Top 6 Reasons Why It’s Time for EE Literacy & State Standards to Unite

 

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Ah yes! Sitting feels good! I finally get a moment to breath.  I haven’t had time to really sit down until now, but am grateful for the opportunity to FINALLY get to share with you some of the amazing fruits that I was able to harvest from a professional conference I attended not too long ago.

Last October, I had the opportunity to attend the NAAEE conference in Madison, WI and it was an incredibly amazing experience to say the least.  Re-inspiring, reinvigorating, refreshing, informative, educational… the list of adjectives could go on, but I won’t.  Anyway, for those who may not be familiar, NAAEE stands for the North American Association for Environmental Educators and, yes, there IS actually an official group for people to sit around and talk about how to save the environment.  But, more importantly YES… it was filled with amazing, encouraging, and fruitful goodness!  And I am the type of person who likes to share GOOD stuff when I find it, so here I go…

One of the first observations that I remember making when I arrived was how all the various circles were talking about the significance of human relationships.  Not just of a human’s relationship with the environment, but (more importantly) with each other… the human community.  That was the moment I knew I was in the right place.  I fell deeper in love with my vocation and humanity.

I experienced some wonderful opportunities to meet some amazing and dedicated people, and learn about what they, theirs organization, or their businesses were doing to further education and inspire people towards environmental literacy and stewardship.  Whether they traveled from within the U.S. or internationally, these global partners fell into 1 of 2 categories:

  1. They were informal educators seeking relationships with formal schools and an entry into their school curriculum; or
  2. School teachers seeking a way to merge environmental education standards into their school curriculum standards.

Realizing such motives that most of the participants fell into was probably the second time I knew that I was in the right place.  I all of a sudden didn’t feel alone; that everything I’ve been thinking wasn’t so crazy after all.  There is an effective way to leverage the power of children to promote sustainability and it is good… so good.  Combining environmental literacy and state education standards in a true, authentic way “…is like a thick steak, a glass of wine, and a good cigar.”  Any Chestertonian worth his lick would be hard-pressed to disagree.  Here are a few of the reasons why:


6.  David Suzuki.  A Canadian Chemist and leading environmental advocate, Mr. Suzuki was the lead-off keynote speaker for the 2016 conference.  Lying within his humorous wit and inspirational anecdotes, were so many little pearls of wisdom.  One of the things that stood out the most to me was when he started talking about how “we are so ignorant of how the world works, we don’t know how to anticipate the consequences.”  It really stuck with me.  I mean this world is SO massive, it’s nearly impossible to know every. Little. Thing.  People truly have good intentions and are doing their best to live a good, responsible life, but sometimes that which we don’t know gets the better of our intentions.  We want better materials, we want convenience, and we don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for it… Now how can we get that which we want with the fewest number of “consequences”?  Mull that chewy little morsel over with a glass of your choice red as you watch his talk here.

5. Research.  img_20161019_091121768_hdrA big component of the conference is all about research… figuring out the best practices in getting people to act with environmentality.  This includes understanding people and why do do/say what they do/say, understanding how zoos/aquariums/environmental centers can effectively communicate conservation messages to guests, understanding the role of an informal education center and how people (both teachers and day guests) view them, and even how informal centers can work together to influence their community.  The list goes on and on, but here are some gems that I found and adore.

  • Beetles Project: This project is based out of California is a network of organizations and individuals dedicated to building relationships between schools and EE centers, as well as incorporating EE literacy standards into state/national curriculum standards.
  • NC State University:  This was one of the first talks I attended and enjoyed thoroughly.  This doctoral candidate is studying the effectiveness of climate literacy using outdoor/informal facilities and using the power of children to influence positive behavior in their parents.
  • Northland College:  Another fabulous individual dedicate to bridging the gap between informal and formal settings.  His talk was on incorporating EE into teacher pre-service training.
  • Dr. Chris Sperry:  This is an individual who dedicates his livelihood to effective EE practices.  Unfortunately, I was in and out of this talk due to volunteer duties, but still a great resource if you’re interested in learning more about the topic.
  • University of Georgia:  Teachers Communicating with Informal Science Educators:  Community Views on Collaboration.  This is an interesting little study on the effectiveness of school/informal education center relationships and how teachers and EE facilitators view each other’s jobs.

4. Human Impact. Sometimes it can be difficult for people, especially children, to really comprehend the impact society has on itself and the Earth.  So here are some organizations that have some great after school and/classroom activities you can utilize to help your students understand.

  • Science Action Club:  A group dedicated to providing schools with quality environmental programs and kits to engage students in inquiry-based, STEM activities.
  • Population Connection:  A resource that contains some great, engaging activities to assist students in visualizing human impact on Earth.
  • ecoRise Youth Innovations:  Offers teachers eco-literacy curriculum to incorporate into the classroom.  It’s all about design/systems-thinking in their programs which prepares them for a life/career in the real world.

