I haven't taught science for a few years now. Because we're a team of three now, we've had to get a little creative with how we teach science and social studies. Our rotation is hard to explain. In the end, the students will have all three teachers this year. One of my colleagues will teach all social studies. One will teach mostly science but will also teach a single social studies unit to one of our classes at the end of the year. I'm teaching a combination of science and social studies. It is actually pretty perfect. It is just enough to get me back in the swing of things.
We're starting off the year with some basic science. So far the students have explored the following:
We're using PBS's resources for our work around the Design Process and STEAM activities. Their Design Squad Global materials are really excellent. The website is a little tough to navigate. Now, once I find resources I like, I bookmark them because I sometimes have a difficult time finding the same resources twice! Today, our students accepted their watercraft challenge. The students were challenged to work in groups of 3-4 to brainstorm, design, build, test, evaluate, and redesign a boat that would support 25 pennies for at least ten seconds. Their supplies consisted of two paper cups, 6 inches of duct tape, ten plastic drinking straws (straight), and a 10"x12" piece of Saran wrap. The design process was introduced on Monday using the PBS resources. They have some great graphics and video clips that allow students to visualize every step of the process before diving in themselves.
I did a lot of pre-teaching to ensure that my students would not only be able to present their ideas to their design team but they'd also be able to truly listen to and consider the ideas of others. I asked the kids to do the brainstorming piece independently, even before they knew who their teammates would be. This helped to generate lots of ideas and helped all kids to become invested in the problem.
I couldn't have hoped for a better outcome. The kids and the science really amazed me. Each of the seven boats was completely unique. The kids looked like they were 100% into their work. They didn't even notice me snapping photos. There was not a single tattle in the room and no one looked frowny or complained. Surprising to me, every boat was able to float and support the weight of the pennies for ten seconds. I chuckled a little when one of my students confessed, "I really thought I was going to be a loser." He was pleasantly surprised. So was I! I'm looking forward to the debriefing time tomorrow. I won't hesitate to take on a lesson like this in the near future with this group of kids.
I don't know that there has ever been a more exciting time to be a science teacher, maybe during the Race for Space, although I'm not even sure. I feel lucky to be teaching science this year and lucky to be teaching these kids.