Archive for the ‘science’ Category

summer professional reading: Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms

Posted on: July 11th, 2017 by jnovakowski No Comments

Sharing some of my summer reading here on the blog.

First professional read of the summer -

IMG_6149Engaging Minds in Science and Math Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy by Eric Brunsell and Michelle A. Fleming. Published in 2014 by the ASCD.

This book is a follow-up to Engaging Minds in the Classroom: The Surprising Power of Joy by Michael F. Opitz and Michael P. Ford. These two original authors edited this volume. They define joyful learning as “acquiring knowledge or skills in ways that cause pleasure or happiness.” They surmise that when students are engaged learners, joy emanates from the learning process. Their joyful learning framework is the foundation for this follow-up book.

This book has four short chapters -

1) Understanding Joyful Learning in Science and Math

Drawing upon current research, the authors outline the joyful learning framework and answer the question Why joyful learning? with:

  • it capitalizes on what we know and how to best motivate students.
  • it enables us to build upon what we currently know about engagement
  • it enables us to focus on the whole child
  • it acknowledges that the learner is influenced by the contexts in which learning takes place

2) Evaluating and Assessing Joyful Learning

This chapter outlines frameworks to evaluate learners, ourselves as teachers, texts and materials, assessments and school-wide configurations. The frameworks for evaluating learners parallels the one for evaluating teachers and both provide some thoughtful questions for consideration.

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3) Implementing Joyful Learning in Science and Math

Strategies, structures and examples of ways to implement joyful learning are provide for several contexts: school community, classroom environment, whole-group instruction, small-group instruction and individual instruction.

4) Using Joyful Learning to Support Education Initiatives

The final chapters makes connections to standards, accountability and assessment, RTI, achievement gaps and professional development, drawing upon research studies to support the importance of engagement and interest in learning to standardized test results.

The book ends with a reminder to teachers to assess their own joyful learning and to look for joy in unexpected places and a quote from author Henri Nouwen:

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”

The ideas of identity, student self-efficacy, challenge, choice, creativity and goal orientation resonate throughout the book. This speaks to me about students’ understanding of what it means to be a learner and what their role in that is – not as a passive, compliant recipient, but as a fully engaged, curious learner.

One issue that the authors return through out the book is that for students to be engaged in joyful learning, they need to focus themselves on “mastery” goals (learning that focuses on learning content) versus performance goals (learning for the purpose of getting a grade or being compared to others). After hearing Megan Franke’s keynote presentation at the CGI Conference in Seattle this year, I bristle at the term “mastery” and would rather consider these goals as just learning goals.

Another area of interest that reading this book re-ignited for me was the concept of engagement. I have thought about this a lot over the years and read quite a bit in this area during my doctoral studies. The authors look at the relationship between motivation and engagement but don’t tease apart what they mean by engagement very thoroughly even though they come back to and use this term throughout the book. They describe engagement as “being attentive, committed, persistent, and seeking meaning.” There are many types of engagement – physical, emotional, cognitive etc and sometimes I think compliance can actually be perceived as engagement which is a concern.

As I zipped through this quick read, I made many connections to both of the books Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler and Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to Their Classrooms Each Day by Dean Shareski. I highly recommend both of these books!

~Janice

primary teachers study group: third session

Posted on: January 17th, 2017 by jnovakowski

The Primary Teachers Study Group had their third session of the year at Woodward Elementary, hosted by Anne-Marie Fenn. Anne-Marie shared the school’s plan for an outdoor learning space and then we went outside to imagine how the current garden space will be transformed.

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Teachers were able to purchase pictures books that are intended to inspire students’ wondering about winter. Sizing Up Winter is a book that inspires mathematical inquiry around measurement, In The Snow: Who’s Been Here? has students consider ways to know whether an animal has visited different parts of the environment and Curious About Snow shares factual information and photographs of snow – sure to inspire lots of questions, particularly with the very wintery weather we have had this year.