3.  Aimee Nezhukumatathil.  This lovely lady is a specialist on environmental literacy and ELA, so pretty much YES english and the outdoors DO have something in common.  She is an English Professor and public educator, as well as a renowned guest speaker.  She talks about the great need for kids to be inspired again.  There is no greater inspiration than the outdoors!  Check out a portion of her talk right here.

“So much of what it means to be a writer [or scientist or design engineer] is just to be curious.  Having a curiosity that demands to be satiated.”

2. Classroom Resources. Classroom resources teachers can use to hone critical skills used in the  process of science (observation, reasoning, and critical thinking).  All of the following resources have specific lessons/curriculum for a variety of topics (or standards, if you will).  Wildcam Gorongoza and Zooniverse are both entities of HHMI

Biointeractive which are SUPERB resources for helping students working on their observation and classification skills as they help real-life scientists to identify species caught on camera traps. iNaturalist is a citizen scientist application in which students can also help to identify plant/animal species, or post their own pictures for identification.  These are great ways to network in real-time with real-scientists.  Teachers can use these tools for a stimulating class discussion, too!

1. Environmental Literacy Models.  And the #1 reason why it’s time to unite EE literacy with state standards?!  Why, of course, it’s already being done!  Not only are there great lessons that school teachers can attach to, but there are also already schools that have caught on to the revolution of changing the ways of formal education!  Check out these awesome models which demonstrate effective incorporation of EE standards in school curriculum standards.  These groups are already working to bridge the gap between the two.

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STEM vs. PBL

Science is great! I love science!  Regarding all aspects of the world within which we live, science provides us with the knowledge of the properties that make up objects from the world that we can use to manufacture solutions and design products that make life easier. Hello, cell phones!  Society would agree, this is exciting stuff…

That being said, when students say that science is boring I can’t help but think of the Nature of Science.  What IS that?  What do they mean by “the nature of science”?  Even this description is on the overwhelming side.  Well, in a nutshell, it is the current way that science is expected to be taught.  Many, if not most, textbook publishing companies separate the “how” to do science from the actual knowledge of science in the first chapter or two of their textbooks; this includes tools used “to do” science, as well as abstract notions such as scientific thought processes such as various types of reasoning.  But, contrary to what current textbook publishes would have you believe, the scientific method is really not a study itself… it is it is WHAT we use TO study.  In other words, in reality, the “nature of science” is not a concept that should be treated as independent chapters of a book, but rather should be infused with the throughout the book to help students understand the “knowledge of science.”  Much of the terminology that is used to teach “reasoning” methods are abstract ideas and pose very real challenges understanding, and must be taught within specific context.  They require context clues within the discipline, as well as real-world problems and applications.

Without the meaning of context, the “Nature of Science” comes off as dry and boring material.  And, for that reason alone, I can totally relate to student sentiments and have come to the conclusion that IT is the reason why students must think ‘science is boring.’  “Natures of Science” needs to die a horribly bloody death just as mush as “STEM.”

I think this is why I must highly enjoy project-based learning (also known as “PBL”) so much.  Further, I feel like the reality of what STEM actually is provides the context/structure for PBL, which then also naturally lends itself to cover multiple teaching standards in one lesson.

I recently fell into an opportunity teaching middle school STEM that inspired this mini-piphany of teaching STEM in everyday science.  Maybe it’s just my wishful thinking, but I really do hope that this way of thinking of STEM catches on in the general public.  If so, maybe my dream that all people will understand and respect the earthly place they call home will come true.

Just remember… PBL is STEM.  STEM IS PBL.

The Reason “STEM” Just Needs to Go Away

Yea, that’s right I said it.  Allow me to explain myself, but first let’s take a step back…img_20160923_061446

Can I just say how much I HATE buzz words?!  I don’t mind clichés so much, though.  They can actually be massively entertaining to mess around with (sometimes).  But buzzwords… they just irk me and make my eyes twitch.

I was thinking about the current state of education
when this thought came to mind.  I feel like the field of education has been reduced to nothing but
buzzwords.  I mean when it becomes such an item of jargon, it eventually loses its meaning.  Society uses them to convey a particular thought, but without continual definition and context it becomes used incorrectly.  Accuracy matters… and anything otherwise can deter us from the initial goal.

The chief item of current fashion to blame for my musing, as well as volition to vomit, is STEM.  For those folks who have been living under a rock, STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  I suppose the reason it frustrates me so much is because of how widely misunderstood it is.stem-kid-be-like  So many people that I know, so many parents, and even many educators see it as a discipline where kids learn about computers, electronic devices, and code all day.  As if all there is to technology  is computers and such. From my observations, it’s almost like they have no clue that STEM is even an acronym at all, and that it’s something that their child MUST be involved in to be anything remotely successful.  This idea of success is totally not true.  Or, at least, not true in the way these parents perceive it to be.

