The STATellite (April 2016)

Page 1


Margaret Baguio

LiftOff 2016: EXPLORATION Past, Present and Future


George Hademenos & Norma Neeley


Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom

Amy Russell

29 Early Science Writing Stages

S TATe l l i te 2016 Spring issue

Volume 60 Issue 1

Kylie Murry

Come on in, The Water’s Fine How to Stay Afloat in Project Based Learning p.19

The Official Publication of the Science Teachers Association of Texas

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April 2016

Upcoming Events 2016

5 Measuring Elbow Carrying Angle..... 6 President’s Column................................

LiftOff 2016: EXPLORATION - Past, Present, and Future................................ Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom: The ABC’s of Grantwriting............................................. Come on in, The Water’s Fine - How to Stay Afloat in Project Based Learning.....................................................

8 11 19

Connecting Students Globally to Investigate How Humans Impact the Environment.....................................

24 Early Science Writing Stages............... 29 Science TEKS Streamlining: An Opportunity for the Science Education Community..........................

33 STAT Contacts........................................... 36


Mini-CAST: Powering Minds with STEAM Huntsville, TX THURSDAY, JULY 14

Summer Leadership Institute San Antonio, TX THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10

CAST 2016: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants San Antonio, TX THURSDAY, March 30

NSTA Annual Convention Los Angeles, CA For more information and events visit us online at:

Volume 59 Issue 4

President’s Column


elcome to the Spring STATellite!

It has been a long school year, and the testing season is now upon us. Our students, schools and even our own classrooms will be under the spotlight as the accountability calculation looms on the horizon. Fortunately, we are living in a season of change. The new federal ESSA law affords the states more freedom to both educate and assess their students, and also to evaluate their teachers and schools, and this means the “one-size-fits-all” accountability model might at last become a thing of the past. I am sure we are all breathing a sigh of relief as we look forward to more flexible measures of student learning and school success! STAT has been busy during this season of change. We have met with legislators to inform them about the challenges being experienced in science classrooms across the state, and are preparing to provide testimony on everything from middle school science and math misalignment to recommendations for STEM teacher preparation programs. Perhaps most importantly, as our State Board of Education meets over the coming weeks to “Streamline” our Science TEKS, they will do so armed with the results of our recent TEKS Member Survey. A huge thank you goes out to everyone that helped with this process – we are disaggregat-

ing the data and consolidating the results. Please understand that you have shaped the future of science education in Texas! Keep your eyes peeled for additional emails about how you can stay engaged in these vital legislative processes. As you are preparing for STAAR tests, and thinking about what the next school year might hold, please take a moment to think about how you might share your great ideas with your fellow colleagues around Texas. The deadline for submitting workshop and short course proposals for CAST 2016 is TODAY! You can still follow the link below to submit your wonderful lesson ideas and best practices: While you’re at it, please sign up to grade some of the proposal submissions. The more scorers we have, the better we will be able to identify the strongest session proposals, and provide the kinds of high quality professional development that we have become accustomed to at CAST. Here’s the link for signing up: CLICK HERE Finally, the Executive Committee officer election results are in, and we will be welcoming a new group of officers to the board on June 1st. Congratulations to Kayla Pearce, Linda Schaake, Kara Swindell, Ann Mulvihill, Terry White, Laura Lee McCleod and Melissa Gable. A big thank you to those


Matt Wells

STAT President

who applied to serve, and to those who voted! We did receive a couple of questions about how our “slate-based” election process works, so we will be posting an “FAQ” style document on our website that should provide answers to any questions you might have! Please visit the STAT website ( for more information. Plans for CAST 2016 are rapidly taking shape, and the conference will be upon us before we know it. Checkout the STAT website to learn more about what lies in store, and make plans to attend. We are looking forward to a record gathering of science educators when we all descend upon San Antonio Nov. 10-12. This year has passed by in the blink of an eye, and as I reflect on all the people I have met, the teachers and administrators I have worked with, and the wonderful things I have seen happening around our state, I am reminded how dedicated, hardworking and AMAZING Texas science teachers are. Our children are in good hands. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve you this year, and I look forward to seeing you down by the river in the Fall!



The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Measuring Elbow Carrying Angle By Ron Scott PT, EdD, MA

An educational and highly interesting mixed science and math investigation – most suitable for students in grades 5-8 – is measuring elbow carrying angle in each member of the class, and computing averages (means) and ranges for the class as a whole, and by gender. This simple-to-calculate anthropological measurement is useful to teach students about human anatomic variability and adaptation, and as an introduction to biostatistics. Elbow carrying angle is important on an everyday basis to select bioscience professionals – forensic scientists, occupational therapists, orthopedic surgeons, physical anthropologists and physical therapists, among others. For students, measuring and analyzing elbow carrying angle is a unique way to advance their knowledge of science and math; to compare and contrast subtle gender differences in the human species; and to advance respect for one another as classmates and research subjects. Elbow carrying angle typically ranges from 5-15 degrees, and is designed to allow one’s forearms to clear the hips during arm-swing while walking or running. Different within-range variants of elbow carrying angle also afford relative greater or lesser mechanical advantage during lifting tasks. Students

can be tasked to analyze why women typically have greater elbow carrying angles than men (a wider pelvis to accommodate a developing fetus or fetuses), and whether narrower or wider elbow carrying angle facilitates better mechanical advantage during lifting (narrower more advantageous, due to a more linear force vector). To measure elbow carrying angle, subjects stand erect, with arms at sides, palms facing forward, feet shoulder-width apart

subject atypical in terms of elbow carrying angle? (Elbow fracture, e.g. from a skateboard mishap) Extension activities: Aggregate, analyze and create a poster depicting results from multiple class sections, exercising the ethical responsibility to shield individual student identities. Present processes and findings at a school, district or regional science fair – maybe even at CAST.

Figure: Baseline goniometer, Courtesy: Google Search, Aug. 25, 2015.

