Friday, July 15, 2016

New Website

Hi all,

Miss Em's Blog has moved.

Her latest post, Ako, Flow and Skate Parks can be found at

Many thanks and sorry for any inconvenience.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lighting the way for science inquiry - A reflection on the #TeachMeetNZ experience

From an unexpected tweet, I had the opportunity to present for #TeachMeetNZ/Science Learning Hub - International Year of Light session. Quite exciting considering the calibre of educators on-board already, including Andrea Soanes from the Science Learning Hub and the #SciChatNZ heavyweights themselves.

Getting up to speed with the technology was intimidating. Being in China, I had lost touch with various IT developments, but I was fortunate to have the expert and fellow #TeachMeetNZ veteran, Matt Ives, to scaffold me from China's end through the process. As well as the #TeachMeet superstar Sonya Van Schaijik to support me online.

Through the practice sessions the team got to know each other and it was great to build camaraderie and have a few laughs. Definite 'mind-explosions' happened as a result of all the AMAZING presentations, reflections and conversations being shared. I recommend checking out each educators presentation. Relevant, authentic, meaningful, on-the-ground teaching, which will bring inspiration to your practice.

The topic focus was around the International Year of Light, which narrowed my presentation down to a previous unit I taught through the International Baccalaureate transdisciplinary theme - How the world works. The Central Idea: Light has many sources, properties and uses. At the time of the unit being taught, I was curious around students perceptions of a scientist and whether they saw themselves as scientists. As well as gaining an understanding of the IB Curriculum while transitioning from the NZ Curriculum. 

The #TeachMeetNZ experience consolidated my thoughts and gave me the opportunity to identify
PYP - How the world works Grade 2 planner
aspects of the unit I needed to investigate further for my own professional development. Fortunately, the Grade 2 How the world works unit was to be taught the following year. This lead the Grade 2 team to have a lengthy meeting where ideas were challenged and change occurred. One key change was the central idea and we incorporated an aspect which meant we could focus on science skills.

Pre-assessment. 'What is a scientist?'

Central Idea: Using scientific knowledge helps us to investigate the sources, properties and uses of light.

This helped us to target science specific skills from the Science Scope and Sequence document from the Primary Years Programme of the IB Curriculum, which would be similar to the Science Capabilities of the NZ Curriculum. It allowed us to add an additional line of inquiry which helped us to explicitly teach the 'skills of a scientist' and focused our teaching enormously.

Science skills poster
I approached the unit using the same pre-assessments as the year before, asking students to draw and write what they thought a scientist was, followed by the Science Learning Hubs - Light and Sight assessment. Both assessments showed a large amount of student misconceptions.

Through a series of investigations inquirying into the sources, properties and uses of light the students and I came up with a poster of the skills and knowledge scientists require and drove home the fact the students were being scientists.

Science investigations and Science Fair photos
The summative assessment went well, which involved a mini science fair where students had to come up with their own science investigation and before this took place we (students and I) were able to create our own science communication success criteria.

Sci comms success criteria
Interestingly, when it came to the post unit reflections, I asked the students to draw and write what they thought a scientist was. Majority still reverted back to previous drawings, with some students adding male physicists to their drawings of chemists (or potion-makers), so some change did occurred. And, students did record the skills required of a scientist from our class poster, showing an awareness of what we had learned to an extent.
I considered this to be a successful unit and as teachers we worked incredibly hard to address the lines of inquiry, but the stereotypes of what a scientist is are so deeply embedded into society its near impossible to shift thinking in a 6 week unit.

Post-assessment 'what is a scientist?'
To shift students thinking towards seeing themselves as scientists there needs to be a whole school approach where instruction around skills is explicitly taught on a regular basis. In an environment designed around building innovation, creativity and experience.
As well as using the tuakana-teina relationship where we break the silo-ed approach to learning and have our middle school and secondary school students mentor and scaffold younger students with the teacher facilitating. This way students are able to see tangible next steps in their education from students only a few years older than themselves.
In addition, I advocate for the vital importance of the diversity of role-models in the science profession and show-case their thinking and talents in an educational context to support our children and wider community to develop their scientific literacy and awareness of what a scientist is.

The #TeachMeetNZ experience was a fantastic opportunity to challenge my thinking and better my practice. I appreciate being able to engage with wonderful educators and be awed by their thinking and practice also. If anybody is presented with the opportunity to be part of a #TeachMeet session, don't hesitate in giving it a go. It's a lot of fun!