Virginia Association of Science Teachers

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  • JVSE Vol. 14, No. 1

In This Issue

From the Editors:  Amanda Gonczi and Jennifer Maeng

  • Lesson Activity: Blinking Sneakers: How do those LEDs Work?  Neha Anand, M.Ed., M.B.A. and John Ramsey, Ph.D.

Abstract: LED (light emitting diode) bulbs have generated interest in children due to their presence in toys and gadgets that are part of their everyday activities. Children encounter several applications in which LED bulbs are used, mainly Christmas decoration lights, toys that light up (e.g., cars, swords, trains), and even in their shoes. The lesson described in this article helps 4th grade students understand how LED bulb lights work and what makes them a user-friendly technology in terms of its widespread applications. The NGSS-aligned inquiry lesson incorporates a story building component to promote the use of Language Arts for English Language Learners (ELLs). The lesson uses a 5E model and incorporates four characteristics of constructivist instruction: authentic experiences, connections to prior knowledge, social interaction (both student-student and teacher-student), and sense-making. The authentic experiences, coupled with peer-based social interaction and the use of Squishy Circuits LED activities are packaged into a scaffolded sequence that supports the needs of ELLs (Kayi–Aydar, 2013).
  • Lesson Activity: Ecosystem Makeover: A 7E Lesson Integrating STEM and Literacy  Betsy McAllister, MS.Ed., Melissa Twisdale, Ed.S., and Sharon Bowers, Ed.D.

Abstract: Teachers constantly make tough decisions about how to fit instructional content and practices into an already overcrowded schedule. In this article we describe how STEM and literacy can be integrated to maximize both instructional time and student growth. We engaged fourth-grade students in a 7E problem- and place-based lesson that explored human impact on the schoolyard ecosystem. Embedding literacy strategies and STEM learning journals into the lesson alongside inquiry and an Ecosystem Makeover Engineering Design Challenge resulted in deeper learning for students. The use of STEM learning journals leveraged literacy systems to enhance the construction of science knowledge and help students reflect on how their everyday actions can have a profound impact on the environment. We describe how the lesson was modified in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and how natural areas, whether at school or home, can provide a setting and context for inquiry.

  • Sharing Solutions: Technoheutagogy:  A Virtual Learning Walk with SEED  Melinda VanDevelder, Ph.D., Alison Dossik, M.Ed., Suzanne Kirk, M.Ed., and Elizabeth Edmondson, Ph.D.

Abstract: After schools went virtual in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a university-based teacher support program found creative ways to pivot their instructional coaching and support curriculum work with provisionally licensed STEM teachers using a virtual platform. Originally, the platform was designed to promote heutagogical learning using National Teacher Center (NTC) coaching tools and Descriptive Consultancy protocols. After the shift of all learning to virtual platforms, the university team enhanced traditional coaching methods by promoting socioemotional support, providing microteaching technology opportunities, emphasizing proven educational technology tools, and supporting discourse through an interdistrict network community of STEM teachers. This paper offers nearly a year-long glimpse of some of the methods a university-based teacher program used to help build a support network for provisionally licensed STEM teachers during the initial lockdown, through summer professional development and into the 2020-2021 school year.

  • Research: Can Science be Fantastic in a Virtual Platform? The Story of Sci-Tastic Summer Camp and its Conversion into a Virtual World  Shandra M. Claiborne, Ed.D., Trina L. Spencer, Ph.D., Kristal Moore Clemons, Ph.D., and Kayla Deavers, B.S.

Abstract: The C.E.N.T.E.R.S. (Cultivating Engaging and Nurturing Teachers for Educationally Resilient Students) for STEM Education is a multi-tiered mentoring and teaching development program for teachers and students at every stage of learning and readiness. The C.E.N.T.E.R.S. program was implemented to enhance the skills, knowledge, and dispositions of pre-service elementary teachers and included a 3-week Sci-Tastic (Science is Fantastic) Summer Camp. By focusing on teachers who will impact elementary-aged students, this project aimed to promote interest and enthusiasm toward science that begins early for students and will extend into college and beyond (Spencer et al., 2016). During summer 2020, this camp was initially scheduled for face-to-face science instruction; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project directors moved the camp to a virtual platform. This article describes the summer program’s activities and how they align to best practices in science teaching and the challenges and rewards of implementing a virtual summer camp. The following research question guided this quantitative study: How are early career teachers' perceptions of the profession impacted after teaching in a virtual STEM summer enrichment program? Data included 6 teachers’ responses to a 12-item Likert scale survey administered after they taught the summer camp and anecdotal impressions of teacher and student responses to teaching and learning in a virtual summer camp setting.

  • Research: ArcGIS Story Maps: Blended Learning Opportunities to Bring Technology into the Classroom  Stephanie Let, B.S. and Sarah Nuss, M.S.

Abstract: Engaging students in difficult to visualize science content can pose a challenge for science teachers. This pilot study sought to understand teacher (n = 15) and student (n = 11) perspectives when science content was taught through a traditional approach compared to when it was taught using the Esri’s ArcGIS Story Maps digital platform. This platform is an evolving tool that allows end users including educators, researchers, industry professionals, and students to explore a topic through images, videos, interactive maps, data, figures, and text. In the present study, lesson plan and Story Map about a thin-layer placement marsh restoration technique were created. After instruction, teachers and students were interviewed to understand their perspectives on digital learning and to gain feedback on the two learning tools. Results indicated that this type of technology integration needs to be purposeful and strategically utilized. This study illustrates the difficulties with utilizing technology in the classroom, and it also highlights the benefits for teachers and students when technology is used in a strategic manner. By better understanding student and teacher perspectives on digital learning, we can provide useful resources to assist teachers in quality science education.

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