Virginia Association of Science Teachers

In This Issue

  • "Teaching Science through Argumentation: An Outline for Virginia Science Teachers"  Joanna K. Garner, Ph.D., Melani Loney Ed.S., and Victor Sampson, Ph.D. 
Abstract:  In this article, we emphasize the relevance of scientific argumentation to inquiry-oriented instruction in science. Our aim is to provide teachers with an understanding of the components of a scientific argument, and an appreciation for how the use of scientific argumentation in the classroom can draw together a number of effective instructional practices. First, we identify the components of a scientific argument and interpret them for the classroom through an instructional model called Argument Driven Inquiry (ADI; Sampson, Enderle & Grooms, 2013). Then, we then present an example of an ADI lesson on potential and kinetic energy. We discuss developmental modifications for elementary and middle school students, and provide an example of how the ADI instructional model facilitates the integration of skills that are being taught across the curriculum. The example lesson is one of a suite of ADI lessons that we have developed for use in Virginia.
  • "Integrating Technology into Science Field Investigations"  Sarah Nuss, M.S. 
Abstract:  One of the most valuable results of environmental education is the clear association between understanding of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts after participation in outdoor programs, as outlined in the National Science Foundation’s Environmental Science and Engineering for the 21st Century report (NSF, 2000). One component of STEM is technology. Technology can assist in “problem solving, consensus building, information management, communication, and critical and creative thinking”, the main goals and missions of environmental education as stated by the NSF report. These tools allow students to participate in science as a scientist would. By using appropriate technology, and developing technological skills along the way, students will be better prepared for career paths to be created in the future that will inevitably utilize technology. In order to maximize potential gains of using both technology and environmental education, technology must be used in concert with outdoor hands-on experiences, and not just as an afterthought (Willis, Weiser, & Kirkwood, 2014). This paper aims to share best practices of methodology for field investigations, along with examples of technology integration for each portion (preparation, action, and reflection).
  • "Integrating Inquiry into Informal STEM Experiences"  Robbie L. Higdon, Ph.D., and Amanda Sawyer, Ph.D. 
Abstract:  Informal STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) experiences can very powerful and engaging encounters for K-5 students. However, these onetime events do not typically allow students to translate these encounters into deeper learning experiences. In addition, these learning experiences potentially enable students to develop misconceptions will limit their construction of long-term conceptual understanding of key scientific ideas. Therefore, we propose that meaningful STEM experiences can be implemented within any time period allotted by employing the components of the 4E x 2 Instructional Model (Marshall, 2007). We can also maximize the use of instructional time through the induction of multiple content areas shared across common themes such as measurement or properties of matter. The world does not operate in isolation; therefore, we cannot promote instruction that is presented in isolation. As we are stretched to achieve learning goals within the limits of the school day, teaching integrated content using a learning cycle model such as the 4E x 2 allows us to achieve these goals.
  • "Vocabulary and Literacy Instruction Strategies"  Janine D’Elia, M.Ed., NBCT, Rachel Hill, M.Ed. 
Abstract:  This paper highlights the various strategies for middle school science vocabulary usage, as presented at the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) conference in November of 2017. Strategies shared are: Mission Definition, a sorting card game; Vocabulary Bags, a strategic way of grouping vocabulary so that students make connections between the words; Vocabulary Circuits, an interactive way for students to practice vocabulary that is self-checking; Pre-teaching vocabulary with images- choosing images that will allow students to think critically and use inquiry when creating definitions. The strategies presented have been teacher-tested, student-approved and have shown to promote retention of terms.
  • "The Magic of Science: Using Disequilibrium to Engage Learners"  Robert M. Ellis, B.A. 

Have you ever thought about using magic tricks to explain science principles in your classroom? You don’t have to be a “magician” to learn and use a few tricks that can arouse curiosity, stimulate critical thinking, and increase student engagement. At the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) 2017 Professional Development Institute (PDI), I showed 15 magical affects you can use in your classroom. Some were demonstrations, and some allowed “hands on” student explorations. All effects correlated to scientific principles, the Virginia Standards of Learning, and followed laboratory safety rules.

  • "Developing Student Understanding in Science: The Three Rings of Learning"  Anne Petersen, Ph.D.

At the beginning of the year, a teacher is handed a list of student names, a curriculum, and some materials and tools. Nine months later, it is expected the product will be a room full of students that have mastered the mandated science content and are conceptually ready to move on to the next grade. If only it were so easy.

Developing students in science can be a three-ring circus that includes juggling content, prior learning, misconceptions, and science process skills. At the same time, teachers must maintain a safe but engaging learning environment that encourages inquiry learning. With many heterogeneously grouped science classrooms that have a large number of students, this can be a challenge. In order to meet this challenge, teachers must first determine what the students already know and the misconceptions that exist concerning the topic at hand in order to help students construct an understanding of new concepts (Campbell, Schwartz, & Winslow, 2016). New content, steeped in the correct foundation of prior knowledge and taught through the lens of inquiry learning, can lead to all students obtaining content knowledge in the classroom.

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