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Teachers shared ways that had been engaging their students in inquiry about the outdoors and winter – freezing bubbles, looking for tracks, creating icy sun catchers, learning about animal behaviour in winter.

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Jenn Lin from Maple Lane shared how she had guest speakers in from the Institute for Urban Ecology atDouglas College to teach her class about the important role bees play in the environment and then the students made bee containers/nests.

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What are your students wondering about this winter? Where do the bees go? Where do the raccoons and birds find food? What do the snow geese eat when the ground is frozen and covered with snow? Do trees freeze? Are your students making connections between how the weather and seasons are affecting other living things around them?

~Janice

upcoming professional learning opportunities – fall 2016

Posted on: August 1st, 2016 by jnovakowski

As we come into August and (maybe) start thinking about “back to school” I thought I would share some upcoming professional learning opportunities in the Lower Mainland.

TedX West Van – September 24

Registration and Information HERE

 

Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Fall Institute

Saturday, October 1, Blair Elementary, Richmond

Registration info to come – will be posted HERE

 

Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable  - STEVE JENKINS!

Saturday, October 15, Vancouver, BC

Registration and Information HERE

 

Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks – October 19, 4-7pm, Richmond

Save the Date & Time – More information to be sent out soon!

 

Taking the Leap: Values and Practices for Planning an Emergent Curriculum (with educators from Hilltop Children’s Center in Seattle)

Evening talk Thursday, October 20

Full day event Friday, October 21

sponsored by the Vancouver Reggio Consortium Society

Registration and information HERE

 

BC PSA Day  - October 21 2016

BCAMT Annual Conference: Gladstone Secondary, Vancouver

Registration and Information HERE

BCScTA Annual Catalyst Conference: Cambie Secondary, Richmond

Registration and Information HERE

 

FNESC Annual Aboriginal Education Conference

November 24-26, Vancouver, BC

Registration and Information HERE

 

I will be at all of these events, except for the multi-event day on October 21st when I will be at the BCAMT conference in Vancouver!

~Janice

reflections and highlights from 2015-2016

Posted on: June 30th, 2016 by jnovakowski

The end of June always brings lots of good-byes. We are losing about half of our curriculum department for Learning Services in Richmond – it has been an emotional month and change is always hard. We’ve been through a lot together as a team over the last three years and this year was particularly full with the addition of the two Curriculum Implementation days in our district. Through planning and hosting those two days, we have dug deep into understanding the aspects and layers of BC’s redesigned curriculum.

We have spent much of June “populating” the Curriculum page on Scholantis and planning for next year’s professional learning opportunities in Richmond.

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Next year will be an exciting year for our district as we embrace and enact BC’s redesigned curriculum. My portfolio is shifting from a focus on both K-12 Mathematics and Science to mostly focusing on K-12 Mathematics. Although I will continue to work on interdisciplinary projects the responsibility of curriculum “implementation” in science will be shifted to another teacher consultant’s portfolio (position to be filled soon).

As I look back on this past year, some professional highlights for me include:

  • the Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series – this large group of K-7 teachers came together to engage in provocations and think about playful inquiry across the curriculum; it was exciting to see this embraced beyond the early years and to see a large group of teachers in our district begin the ripple effect in their schools
  • sharing work from our district at the Northwest Math Conference in Whistler in October
  • the Provincial Numeracy Project – as a pilot project this year, three school teams took part in this project modelled after Changing Results for Young Readers
  • Science Jam was back for its thirteenth year at Aberdeen Centre – this year there was greater evidence of students’ personal inquiry questions being reflected in their projects
  • attending the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference in San Francisco in April (thanks to the RTA for Major Conference Funding)
  • attending the Opal School Summer Symposium with a team of 17 educators from our School District
  • helping to support Inclusive Learning Communities projects at Cook and Boyd and thinking more deeply about inclusive practices in mathematics
  • continuing to the develop a working relationship with the Musqueam community as we think about storytelling, plants and mathematics
  • the number of mathematics and curriculum evenings I helped facilitate for parents this year
  • being a part of the BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics collaborative professional inquiry project – this project has grown in unexpected ways and it is so inspiring to work alongside teachers interested in making mathematics engaging for their students

And both a personal and professional highlight this year was celebrating 25 years of service to the Richmond School District – such a special event celebrated with colleagues.