(“anatomical position”). Using an inexpensive plastic goniometer [Greek origin: gonia (angle), metron (measurement)], place the axis at the center of the anterior elbow crease, and place the long arms of the goniometer along the center of the anterior upper arm and forearm, and measure and record the angulation. Analyze and report results. Extension question: What kinds of conditions might render a

Reference: Rajesh B, Reshma V, Jaene R, Somasekhar I, Vaithilingam A. An evaluation of the carrying angle of the elbow joint in adolescents. Int J Med Biomed Res, 2013;2(3):221225 (60 subjects, ages 17-20, average elbow carrying angles: 13.6 for females, 6.7 for males). Ron Scott, PT, EdD, MA, is a retired Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, UTHSCSA. Ron served under Troops-to-Teachers as the 5th-grade bilingual science teacher at Comal Elementary School, New Braunfels, Texas, from 2006-8.


The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

LiftOff 2016: EXPLORATION - Past, Present, and Future By Margaret Baguio NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium, The University of Texas at Austin

Beginning in the summer of 1990, the NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium initiated weeklong professional development training for teachers. This aerospace workshop, called LiftOff, emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning experiences by incorporating a space science theme supported by NASA missions. Teacher participants are provided with information and experiences through speakers, hands-on activities and field investigations that promote space science and enrichment activities for themselves and others. Humanity’s interest in the heavens has been universal and enduring. Humans are driven to explore the unknown, discover new worlds, push the boundaries of our scientific and technical limits, and then push further.

The intangible desire to explore and challenge the boundaries of what we know and where we have been has provided benefits to our society for centuries. While robotic explorers have

studied Mars for more than 40 years, NASA’s path for the human exploration of Mars begins in low-Earth orbit aboard the International Space Station. Astronauts on the orbiting laboratory are helping us prove many of the technologies and communications systems needed for human missions to deep space, including Mars. The space station also advances our understanding of how the body changes in space and how to protect astronaut health. Our next step is deep space, where NASA will send a robotic mission to capture and redirect an asteroid to orbit the moon. Astronauts aboard the Orion

Volume 59 Issue 4


LiftOff 2016: EXPLORATION - Past, Present, and Future spacecraft will explore the asteroid, returning to Earth with samples. This experience in human spaceflight beyond low-Earth orbit will help NASA test new systems and capabilities, such as Solar Electric Propulsion, which we’ll need to send cargo as part of human missions to Mars. NASA’s powerful Space Launch System rocket will enable these “proving ground” missions to test new capabilities. Human missions to Mars will rely on Orion and an evolved version of SLS that will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever flown. Engineers and scientists around the country are working hard to develop the technologies astronauts will use to one day live and work on Mars, and safely return home from the next giant leap for humanity. NASA also is a leader in a Global Exploration Roadmap, working with international partners and the U.S. commercial space industry on a coordinated expansion of human presence into the solar system, with human missions to the surface of Mars as the driving goal. This is the beginning of a new era in space exploration in which NASA has been challenged to develop systems and capabilities required to explore beyond low-Earth orbit, including destinations such as translunar space, nearEarth asteroids and eventually

• Teacher Feature (sharing of classroom lessons and activities matched to education standards) • Opportunity to interact with researchers dedicated to space missions

Mars. Exploration – Past, Present, and Future – Liftoff 2016! Liftoff is open to any Grade 4 – 12 teacher. Any Texas teacher that is accepted into the workshop will receive all expenses paid – hotel, meals, transportation and tours. The program highlights include:

Former participants rate LiftOff as one of the best professional development programs they have ever attended. The deadline for receiving applications is April 15 for LiftOff 2016 and should be submitted through the online system: http://

• Presentations by NASA scientists and engineers • Tours of NASA and Space Center Houston • Hands-on, inquiry based classroom activities aligned to educational standards • Career Exploration


Volume 59 Issue 4


Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom: The ABC’s of Grantwriting

By George Hademenos, Physics Teacher Richardson High School

Introduction STEM-based instruction provides unique opportunities to foster cross-curricular collaboration among teachers and students of different subjects and backgrounds; lays the groundwork for team-driven, hands-on learning experiences through projects; promotes higher-order thinking, reasoning and inquiry skills; and adequately prepares students for active participation in STEMrelated careers necessary to actively compete and succeed in the 21st century workforce. However, a school’s decision to engage students in STEMbased instruction comes at a cost…literally. The mere inclusion of technology in a STEM classroom dictates the need for financial resources which, in most cases, arise from support at the state or district level. However, because the funds allocated to each campus are contingent upon curricular and instructional needs from a multitude of competing audiences and discipline areas, the financial support made available to STEM teachers is limited, at best. Thus, teachers who are committed to STEM-based instruction are relegated to


Norma J. Neely, Ed.D., Director American Indian Institute University of Oklahoma

funds from grants that they themselves must actively pursue. This article provides teachers with tips and suggestions for writing successful grants to obtain funds to enhance STEM-related lessons and activities.

should also be an appropriate use of class time and easily implemented by other teachers. Is my idea based on a “hot topic?”

