Science News

Pandemic Chaos

Welcome! Nothing like a bunch of questions about teaching science by distance can burn a fire under an amateur blogger. Sorry about the mess but I have been busy teaching. But I am very motivated to start curating and sharing ideas that I have. I am extremely frustrated to have to spend most of my time converting my digital magic to paper packets because my students have or limited internet. So please help your self but mind the mess. We are stronger together!


NGSS Biology Lesson Models

The Inquiry Hub has amazing Biology units that integrate NGSS in a meaningful and compelling curriculum. They have just announced webinars to help teachers implement these remotely.

Meeting 1: Remote Learning Support for inquiryHub and OpenSciEd
TOPIC: Fostering Productive Norms in Remote Learning
Time: Monday, March 30, 2020 at 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Central Time Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 512 471 6536

Meeting 2: Remote Learning Support for OpenSciEd and iHub
TOPIC: Building a Driving Question Board in Remote Learning
Time: Apr 8, 2020 01:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 512 471 6536

(note from October) I found this resource today for teaching Biology. . It looks amazing. I plan to use Unit 2 next week. Best of all it’s through Open Source Education (OER) licensing and supports my commitment to use and share free resources.  

(post implement note) Amazing units. I learned so much and the format is pushing me to teach with more sophisticated inquiry strategies. 


The Transition to teaching with the Next Generation Science Standards NGSS

As a science teacher, I am so excited to see the transformation of our state and national science standards. These standards where developed through the collaboration of 100’s maybe even thousands of experts in science and education and truly represent the major shifts in science and society since our first attempts to establish standards for science education. They map our a transformation in how we teach and learn science.

As an educator who builds and implements lesson plans, I am challenged. Now I am balancing Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) (content??), with Science and Engineering Practices (SEP) and Crosscutting Concepts (CC). Did someone mention phenomena and storylines? Oh my! How do you I fit this into my district lesson plan template now?

So I have been putting on my design and engineering cap and asking myself, “what does an NGSS lesson look like?” What does an NGSS science classroom look like?

If I look at our traditional resources. That would be a text book. While many text book company’s have “aligned” their content to the NGSS. Most have done so as an after thought and not a redesign of their strategies and teaching. The have aligned their traditional books to the DCI’s and inserted ideas for doing Science and Engineering and CrossCutting Concepts as labs that follow a traditional course outline. But if you try to line these up with the NGSS Performance Standards it’s a bit awkward and a stretch to say “aligned”

As I started looking deeper into the resources on the Next Generation Science standard website and the National Science Teachers Association. I started to notice that there is a new breed of science curriculum emerging. One that starts with A Phenomena and tells a story. I have found some resources that are helping to transform my teaching, especially Argument Driven Inquiry. As I begin my implementation of these new resources, I am connecting with my students at a deeper scientific level and it is invigorating and exciting.

But as a rural science teacher its’ often tough. If you are the only science teacher in your building, how do you stay connected and grow?

#1 Become a National Science Teacher Association Member –
A great way to stay connected when you work in rural Alaska is to join the National Science Teachers Association. Once you are a member you can join a listserv for every science content are you teach. Yeah, that could be all of them, LOL. One of the best perks is the ability to browse their old journal issues which are full of excellent lesson plans.

#2 Become a member of the Alaska Science Teachers Association
This group sponsors $500 mini-grants for professional development and classroom supplies. All thoughtful proposals get serious consideration

#3 Check out these lesson plans and resources. They are not all NGSS formatted, but each one has elements that help build a storyline. I will be adding to this list as I collect new resources throughout the year. Feel free to email me with more ?

Alaska Resources

National Links


Toolik Lake Field Station- Day 2

My work team includes an outreach educator from the University of Colorado, a kindergarten teacher from Falmouth, MA, and about a dozen graduate students from Norte Dame and the University of California – San Luis Obispo. We had a camp orientation the night before to learn the in and outs of camp life. I am impressed with the organization and creature comforts. The food is fantastic. I wasn’t expecting 8 flavors of homemade ice cream in a remote tundra camp.

Our day started with a walking tour and overview of the history of Toolik Lake Field Station. There is an impressive board walk that connects the research plots across the tundra. Our first stop was one of the first projects to build artificial warming chambers to study the affect of warmer temperatures on arctic vegetation and soil ecosystems. The first chambers where established in 1986. You can see a dramatic difference in height and composition of plants inside the greenhouses. There are enclosures that test a variety of variables including increased nitrogen and phosphorous production that occurs when bacteria increase their growth in warmer soils and longer growing seasons.

Our first project is called a PLUK study.  We will be sorting plant samples from an area burned in a tundra fire in 2008. Researchers are studying how composition and speed in which the plants grow back after such a disturbance. The fire was started by a lightening strike. Thunderstorms are uncommon in the arctic, but their frequency is increasing as the average temperature increases.

We spent time reviewing how the samples where collected. It was a hot day. 70 degrees in the tundra seems like 90 elsewhere. It was a relief to escape the heat and mosquitos to help with samples collected before we arrived. Fifteen of us squeezed into a lab tent to learn how to sort and label samples, working in groups of three. We started at 11 am and finished our sample at 8 pm. There was a break for a wonderful dinner of seafood scampi and more ice cream.  I may brave the mosquitos to take some evening photos.


Toolik Lake Field Station – Day 1

This summer I was invited to join researchers as at the Toolik Lake Research Station. Each year researchers invite educators to work on their Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) projects. I jumped at the chance to travel to this outpost above the Arctic Circle, on the north side of the Brooks Range. My job will be to develop a lesson plan to share what I learned with my students.

I arrived at Toolik Lake Field Station after a 2 hour flight from Anchorage to Prudhoe Bay. I was greeted at the airport by the Toolik Taxi drivers. Two station staff, who’s duties include driving a largely unpaved 130 mile section of the Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay to this remote research camp. I had met some of the scientists and teachers I would be working with in Anchorage.  It was relatively easy to pick out the science types from the crowd of workers flying into to work in the oil fields. My group included 2 other teachers, and an assortment of researchers and graduate students. We threw our bags in the back of the truck and split up between a passenger van and the truck space for our trek down the haul road. Two Muskoxen, 4 cranes, 4 Northern Harriers, 1 Gryfalcon, several Glaucaus Gulls, 2  ground squirrels and many bumps later brought us into camp.

I love the colors and the smells of the Tundra. The Brooks Range provides a dramatic background to the somewhat familiar Arctic terrain. The mosquitos are fierce and I look forward to starting our projects tomorrow.

11pm sun across Toolik Lake

The sleeping accommodations have comfortable beds and electricity. Quite luxurious.


Adventures in Customizing Textbooks

Our first book has hit the classrooms. This is a huge experiment in using open source text books. LKSD has implemented our first customized Biology Text district wide.  We customized a book using templates and tools made available through and their Flexbook platform.

My interest began as I struggled to use commercial books that were loaded with academic language and lengthy chapters filled with thousands of concepts at once. I was searching for books that would be ESL friendly, but still rich in content and rigorous. The books are arranged in concepts vs chapters which present a more digestible chunk of knowledge at one time. We can also edit the book and use our own analogies and local pictures and terms.  A team of teachers worked on customizing these books over the summer. Books are available in print and digital format.

KYUK recently did a news story about our efforts.