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Thank you to my CNC colleagues for an amazing year together – best wishes as you move on to new adventures – Brooke, Sarah, Diane, Kevin, Gordon and Lorraine! And a special thank you and good-bye to our administrative assistant Lisa Buemann for all she has done to support me!

Have a wonderful summer!

~Janice

investigating force and motion with grades 1&2 students at Wowk

Posted on: May 12th, 2016 by jnovakowski

As a follow-up to an after school science session she had attended, Claire Thomas from Wowk Elementary emailed me and asked if I would be able to come to her class to work with her and her grades 1&2 students around developing an inquiry project about force and motion that they could share at their school’s science fair.

The students had been learning about force and motion and had been provided with Keva blocks and marbles to enrich their investigations. When I visited, I asked the students to share what they knew about force and motion and then what they were still curious about…what they were wondering about. These questions were recorded by their teacher and the students were asked to choose a question that they could investigate.

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The students worked together in groups of two or three to investigate their question using the Keva blocks and balls and marbles and after about an hour of planning, designing, testing, making adjustments, testing, etc., the students were asked to document their findings using pictures, numbers and words.

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Here is a link to a short video compilation of the students’ investigations:

Wowk Grades 1&2 Investigating Force and Motion

This week, Wowk held a K-7 science fair, with each class having displays celebrating their science learning. I was able to pop by and visit the grade 1 & 2 students and see their displays. They were so proud to share their updated projects!

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A few students called me over to see specifically how they had made their designs better. One group said, “we finally got it to work!” – love the persistence shown, such an important disposition for scientists!

~Janice

grade 4 science: energy

Posted on: May 10th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Based on feedback from teachers last spring, we have planned a series of after school sessions supporting new content in the K-7 science curriculum.

This month, the after school science series session focused on the grade 4 science curricular content of energy. We looked at the big ideas, competencies and content and also looked to grade 5 curricular content to see where they more “natural resource”-based forms of energy were included in the curriculum – solar, wind, hydro, etc. We looked at a variety of picture and information books as starting places for students to gain some understanding of energy before they begin their own investigations.

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The following are some compiled information about the curricular content and applicable resources.

Grade 4 Energy

Gr4 Energy Resources

~Janice

primary teachers study group: inquiry in science

Posted on: April 17th, 2016 by jnovakowski

In its thirteenth year, the Richmond Primary Teachers Study Group chooses a focus each year to guide their professional collaborative inquiry. This year, building on the focus on inquiry in BC’s redesigned curriculum, teachers wanted to investigate inquiry across curriculum areas and we’ve chosen one curriculum area as a focus for each term, with the second term focusing on science.

We did an overview of the science curriculum framework on the BC curriculum website, paying particular attention to the curricular competencies.

Anticipating (or hoping for) some winter weather, we shared some “winter books” that might inspire students to ask questions about the season, particularly during time outside.

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This term we have four picture books to inspire inquiry in science – The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino, Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, Flashlight by Lizi Boyd, and Stella, Queen of the Snow by Marie-Louise Gay. The whole Stella series of books is excellent for modelling curiosity and asking questions, as Stella’s little brother is full of questions!

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One of the articles we referred to that outlines a grade 3 teacher’s yearlong journey with inquiry is the following article from the NSTA journal Science and Children:

Inquiry Takes Time

The teacher/author describes three inquiry projects moving from structured to guided to open inquiry.

As a group, we co-constructed some inquiry-based experiences for our students and then shared how these went with our students at the next session. Unfortunately, we only had one very light dusting of snow this winter so teachers will be saving the snow books for next year!

