A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Science! has become a bit like my catchphrase this year. In all of my English classes, I know I’ve used it at least once and probably a lot more than just that one time. I fight for posters and research and science notebooks and often times I feel a wee bit ignored in this. It’s surprised me how okay I am with being ignored in the way, but at NCTE I found that there are others out there like me, people who are working to incorporate more science in their classrooms. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I was ecstatic that there were others out there striving towards the same goal as myself.
One scientific sessions that sticks out particularly was the one on science notebooks. It was presented by three elementary school teachers. When I first sat down and I realized that it was about elementary students, I almost left, but then I realized with some tweaking I could make their ideas work in a high school classroom. It can’t be that different between the two levels. In elementary school, we practiced writing correct sentences and we still do it in high school, so why can’t an elementary school science notebook work in a high school?
The three teachers began to talk about doing science notebook workshops. They started the year with intensive units on science notebooks and how to do them well and how to turn them into a publishable document. They had so many good ideas! I want to do workshops on how do you sort relevant information from notes and how to process raw data so that it means something. I want to do workshops on how to write science in an engaging way, how to use sketching and drawing and photography, how to label and write descriptions. There’s so much science to do and so little time!
One of the teachers used a color-coded grading system, where he would underline certain sections of the notebook in blue for questions that the student had, red for evidence, green for labeling, etc. I really liked this idea, even though I’m not really sold on grading the students’ notebooks yet. I loved that the color-coding would allow the student to see easily what they might need more of. I was thinking about having my students use this for themselves once a week. From this, they would decide what their weekly grade would be and they would write me a letter defending their decision and also outlining their plan for further research, etc., for the next week.
I want to collaborate with other teachers on this project as well. I want an art teacher to work with them on sketching and techniques they can use to create a detailed picture quickly. I want science teachers to be using them in their room for their lab experiences as well. I want other English teachers to be working with their students on these skills as well. I think this would probably be my biggest challenge. Not everyone is as excited about science as I am, but maybe I could help ignite a passion where there wasn’t one before. I want students and teachers and people in general to see the inter-connectedness of everything. Science is not a stand alone and neither is English. They can work together.
When I left that session, I felt hopeful that I would be able to make my dream a reality. I felt like I was equipped with new and powerful ideas that I could really use. I felt like someone else got it. Someone else shared the same dream as me and it makes my day whenever I think about it. GO SCIENCE!
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New York City based photographer STEFAN FALKE visits artists who live and work on both sides of the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region for his ongoing project. All photos and texts © Stefan Falke (No use without written permission by the author)