Professional Learning

Making Decisions is What It’s All About

“The way kids learn to make good decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”

-Alfie Kohn

Science is not just about trying to know and memorize information; it is a way of trying to make sense of the world. Scientists ask questions, design investigations, try to make sense of the information they gather, and communicate and defend their thinking to others. Students should be gathering information with the intent on trying to decide what to do with that information.

Sometimes they don’t find the answers to their questions, and sometimes they don’t end up making decisions about what their findings. Let’s teach science to students in a way that they are continually being encouraged to make decisions.

The important role teachers have is to help students develop the skills they need to think like scientists and to lead them in understanding science concepts. Their job is to make science real, relevant, and rigorous. Students must learn how to be a scientist, to discover things, solve mysteries, and fix things that go wrong. Teachers have to lead students on a path where they embrace the mindset of a scientist and act like detectives while investigating things. With that mindset, students must know that scientists think and learn about their surroundings and that their work is to try and make sense of the world.

I was recently in New York to help a group of teachers become more familiar with the Next Generation Science Standards around the Engineering Design portion in grades K-2. I shared lessons like “Hold The Load” from AIMS that are aligned to the standards that were relatable, and simple to do with their students. At the beginning of each engineering lesson, I asked the teachers to work with materials, to make observations, and to gather information. Next, they were to ask questions helping to define the problem they were working on and to learn from the model they made. Science is fun, sometimes messy, and loud, and this group of K-2 teachers was no different.

As we wrapped up the session, I asked them to share thoughts about their learning. I was happy to hear statements like:

  • “It is fun when you have to think.”
  • “I will work to let children’s natural curiosity give direction to the lesson.”
  • “No one is too young for STEM activities.”
  • “Mistakes are OK, try again.”

I know these teachers will teach more science because of the time we spent together. I think they will listen carefully to their students. They will model curiosity and keep science real and relevant. But most of all, I think they will be asking their students to make their own decisions.

They Are Curious

Albert Einstein once said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” We are curious about many things in the world around us. We follow our curiosities which in turn helps us to make discoveries. School and the classroom are places where kids make discoveries and satisfy their… Continue Reading

Let’s Build – Part 3

There is nothing better than listening to, learning from, and growing from a presentation given by one of your own. I was privileged to hear from four of my colleagues during our two-and-a-half days together during the AIMS Facilitators cadre meeting in Dallas, TX. My cognitive depth and understanding grew because of what I heard… Continue Reading

Let’s Build

I’ve been in Dallas, TX this week with plans on spending two and a half days with the AIMS Center’s cadre of professional learning facilitators. It is my favorite time to spend with this group. It is our time to be together and learn. Our time to change, adapt and grow. Our learning plays an… Continue Reading

I Was There

Social media is what brought me to the Early Math Project Symposium sponsored in part by AIMS and held on the campus of Fresno Pacific University Friday, June 22, 2018, @aimsed, #AIMSplay, #AIMSspatial, and #EMSymp18. While I was following the day through social media, I realized that I could do an even better job of… Continue Reading

Do You Do Shikaku?

Keeping a sharp cognitive fitness level means continually engaging in mental exercises, using multiple senses, having a growth mindset, doing so often, and repeatedly. I like to find new challenges and this summer is no exception. A while back I remember being introduced to a puzzle named Shikaku. It was created by Nikoli, the Japanese… Continue Reading

Thinking Science

Nineteen states along with the District of Columbia have officially adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Oregon is the only one of those that has fully migrated through adoption to full implementation of the NGSS standards. Administrators and classroom teachers alike are aware that adopting any new standards and then successfully implementing them is… Continue Reading