I am a second year, sixth grade science teacher. I have always been, and will continue to be a science student. I love to learn and experience things new to me. In the past ten years or so I have become greatly attuned to the belief that people are intricately connected to the natural world around us. I have broadened my personal knowledge by completing Penn States' Master Gardening Program through our local extension office and joining the local garden club. I owe my interest in flowers to my older sister Patricia whom has earned a Doctorate in Botany from Connecticut University.
We love to take walks together in our local woods and point out tiny little plants to each other noticing the petals, leaf shapes, stems, the soil nearby, and the time of year we saw certain plants. The outdoors is the perfect classroom. In high school and junior high I can barely remember the science teachers and what they taught. I do remember that my best friend Patty was infatuated with our chemistry teacher, that he was rumored to be a Detroit cop at night and weekends, and that he helped rile students into having a sit-in during the Vietnam War. Biology was with another Detroit cop. Biology was better than chemistry with real experiments on a regular basis.
I recall more hands-on activities and learning how to write up lab reports. I loved watching movies in science. The movies showed cool things like flowers growing and blooming in two minutes, decomposing logs, things that we didn't see in the classroom. Most classes had a book with a lot of reading and tests. Memorization was a big thing. I also remember learning that my blood type is AB positive / negative .
I donate positive, receive negative. The teacher had me show the class how slow my blood "turned", that meant it was negative. We never took the class outdoors, that would have been nice. We had woods and wetlands nearby that I explored after school and in the summer.
I liked science but I feel I didn't achieve high scores on tests and labs. I think my elementary science was low on the required daily class work. I remember Reading and Math, but not Science. I do know that as a child growing up outside Syracuse I spent many hours at a time outdoors.
My sister Jorie and I would collect snakes, spiders, flies etc. She named the worms Joe, the flies were Nancy. My mom said Jorie had to stop keeping them in her pockets, they messed up the laundry. I still don't know what happened to three of the dozen snakes I stored in the basement. There was a cool cave in a ravine nearby. It had crystal formations that we would chip off and sell to other kids.
I learned the various trees around the neighborhood by climbing them and watching them produce cherries, mountain ash berries, black walnuts. Each tree had its own texture, sound in the wind, colors, and smell. I explored under rocks and dead logs. I would help milkweeds and dandelions send their seeds flying.
I made friends with chipmunks, frogs, crayfish, snails and fallen baby birds. The world was a classroom. How can I bring that fascination I had as a child to my own classroom? Science lessons should start with building new concepts by brainstorming what students know. Sometimes we make a KW chart or a giant web diagram. If they have never been to the ocean, have they been to a lake or pond? I let the students discuss what they know with their group members, then share with the class. We combine our knowledge and go from there.
I do a quick review of the previous lessons then let them know my agenda and objectives daily so they can see how the lessons flow together. We talk about our senses, what does it smell like near a bay? What sounds might you hear? I have time for questions and let other class members answer each others questions when possible. It is a safe place to "guess", take a chance on joining the discussion, or making a statement like "that makes me think of the time I... ." . I love when students make a connection to their own lives.
I have the students help bring in anything that remotely goes with the topic we are learning. Right now we have fish, boats, shells, photos, newts, toads, water bugs, caterpillars, poems, stories, fossils, plants, stuffed animals and more, representing things about the Chesapeake Bay. We will study the river behind the school. I prepare hands-on experiments to help students learn the scientific method through inquiry and guided activities.
I think my teaching style does a great job of making learning hands-on, fun, and memorable, but I still need to work on a few things. I think making challenging extensions of my curriculum a hard, time consuming thing to do. I have a dozen students whom have specialized education plans for the enrichment program. I need to plan for more in-depth activities for them to work on. They have a broad general knowledge-base and whiz through my activities.
I am hoping to use technology in the classroom for research projects that they can do with some guidance from me on organizing and presenting their questions and findings. I would like them to explore related topics to what I am teaching. For example, I am teaching about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Some extensions could be related to the water quality (collect and test), aquatic vegetation (grow some), or historical topics such as pirates (put on a skit), Native Americans, and settlers. I think writing this paper was a good reflective activity. I need to keep science alive like when I was younger exploring outdoors, but challenging for my enrichment students.
We have some brainstorming to do.