While STEM is an instructional approach that focuses on Before you Begin Writing what content is presented in a classroom, there are other inthe Grant structional strategies that foThe first, and probably most cus on how content is presentimportant, step in the grant- ed. Several examples of these writing process begins with instructional strategies that an idea. The idea should be are research-based and classnovel, unique, and applicable room-tested include projectto at least one if not more of based learning, differentiated the STEM disciplines. As one instruction, and flipped classassesses the viability of an room. Any proposed STEMidea for potential funding, the based idea that incorporates following questions should be these types of instructional strategies further strengthens considered: probability of funding success. Is my idea out of the box? Have I tried out my idea in Is your idea novel and unique class? or is it a minor tweak or two from a commonly accepted An idea always sounds good idea? The chances of gain- in the thinking stage and being the reviewer’s attention comes even more solid once and, thus, potential success in the idea is sketched out in a funding are increased for an proposal. But nothing replaces idea that sets itself apart from experience. Has the idea been mainstream ideas. Funding tried out in the classroom? agencies are not likely to sup- Prior trials of a proposed idea port an idea which, in essence, helps the teacher to better unis a minor iteration of a proven derstand its practical impleconcept. Although original- mentation as well as identify ity is important, the project potential pitfalls which should



The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom: The ABC’s of Grantwriting first be recognized by the teacher as opposed to being brought up by the reviewer. How will my idea impact science instruction? A major guiding principle of any funding agency is to fund projects that yield the “biggest bang for the buck.” Agencies have limited funds earmarked for a specific purpose and thus are motivated to fund proposals that will produce the widest impact to STEM education and promote potential growth for other teachers at other schools. A teacher must convince reviewers that the proposed idea provides the loudest bang. Once the idea has been established, the teacher’s next step is to pursue appropriate grant opportunities. Which funding agency provides the best fit for the proposed project? On the federal level, one can explore the websites of the US Department of Education and/or the National Science Foundation and peruse the list of RFPs (request for proposals) that best align with the idea. Additional opportunities for funding include: Donors Choose, Toshiba/NSTA Exploravision, Toshiba America Foundation, and Toyota Tapestry Grant. In addition, some

agencies promote underrepresented groups of teachers. The question then becomes which grant source is the best fit for a teacher’s project. The answer depends upon many factors including the extent of the proposed idea, number of students served, time interval required for the project, and type of materials requested. Most grants require proof that teachers have the ability to implement the program. There is no clear-cut formula to identify a suitable funding source. However, three questions that can help streamline the process are: Is my idea aligned with the funding agency priorities?

Will the grant be used to fund a one-time project for one class or will it be used to fund a long-running program involving several classes over several years? Either scenario is appropriate for grants but the latter will require a larger dollar amount. As a result, the work required to complete the paperwork will be more involved, more extensive and will often involve the assistance of district officials to help coordinate the application for this amount of funding. Will the grant provide adequate funding?

A proposal is typically developed with a clear indication of When a funding agency pub- the materials and resources relicizes an opportunity and quired for the proposed idea solicits the submission of pro- as well as the overall costs. The posals, it is typically within the overall costs should fall within agency’s priorities and spe- the funding window provided cific scope of interest. If the by the grant opportunity. If proposed topic is aligned with not, it is incumbent upon the the agency’s scope of interest, teacher to explain what addithen it is worthwhile to sub- tional sources of funding will mit a grant proposal. If not, a be sought to completely fund teacher must carefully evalu- the project. Although it is posate the agency’s priorities sible to fund a project through balanced against the topics multiple grants, the amount of covered within the proposed work, time and effort is multiproject to gauge a grant’s po- plied as well. tential chance of success. A major frustration of teachAre my needs small-scale or ers involves students who do long-term? not read the instructions pre-

Volume 59 Issue 4


Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom: The ABC’s of Grantwriting sented at the beginning of the assignment. That same frustration is experienced by grant reviewers who are confronted with reading a proposal that was not prepared according to the clearly established instructions and guidelines. Several questions to keep in mind as a teacher reviews the instructions for a particular grant opportunity include:

a reviewer’s workload by one proposal and increases the number of rejection notifications by one.

Instructions for grant proposals are very clear and specific as to the requirements or expectations of the applicant. Some proposals are limited Can tables, diagrams, or pho- only to the information retos be included? quested on the application form while others allow the It has often been said that, “A applicant to submit supplepicture is worth a thousand mentary materials to support words.” This is true and can the proposed idea, generally be very beneficial particularly on an optional basis. Examwhen a grant application im- ples of supplementary mateposes strict guidelines with rials can include, but are not limited to lesson plans; student work; recommendation letters from students, parents, colleagues and/or administrators knowledgeable about the teacher’s work; and authored publications relating to the proposed idea. Recommendation letters, particularly those regard to word count and written by students, provide page length. The picture in powerful testimony to your this case is any demonstration classroom abilities and lend of support for the proposed strong credibility to the proidea such as tables, diagrams, posed idea. What are the page limits, font or photos that serves to break type and size, and page mar- the monotony of the applica- What are the timelines and gins? tion text and illustrate how due dates? the students will benefit from Be sure to follow instructions the proposed project. If the At the beginning of the appliregarding page limits, font funding agency permits alter- cation process, a teacher must type and size, and page mar- native sources of information locate and adhere to the due gins. Yes, it is possible to dis- in support of the proposed date. It is the date established tinguish between 12 pt and idea, the teacher should take by the funding agency that all 11 pt font size and reviewers full advantage. applications must be received typically have a ruler on hand in order to receive full considto physically measure the Can supplementary materials eration. Submitting an applipage margins. Failure to ad- be included? cation even one day after this here to these rules decreases date will be a waste of time


Volume 60 Issue 1


Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom: The ABC’s of Grantwriting and a lesson in futility. All of these questions and suggestions might seem petty and insignificant. However, one should keep in mind that many teachers across the city, state, or nation are applying for the same limited amount of dollars to conduct STEMbased instruction in their classroom. Funding agencies are not lacking for prospective applicants seeking financial support. Failure to understand and abide by the directions generally is grounds for immediate elimination from the review process. During the Grant Writing Process The hardest part of the process is about to begin and the suggestions that follow are designed to assist the teacher during the grant writing process.

• Write to an audience of generalists, not specialists.

