This time last week, I was wrapping up my visit to NSTA's 2016 National Conference on Science Education in Nashville. This past week has been spring break for many of us here in chilly Kentucky, so I've had a chance to reflect on what I learned at the conference, and I'm going to try to distill some of it in this post.
As I attended a session on teaching reasoning, I was delighted to hear the presenter say that she'd been teaching the claim, evidence, reasoning framework for 5 years and still struggles with teaching kids reasoning. I'm not delighting in the pain of others; I'm rejoicing in the revelation that I'm not alone. Other people are struggling with some of the same issues that I am. Transitioning to the NGSS isn't easy; it isn't quick; and it requires adjustments from teachers and students. When we come together and share our struggles, we help other teachers realize that they aren't the only ones struggling to live up to the vision of the NGSS.
When J. Drew Lanham lapsed into poetry during the Brandwein Lecture, I knew I was in the right place. (April is National Poetry Month, after all.) He wasn't talking about using NGSS to teach poetry; he was using word choice, rhyme, and rhythm to inspire scientists and teachers. The title of his lecture was "Love: The Four Letter Word that Science Forgot." It was, for me, a much needed reminder that science (much like teaching) is about the heart. A love of science is, for most, a prerequisite for investigation and discovery. Natural curiosity flows from the heart before it makes connections in the head. To reach our students, to inspire them to become interested in careers in science, we have to reach their hearts, not just their minds.
In addition to being renewed by J. Drew Lanham's lecture and realizing that I'm not the only one struggling, I was also provided the benefit of being connecting to resources to support the work I'm doing in my classroom. One of these resources is The Argumentation Toolkit from Lawrence Hall of Science. This website offers videos, activities, and strategies for helping students develop their skills in argumentation. They have activities that you can use just as they are in your classroom, but they also include ideas for customizing the activities to work with the particular DCIs that you are addressing in your unit.
These don't need much explanation. Connecting with science colleagues from virtual or real-life personal learning networks, eating great food in Nashville, and picking up free stuff in the exhibit hall.
Of course, all of these things are better in person, but even if you weren't in Nashville last weekend, you can still experience most of the benefits I've described through online resources, personal learning networks, podcasts, and reading Tweets from #NSTA16. Let's keep the learning and conversation going online. Together, we're better.