Reflective Practice: A Weekly Recap from Kaitlin and Olivia

Weekly Recap

It’s been another busy and exciting week for the GR!S preservice team! We began the week with the opportunity to attend the Science Teachers Association of New York State (STANYS) annual conference here in Rochester, NY. Check out Sydney’s blog  for a recap on our experiences!

For several of us, this week kicked off our mini-unit implementation: a series of lessons we have been developing over time under the guidance of our cooperating teachers. Check out James’ blog post on his experiences here!

This week we, Kaitlin and Olivia, will report out on the first day of our mini-unit, as a method of reflective practice. To learn more about what it means to become a reflective practitioner, check out this free, online module from Open Learn: Learning to Teach, Becoming a Reflective Practitioner. 

Kaitlin’s Weekly Reporting: A Week of Firsts

The start of this mini-unit marked a series of firsts for me. It was my first filmed lesson, my first time using the official Warner lesson plan, and my first time truly teaching the class I’m assigned to. I will start by commenting on filming. Filming was a terrible experience. It took a lot of pre-setup. I had to make sure all of my equipment was charged, that everything was setup with a good angle and that it was set so that audio recording would be taken clearly. I think I spent most of a previous class period setting it up. It definitely made me more nervous than I usually was before teaching a lesson. The kicker to all this? None of the recording equipment worked properly. I had both a laptop and a camera recording. My laptop recorded nothing. Why did it do that? Not enough storage space. My camera only recorded maybe 40 minutes of my total of 80 minutes of teaching. Part of those shots were of the very tops of students’ heads. It is very hard trying to carry a camera around with you to small groups, focus on speaking to the students, and making sure that everything is in frame all at the same time. What made this even more depressing was that this was one of the best lessons I’ve ever taught. Students were having incredible discussions, they were laughing and smiling, and they experienced many exciting a-ha moments throughout. It would have been perfect for edTPA. And almost none of it got recorded. Hopefully the Regent’s classes will have a better recording session, but from now on, I’m going to use different filming equipment.

My first time using the Warner Lesson Plan was also horrible. The sequence of it doesn’t make sense to me, it’s not an efficient lesson plan to use if you don’t have tons of time, and I just don’t like the format of it. I found the unit plans that we used for our summer camp to be much more efficient and effective of communicating the information that I need for my daily preparation. I will be pleased when we get to use our own styles of lesson plans.

My actual lesson was the one thing that went well. It was an introductory activity to get the students interested in the topic of proteins. The gist of the lesson was that the students were adopting the role of a neurological team that is encountering a medical mystery that they have to solve. I gave them files containing medical reports and a coroner’s report all based on actual templates and using authentic medical language. They had to consider symptoms, patient family history, and recent travels. They had to use prior knowledge of the sort of things hospitals take into account and vocabulary that they may have heard on medical and crime tv shows. Then, they had to use knowledge of cross-referencing research skills to find the correct disease. Lastly, they had to use what they had learned about the disease in order to combat social media that was spreading misinformation: a good relevant life-skill and nature of science moment. The discussions I heard were great, and it felt amazing seeing how excited the students got when they solved the mystery. We ran out of time before I could move into the rest of the lesson on proteins, but we’ll have time to get to that later. I only hope that I can make the rest of my lessons as engaging as this one was.

Olivia’s Weekly Reporting: Question, Claim, Evidence, Reasoning

As we continue to bridge between the present NYS Core Curriculum Standards toward the Next Generation Science Standards, our teaching must evolve to facilitate learning of disciplinary core ideas while engaging students to take ownership of the learning through science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts. This week I began a mini-unit with students enrolled in 9th grade Living Environment, focused on reviewing Cells and Life Processes. The lesson began with a warm-up activity, engaging students in a Think, Pair, Share activity. Students were asked to consider each of the following, guided by the question: What are the key players that keep me balanced and what are their jobs?

Think: Write down two questions a scientist would ask in order to gather more information about cells, organelles, or maintaining homeostasis.

  • Student Examples: What kind of cell is it? How does the cell membrane function? Why is the animal cell a random shape? Why are plant cells square? What do they need to survive? Is the cell multicellular or unicellular? What size is the organelle? What is the cell made of?

Pair: Pair up with a scientist sitting next to you and brainstorm two tools a scientist might use in order to conduct an investigation about cells.

  • Student Examples: Microscope, Slide, Cover Slips, Indicator Solution (IKI), Dialysis Tubing (represents a semi-permeable cell membrane), background knowledge,

Share. Share with the class and record other scientist’s ideas!

Next, we used the same framework of thinking to approach a whole-class activity: Inquiry Cubes! The first inquiry cube was designed with numbers, colors and a single pattern in order to scaffold learning that could then be used next to approach a more complex cube focused on cells, organelle structure and function, and life processes.

Throughout the lesson students were encouraged to collaborate with their peers, or fellow scientists in order to engage with Science and Engineering Practices outlined in the Next Generation Science Standards.

  1. Questioning: Formulate questions based on their observations.
  2. Claim: Develop a claim, or prediction.
  3. Evidence: Supply evidence, based on observations.
  4. Reasoning: Provide reasoning, justifying claims with evidence.

As educators continue to implement NGSS in the classroom, collaboration is key to both our success as teachers and student learning. Questions, feedback, advice based on your experiences? Please comment below to begin our conversation!

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A Growth-Oriented Mindset

“A self-managed classroom is growth-oriented. In a self-managed classroom, making mistakes is part of the territory. In fact, students and teachers understand that making mistakes are not only normal but a necessary sign that learning is occurring. To that end, students demonstrate, analyze and celebrate academic courage- taking risks to speak up in class, ask questions, pose ideas, and try out new concepts and vocabulary. They are not afraid or embarrassed to show they care about learning. They understand and discuss the concept of growth mindset that practice makes you stronger, that engaging in hard work and more challenging problems “grows your brain.” They thrive on embedded cycles of practice, feedback and documented growth in academics, communication, routines, and procedure” (Berger et. al, 2015, p. 3).

According to Berger et al. (2015) a self-managed classroom can be defined by four characteristics, a self-managed classroom is: respectful, active, collaborative and growth-oriented. While all four play a critical role in establishing and nurturing a self-managed, or student-driven inclusive learning community, this week I will focus on: growth-oriented mindset. As you read above a growth-oriented mindset involves risk-taking, collaborative inquiry, and a willingness to add to and revise thinking over time.  So how do we establish a classroom environment where all members (teachers and learners) practice with a growth-oriented mindset?

First, we must make thinking (and therefore learning) visible! When thinking is made visible learners are able to revisit, add to, and revise their thinking (or model) throughout a unit.

Next, we as educators must scaffold learning appropriately for each learner. Scaffolding allows access to new concepts and materials for all learners, and encourages independent inquiry. Eventually scaffolding can be taken away as learners become more confident.

How do you establish a growth-oriented mindset in your learning community? Join the conversation in the comment section below!


  • Ms. Laura Westerman (Middle School Science Teacher, STANYS 2017 Conference Presenter): DIY Individual Student White Boards: Buy a piece of shower board ($10 at Home Depot) and cut into smaller sections for a cheaper alternative to dry erase boards. White boards are a great way to encourage student thinking in a “low-risk” setting as white boards are easy to erase! Furthermore, the use of individual white boards make student thinking visible to the teacher quickly, a great check-in for understanding or piece of formative assessment!
  • Courtney Sears, Edutopia Author (A Simple Tool for Fostering Growth Mindset)Use pens, instead of pencils, to keep mistakes, revisions and LEARNING visible! Model the revision process for students by putting a single line through an “old-thought” or section that you would like to now revise.


  • Berger, R., Strasser, D., and L. Woodfin. 2015. Management in the Active Classroom. EL Education: New York, New York.

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Integration = Equity

In 1954 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional (Brown v. Board of Education); overturning the ruling of separate, but equal (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896). Today, segregation is evident in public schools across the United States, it is 2017.  Segregation is inherently unequal and inequitable, yet still across the country young learners are denied the right to an equitable education. How can we “fix” this? As Hannah-Jones (2017) states: “The fight for public schools must be a fight for integration. Period”. Integration, in fact forced integration of public schools is our only chance of providing equitable learning opportunities for all learners: Integration = Equity.

On October 26, Great Schools for All hosted  Nikole-Hannah Jones, Investigative Reporter, New York Times Journalist and 2017 MacArthur Fellow, to lead a conversation on social justice and public education reform. The event was held at the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester, NY; approximately 600 people (students, families, community members, volunteers) were in attendance. After laying out the historical evidence and crises of today, Nikole challenged her audience, stating: “I don’t talk to people who don’t want integration, I talk to people who SAY they want #diverseschools, then act differently” (@atbrady; @nhannahjones).

As a preservice teacher at the Warner School of Education, I believe in our mission which states: “At the Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development, we believe that education can transform lives and make the world more just and humane” (Warner School of Education, Mission Statement). But saying I believe is not enough. That’s the easy part: saying we believe in something, pledging a commitment to social justice and reform. The harder part, is acting on our commitment, our actions are what have a chance of making a difference.

Check out a collection of Nikole Hannah-Jones’ work here to be inspired! Our commitments become most powerful when they are personal, when we exhibit a sense of ownership: check out Nikole’s story on the decision she and her family made when choosing a school for her daughter. Here is a short clip of Nikole and her family on the way to school:

How will YOU make a difference? You can begin by becoming involved with Rochester’s Great Schools for All! Do you know of other organizations committed to action oriented social justice in the greater Rochester area? Comment below!

(Photo: GS4A Webpage, Logo)

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A Time for Change: Balancing the STEM Gender Gap

“Women’s under-representation in STEM fields starts early, with gender gaps in STEM interest beginning in middle school and growing throughout high school, college, and career. Far too many girls and women are discouraged from pursuing success in STEM fields. NOW IS THE TIME FOR CHANGE” (WFCO, p. 10).



It is an exciting time to enter the field of education! Current education reforms aim to transform traditional teaching and learning; shifting the role of a teacher to that of a facilitator, and the role of a student to an engaged, active learner. Culturally responsive teaching practices aim to create a safe, enriching learning environment for all learners and encourage strong relationships between: student-student, student-teacher, and teacher-teacher. Collaboration and communication are key for successful implementation of such reforms; everyone’s voice must be heard and valued. As educators we must continually assess not only student performance, but also the learning environments in which we facilitate learning.

Does the learning environment represent that values of all of our students (Culturally Responsive Teaching)?

Does the learning environment provide multiple means of action, representation and expression for all learners (Universal Design for Learning)?

Does the learning environment provide equitable access to materials, resources, and experiences for all learners?  

This past week I joined a group of students enrolled in an Environmental Studies course aboard Science on SenecaScience on Seneca offers the opportunity for middle and high-school students to engage in an authentic research investigation, focused on the water quality of Seneca Lake. While aboard students examine water chemistry (temperature, pH, Dissolved Oxygen, and nutrient concentrations), the diversity of the ecosystem (plankton tow, sediment samples) and water clarity. Students use the tools and procedures followed by professional research scientists and contribute their findings to an ongoing, communal database for future research. The learning environment aboard the William Scandling (a research vessel owned and operated by Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the Finger Lakes Institute) offered, encouraged and modeled techniques for all students to engage with throughout the experience. Further, all students were encouraged to partake in “hands-on” learning as the groups were small (2-3 students/group) and mentored by one teacher, trained in the procedures and goals of Science on Seneca. 

As I listened to students over the course of the two days I recognized some trends: several of the students had experience on boats, mostly fishing experiences, however for some students this would be their first experience on a boat. Whether it was new or familiar, all students seemed excited by the opportunity: Snap-chatting photos to friends, taking selfies and exploring the boat deck. When it became time to start collecting data, it appeared that students were divided: some were eager to use the tools provided, others were hesitant and resorted to note-taking rather than working with the tools.

On the first day I found myself working to encourage a switch of these initial roles. While one student (female) immediately took the role of note-taking, another took the role of data collection (male student) and the third (female student) seemed content observing. A gentle recommendation such as: “A” why don’t you do a second trial to see if you get a similar result? seemed to be enough encouragement for the female partner to join in. After a few more recommendations such as this I found myself wondering how as teachers we can work to modify what seem to be pre-defined, self-selected roles of students. While these three students seemed willing to try a new task when prompted, they resorted back to their original roles after one trial.

How can we break the stereotype of young women taking notes and young men being more willing to conduct the research (ex. examine a soil sediment sample). As science teachers we must commit to actively breaking down stereotypes that have led to the gender gap in STEM opportunities and careers. How we approach a redistribution of roles in our classroom depends on each community of learners we teach. We must constantly be aware of the learning environment, the availability of roles and the goals of each lesson/activity: how can we ensure that every student has multiple opportunities to explore various roles inside and outside the classroom?

Here is a compiled report I found useful for strategies to do so! While the following resources are focused on engaging young women in STEM, several of the instructional strategies can be applied to all learners: with our main focus being including every student in STEM. Check out the following 12 Strategies for Engaging Girls and Young Women in STEM provided by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Visit the link provided to learn how to implement each strategy in your classroom!

Strategy 1. Provide opportunities for mastery experiences.

Strategy 2. Provide opportunities for girls to learn by observing others.

Strategy 3. Provide opportunities for girls to be recognized as innovators by their peers and their community.

Strategy 4. Take a holistic approach. Help girls cope with misconceptions and biases that stand in the way of STEM engagement.

Strategy 5. Educators and community organizations can provide opportunities for parents/caregivers to see their daughters practicing science, technology, and engineering skills and solving problems using math.

Strategy 6. Give parents/caregivers ideas about how they can continue STEM learning at home with their children.

Strategy 7. Educate parents/caregivers on how best to advocate for advanced STEM opportunities for their daughters.

Strategy 8. Show parents/caregivers where they can find STEM opportunities for their girls.

Strategy 9. Educators and community organizations can provide multi-faceted communications about how STEM relates to students’ daily lives and everyday experiences.

Strategy 10. Help educators access and share STEM resources.

Strategy 11. Provide training and resources for educators to develop curriculum that is inclusive of girls, including girls of color.

Strategy 12. Link educators with industry partners so they can see and experience the work of STEM professionals.

Additional Resources for Women in STEM:

  1. STEMinist
  2. STEMconnector
  3. STEM Village
  4. Carnegie STEM Girls 
  5. PBS SciGirls

Do you have additional resources for supporting young women in STEM? Please share in the comment section below!


The Women’s Foundation of Colorado (WFOC). This is what STEM looks like. Retrieved from:

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Place-Based Education: Science on Seneca

When you’ve seen one rural community, you’ve seen one rural community. Every rural community has certain social, economic, and/or environmental issues that are unique to that particular community and contribute to its diversity” (p. 29).

This week I begin my field experience at Sodus High School, a rural school district located along the shore of Lake Ontario and not far from the Finger Lakes region. I am excited to begin learning with and from students currently enrolled in the Environmental Science course while investigating water quality on Seneca Lake through Science on Seneca! Students will board the William Scandlinga 65-foot research vessel owned by Hobart and William Smith Colleges and originally built for the United States Navy. Students will investigate water quality, while measuring turbidity, temperature and conductivity. In addition, students will collect both plankton and sediment samples for further analysis, analyzing the stability and health of the ecosystem.

Science on Seneca affords the opportunity for students to engage in “work-bench” and professional science! Students will learn how to use a variety of authentic tools used by professional scientists in the field. In addition, students will record their data and submit their findings to an ongoing (20+ year) database available online!

Science on Seneca is an EPA awarded environmental education program that aims to provide students a place-based, experiential learning opportunity while engaging in professional science in the context of the Finger Lakes.

Today, the Finger Lakes face a variety of environmental threats, including: agricultural pollutants, shoreline development, recreational use, and the introduction of invasive species (SOS). Science on Seneca offers an authentic educational experience, enabling students to make connections between the data they find and potential solutions for environmental concerns in their home communities! In order to develop place-based educational experiences for our students in relation to their local community we must ask: What makes Science on Seneca a place-based educational experience?

According to Avery (2013) Place-Based Education requires each of the following conditions.

  1. Engages from a specific place and includes indigenous cultural and nature studies.
  2. Is multidisciplinary and experiential.
  3. Includes local internships/entrepreneurial opportunities.
  4. Connects students with the community, involving them in decision making and real-world problem solving.
  5. Reflects a much wider-ranging learning paradigm than simply learning to take a test.

Visit here to see how Science on Seneca meets each of these criteria, in addition to addressing several learning standards!

Interested in attending Science on Seneca – click here to learn more! Teacher training sessions are offered both in the fall and spring for educators interested in bringing classes aboard!

Check back next week to see how our two-day field expedition with Science on Seneca allowed us to learn!

What kinds of environmental threats exist surrounding your school district? Are there educational opportunities available for you and your students to partake in? How can we add to this list? Comment below!


  • Avery, L.M. (2013). Rural Science Education: Valuing Local Knowledge. Theory into Practice, 52(1): 28-35.
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2017). Science on Seneca (SOS). Retrieved form:
  • Science on Seneca (SOS). 2016. Teacher Center: Training Manual. Retrieved from:

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Extending Our Community of Learners via Blogging

As educators we so often advocate for resources and opportunities that enable us to extend the community of learners for our students to become involved in, better yet members of. In order to do so we must extend the community of learners in which we engage, support and learn from. As educators we recognize the importance of being a lifelong learner; we cannot teach reform-minded, scientifically literate citizens of tomorrow without committing to a life of continuous learning ourselves.

Our community of learners begins with those closest to us: our students, our colleagues and members of our local community. The pursuit of educating our youth is a responsibility of which all members of the community must partake. The youngest learners in our community depend on opportunities inside and outside of school in order to develop, investigate and understand their own interests and passions. Community-based science opportunities are enriching for all involved and well worth the investment!

Source: Research Gate

As educators we too benefit from the support of our colleagues, near and far! Professional learning communities offer educators the opportunity to connect and collaborate with colleagues, see evidence-based practices in action, view a new perspective on teaching and learning and keep up with current events in education around the globe!

Check out these professional learning communities for science educators:

  1. National Science Teachers Association
  2. Science Teachers Association of New York State
  3. National Association of Biology Teachers

In addition to professional learning communities, technology allows us to connect with people from around the world through blogging. While the purpose of blogs vary based on the individual authors, each blog provides unique insight for educators and students alike! Here is a list of blogs I have explored this week:

  1. Think Inclusive 
  2. iBiology
  3. Teach Science for All
  4. Kate’s Classroom Cafe
  5. Student Voices (Nature Education)
  6. Looking for others…Check out Teach Thought’s 52 Education Blogs You Should Follow

As I work to extend the community of learners I engage in, support and learn from I would appreciate your input! Please comment below with blogs and learning communities that you are involved in.

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Adding to, Revising and Checking our Perspectives

This week I had the honor of shadowing one of my students throughout his school day at East Lower School. According to US News, East (Grades 7-12) has a student population of approximately 1,593 students (scholars), of that total the total minority enrollment at East is 92%. As I walked through the hallways, observed lunch in the student cafeteria and attended classes I could not help but compare his middle school experience to that of my own, my only familiar reference point. According to the same source (US News), Margaretville Central School, the school district where I attended Kindergarten through 12th grade, has a total student population of 375 students (Grades PreK-12), with a total minority enrollment of 29%. As an educator my commitments are aligned with those outlined in the Warner Mission Statement and I strongly believe in culturally responsive pedagogy, but still I wonder: Will I be able to provide everything my students need and deserve, academically, socially and emotionally?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1962) writes: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (p. 39). Over the course of one school day I was tasked with walking in a student’s shoes, a task that would ultimately cause me to add to, revise and check my own perspective, as an educator, a learner and an individual.

Perspective. A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

The following account transpired as we sat in a seventh grade social studies class. The class was a co-taught, inclusive classroom with approximately twenty students, a larger class size than most. Today, scholars were asked to participate in a Common Formative Assessment (CFA), a test-like environment where scholars were asked to complete two sample Document Based Questions, similar to those found on the state examination. Mr. G and Mr. A began the lesson by explaining the purpose of the CFA, to assess prior knowledge and monitor growth over the course of the school year. Both Mr. G and Mr. A repeatedly told scholars that while their participation was required, they would not be assessed based on how many questions they answered correctly.

Mr. A: “Mr. G, I have a question. Is it okay for me to write IDK (I don’t know) if I am unsure of what the question is asking?”

Mr. G: “Great question, thank you for asking! We will not accept “I don’t know” for an answer, however we will accept: I don’t know yet”.

Mr. A: “Okay, so I can write IDKY if I am not sure”.

In addition to asking questions regarding analysis of the document source (primary or secondary, format, author, date, message, etc.), the assessment challenged scholars to consider perspective, asking how people with different points of view might see history differently. The following sentence frame was provided:

______ would likely see ______ similarly/differently (circle your claim) because _____.

Mr. G: “Here, we ask you to consider perspective, asking you to analyze how people with different points of view might see history differently”…

Mr. A: “Their what, Mr. G? Their perspective? Do you mean point of view?”

Mr. G: “Exactly, Mr. A. Their point of view, or their perspective”

Throughout lesson delivery, Mr. G and Mr. A, alternated strategies between complementary co-teaching, and team teaching: one of six co-teaching models, in which both educators teach together during fast-paced group instruction. While the success of team-teaching, or teaming, is highly dependent on the relationship between educators, Mr. G and Mr.A provided several excellent examples of making the challenges look effortless, an invaluable learning experience to see in action!

Co-Teaching Models. (Source: WordPress)

As educators we must constantly add to, revise and check our perspective; a task that benefits both teaching and learning! Here is how I did so this week:

  1. Adding to my perspective: Adding a layer to my perspective: student and educator. While shadowing a student for the day I was able observe everyday school experiences through the eyes of a student (or at least what I remember it feeling like!). However, now I walk through the school hallways with the perspective of an educator, a new and exciting frame of mind as I begin my career!
  2. Revising my perspective: In the beginning of this post I raised a concern of mine: Will I be able to provide everything my students need and deserve, academically, socially and emotionally? As I continued to think through this dilemma while writing, I have revised my outlook. As an educator I am committed to ensuring all of my students succeed. I am committed to employing culturally responsive pedagogy practices (Geneva Gay). Furthermore, I am committed to investing in my students and constantly revising my pedagogy practices with the help of my students, ensuring that a safe, nurturing learning community exists in each class I facilitate.
  3. Checking my perspective: As an educator we must constantly check our perspective.  I am constantly aware of my body language: kneeling down or sitting next to a student while we communicate, rather than standing above or in front of. Socially, I navigate the boundaries of teacher-student relationships, ensuring that my students have a trusting, open relationship with me, yet still view me as a teacher.

Did you encounter a learning experience this week that challenged you to add to, revise or check your perspective? I’d love for you to share, please feel free to start our conversation in the comment section below!


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#optoutside: A new approach to meeting your goals!

Photo: TeachHUB

Setting Goals.

As we begin to fall into our routines of the school year it is important that we look back on our goals. For teachers and students, the beginning of a new school year offers an opportunity to set new resolutions. Like many of our New Year Resolutions, busy schedules and an overwhelming to-do-list often derail our best intentions. Last week, the Get Real! Science cohort took time to map both our professional and personal goals in effort to achieve a work-life balance. Pre-planning is perhaps one of the most important tasks for an educator, we pre-plan: lesson plans, integrating differentiation, applying UDL (Universal Design for Learning) principles… Our goals, professional and personal, are essential guiding principles for our pre-planning. Establishing and articulating our goals as an educator follows many of the principles defined under the nature of science. Both, goal setting and nature of science, are: tentative, often empirically based, subjective, involve creativity, based on both observations and inferences, and are socially and culturally embedded (Lederman, 1999).

Establishing my goals as a pre-service science educator.

Recently I had the pleasure of catching up with an undergraduate Geoscience professor from my alma mater, Hobart and William Smith Colleges. During our conversation we talked about a new course offering: Astrobiology, an interdisciplinary course offering, co-taught by professors in the Physics and Geoscience departments.

Interested? I was! Here is the course description as listed in the HWS Course Catalogue: “Astrobiology is the scientific study of the origin and evolution of life in the Universe. It brings together perspectives from astronomy, planetary science, geoscience, paleontology, biology and chemistry to examine the origin of life on Earth and the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe. This course is designed to help students understand the nature and process of science through the lens of astrobiology. We will explore questions such as: What is life?  How did I arise on Earth? Where else in the Universe might life be found?  How do we know about the early history of life on Earth? And how do we search for life elsewhere? We will evaluate current theories on how life began and evolved on Earth and how the presence of life changed the Earth. We will review current understanding on the range of habitable planets in our solar system and around other stars. And we will discuss what life might look like on these other planets and what techniques we could use to detect it.  This course is designed to fulfill a student’s goal of experiencing scientific inquiry and understanding the nature of scientific knowledge. It does not count toward the major in Geoscience or Physics” (HWS Course Catalogue).

The course is offered to both first and second-year students at the colleges and attracts science and non-science majors! After talking a bit about the course, Professor Kendrick excitedly shared with me that while grading written reflections, a weekly assignment where students have the opportunity to synthesize what they have learned and ask questions have, he had already had a number of students express their interest and inquiry, for example: this reading/discussion made me think differently about… or I never thought about ___ in this way, now I wonder…. What more could we wish for from our students?

According to Settlage & Southerland (2007): “The central idea to the nature of science is that science is a way of knowing, a way that differs from others, a way that is powerful, but also a way that is limited in the kind of knowledge it produces because of the nature of inquiry it employs” (p. 51). This year the GR!S cohort has the honor of working in the same classrooms as doctoral students from the University of Rochester under the leadership of Dr. April Luehmann. Doctoral students will continue their research over the course of the school year, investigating students’ perspectives toward learning science while researching how we, as science educators, can better teach science in a way that nurtures student agency, creativity and imagination. According to Lederman (1999) “In general, the students believed that only certain types of scientific knowledge were tentative (i.e., theories) and that creativity, imagination, and subjectivity had a limited place, if any, in the development of scientific knowledge” (p. 926). As science educators one of goals must employ our commitment to integrating nature of science principles throughout our teaching, inside and outside the classroom. As Dr. Lederman shared with the GR!S cohort this past week:

The platform for teaching nature of science is always inquiry

(Lederman, Personal Communication, Sept. 2017).

When we teach with nature of science principles as a lens we provide opportunities for all of our students to become actively engaged in a community of learners; nature of science therefore becomes the platform for preparing students for a future as scientifically literate citizens.

Please visit both Kaitlin’s and James’ blog post this week for the implications of nature of science in their practice!

Mapping my goals to practice: An inquiry-based field trip to Rochester’s Lower Gorge, Seth Green Drive.

It has been a busy week for science scholars at East and the Get Real! Science cohort! Over the course of the week we accompanied each seventh grade science class as they explored the Rochester Lower Gorge, an impressive rock outcrop located off of Seth Green Drive. Scholars actively engaged in an inquiry based exploration of four sites, collecting evidence (rock samples, fossils, notes, diagrams and photographs) in order to gain a better understanding of how Rochester’s lithosphere has changed over time.

As pre-service teachers we often read about the importance of inquiry and student agency inside (and outside) the classroom. While working with students in the field I was amazed at their motivation, curiosity and eagerness to learn, even when the task required them to hike in 85 degree heat! When we, as educators, provide the space for students to apply what they have learned and further their inquiry observations, we allow for student agency, a powerful motivator for individual learning!

My most significant learning experience this week is one that I learned from a student named Claire (pseudonym). During the first few weeks of school Claire was quiet in the classroom, active in participation only when called on. Claire chose to sit in the back of the classroom at a table with two outspoken, often distracted girls. Claire chose to put on her headphones and listen to music often when her teacher was lecturing, however would put her headphones away when asked. During small group work I was able to start to build a relationship with Claire, but I was worried that my relationship with Claire was progressing slower than with the other students in her class. Although it is still early in the school year I continually found myself thinking: What if we asked Claire to choose a new seat, perhaps in the front of the room? Who could be a good collaborative work partner for Claire, encouraging both to be actively involved throughout the class?

What if we remove the classroom environment from the conversation? It turns out this was the question that would give us our answer! From the moment she stepped off the bus at Seth Green Drive, Claire was engaged, inquisitive and actively exploring the site with her lab partner and her group of peers. Claire was one of the first in line walking down the hill to the first site along the rock outcrop where our task was to collect evidence, a task that required us to hammer rocks out of the wall. After our second stop Claire came up to me, excited to share a rock that she had found containing a trace fossil (likely a borough/ feeding route from a creature that lived in the rock long ago). We discussed the possibilities of what it could be and predicted what the environment may have been like when that creature lived here. At the end of the trip as we climbed back up the hill toward the bus I found myself walking behind Claire and her lab partner, a student who is outspoken in class and appears to make friends quickly. Claire helped him as they struggled to carry their very large back of rocks back up the hill, a bonding activity that made them both laugh.

It became clear to me that Claire was ready to participate, all she needed was an environment to motivate her! I am excited to watch and work with Claire this week in the classroom and eager to see if she will continue to pursue the relationships she initiated during the field trip, I have a feeling she will!

Goal No. 1: I will consistently offer my students equal opportunities and access to inquiry based activities that take us outside of the classroom, physically and virtually.

Check out these great resources focused on the power of “field trips” outside and in a virtual setting. 

  1. 5 Benefits of Outdoor Education (Hood River Middle School, Edutopia)
  2.  Come Along and Ride on a Google Expedition (Edutopia)


Hobart and William Smith Colleges. (2017). Academic Course Catalogue. Retrieved from:

Lederman, N.G. (1999). Teachers’ understanding of the nature of science and classroom practice: Factors that facilitate or impede the relationship. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36(8), 916-929.

Lederman, N.G. Personal Communication, Zoom Conversation on September 18, 2017: Get Real! Science Teacher Preparation Program, Warner School of Education, University of Rochester.

Settlage, J. & Southerland, S. (2012). Teaching science to every child: Using culture as a starting point. New York, NY: Routledge.

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Kicking off a New School Year at East!

Hello and Welcome to the 2017-2018 GR!S class blog! Our cohort is very excited to share our experiences this semester: and that begins with our journey at East. Join us (James and Olivia) as we explore pedagogy, advocate for change and work toward becoming reform-minded science educators who employ culturally responsive teaching and inclusive education practices.

East EPO Partnership with The University of Rochester

To provide a little background: The University of Rochester shares an Educational Partnership Organization (EPO) with East School in Rochester, NY. The mission of the EPO states:

“Our mission is to prepare all students for a successful transition into adulthood. We will accomplish this mission by incorporating best practices in school and district leadership, curriculum design and implementation, teaching, social-emotional support and school and community partnerships. At East High, we will create a school culture where all members of the East High School community are valued as assets to learning and development and in which high expectations are the norm” (East EPO).

Through this partnership, we are able to collectively pool our resources and simultaneously implement and research reform-minded educational practices. If you are interested in reading about this partnership and the unique opportunities it offers, you can read about it here. You can also watch “The First Day at the New East” to get an idea of what this partnership looks like in practice!

Get Real! Science at East

As part of the Get Real! Science program, our cohort spends 2-3 days per week in 7th grade environmental science classes in the East Lower School (Grades 6-8). Our cohort collectively splits observations between two 7th grade science teachers at East. Our role in the class is to critically analyze and reflect on the practices of our cooperating teachers as well as to envision how we will develop our own strategies for observing and commenting on student work, establishing classroom culture, conflict management, etc.

From a theoretical standpoint, we are “practicing what we preach”. These classroom observation experiences are invaluable to us as we establish the “what”, “how”, and “why” of our future teaching practices (Thompson et al., 2009). We do this through observing teaching practices that are situated within the classroom culture and context (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). In this situated environment, we embrace our identities as “teachers”, not just “learning about teachers” (Gee, 2003). Finally, in embracing our learning at East, we are applying “culturally responsive teaching” practices through situating our scholars’ education within their individual, highly contextualized, and diverse cultures and experiences (Gay, 2002).

