Virginia Association of Science Teachers

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In This Issue

Theme: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

From the VAST Executive Director: Susan Booth

From the VAST President: Deborah Hamilton

From the Editor: Nick Boke

  • "Broad Shoulders"  Larry G. Aaron 
Teachers strive to inspire their students to greatness, just as they have been inspired by others. 
  • "Development of Atomic Theory"  Robin Curtis 

History shows how scientists rely on the previous work of others in the development of this key scientific theory.

  • "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (and how to join them)"  Bonnie J. Keller 

Collaboration through online teaching communities builds knowledge, friendships and connections across the country.

  • "Femineus Physicus: Women Scientists, The Other Giants"  Rhonda White 

Strategies to close the gap between boys and girls in science will ensure the continuation of a female contribution to science.

Research and Practice 
  • "The Elementary Science Classroom is the Place for Teaching Thinking"  Patricia E. Buoncristiani & A. Martin Buoncristiani 
Abstract:  A comparison of the Virginia Standards of Learning documents across the third and fifth grade curriculum reveals a significant focus on higher -order cognitive skills in elementary science classrooms. Science teachers need to be aware of this and address the teaching of skillful thinking so that it can be transferred to other disciplines and serve as a foundation for later learning. Researchers review recent research on brain function and discuss how this research can help the teaching of cognitive and metacognitive skills.
  • "Using an Unconventional History of the Battery to Engage Students and Explore the Importance of Evidence"  Gregory W. Corder 

Abstract:  The discovery of an ancient artifact, called by some the ‘Baghdad Battery,’ has challenged the conventional history of the battery, taking its origin far back into the ancient world. Drawing on such uncertainty, an interdisciplinary approach to teaching about electrochemical batteries is presented, along with a means for conveying the importance of evidence.

  • "Nexus Ecuador: A Teacher’s Experience"  Debra Duffy 
Abstract:  Overseas travel programs for high school students offer unique opportunities to experience different cultures and language, as well as enhance their awareness of the global community. The Nexus Program at Cape Henry Collegiate School has been in operation for four years. It offers unique out-of-the-classroom lessons to broaden the minds of high school students. The key to successful overseas travel with high school students is to be flexible and to keep an open mind to the antics, energies, and curiosities of young people.
  • "Student Drawn Diagrams and Picture Booklets: A Key to SOL Success in Science"  Dan Johnson 

Abstract:  Action Research in a variety of science classrooms indicates that when students are asked to draw some aspect of what they are learning, they perform better on a variety of assessments. Many opportunities exist for such student-drawn diagrams and picture booklets.

  • "Student-Led Demonstrations: How and Why"  James W. Laughner 
Abstract:  Chemistry demonstrations normally performed by teachers were converted into student-led and student-performed investigations with teacher -initiated Socratic dialogue. Students were given a set of directions which was read by one student to the class, then re-read as a second student performed the actions and all students recorded observations. Over two years, it was noted that content retention, student participation, and effective outcomes were enhanced when students themselves did demonstrations. 
  • "A Comparative Study of Chemistry Education in China and the United States"  Pinpin Peng and Juanita Jo Matkins 
Abstract:  There are marked differences and similarities between the way chemistry is studied in China and the United States. Comparisons of education goals, curriculum and textbooks, chemistry teacher profiles, classroom teaching methods and learning approaches, and chemistry lab activities show the strengths and weaknesses of chemistry education in each country, as well as, exposing the possible challenges facing current inquiry-based reform efforts in both countries. The authors believe that through international mutual investigation, Chinese educators and American educators can learn from each other to accelerate the process of achieving their education goals.
  • "Why Is Teaching the Nature of Science So Important?"  Erin E. Peters 
Abstract:  Explicit instruction about the nature of science can enrich science classes at all levels. Embedding such instruction in activities ranging from lab experiments to free-flowing class discussions can support student critical thinking skills as well as provide them with a framework for deeper understanding of the lesson at hand.
  • "Creating a Timeline of Science History in Your Classroom"  Christine G. Schnittka 
Abstract:  The University of Virginia’s science education lab hosts a colorful timeline mural of the history of science. Painted and designed by graduate student Christine Schnittka, this mural begins with the 1531 sighting of a comet and ends with its 2061 predicted return. The mural contains many familiar scenes with recurring themes, reflecting the changing face of science. Students at the University are learning a little more science history each time they come to class. Justification for and process of creating the mural, and a link to a website with images of the entire project are included. 
Book Review: Science, Naturally’s new book, 101 Things Everyone Should Know About Science, offers a friendly question-and-answer format that will give non-scientists a way to familiarize themselves with some of the science basics and biggies.

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