Science for all

TST Cover March 2010My next-door neighbor is a lovely young woman, currently at the top of her junior class and gathering information on colleges. She’s interested in studying chemistry/chemical engineering (hooray!). I was reflecting on the opportunities she has that did not exist years ago when I was in her situation. Many colleges with strong science/engineering programs were men-only then or they did not encourage women to apply to these majors. We’ve come a long way, but we’re still talking about science-for-all issues.
This article Universal Design suggests purposeful design of instruction and facilities that will meet the needs of a greater number of students. The author notes that “when UD principles are applied to the classroom, content is presented in multiple methods.” I’m curious about possible connections between UD and differentiated instruction. After reading the article I followed the link to the University of Washington’s DO-IT website to learn more. It appears that many of the things we already do in classrooms (e.g., wait time, posting assignments on the board, avoiding jargon, using large type on projected material) fit into the strategies of UD.

Unlocking Science Vocabulary is subtitled “Lessons from an ESOL teacher.” Don’t think that the strategies apply only to ELLs (English Language Learners). All of our students are SLLs (science language learners) and these strategies for learning the specialized vocabulary of science are teacher-tested and align with the research of Robert Marzano and others who have studied the issues of learning vocabulary. It seems like another twist on UD—what is helpful for ELLs may be helpful to many other students who are struggling with specialized vocabulary. I was fortunate to have studied Latin in high school (thank you, Sister Euphemia), which was a great basis for understanding science vocabulary. The author provides a link to a list of root words and affixes from Latin and other languages, which would be a nice reference for students to play around with words.
3-D Teaching Models for All shows another example of how strategies for students with visual difficulties can be used to help all students learn. The SciLinks topic using models has more examples of models and visualizations on various topics.
Two articles in this issue illustrate what the 5E learning cycle (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, and evaluate) looks like in a real classroom. Who’s in the Zoo turns a traditional animal report into an investigation of the Earth’s biomes. (This could be adapted for younger students, too.) Check out the additional information on biomes in SciLinks. Students are great users of electronic technology. As described in Make Your Own Digital Thermometer, students investigate how to make scientific instruments, scaffolded by the 5E cycle. SciLinks has additional resources on the topic of temperature and regulation.
If you’re looking for ways to stimulate student interest and observation skills, this month’s NSTA Recommends includes The Exploratorium Science Snackbook. The Exploratorium is a must-see,  interactive science museum in San Francisco (where the NSTA national conference will be in 2011!) and is one of my favorite places in the city. The book is a collection of “snacks”—simple demonstrations and activities that can be used to explore topics and generate questions. If you’re not sure what a “snack” is, visit the Exploratorium website for a list and descriptions. The Tools for Teaching on the museum site is a treasure of resources, too.
Check out the Connections for this issue. Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, this resource has ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, and rubrics.
We can work for the day when Science for All becomes a commonplace reality, and this theme can be retired!

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1 Response to Science for all

  1. PeggyA says:

    Here’s a place where science IS a girl thing: “Science: It’s a Girl Thing” (S:IGT), a program for parents and their daughters: http://www.edequity.org/sigt/
    They are also on Facebook, http://facebook.dj/scienceitsagirlthing
    The program was developed by the Educational Equity Center at AED especially for girls ages 4-8 and their parents but it looks like fun for anyone.

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