards) the students were asked to look at current technologies (warning plans, prevention, detection, recovery and so on) to help mitigate the effects of the Natural Hazard they had investigated. Once they have done research, they were asked to make an innovation and predict where the technology might be in 20 years. Students are in the process of developing a model (could be a physical model or could be a technical drawing). We are not done with this mini-task yet but some of the ideas are pretty darn interesting they are coming up.

Example: A student is investigating avalanches. She has proposed to develop a wrist band that would be handed out to all skiers by a ski resort. This wrist band would have GPS tech embedded in it with the capability to receive text alerts from the resort. The resort would be able to track all skiers in case of an avalanche, warn the skiers, and if rescue is needed, help pinpoint with better accuracy where the skiers were when the avalanche hit.

Example: A student is investigating hurricanes. He was very interested in the hurricane hunter planes and found out they drop on average 30 sensor packages per storm. He found out they were a one use tool and thought that was wasteful so for his innovation, he is looking to make them recoverable and waterproof.

My question at this point, does this mini-task embrace the 3 Dimensional approach NGSS asks for in the teaching? My thoughts are this: Are the students learning content? Sure. Are they engaging in the Science and Engineering Practices? They are asking questions, developing models, analyzing data, designing solutions, and engaging in arguments from evidence. Are they engaging in the Cross Cutting Concepts? They have to look at Cause and Effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity and Systems and System models.

I really want to make this task work. It has grabbed their attention and I have student buy in on this one. What do you all think? Good, bad, ugly? What could be done to improve it?

Blog 1

Write something.

I find myself saying a few things quite often to my students so I am trying to compile my little Pealrs of Wisdom into one list. This is what I have so far.

1. Quality over quantity.

2. A good question is worth its weight in gold.

3. Science is about doing.

4. Yes, we need to write in science.

5. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.

6. Always use evidence to backup what you say.

7. When you think you are at the limit of what you think you can do, push a little farther.

8. Science is freaking awesome!

9. Yes the Bengals are welcome to come over and play with the Steelers trophies.

10. Nature is so very fantastic and awe inspiring.

What are your sayings you tell your kids? I would love to hear.

This blog entry is a compilation from the four members of my Next Generation Instructional Design Team centered around what we thought we were getting into when we signed up. Hopefully next month we can follow up with an additional blog to give you more details about what we are doing. I know I am super pumped about this new unit we are working on together. So, with no further drama, here are the entries from the Middle School Science NGID group. Any thoughts would be appreciated, questions are welcome and comments are surely accepted. Thank you for taking the time to let us introduce ourselves to you.

Emily Northcutt – Library Media Specialist  Hart County

The American Association of School Librarians’ Empowering Learners details the five roles we strive to play in our school communities – Leader, Instructional Partner, Information Specialist, Teacher, and Program Administrator. I’ve found through my NGID group’s work that my experience in all of these roles has allowed me to make contributions to our project. I challenged myself to be a Leader by joining the middle school science group. I wanted to continue learning about how I can help my own teachers and students implement the Next Generation Science Standards and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  In fact, I’ve learned that AASL has created a list of correlations between the NGSS and our own Standards for the 21st Century Learner. My new partners and my school’s 6th-8th grade science teacher have all been teaching me about the types of resources and approaches that they need in order to implement 3-dimensional learning in their classrooms. Getting to know the NGSS standards better and how they impact learning will also allow me to make informed decisions as a Program Administrator about the kinds of resources that my library needs to provide to my school. As an Instructional Partner, I think I’ve been showing the teachers in my group that school librarians have lots of tips and tricks up our sleeves to help design and implement engaging instruction. Matching the right tool with the task you’ve created certainly impacts how successful it will be! I’m definitely exercising my Information Specialist muscles with our current project, too. I’m pretty excited to be the “Data Master” in our group since our unit will require that students sift through lots of information in order to complete the tasks that we’ve been creating for them. (Thanks to Patrick for the cool nickname!) Most importantly, I’ll definitely be using my Teacher skills in this experience as we implement what my group has designed in my colleague’s classroom. I’m hoping that my work on this project will help advocate to content area teachers that school librarians can be valuable learning partners in ways they may not have previously considered. By working together, we can accomplish so much for our students!

Amy Eads – Kenton County – 7th/8th grade science

When I was asked to join NGID, I was really looking forward to it. After just finishing up the Common Assignment Study in June, I knew the power of teachers from different areas working together to build a common unit. I was also excited to network with more teachers in our state with a focus on the New Generation Science Standards. So far, it has been an invaluable experience. To be able to work with teachers from Fayette County and a media specialist has created a conversation that is unique and progressive as we move forward with implementation of NGSS. The unit we are creating will be an excellent example of three dimensional learning that I am proud to take back to my school and district.

Nathan Lockhart – Fayette County – 7th grade science

When I first signed up to be part of NGID I was not really sure I knew what I was getting myself into. Over the last two years I have worked with a group of leaders from my district to wade through NGSS and help make it manageable for all middle school science teachers in the district. This led me to NGID. I was looking for an opportunity to work with others from around the state to learn better ways and different approaches of delivering the new standards to our students. Our first two days far exceeded my expectations as we planned the framework for our first unit. Probably the most meaningful part was our Shark Tank activity. During this time we brought students into the discussion and pitched out idea to them. Using their feedback, initial reactions, and questions we were able to modify the plans to meet the needs and desires of the students. This is something that I have brought back to my school. It has been amazing to see students get involved in the planning and get excited when their ideas are being seen in class. I am really looking forward to continuing this collaboration as we see this first unit take shape in actual classrooms.

Patrick Goff – Fayette County – 8th grade science

I have to admit, when I first saw the email come across my computer asking for volunteers to sign up for the NGID design team, I wasn’t excited. There was a thought of, I don’t know if I want to bother with that group, that it will design some fluffy sort of unit. After I thought some more about it, I went ahead and signed up. I signed up because I wanted to make sure that there was an emphasis put on the Next Generation Science Standards and 3 Dimensional Learning. Once I had the chance to meet my working group, I was very impressed with their dedication, skill set, knowledge and passion for their jobs. Our group has a very awesome working dynamic. We all bring a positive skill set to the group and helps balance out the group. Our group has a fantastic, professional working relationship and that has definitely helped in our willingness to try new things, head our unit in a direction I have never seen before. The unit our group is working on is going to be a very dynamic, very different way of assessing our students. I am very excited to see where we take this unit! Our kids are going to be the ultimate winners in this deal.