Inquiry Science

The ” Objectives” Issue

How many times have you been told you must post or share your learning objectives at the beginning of your lesson?

I had the pleasure of listen to Paul Anderson address the Wisconsin Society of Science Teachers last spring. One of the first issues he brought up was the need to push back on administrators requests to post learning objectives on the board. Shortly after this I saw the video linked below to a discussion with Jason Crean on the matter. Teacher’s who engage in inquiry should consider alternative strategies to posting objectives. UBD author, Grant Wiggins chimes in with the writing of his article, “Mandating the Posting of Learning Objectives and other Mindless Policies. The policy is well meant, but perhaps superficial.

I am implementing the Illinois Storyline for the first time this year. I have decided to post the essential question for the lesson and the Science and Engineering Practice(SEP) and/or Crosscutting Concept(CCC) as “learning targets”.

Another strategy is to have students co-create the learning objectives with you. This is done as part of the discussion and reflection for each lesson. Stem Teaching Tools has a nice description of this approach. I hope to grow into this process too.

This shared Google Doc addresses FAQ’s for implementing NGSS storylines

Green Chemistry Curriculum

Green Chemistry Curriculum

Are you a Chemistry of Physical Science teacher who would like access to free resources that support greener labs and teaching about sustainability? Check out the resources available at Beyond Benign. This group supports professional development, teacher collaboration and the publication of free curriculum. Their lessons are designed to improve upon traditional chemistry labs done in science classes by using safer chemicals and challenging students to think about new ways to use science to reduce chemical impact and use naturals resources more sustainably. I had a chance to join one of their online collaboration sessions and I am thrilled to discover the idea and resources.

Teaching the Nature of Science

The Holidays bring many gifts. Some of the best gifts have been shared by dedicated educators through the Creative Commons. I am eternally grateful to the wonderful scientists and educators who shared in this way. My latest rediscovered gem is the work of Larry Flammer. He published a student text on the Nature of Science called Science Surprises. This text is a great companion to the hands on lesson ideas that are archived at his ENSIWeb site. Below are some other fantastic resources that are shared without cost to educators. Enjoy the season!

Other Nature of Science Teaching Resources:

Alaska Phenomena

Please help us collect great ideas that connect science to Alaska students using phenomena, ideas, and resources that spark wonder!


Thanks to Vicki in Homer for sharing this one with me. 

I have started a draft list that you can see here. Alaska Phenomena Word Doc Draft

You can submit your ideas and resources using this google form link


The Patterns Approach: NGSS Science Curriculum

Patterns of Science is an AWESOME open source science curriculum published by the Portland Metro STEM Collaborative. They have an amazing NGSS science curriculum available on their web site. Then, to top of their main resources, they have been pulling together support on how to reach ALL of their students during the Pandemic remote learning crisis. They aren’t simply throwing everything online and telling teachers to “have at it” They are also developing equitable paper packets that try to retain the same interaction, inquiry and quality as their live or digital lesson.

“Our team of teacher leaders has developed distance learning resources for each Patterns course to support students and teachers during school closures. These resources will support your classroom and district implementation of Distance Learning for All as directed by the Oregon Department of Education.”

Read More about this model and the resources available

Patterns High School Science – Vertical Articulation Resource Guide

Patterns Approach HS Science Curriculum Pedagogy Design Principles

NSTA Article, The Science Teacher, “The Patterns Approach: Engaging Freshman in Practices of Science” Bradford Hill.

Equity and Remote Learning Models

I am in the ironic situation of being a distance learning teacher during the COVID Abyss. I know distance learning, I have been teaching by video conference for 13 years. I could do this………But I don’t know how to reach all of my students who have no internet access at home (most of them). So I have spent a few weeks networking with others in my same situation. Learning and listening to other amazing teachers making adaptions. One thing became clear, there is no equity in the access students have to devices, internet and even long distance time to make conference calls.

My professional networking resulted in discovering new models for designing lessons during the COVID shutdown of schools. Teachers now prepare 3 different types of packets for each unit. The terms “no tech”, “low tech”, and “high tech” are emerging around these designs.

no tech= paper packet, possibly some physical supplies sent home with careful hygiene consideration. (Phone conferencing may be an option)

low tech – files that can be used offline for learning. These can be transferred by air drop when students come in to pick up their lunches or stand outside the building to access the wifi. They can also be mailed or dropped off by usb thumb drive. (Phone conferencing may be an option)

high tech- students have a device and internet access. They can join classes by ZOOM and use LMS such as Canvas and Google Classroom. In my situation this is less than 5% of my students.

It has been so wonderful to share with other teachers who are designing around all of these constraints to make learning possible. Taking the time to reach out and network with other teachers has been an invaluable use of my time. I hit the jackpot last week when I found that the Science Teachers in Portland Oregon had posted a COVID adapted version of Unit 5 for their Physics Curriculum. Triple Bonus, their unit matched mine with alignment to the NGSS, used the same open source textbook and utilized PHET interactive lab simulations . So here is what a unit plan can look like if you design it in three ways; no tech, low, tech, and high tech. All of the material used and the design is published through open source creative commons. I adapted the unit a bit. When I have more time I am going to add some personalized screencasts for the low tech and high tech options.

Did I mention time? Just think about it. Designing three versions of all your lessons and then personalizing it with video instruction and personal communication. A good reason to work together and share. A big thank you to all the science teachers who share and the staff at Portland, Oregon school district.