I'm teaching science for the first time in a handful of years. I didn't know how much I missed it until I started teaching it once again. This year, I'm using Mystery Science as one of my major resources. I love the materials. I love how teacher friendly the site is and I love how visual and hands-on the resources are for my students.
Today's lesson really was amazing. It asked students to consider whether a volcano could pop up in their backyards. This essential question was supported by some pretty engaging video. The students watched a video that showed flowing magna up close. Students learned that magna is actually rock that has become so hot it is melted. The videos differentiated this disaster from flooding because waters recedes while the magma cools and hardens leaving the affected area forever changed. The students then used coordinates to map the locations of roughly four dozen previously active volcanoes around the globe. Students worked with a partner to map the volcanoes from one continent. At the end of the lesson, the maps are pieced together and the students see not only the pattern of volcanoes on their map but begin to see the pattern worldwide. The students discover the "Ring of Fire".
Big picture: the lesson was a huge success. Students learned how volcanoes are formed and they learned that they spring up in patterns. They learned about the devastating and lasting impact of volcanoes. It was a success but this is not to say that I'm not wishing for a do-over. Right now, I'm teaching science to a class that is not my own. They are great kids. However, I have not established the same kind of classroom culture with them that I've established with my own students. I have them for 16 lessons. I'll teach them for 45 minutes a day, four days a week for approximately four weeks. Given this limited teaching time, it didn't seem like I could afford to dedicate precious minutes to practicing routines, establishing norms and building that culture that is so important. I had it in my head that my colleague had done this with them and that the culture would just travel with them. She has done a ton to establish a positive culture but I have to earn my stripes with these kids. Despite the fact that I waited for their attention and clearly delivered instructions, the directions were not received. Completing the task was a challenge for quite of a few students in the class.
I definitely need to pump the brakes a little and focus on culture. Otherwise, these great resources will go wasted. These kids are smart. They're good kids. Given some focused attention on culture and these really great resources, I know they'll have a meaningful science learning experience.
Mystery Science offers science education materials aligned to the NGSS. Units are available from Kindergarten through grades 5. It really is an engaging resource. Check it out for yourself!