Monday, January 10, 2011

Making Science Relevant using the 5E's

How can a science lesson be made more student-centered?
What strategies can be used to help students be more engaged in their learning?
How can technology play a role as an important tool in the learning process?

A valuable pedagogical approach is the 5E Instructional Model.

In this posting I will explain each of the components of the 5E model along with recommendations of digital and non-digital tools that can be incorporated at each stage.
The last section includes four lesson plans that incorporates the 5E model for each of the major sciences: Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science and Physics.

The five phases of the Learning Cycle as proposed by the National Science Education Standards can be integrated into the '5E' Instructional model as follows:

Students become engaged in the process of scientific inquiry. The teacher can ask questions to find out what students already know, or think they know, about the topic and concepts to be covered. These questions typically start with "how" instead of with "why.”
Digital Tools:
Exploratree: Interactive Thinking Guides
Non-Digital Tools:
Graphic Organizers

Students decide what makes questions scientifically testable. Students gain a common set of experiences upon which to begin building their understanding.
Digital Tools:
PhET Simulations
Virtual Dissections, Labs, and Field Trips
Non-Digital Tools
Hands-On Labs:

Students acquire opportunities to connect their previous experiences with current learning and to make conceptual sense of the main ideas of the topic being studied. This stage also allows for the introduction of formal language, scientific terms, and content information that might make students’ previous experiences easier to describe. The teacher acts as a facilitator that explains concepts and addresses misconceptions.
Online Tutorials
Hippocampus: Biology, Physics, Environmental Science
Chemistry Tutorials

Students apply or extend previously introduced concepts and experiences to new situations.
Students apply their knowledge to real world applications.
Project-Based Learning
Exemplary Projects for Project-Based Learning (PBL)
How Stuff Works
Problem-Based learning in Biology: 20 Case Examples

Students, with their teachers, review and assess what they have learned and how they have learned it. Students can be given a summative assessment to demonstrate what they know and can do.
Digital and Non-Digital Resources


Topic: Osmosis

Learning Objectives:
Students will understand the role of cell organelles in homeostasis and will be able to measure the rate of osmosis in cells.

Topic: Solubility

Learning Objectives:
Students will understand that there is a dependence of solubility with temperature and will be able to design an experiment showing how the solubility of several substances depend on temperature.

Topic: Hydrological Cycle

Learning Objectives:
Students will understand the factors affecting domestic water use, and will be able to design a system for collecting data and calculating individual, group, state and national domestic water use.

Link for the: Virtual House

Topic: Refraction

Learning Objectives:
Students will understand that light refracts as it passes from air into a more dense medium such as glass, and will be able to use a convex lens, light source, and a screen to form real images.

For more information the 5E Instructional model and sample lessons visit the sites below:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The World Café in a School Meeting

One of our school's principles is to: "Offer Definitive Preparation for College and Life".

Faculty and administrators are expected to provide a learning environment that allows students to:

Think Critically
Communicate cogently
Collaborate purposefully and
Create meaningfully

We refer to these skills as the four Cs.

Our Upper School faculty and administrators have been divided into four groups under each of the Cs. Each team is to develop and present a session at a faculty meeting.

I was assigned as the team leader of the ‘Creativity’ strand. The group was composed by 10 faculty members representing all subject areas and administration. We met three times prior to our presentation to brainstorm the protocol and expected outcomes of our session.

I learned about the World Café from Susie Demarest our Head of Upper Elementary and I presented it to the team as a creative way to facilitate conversations. This is how we implemented the Café Design Principles:

Set the Context
The objective of our meeting was to use the World Café process to enable conversations among faculty that related to projects and activities that demonstrate Creativity and Innovation in the classroom. 

Create a Hospitable Space
We created a Café ambiance by setting up the space with round tables. Each table was covered by a colorful plastic tablecloth and a simple but nice flower arrangement at the center.

Since we divided our faculty and administration into six interdisciplinary groups we printed place cards with their names for each table. We also designated a facilitator for each group.

Our Head of Upper School provided cake, iced tea, lemonade and coffee. As faculty arrived, they were invited to get their cake and beverage before entering the meeting room. They all smiled when they discovered that the impersonal room was transformed into a lively Café with samba music playing in the background!

 Explore Questions That Matter
Our team came up with two questions for our session:
1. What activity or project have you done in your class that has some of the attributes of creativity?
2. Is there a project that you want to implement in your class about which you would like to receive feedback from others?

Prior to the meeting we had sent an e-mail with the following information so that we all had a common ground when defining a ‘creative project’.

Attributes of a Creative Project or Activity
New or original
Stimulates curiosity
Challenging and engaging
Promotes divergence

Key Terms of Creative Activities or Projects

Encourage Everyone's Contribution
At each table a member of the team was designated as a facilitator. They were in charge of engaging everybody in the conversation. 
Connect Diverse Perspectives
Listen Together and Notice Patterns
We had a laptop available for each of the teams. We created separate pages for each team on a wiki and each facilitator entered the contributions from the members of their table.

An online timer was set up on the screen with a 20 minute countdown for each question.

Share Collective Discoveries
Because of the limited amount of time we were not able to create posters and do a Gallery Walk. However, we briefly showcased a couple of pages on the screen.  Faculty and administrators were excited to see how they could access the conversations by visiting the wiki at their own pace anytime.

Wrapping Things Up
By the end of the session we showed the video Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson.

Did it Work?
Our team felt that the session went really well!

We heard positive feedback from our colleagues and administrators about how everybody enjoyed the opportunity to share, listen and collaborate with each other.

This is our wiki page with the links to Creativity Resources for the classroom.

Images: Café Image Bank