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3rd Grade Science Collaboration

Mrs. Bonnie Howard, the Media Specialist at Madison Elementary School, is my guest blogger who shares an incredible collaborative effort she and the 3rd grade science teachers provided for the students of Madison Elementary.


Mrs. Howard writes:

As a Library Media Specialist, I have the unique opportunity to collaborate with teachers on a variety of standards based learning opportunities. I approached our third grade teaching team about possible collaboration ideas. They were eager to begin StemScopes activities but some were reluctant because they didn’t know where to begin. I taught 6th grade science for several years before moving into the Library Media center (LMC) and have a passion for science education. I was happy to offer to facilitate the first lesson.

We set up inquiry stations in the LMC. Students were grouped (by the teacher) in groups of 4 per group. The inquiry stations offered a variety of hands on, inquiry based learning and all students were fully engaged. The stations were designed to allow students the opportunity to explore and develop their own ideas about what was happening. We had many students reach “aha” moments especially with the perfect balance activity. Many students said “I love science” and “I want to do more”. Having an extra set of hands gave the teachers an opportunity to really engage with students and ask guiding questions that helped students make connections between what they thought they knew and what they observed. Students collaborated as teams and their questions to each other demonstrated a progressively deeper understanding of the science behind the investigations. This was an incredible opportunity and I look forward to future investigations.

As with any reflection, I think it is important to note a few challenges. The biggest one was time. Although we had 6 inquiry stations, students were only able to visit 2 during the 40 minute time allotted. We wanted to allow students enough time to investigate and start developing their own conclusions before rotating to the next station. Also, students did not have individual investigation manuals. In an effort to save copies, I displayed the data tables on each table and asked students to transcribe them into their science journal before starting the investigation. This was very time consuming and not something that I would repeat. Instead I would print a data table for each group of students and allow them to collaborate on the data and rotate writing. Another challenge is consumables. A limited amount of investigation materials are provided in the kits.(tape, string, etc) This was not a big deal for this first investigation but I could see it turning into an expense that might prevent teachers from choosing to repeat the investigation. Finally, space for the investigation stations could be problematic in the regular classroom. We had plenty of room to investigate with meter sticks and ramps in the Library Media Center.

As a follow-up, I think it would be beneficial to follow through with the explain and evaluate portions of the StemScope lesson and to give students an opportunity to write about what they observed -- claim, evidence, reasoning. During this very important piece of the science lesson, students will develop the skills necessary to read and interpret data, They will need the data they collected which brings me back to need for individual copies. I would be interested to learn how others approach the copy challenge.