Really, technology is anything that seeks to make life better.  Fire is technology.  Band aids, file folders, pens and pencils, and even the Crayola pack with the attached sharpener are all examples of technology.  People take for granted many of these little things because they have become such useful tools that they couldn’t imagine better solutions.  And that’s fine.  Because technology doesn’t have to seek to solve just large-scale problems; it’s all about solving ANY problem to advance our lifestyles.  However, it is also only a SINGLE component of STEM.  Science (and Math) are really what are at the heart of engineering new technologies.  I mean, let’s take a look at the etymology of the word ‘science.’  It is derived from the Latin word ‘sciri’ (hmmm… I wonder if this is where the idea for a certain Apple product’s name came from) which means ‘knowledge.’  There is so incredibly much to ‘know’ about in this world besides the natural things that give the textbook definition of the word.

That having been said, referring to the academic discipline of science, it is what provides us with the knowledge of the characteristic properties that make up Earthly objects that are used to design solutions and manufacture products that make our lives more enjoyable.  At  the heart of solving problems, we have to know about where to get the materials that will best suit those solutions we seek to find.  Science guides us as to which resources to use to best suit our design goals.  And THIS is what I wish more people would know about that buzz word.  Because you know what?  It really is GREAT!

What makes STEM so great is that it really is how science should be taught.  It is the missing practical relevance that kids are craving when they say that they hate science or that science is boring.  I just really hate the misunderstood ‘buzz word’ aspect, but it actually is a great concept.  So let’s let “STEM” die a bloody, horrible death.  Make it go away.  I call for a revolution!  A new way of teachin? Perhaps, simply a name change?  My suggestion?  Let’s just call it “the correct way to teach science.”  Okay, lets’ go!

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An approach to STEM I actually don’t mind… #butforrealthough

Pure Science Goodness!

img_20160914_211928Hey there, Science Teachers!  I finally did it.  I finally made some really awesome and
useful Learning Objective posters!  If you’re anything like me, then the vast number of standards we have to teach in for Middle School SCIENCE is entirely overwhelming.  I am the type of teacher who needs a complete road map for the year, so that I can properly plan WHAT I’m going to teach and in WHAT order I am going to teach it.  There must be a chronological, scaffolding flow.

To help me do that, I’ve created “I CAN…” statement poster/wall hangings.  First, I lay all the posters which are standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper to see them at once in order to figure out how I will group them for various projects.  Once that part of the planning is done, I can then simply take the appropriate poster(s) I need, and display them in the front of the room on the board for students to see out learning objective.  No more flipping back and forth between pages of a state document to see what you still need to cover.  No more wasting time writing long objectives on the board.

These posters also provide a quick, easy and effective way to show administrators, fellow teachers, and students what Florida Science Standards are being taught. The illustrations do more than just make the posters cute, they actually further enhance comprehension and effectiveness through detailed and unique visual examples. This resource is formatted to print 1 standard per page of standard sized printing paper.

Save a ton of time by buying our FULL PAGE SIZE pre-made Illustrated “I Can” Statements for the Florida Science Standards.  Check out my TpT store here and let the one more “middle school stress” melt away!  Also, if you know any K-5 teachers that could use an instructional aid like this, one of MY favorite sellers is Jason’s Online Classroom.  You can get “I CAN…” posters for science, as well as other disciplines, here.  I hope you enjoy all these products as much as I have and DO!

Once purchased, these Florida Standards Posters can be printed, laminated and used for years and years!! Buy once, use every single year

 

FREE Inspirational Quotes!

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Hi, everybody! Welcome to my page. As a way to celebrate my “initiation” into this new involvement with Teacher’s Pay Teachers, I want to inspire you to bring the humanities back to the classroom. In an age where “teaching to the test” is the considered the an acceptable mode of teaching, our students our losing or missing out completely on critical thinking skills. We CAN NOT allow this, and that is why I call on teachers to bring the humanities back to education… all disciplines and ESPECIALLY in science. When students see the relevancy of why they need to know what we teach, lights go and excitement abounds!

For  that reason, I am HUGE proponent of project-based learning.  Whether you plan a project on a large or small scale, this method of pedagogy easily allows you to group multiple teaching standards (whether your own core discipline or other disciplines, as well) into one lesson.  It’s a great way to collaborate cross-curriculum with your planned learning community, too.  For more information on how to start planning higher quality, engaging learning experiences for your students, go to the Buck Institutes web page here.

Also, don’t forget to check my TpT store and get a FREE download of some of my favorite inspirational quotes.

My first product contains some of my favorite quotes from my philosophers, including Socrates’ “I can not teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” So check out the quality of my work, and feel free to print and hang around your classroom.  I hope you enjoy!