Many teachers used the Flashlight book to use the structure “what do you notice? what do you wonder?” and to inspire students to play with and investigate the properties of light, darkness and shadows.

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Our second session of the term was hosted in Louesa’ K classroom at Thompson as she usually has a science/nature provocation table…

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Louesa shared some science inquiry projects she had been doing with her Kindergarten students, including looking closely at frost and noticing trees in their local environment.  Students also chose areas of interest to them and some of them engaged together in inquiries into rainbows or dinosaurs.

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As the weather warmed up, students have found worms and snails outside and have had lots of questions – Sharon and Stephanie have started inquiries with their students beginning with their questions about worms and snails. Louesa and her K students have been discussing “How are living things in our community connected to one another?” beginning with considering how to bring “life” into their classroom and what that living thing might need.

Many of the teachers’ science inquiries are very much focused on connecting to place, which will overlap nicely with our group’s third term focus on inquiry in social studies.

~Janice

grade 7 science: the theory of evolution

Posted on: April 6th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Based on feedback from teachers last spring, we have planned a series of after school sessions supporting new content in the K-7 science curriculum.

This month, the after school science series session focused on the grade 7 life sciences curricular content of the theory of evolution.Unfortunately, this session had to be cancelled but I thought I would share some information I have compiled about the curricular content and applicable resources.

Grade 7 Life Sciences

Gr7 Life Sciences Resources

Natural selection and adaptive radiation are two key concepts now at the grade 7 level and this is a shift to elementary from secondary science content. Prior the curriculum redesign, grade 6 life science content included diversity of life (kingdoms and classification systems), micro-organisms, adaptations, etc., much of which could still be included in a broader study of life sciences/biology at the grades 6&7 level and necessary to help understand some of the concept involved with the theory of evolution. A blog post detailing how this “content” was uncovered through inquiry in an intermediate class at Lee Elementary last year can be found HERE.

~Janice

google expeditions at Homma

Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Peter Ritchie, a grades 6&7 teacher at Homma, organized a visit to his school from Google Expeditions. Anna and her Google Expeditions car along with two class sets of 3D viewers with phones (Google Cardboard). Classes each were scheduled for a half-hour time slot to go on a virtual field trip. The classroom teachers chose their field trip based on the class’ current units of study – Ancient Egypt, the Coral Reef, the Moon.

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Chris Loat, Gordon Powell and I were asked to be some extra sets of hands for the day and it was such a great experience. The students had so much fun and were screaming out in excitement, often having troubles sitting still and wanting to move around (which is a bit of a safety issue when you have viewers covering your eyes) and the students were often reaching out with their hands to touch things they saw in their 3D viewers. The teacher uses an app on a tablet to choose what students are seeing, although students can move their heads to see a 360 degree view of the location. The teacher can also pause the screen and click on different notes on his or her tablet to read aloud or explain to the students. Many of the teachers used the What do you notice? and What do you wonder? frame to engage students and to continue the experience back in their classrooms.

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A video of our morning together can be viewed HERE.

~Janice

 

~Janice

Science Jam 2016

Posted on: March 2nd, 2016 by jnovakowski

SJ 2016 logoThe Richmond School District is celebrating its thirteenth year of Science Jam, a featured event of Education Week.

Science Jam is BC’s largest non-competitive science fair, bringing together students in grades 4-7 from across our district to share their science inquiry projects. This year students from 11 schools participated choosing to do projects under three broad themes – environmental sustainability, going local and looking at the redesigned curriculum.

IMG_2732Two French Immersion students from William Bridge Elementary conducted the opening ceremonies with welcoming words from our mayor and superintendent, introduced our board of school trustees and honoured the event’s sponsors.

 

 

 

Science World started off Science Jam with a *bang* with a science surprises show.

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And then it was time for our district’s young scientists to share their projects with “celebrity scientists”, parents, community members and each other.

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A video with highlights of the event can be viewed HERE.

~Janice