In June, the WELS2 project team held our second 1-week workshop for more than 45 Nebraska middle- and high school science teachers from over a dozen school districts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Innovation Campus. Building on the previous summer workshop, teachers learned groundwater quality sampling techniques, used a computer-based, data-driven water balance model to explore regional water challenges, toured the Nebraska Water Sciences Laboratory, and developed curricular resources to use these tools in their own classrooms. Teachers also had the opportunity to participate in the workshop as part of a UNL graduate course – SCIL 800 Experiential Learning in Food, Energy, & Water II. A special thanks goes out to colleagues Trenton Franz, Dan Snow, and Dana Divine for working with teachers to utilize extraordinary UNL resources and tools, as well as to Tina Vo and Kate Gibson for helping plan and coordinate the workshop. We greatly appreciate funding from the USDA-NIFA PD-STEP program and Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grant program through the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, both of which have made this program possible.
For the second consecutive year, Sara Cooper, Science Education Director at the Nebraska Department of Education, and I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming science teachers, administrators, university faculty, and policymakers from around the state at the Nebraska K-12 Science Education Summit. This year’s event featured a workshop on the Next Generation Science Standards, invited talks by Dr. Phil Bell, Professor and Shauna C. Larson Chair in Learning Sciences at the University of Washington, and Dr. Christine Cutucache, Associate Professor and Haddix Community Chair of Science at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, as well as nearly 40 presentations of innovative science education curricula, resources, and other programs. Co-sponsored the Nebraska Department of Education, IANR Science Literacy, NebraskaSCIENCE, the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Education, Nebraska 4-H, and the Nebraska Collaborative for Food, Energy, & Water Education, the 2017 Summit drew over 250 participants and showcased the recent adoption of Nebraska’s new state science standards. Be sure to check out media coverage from UNL and ABC Channel 8 KLKN-TV.
In June, the WELS2 project team held a 1-week workshop for more than 30 Nebraska middle- and high school science teachers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The workshop focused on supporting teachers to learn to use a computer-based groundwater modeling tool, the Hydrogeology Challenge, and to develop instructional materials and supports that would enable them to use this tool within their existing science curriculum.
As part of the workshop, teachers explored the Next Generation Science Standards, conducted water-related investigations, learned about the scientific practice of modeling, and worked on curricular resources to support their own teaching. Teachers also had the opportunity to participate in the workshop as part of a UNL graduate course – NRES 898 Teaching and Learning about Water Systems. We thank our project partners from the Groundwater Foundation and Water for Food Global Institute for contributing to making this workshop a successful experience for all involved. We look forward to continuing to work with NE teachers through ongoing academic year activities and a teacher research experience in summer, 2018.
On Monday, December 12th, over 175 science educators from across the state of Nebraska had the opportunity to come together at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln for the Nebraska K-12 Science Education Summit. Organized and led by Sara Cooper, Science Education Director at the Nebraska Department of Education, and I, the event provided a forum for science education administrators, science teachers, STEM faculty, and stakeholders to engage in statewide discussions about K-12 science education efforts. This included a workshop on the Next Generation Science Standards and Nebraska state science standards, as well as concurrent sessions in which UNL faculty and others shared innovative science education resources and strategies with practitioners. We were fortunate to have Chancellor Ronnie Green stop by in the afternoon to welcome attendees and provide some critical insights into the importance of collaboration between K-12 schools and the NU system. The event was co-sponsored the Nebraska Department of Education, IANR Science Literacy, NebraskaSCIENCE, the Center for Science, Mathematics, and Computer Education, Nebraska 4-H, and the Nebraska Collaborative for Food, Energy, & Water Education. This was a wonderfully productive experience for all involved and we look forward to holding the event again in future years to enhance and synergize the teaching and learning of science in Nebraska.
Over the past year, our team has had the opportunity to work with teachers from Beatrice Middle School and Lourdes Central Catholic School in Nebraska City on a new pilot project using wind energy systems as a vehicle for teaching core, NGSS-based STEM concepts and decision-making about socio-scientific issues. The project involves development of a 2-week mini-unit grounded in ongoing, real-world discussions about the recently-proposed Hallam Wind farm in SE Nebraska. The mini-unit involves investigations of wind turbine design and power production, as well as analysis of stakeholder perspectives and policy issues. The curriculum was implemented in three 6th-grade classrooms this month, including those highlighted in this week’s story by the Beatrice Daily Sun. Research associated with this project, led up by SNR masters student McKinzie Peterson and conducted in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Jan Christoph Schubert from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, will investigate students’ problem-framing and science-informed decision-making about wind energy production in Nebraska. Thanks also to Chad Johnson at Nebraska Public Power District for collaborating on this project.
Forbes, C.T., Lange, K., Möller, K., Biggers, M., Laux, M., & Zangori, L. (2014). Explanation-construction in 4th-grade classrooms in Germany and the United States: A cross-national comparative video study. International Journal of Science Education, 36(14), 2367-2390.
This research involved a comparative study of 4th-grade classrooms in the U.S. and Germany involving samples of videorecorded science instruction around a variety of topics. We used the P-SOP instrument to characterize scientific practices and processes of inquiry in which students were observed taking part. While there were many similarities between the nature of science teaching and learning in classrooms in the two countries, we also found key differences in how students were afforded opportunities to formulate scientific explanations, a crucial scientific practice highlighted in the Next Generation Science Standards. This study was a wonderful opportunity to extend the impact of PIESC3 project through an very fulfilling and enjoyable collaboration with colleagues from the University of Münster in Germany. I thank Kim Lange, Kornelia Möller, and Mira Laux for their contributions and collegiality. I look forward to continuing to work together on issues related to elementary science.
Zangori, L. & Forbes, C.T. (2014). Scientific practices in elementary classrooms: 3rd-grade students’ scientific explanations for seed structure and function. Science Education, 98(4), 614-639.
This research focuses on 3rd-grade students’ scientific explanations for plant-related phenomena as part of the FOSS Structures of Life curriculum module across multiple classrooms. Drawing from a diverse array of data, the study explores connections between teachers’ conceptions, their observed instructional practices, and student. The study provides evidence that teachers’ professional ideas and pedagogical reasoning about evidence-based explanation in science – a crucial scientific practice highlighted in the Next Generation Science Standards – play an important role in their instructional practices to support students’ explanation-construction in the classroom.