A teacher brings a wealth of experience and interest of a topic into a grant proposal. Although this background demonstrates a mastery of the subject matter, the reviewers will most likely not have a similar background. It is imperative that the teacher com-

municate their proposed idea equally as important are the numbers within the budget to any reviewer. of a proposal that explain how • Check for grammar, spelling, much the project will require. and punctuation. The budget is a mandatory part of a proposal in which the After spending a significant teacher lists the equipment, amount of time drafting the materials and resources reproposal, rewording sentenc- quired to bring the proposed es, restructuring paragraphs idea to fruition, the approxiand reviewing the resultant mate cost for each of the reproduct a multitude of times quested items, and a justificaduring the process, a teacher tion of how the item will be finds it fairly easy to be satis- used in the project. fied with the final product. After all, a teacher always uses Create your budget in table a word processing program form. that has spell check, and thus, any and all inadvertently mis- When it comes to the budget, spelled words or grammatical presentation is everything. If errors will be caught. Please given the opportunity as dicnote that no spell check pro- tated by the guidelines, the gram, feature or frequency of teacher should prepare the operation replaces the accura- budget in table form, with cy of the author’s eyes. If one well-defined columns for the misspelled word, grammatical item requested, justification inconsistency or punctuation of the item, cost per unit item, misplacement is recognized, a number of items needed, and reviewer is likely to let the error the total amount for the item. pass and attribute it to author At the bottom of the table, an oversight. If these errors be- additional entry under the colcome a frequent occurrence, umn for total amount for the the reviewer is likely to let the item should be available for proposal pass and attribute it the teacher to indicate the toto author incompetence. tal amount of funds requested. A budget in table form makes • How will you use the re- it easier on the reviewer’s eyes quested funds? and more likely to warrant a positive response. Just as the words of a grant proposal are vital in explain- Is the total requested dollar ing the what of a project, amount within the scope of



The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom: The ABC’s of Grantwriting the funding opportunity? All grant opportunities have well-defined funding windows for submitted proposals. The total amount of funds requested for the proposed idea should be within that window. Although it is possible that a proposal that exceeds the upper limit of the funding window might be considered, the funding agency will be more likely to apply their limited funds to proposals that are within the funding window, as clearly stated in the instructions. This is another example of why it is important to read the instructions. Is the requested cost for each item reasonably priced? A grant proposal presents an opportunity for a teacher to integrate a learning experience in the classroom using specific resources critical to its successful implementation. Although a teacher is always looking for the best resources to bring to the classroom, it is important to realize that best usually means expensive. While it is noble for a teacher to want the best for his/her students, each proposal has a limited funding window and the more that costs are taken up by a single resource, the number and cost of

al supplies required for the project is reduced. All project items should be selected such that their total combined cost fits well into the agency’s funding window. Are all requested items reasonably justified? Each item in the proposal should be vital to the project’s success and be easily justified in support of its role. The teacher should refrain from the inclusion of items which could be useful to the project and instead focus only on those items that will be useful to the project. Does the arithmetic add up? The most pertinent aspect of the budget refers to the total amount of funds requested by the teacher. Simply put, do the numbers add up? It is incumbent upon the teacher to perform the budget calculations several times and, to be sure, invite several colleagues to perform the same calculations to back up the final result. Just as you pore over the numbers with a calculator to ensure the total amount requested is correct, so too will the proposal reviewers. This is one area where agreement is mandatory.

• Ask at least one other person to proofread your grant.

Given the time and effort invested by the teacher to develop the proposal, it is always beneficial to have respected colleagues review the proposal and offer their comments. Although these colleagues could be educators of the same background or teaching field, the teacher would be better served to seek comments from colleagues who are far removed from the teacher’s background – an English teacher, a principal, an instructional specialist, or a coach. They will not be as informed and knowledgeable about the idea, related topics and inherent content as the author. However, their comments provide an opportunity for the teacher to address gaps which might not have been evident to the author but would beg an explanation to ensure that the reviewers, regardless of their background, are able to understand the proposed project and be able to render a thoughtful decision.

• Respond to critiques and criticism in the spirit it was given.

If you are thin-skinned and sensitive to criticism, then writing grants is probably not for you. Every person who decides to

Volume 59 Issue 4


Making STEM Affordable in the Classroom: The ABC’s of Grantwriting write a grant does so thinking (and in most cases knowing) that they are the most qualified to write the grant, their idea is the best conceived, and their proposal is exceptionally written. Any criticism strikes to the heart of these feelings and can evoke a veiled response driven in anger, confusion, or frustration. The absolute last thing a teacher should welcome is a proposal returned by a colleague reviewer that is unmarked. If it is unmarked, it could imply one of two scenarios: (1) it a perfectly written proposal or (2) the colleague chose not to voice any corrections of the proposed idea. If the former scenario is the explanation behind the unmarked proposal, then one can only hope that the reviewers feel the same way. After the Grant Has Been Submitted

explaining a brief overview of the review process, and a timeline through which decisions will be made and communicated to the applicants. The receipt of confirmation typically follows within several days of the proposal submission. If no response is received within one week of submission, the teacher should follow up with the agency to check on the proposal’s status. If a teacher is successful in getting the grant, then congratulations are in order for a job well done. Plans can be made to purchase the equipment/ supplies, and instructional materials can be developed to implement the project in the classroom. The teacher should keep an organized and detailed account of all expenditures which will most likely be required in a completion report. If a teacher is not suc-

cessful, then it is perfectly acceptable to be disappointed. The teacher should reflect on areas of improvement, revise if needed, and then resubmit the proposal to a different agency offering a similar opportunity for funding. Closing Thoughts A teacher’s decision to write a proposal is not an easy one. It is a major commitment of time, energy, and effort that acts concurrent to the daily and weekly responsibilities of creating lesson plans, teaching, faculty meetings, and tutorial sessions. A teacher might wonder many times through the process: “Is all of this work to develop a grant proposal worth it?” The answer to this question can be found by simply asking the students who will benefit from the grant.

