What is “Ambitious Science Teaching”?

What is Ambitious Science Teaching

Who is an ambitious science teacher?

What does teaching and learning look like in a classroom that practices Ambitious Science Teaching?

The authors of Ambitious Science Teaching provide the following visual to formulate an initial understanding and provide a framework to answer these types of questions. According to Ambitious Science Teaching, teaching and learning are guided by intellectually engaging experiences, phenomena and content, of which are grounded in providing equitable opportunities for all students throughout the learning process. Please visit here to learn more about Ambitious Science Teaching!

Image result for ambitious science teaching

If you have taken the opportunity to check out the Ambitious Science Teaching (AST) website you are probably feeling excited, intrigued, and innovative. You may also be feeling a bit overwhelmed. How can I, as an educator, implement the practices of an ambitious science teacher in my classroom successfully? Let’s start by taking a look at a smaller chunk. AST presents the following seven foothold practices as those which are key to building a classroom environment where reform-minded teaching and learning succeeds!

Ambitious Science Teaching: 7 Foothold Practices

  • Scaffolds to make students’ initial ideas public”
  • Responsive Talk: How students use vocabulary”
  • “Using back-pocket questions to make sense of activities”
  • Using a gallery walk to critique student models and explanations”
  • “Everyday language and science language”
  • “Comparing students’ science ideas: scaffolding debate”
  • “Creating a “Gotta-Have” Checklist
    • Check out James’ blog this week to learn more about this practice!

This week the GR!S Cohort is working collaboratively to define each of these seven practices in our own practice. Check out each of these practices in the classroom setting by watching the videos included for each! Before you start watching, read How to Learn from Video: The 7 Basics to guide your learning!

Let’s take a closer look at the first foothold practice: Scaffolds to make students’ initial ideas public! 

First, check out the video below:

Here are the key take-a-ways I have recorded as I continue to develop a working definition for this core foothold practice in my own teaching. I have used the Task-Tools-Talk framework as outlined by AST.

  • Task
    • Situate new content in authentic and meaningful learning experiences rich in ideas that require students to access prior experiences and language.
    • Situate new vocabulary (content discipline language) in familiar, student language and experiences.
    • Allow time for students to discuss ideas, explore new paths and engage in peer feedback.
    • Strategy: Phenomena based inquiry (See: Next Generation Science Standards)
  • Tools
    • Provide the resources students need in order to take on intellectual problems (Engle & Conant, 2002).
    • Strategy: Sentence frames (making the distinction between nice and helpful feedback)
    • Provide explicit directions and examples (take away scaffolding gradually)
    • Strategy: Post-It Note feedback method
  • Talk
    • Encourage and facilitate student autonomy.
    • Facilitate meta-cognition (“thinking about thinking”) through the development and use of classroom discussion.
    • Strategy: Gallery Walk

As always, I hope you will join our conversation and share your noticings and wonderings regarding Ambitious Science Teaching in the comment section below! Use the following sentence starter to begin the conversation:

An ambitious science teaching practice I employ (or can see myself using) is ________________.


Ambitious Science Teaching. Retrieved from:https://ambitiousscienceteaching.org/.

Engle, R.A., & F.R. Conant. (2002). Guiding Principles for Fostering Productive Disciplinary Engagement: Explaining an Emergent Argument in a Community of Learners Classroom. Cognition and Instruction, 20(4): 399-483.

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Growth-Oriented Mindset: Planning and Implementation

As we sat in stand still traffic on the west-bound lane of the NYS Thruway surrounded by others traveling back home from their Thanksgiving holiday I began to feel the pressure of what seems to be a never-ending To Do List. My laptop was packed away in an unreachable spot from the passenger seat, uncharged. Google maps informed us that what typically is a 40 minute drive, would be over 2 hours. We all know the feeling, especially this time of year, how we choose to balance our work load, personal goals and time with family and friends is unique to each of us as individuals, yet planning ahead using a growth-oriented mindset is sure to reduce some of the unwanted stress! As educators we have a responsibility to facilitate goal planning and implementation for our students as well. One way of doing so, for both ourselves and our students, is through the use of the SMART Goal framework.

What are SMART Goals? Using the SMART Goal framework, goal-setters are encouraged to use the following framework while mapping their goals: SMART Goals are…”Specific (simple, sensible, significant); Measurable (meaningful, motivating); Achievable (agreed, attainable); Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based); and, Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, time-sensitive)” (MindTools).