First Day Noticings

Welcome to the first day of seventh grade! Take a moment to imagine how you might feel: It’s the first day of school! This year you are in 7th grade, middle school! You are given your daily class schedule and now it is your job to navigate a new school; find your new classrooms (and get there on time!); and establish new relationships, with new teachers and peers! How do you feel?

As seventh grade scholars (students) entered their science classroom, each individually met their science teacher for the first time and were handed a jolly rancher. Scholars then found their way to one of the tables in the classroom marked with the color/flavor of the jolly rancher they received. Each table had seating options for 3-4 scholars.

At each table in the classroom was a bin with all of the materials scholars would need for the class period: paper, markers and pencils. Next, scholars were asked to take a piece of paper and create a name tent; the directions were posted on the SMART Board and accompanied by a completed example by the teacher, which included her name, favorite color, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite subject in school and favorite kind of music.

Think about how you imagined feeling on your first day of school. You now are seated at a table surrounded by age-related peers, engaged in a conversation discussing your favorite ice cream flavor. Chances are you are feeling a bit less nervous, and a bit more ready to take on the world- at least in science class!

When asking scholars to introduce themselves to a new group of peers, a new teacher and other adults they have never met we ask scholars to take a risk. By electing to first engage scholars in a low-risk name tag activity, we scaffold the risk we are asking them to take: first, write or draw a few of your favorite things, next share a few facts with your peer sitting next to you, then introduce your peer to the class. Not only are we scaffolding risk, but we are encouraging positive relationships in a safe space, building an inclusive community of learners from the very start!


The following activities for the first day included: Establishing classroom community norms and expectations guided by the schoolwide norms of East and participating in two Predict-Observe-Explain activities.

Check out the first demonstration here:

Over the course of the demonstration scholars were asked to complete the following by writing or drawing their response.

  1. Predict what would happen when the soda can was placed in the ice water.
  2. Observe what happens to the soda can when it was placed in the ice water.
  3. Explain why you think that happened.

While at first one might predict that demonstrations such as this solely aim to contextualize a scientific phenomena, after observing it is clear that the purpose is much greater! Science demonstrations offer educators and scholars the opportunity to engage in conversations beyond the content, including those pertaining to the nature of science: Who is a scientist? What kind of work does a scientist do?

By choosing to embed conversations grounded in the nature of science we facilitate a learning environment where scholars explain the goal; today the goals included establishing a collaborative learning environment (“Our vision of the East graduate”) and roles of a scholar in the science classroom. While we introduce this activity in the context of the science classroom, Predict-Observe-Explain demonstrations can (and should) be implemented across content areas. When planning such activities it is important for educators to consider each of the three Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles, ensuring that all learners have access to both the explicit and implicit conversations reflected in the learning target. To learn more about UDL, visit this link!

The Anchoring Experience

In the GR!S program, we are passionate about experiential learning – learning in multisensory, multimodal, and context-rich spaces. This type of learning is often used as an “anchoring experience” for units, defined as a “specific instance of a phenomenon that requires students to pull together a number of science ideas in order to explain” (Ambitious Science Teaching, 2014). Thanks to the work of one of East High’s high school environmental science teachers and curriculum coaches, the first geology unit contextualizes scientific learning in our home community of Rochester. The anchoring experience for this unit will introduce students to the Rochester Lower Gorge where they will observe different types of rocks. By taking careful observations and samples from rocks at the Gorge, students will be able to construct the history of Rochester’s land and answer the following overarching question:

How has Rochester’s lithosphere changed over time?

This anchoring experience is intended to provide scholars the opportunity to learn about rock layers, rock formations, different types of rocks, and the “stories” those rocks tell about Rochester’s history. Check back in next week to see how this experience went! In the meantime, check out VictorKaitlin, and Sydney‘s reflections on their first week at East!

If you are interested in becoming a part of the learning community at East, you can register to volunteer here:

– Olivia and James

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Technology Philosophy Statement

This past week the GR!S 2017-18 Cohort completed our second summer semester! As a final assignment for our class: Technology-Rich Learning for K-12 Students, we were tasked with writing a personal technology philosophy statement. In doing so we were encouraged to think about the following questions:

  1. What is the role of technology in your teaching? Why? How?
  2. As an educator, what responsibilities do you have with regard to technologies?
  3. What does effective technology integration mean to you?
  4. When and why do you choose to integrate technologies into your teaching?
  5. How do you want your students to interact with technologies through your teaching? What is your role? What is the technology’s role? What is the student’s role?
  6. In this ever-changing and developing world that we live in, how do you plan to keep current on what exists that could possibly benefit your teaching practices?
  7. What are the constraints of technologies in teaching practices? How do you plan to handle those constraints?

Please check out my Technology Philosophy Statement here!

Suggestions for additional resources? Please comment below!


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