The grant proposal has been drafted, undergone revisions, scrutinized by colleagues and submitted by the proposal deadline. The majority of the work has been done but now comes the toughest part − waiting for a response. Every funding agency typically responds to an applicant with a receipt of confirmation, informing the teacher that the proposal has been received,


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Volume 59 Issue 4


Come On In, The Water’s Fine How to Stay Afloat in Project Based Learning By Kylie Murry, M.Ed. GHS Physics and Chemistry

Project Based Learning is the catch phrase on every administrator and curriculum director’s tongue; easy to say, a little harder to do. Here’s my advice from the deep end of the project based learning pool if you are just dipping your toe in the shallow end and considering wading in further. Why Take the Plunge? Why project based learning? Before I dive into the details, many teachers question the effectiveness of project-based learning. Research reflects that student retention increases when they are given a problem-solving task that requires all of their senses and encompasses all of the learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic). In addition, project based learning takes place in the portion of the learning pyramid where retention ranges from 50% up to 90% (compared to only 10% retention from lecture and reading). All levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Synthesis, and Evaluation) are at play when students are involved in projectbased learning. Finally, if a project is framed and scaffolded in a way that students are interested, given clear goals, and confident that they can be successful, their

engagement will be at the highest level. It encompasses all of the learning styles, it fluidly allows for differentiation, it teaches at the most effective level, it engages students, and if done properly will meet all of your learning objectives. Given the effectiveness of this method of learning, many still balk because of three main concerns: 1) Noise and mess (i.e. students not on task), 2) Not enough time, and 3) Stress about student mastery of TEKS. If you venture into the world of project based learning you’ll have to loosen the reins a bit and accept that it will be a little noisier and messier than you may be comfortable with at first, but there are ways to manage your classroom to increase engagement and on-task behavior. And yes, at first project based learning is more time intensive for you to set up and plan than copying worksheets or assigning book work, however, once you’ve established the framework and rubrics, the rest of the time will run smoothly and involve students doing the work while you guide the process. As far as meeting learning objectives, if you establish guidelines with clear task goals aligned with your TEKS’ key terms and concepts and include a unit test at the end, you will also be sure that your students

have mastered the intended objectives. Begin With the End in Mind The first step of planning an engaging and successful project is to begin with the end in mind. First, look at your TEKS. Many TEKS can be taught as a group instead of individually. Identify a manageable number of TEKS for your time frame. Starting with one TEK and having a short project may be a good way to get your feet wet. Next, list the key terms associated with the TEKS. Third, write 3-5 questions that address the key concepts. I

like to call these “driving questions”. When students answer these questions, they drive their own learning. The fourth step is the most difficult step for some teachers. An authentic learning experience needs to be brainstormed. If you need help getting your creative juices flowing,



The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Come On In, The Water’s Fine How to Stay Afloat in Project Based Learning there are many resources online. Some of my favorites are,,, and bie. org. Students engage best with an experience that relates to “real life” or is set up as a competition. Fifth, lay out a schedule for how many days you predict your students will need to complete the task and set up a task goal for each day. Use the task goals to identify formative and summative grades that you will take during the project and go ahead and identify those on the first day to establish accountability and clear expectations. Establish a date for the competition or product to be due. It’s helpful to put a breakdown of what needs to be done each day on a blank calendar form as well. This helps teach them to manage their time and set long and short-term goals. Design rubrics for the product and summative paper and pass these out at the beginning of the unit. I’ve found that if I have my product as a formative grade and a summary paper as a summative grade, no one fails from not completing a project on time or having an unsuccessful end product. It gives students practice writing, allows them to connect their learning, and allows me to assess their knowledge individually. I also frame my project based learning with a pre-test and a posttest to ensure the learning

jectives were mastered. Some May Need Floaties Expect an initial lag time when a design challenge is first presented. The planning part is a good way to scaffold them into ideas, but when it comes to actually putting their ideas into practice I’ve noticed most students have a “pause” period. This is the point that requires the most patience as a teacher. The natural inclination is to jump in and start giving them directions and your own ideas; to start pulling out boxes of materials and suggesting what to use. Be patient! After the pause period, the students will begin to put things together that you would never have thought of. Their innovation and creativity will amaze you. So wait for it and let it happen. Control the urge to jump in and do the work for them. There are some during the pause period, however, that are not just thinking, but also genuinely struggling. For those groups, individually conferencing with them and asking leading questions is a good way to get them moving. In order to ensure that everyone has a role and is a contributing member of the group, I assign jobs or have the groups divide the tasks themselves. Ideally I gravitate towards groups of

three. I’ve found this number allows for maximum efficiency in dividing a task into manageable chunks without having an observer who isn’t doing anything. To make sure everyone participates equally it helps to rotate jobs daily or with the beginning of a new project. I usually assign three roles: project manager, materials manager, and recorder. On projects that require students to bring materials from home to build with, there are sometimes groups on build days that will bring nothing. The point of the project is for them to learn the unit concepts, so have alternate assignments for them to do which will accomplish the same end. In this way they are still learning the concepts, and still receiving a grade. After one day of working on a packet and watching other groups working on their projects their motivation returns and they will redouble their efforts the next day to catch up. It works like a charm! If you want quality projects and quality learning to be taking place it is important to rotate around the room offering encouragement and praise, as well as keeping them on task. Keep your ears open for problems that arise on concepts or group dynamics. These are prime teaching moments for students


The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Come On In, The Water’s Fine How to Stay Afloat in Project Based Learning to understand how concepts apply to their project and how to work in a group. Much of my joy in teaching comes from the project days when the kids are asking me for information instead of listening in boredom as I try to “teach” them.

pride in their eyes when they build or create something, the joy when they compete with each other, and the spark of interest and questions that come during a project are what make my job as a teacher memorable, rewarding, and fun.

Swimming Lessons Sprinkled throughout the project time frame I suggest doing “mini-lessons.” For example, on the project build days I will start the class period by having the students watch a short video tutorial on one of the key concepts of the units and write down brief notes. Then we will discuss how the key concept relates to the project design. When you couple what you want the students to know to what they want to know to make their project successful, it’s a great way to give meaning and relevance to what you are teaching. I’ll also assign practice worksheet packets at the beginning of the unit and assign due dates to certain pages throughout the project timeline that we grade/go over in class to reinforce the concepts and what the students are expected to know for the unit test. Just Keep Swimming Be warned, the first project of the year is usually not as successful as you would hope.