Image: SMART Goals

As a cohort we have begun to grapple with the challenges associated with a goal we share: implementing educational research and theory in our everyday practice. With the vast array of published “best-practices” for teaching and learning, teachers are bound to feel overwhelmed at times. I found the following guidelines a useful lens for approaching this topic:

  1. Identify what works: What works in regard to “best practice” planning and implementation is likely to be unique to each classroom, or community of learners. Both the planning and implementation of new practices for teaching and learning takes time. In order to be successful we must commit with an open-mind, not every “best practice” will work seamlessly the first time around!
  2. Share knowledgeCollaboration and communication are key elements for both teaching and learning. Sharing what work’s and what doesn’t work help us reach our goals. While we often talk about building a community of learners for our students, we must also remember that it is important to build and nurture our own community of learners.
  3. Use time wiselyTime can often be used as a scapegoat, especially when our lives are busy! Using the SMART goal framework to map both our personal and professional goals ensures that we are on track toward success.

Try it out! Map one of your personal or professional goals using the SMART Goal framework and join the conversation in the comment section below!

Here’s a quick pep-talk from Kid President before you get started!


MindTools. (n.d.). SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable. Retrieved from: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm.

Enser, M. (November 23, 2017). How can schools use research to better inform teaching practice? Teacher Network. Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2017/nov/23/how-can-we-make-research-work-harder-in-our-schools.


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Educational Resources for Teachers and Students

“Current educational goals envision learning environments in which students are genuinely engaged in productive disciplinary work. Yet creating environments in which such experiences occur is neither common nor easy”

(Engle and Conant, 2002, p. 400).

How do we, as novice, first-year educators,

begin to build and nurture such learning environments?

According to Engle and Conant (2002) we can do so by creating environments which foster the following four principles (p. 400-401):

  • Problematizing: “Students are encouraged to take on intellectual problems”
  • Authority: “Students are given authority in addressing such problems”
  • Accountability: “Students’ intellectual work is made accountable to others and to disciplinary norms”
  • Resources: “Students are provided with sufficient resources to do all of the above”

While each of these principles requires considerable “un-packing”, this week we will focus on: Resources. The resources we need to provide for our students to engage in productive, authentic and meaningful learning extends far beyond the materials we find on the traditional Back-To-School shopping list. As I continue to compile the resources I have obtained thus far throughout my graduate school coursework, teaching field placements, professional development seminars and conferences I am amazed at the availability of resources available for teachers! However, I also recognize the time required to obtain, organize and implement the wide variety of resources that are available. Where do we even begin to look?

While searching I came across Edutopia’s live page: The Big List of Educational Grants and Resources.

The list contains live, updated links for educational grants, contests and awards, and classroom resources, visit now to: “get a roundup of educational grants, contests, awards, free tool kits, and classroom guides aimed at helping students, classrooms, school and communities” (Edutopia).

Here are a few resources I was drawn to learn more about:

1. Lexus Eco Challenge STEM Contest

2. Digital Citizenship Curriculum from Google

3. Resources for educators from the California Academy of Sciences 

4. STEM Education Outreach Programs with Lockheed Martin

5. Teaching Science and Math with Music

  • Check out Sydney’s awesome blog post this week to learn more about the benefits of teaching and learning music, both in school and beyond!

For another great resource check out Edutopia’s Resources Toolkit for New Teachers

Do you have great resources to share? Comment below!


  • Edutopia. (Original: 12/13/13, Last Updated: 11/22/17). The Big List of Educational Grants and Resources. Community Partnerships. Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/grants-and-resources.
  • Engle, R.A., & F.R. Conant. (2002). Guiding Principles for Fostering Productive Disciplinary Engagement: Explaining an Emergent Argument in a Community of Learners Classroom. Cognition and Instruction, 20(4): 399-483.

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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).

Image: Diversity.com


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: https://www.wfco.org/file/WFCO-STEM-Guide_complete.pdf.

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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: http://www.hws.edu/fli/sos.aspx.
  • Science on Seneca (SOS). 2016. Teacher Center: Training Manual. Retrieved from: http://www.hws.edu/fli/pdf/sos_manual.pdf.

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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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