Key Steps for Meeting Learning Objectives Through A Project Based Learning Experience: 1) Start by listing key terms for the unit

Students learn new skills when doing projects related to working in a group, time management, meeting deadlines, and other social soft skills. As the year progresses they become much quicker and more adept at assigning tasks within the group, working effectively with their group, keeping on task to meet their daily task goals, thinking creatively, and physically bringing mental ideas into being. These are not skills that most of our students possess, which is one of the reasons project based learning is so important. Corporations are saying repeatedly that students coming into the work force are lacking creative thinking, problem solving, and social skills. To be competitive in the world market we need to be teaching our students these skills just as much as the academic content. The





tions” 3) Identify an authentic learning goal (challenge or product) 4) Develop rubrics for the final product and summary paper 5) Administer a pre-test over unit concepts and key terms 6) Assign roles and daily task goals 7) Scaffold learning during the work phase through one-onone conferencing and minilessons 8) Have students write a summary paper after the product is complete and administer a unit test to assess learning

Engage Students with Interactive Science Lessons

Edusmart is a digital multimedia Science resource built from the TEKS and adopted by the state under Proclamation 2014. A rich array of lesson components on a user-friendly online technology platform makes it easy to build effective and engaging lessons for all learner types. Edusmart Science is available for Grades K–8 and High School Biology, and has built-in support for ELLs. For districts with bilingual programs, Edusmart Grades K–5 is also available in a transadapted Spanish version. Our latest offering STAARSmart helps teachers build high quality STAAR-formatted customized assessments with just a few clicks. Sign up for a free trial at and see why over 2000 schools supplement their Science instruction with Edusmart. (800) 318-9172


The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Connecting Students Globally to Investigate How Humans Impact the Environment By Rhoda Goldberg Cypress-Fairbanks ISD

Project Overview During the 2014-2015 school year, students from a fifth grade class in Houston, Texas took their learning global when they engaged in a project based learning activity with a cooperating fifth grade class in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Students from each class were placed in small groups and worked together both synchronously and asynchronously to learn about human impact on the environment. Step 1: Planning Many things were considered during our initial planning stage: • Time zone differences • Available Technology • Best technology platforms to use for all steps of the project • Student permission slips for video, Internet and photography • Identifying content objectives including layout and timeline of the project

Step 2: Introduce the Students to the Project As the classroom teacher in Houston began talking about the project with her students it became apparent that students did not know anything about Ecuador. To ignite their interest and make the experience more relevant, we created a QR code scavenger hunt about Ecuador to ignite their interest. Step 3: Virtual Handshake The project began with a “virtual handshake” in which groups from each side created videos introducing them-

selves. A virtual whiteboard was created for the project using Padlet which would store the videos and other common resources that both classes would need access to throughout the project. The project was becoming real for the students. One student commented, “I am very excited to do this project. I really hope the people in Ecuador feel the same way.” Another said, “I am worried that they may not understand or like our group.” Concern about how the students in Ecuador would feel about them seemed to be a common emotion.


The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Connecting Students Globally to Investigate How Humans Impact the Environment

Step 3: quette

Teaching Neti- Step 4: Placing Students cated with through Edmodo. in Groups on Edmodo Step 5: Google Doc We used resources from Com- Students worked within coopmon Sense Media to teach erative groups in their class- A Google Doc was created for students how to be safe of the rooms. Additionally, each each group to record data for Internet. group had a partner group in their research. A copy of this Ecuador that they communi- document was linked to each

Volume 60 Issue 1


Connecting Students Globally to Investigate How Humans Impact the Environment Edmodo group. Student research was completed asynchronously. Students from both sides of the world added information about the ways that humans in their area impacted the environment, the effects it had on the organisms that live there, who was responsible and ideas for solving the problem. Step 6: Synchronous Meeting through Skype Students completed a form to prepare for their meeting and were given a protocol to follow to assist them in their collaboration efforts. Student groups met synchronously one at a time to discuss their research and collectively choose a plan to help the environment. In one conversation a student group in Guayaquil wanted to try to save an area of land on which an indigenous group lived. Their Houston counterparts were concerned about endangered species here. The groups saw the connection, saving endangered organisms, and decided to make that the theme of their plan. Many of the students noticed that humans were affecting the environment very similarly in both countries.

Step 7: Implement Plan

storm/think of ideas to stop humans from harming the enStudents worked in their re- vironment is even more fun!” spective countries to carry Josephine replied, “Comout their agreed upon plan to municating took some time help the environment. because they live in another country. I would like to do Results another global collaboration project because it was an inWhy participate in a project teresting way of learning.” like this? Students have a lot of fun while learning both Alexandra said, “For me percontent, and 21st century sonally, it was fun because skills like communication, we get to share our ideas, collaboration, creativity, criti- communicate what we think cal thinking and technology about it and get to see what skills. we are like through those ideas through technology.” Joshua stated, “I would like to do another global collabora- This turned out to be an tion project because meeting amazing experience for all of new people is fun and getting the students involved! to work with them to brain-


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Volume 59 Issue 4

Early Science Writer Stages By Amy Russell Instructional Science Coach, League City Elementary, Clear Creek ISD

“I can’t get students to write. I don’t have time because my students take forever!” These are just a few of the frustrations elementary teachers express when sharing their will to want to implement more writing into their science instruction. Writing as a means of formative assessment in science is desired by teachers of all grades because they know it is the highest level of appli-

cation to use when seeking student understanding of the science content. Betsy Rupp Fulwiler’s (2007) Writing in Science approach is a researched based practice that not only gets students to communicate what they learned, but an avenue for building language, strengthen communication, and accelerate higher order thinking skills. Fulwiler’s work has become the founda-

Stage 1 Students have little experience in writing and communicating about science. Some students may be at the beginning stages of letter formation. Teacher models thinking as a science writer through dictated writing in a notebook. Students practice reading the writing together. During stage 1, students: 

Practice speaking and writing using sentence stems and word bank vocabulary

tion for developing a science writing approach in schools to strengthen K-5 science programs. The idea is perceived as “killing two birds with one stone” because students are proving their science knowledge while expanding their cognitive abilities through writing. In schools where science is taught daily and writing

Stage 2

Stage 3

Students can be pushed into building sentence Students have experienced writing and letter structure with supports. Teachers may contin- formation and established the routine of ue to use components from stage 1 during writing. Students’ fluency can support their ability to participate in shared writing. They science time. They might emphasize the scican create at least two sentences that have ence topic during guided and/or interactive writing time. A double-dose of writing will ex- more complexity with the teacher during science time. To build stamina, teachers may conpedite student growth towards stage 3. tinue to use the science topic for writing pracDuring stage 2, students: tice during writer’s workshop.

Decide what science learning they will write During stage 3, students: about with support. The teacher and stu Decide with the teacher what science learndents write a sentence through guided ing they will write about and write up to writing.  Choral read what a student or teacher has two or more sentences with the teacher. written.  Participate in creating a piece of science  May have time to illustrate writing within writing during interactive writing time. Science Literacy Station could have: the same time frame. Science Literacy Station could have:  Science Word bank and/or word cards  Show eagerness to craft their own sentenc Science Word bank and/or word cards es.  “Glue-in” sentence stems for students to fill in blanks using science terms  Sentence stem posted in the station for stuScience Literacy Station could have: dents to copy and complete.  Supplies for students to draw pictures to  Science Word bank and/or word cards illustrate their writing and potentially add  Supplies for students to illustrate and label  Multiple sentence stems posted in the stalabels using word bank. their writing. tion for students to copy and complete. 

Practice science writing by filling in the blank on a given stem.

Supplies for students to illustrate and label their writing. ©Amy Russell 2015



The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Early Science Writer Stages is embedded two to three times a week, students are being successful in K-5 science classrooms. When questioning teachers who have adopted this practice in primary grades, a first grade teacher who followed her students from kindergarten stated that guided writing and word banks/walls were a necessity for students to be successful science writers. In early grades where literacy stations are used during balance literacy time, students have a science literacy station where they can apply science vocabulary into their writing or extend upon their writing they began during science time. Over the last five years, while working in K-5 classrooms, new techniques were developed to support and scaffold students when applying science thinking into writing. Through trial, error, and case studies, a group of teachers and science coaches collaborated to help develop a continuum called the Stages of the Early Science Writer (Russell, 2015.) The first foundational component needed to focus students on the science is to always start the lesson with a focus question. This overarching question allows teachers and students to stay focused on what is being

learned and will lead to supporting the focus during writing. Stage one begins with students’ exposure to completing a sentence stem and includes choral reading together. This stage allows students to get acquainted with basic science writing.

gin to write with the teacher and play a role in deciding what they should write about based on their learning. Letter formation and integration of the literacy word wall supports writing development during guided or interactive writing time. Over the five stages of the early science Stage two, teachers use guid- writer, students become aced writing where students be- customed to the structure of

Stage Two- Guided writing with STEMs practiced during science talk prior writing together.

Volume 60 Issue 1


Early Science Writer Stages science word banks and the teacher pushes them to write without structured sentence stems. Sentence stems serve their purpose when learning how to write but can restrict students from developing their own writing if not encouraged to be an independent writer. Older students begin to think writing is a formula and stems can rob them

of creativity. During stage five, the teacher asks students to brainstorm words needed to answer the focus question as a writing composition. While the teacher probes students thinking, the solicited words are added to chart paper. Science talk and being able to explain thinking is essential to the

writing process for all elementary aged students. This also allows the teacher to guide students thinking in the event he or she hears a misconception. The science talk can prevent students from including misconceptions in their writing and the opportunity to address misunderstandings. This support called the student generated word bank is proven to help students be successful in expressing their science learning in all elementary grades and for all levels of writers. Although the continuum Stages of the Early Science Writer was written based on a kindergarten classroom, there are components that support older elementary aged students. We cannot act on the assumption that older students will be able to apply the science independently in their writing. It is up to science educators to provide students the supports and scaffolds during their science instruction in order for the science writing approach to be successful. Reference: Fulwiler, B. (2007) Writing in Science: How to Scaffold Instruction to Support Learning. Heinemann.

Stage Five- Created by a student relying on the student generated word bank and literacy word walls.

Russell, A. (2015) Stages of the Early Science Writer. [submitted for publication] Clear Creek ISD, League City, Texas.


Volume 60 Issue 1


Science TEKS Streamlining An Opportunity for the Science Education Community By Kevin Fisher

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has mandated that the Science TEKS be streamlined. This will be a unique opportunity for the science education community. We have an unprecedented occasion to improve the Science TEKS and enhance science education in our state. Are the current Science TEKS perfect, of course not. Are the current Science TEKS good, yes? Could the Science TEKS be improved, absolutely? The Science TEKS have some nebulous statements that need clarification. There are some content errors in the current Science TEKS. Effective streamlining might reduce the amount of content that educators are required to cover. All of us have heard from educators that too little time exists to present all the required content. There is a continuous call to explore topics at a deeper level as opposed to superficially covering a myriad of topics. The key word here is effective streamlining. There might be redundancy in the document. However, care must be exercised in recognizing concepts that are spiraled throughout the grade levels as opposed to true redundancy.

The SBOE has several key questions regarding the document. The first is whether or not the science process skills are needed in the document. The question has been posed to keep all the process skills, reduce the number of process skills, or eliminate the process skills completely from the document. There seems to be some confusion among educators as to how the process skills should be addressed. Some educators are trying to integrate only one process skill per activity, thus requiring an excessive number of activities to address all the process skills. Educators are not aware that an activity can address several process skills simultaneously. The other attribute of the concepts skills that should be considered is that the process skills allow real science to be practiced in the classroom.

tively covered in a school year. The SBOE wants critical concepts to be covered in greater depth as opposed to skimming over many concepts in a course.

The second question is how much time is required to teach all the current content in the document. The SBOE wants to insure there is adequate time to teach what the TEKS document mandates. The SBOE has received a significant amount of feedback that the Science TEKS have too much material to be effec-

A very important part of this process will be a survey developed by the Texas Education Agency that will be distributed statewide. This survey will ask for potential areas in the Science TEKS that can be streamlined. This will be the foundation to guide the revision teams. It is essential that every science educa-

A couple of items the SBOE have mandated are the Science TEKS can be streamlined; however, no new concepts can be added. Also, concepts cannot be moved from one grade level to another. The reason behind this is the fact that new instructional materials will not be developed after the streamlining. In order to avoid the problem of not having materials available to teach the concepts, the SBOE requested these requirements. It is important to note, the streamlining will not take the place of a full rewrite of the Science TEKS. The rewrite is still scheduled to occur in a few years.



The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Science TEKS Streamlining An Opportunity for the Science Education Community tor give their input through the survey. This is how effective change can be put into motion. Your thoughts are important; take the time to complete the survey. Science teachers are on the frontlines, and know better than anyone else what can be streamlined. Something to keep in mind, a person might be required to provide justification for the changes that are suggested. This would be an opportunity for everyone to have a voice. Keep in mind the old adage, if you don’t participate, you have no basis to complain. The writing team members that conduct the actual streamlining of the Science TEKS will be a critical attribute of the process. In addition to having strong science content knowledge, being very familiar with the Science TEKS grades K – 12, the members must be forward thinkers. In other words, what will be essential for students to know and be able to do five years from now? Science is a rapidly advancing and fluid field as is education. As an example, who would have thought that the majority of teaching resources would now be online and the technology department would be a major player in the instructional materials

arena? If you wish to be nominated as a writing team member for the streamlining process, you will need to contact the State Board of Education Member who represents you and express your interest. The next step will be to complete an application form that will be available from the Texas Education Agency. Once again, this is a tremendous opportunity to improve science education in our state. Streamlining can help the educator develop a focus on the truly important concepts, give

educators some time back in the area of preparation and instruction, and improve student learning and comprehension. Make sure you have an active role in this process. Kevin Fisher is a Past President of the Science Teachers Association of Texas, Past President of the Texas Education Science Leadership Association, and has 36 years of experience in science education.

Texas Association for Environmental Education 2016 Annual Conference October 7-9, 2016 Northwood University, Cedar Hill, TX Environmental Literacy: Success Through Partnerships An invitation to attend and a request for presenters Our 2016 conference marks the 35th TAEE conference and celebrates the 36 years since TAEE’s establishment. The conference will take place October 7 – 9th, at the beautiful and natural Northwood University campus in Cedar Hill, Texas, in southwest Dallas County. The focus will be on a tenet of the Texas Natural Resource Environmental Literacy Plan (ELP) Lifelong Learning and Community Connections. A copy of the ELP is available at

The 2016 conference theme is

Environmental Literacy: Success Through Partnerships. We are looking for enthusiastic presenters who  Use successful techniques and activities in the classroom.  Created lifelong learners within your community.  Used partnerships that were vital to your success as an educational organization or nature center We would love to learn about the many ways you educate and collaborate to achieve environmental literacy for all. The Call for Presentations may be found at TAEE invites you to attend the conference to network, to learn and to be inspired. The Northwood University campus with trails through wooded areas, a creek and pond, and on-site lodging will give everyone a beautiful location to meet other education professionals and interested citizens who value environmental education. Plan to register for the conference through As an affiliate of STAT and the Texas Affiliate of the North American Association for Environmental Education,, TAEE is a professional organization that supports and promotes a community of environmental educators in the state of Texas by providing Content




Contact TAEE at and like us on Face Book.


The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

SBOE Members District 1 El Paso Martha M. Dominguez

District 9 Mount Pleasant Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff

District 2 Brownsville Ruben Cortez, Jr.

District 10 Florence Tom Maynard

District 3 San Antonio Marisa B. Perez

District 11 Fort Worth Patricia Hardy

District 4 Houston Lawrence A. Allen, Jr

District 12 Dallas Geraldine Miller

District 5 San Antonio Ken Mercer

District 13 Fort Worth Erika Beltran

District 6 Houston Chair Donna Bahorich

District 14 Waco Sue Melton-Malone

District 7 Beaumont David Bradley

District 15 Amarillo Marty Rowley

District 8 The Woodlands Barbara Cargill

Volume 60 Issue 1






Past President

(972) 907-2838

(713) 723-0273

George Hademenos

Matthew Wells


Vice President

(469) 633-6805

(469) 633-6805



(806) 766-1744

(281) 328-9237

Laura Lee McLeod

Kara Swindell

Terry White

Melissa Gable

Members At Large:

Ann Mulvihill

Kayla Pearce

Linda Schaake



The Official Publication of The Science Teachers Association of Texas

Affiliates TABT Texas Association of Biology Teachers Daniel Bryant TAEE Texas Association for Environmental Education Lisa Brown TCES Texas Council of Elementary Science Wilma Stewart TESTA Texas Earth Science Teachers Association Kathryn Barclay TMEA Texas Marine Educators Association Marolyn Smith

Contacts TEA Representative:

Irene Pickhardt Curriculum Division (512) 463-9581

Executive Director:

TSAAPT Texas Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers Karen Jo Matsler

Chuck Hempstead (512) 491-6685

ACT2 Associated Chemistry Teachers of Texas Karen Compton

Janet Morrow (512) 491-6685

ISEA Informal Science Education Association Cheryl Potemkin

(512) 491-6685

TSELA Texas Science Education Leadership Association Jennifer Kaszuba

Assistant Executive Director:

STATellite Submissions: