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NASA and Notebooks

It’s been a little over a month since my last post, but I want to get back into the swing of things. I have missed blogging and tweeting and my Special Methods class especially, but by continuing to blog, I can still communicate with them and with others. I can be a part of change and I can be a part of the conversation about changing education. These things make it all worth while.


Since I last wrote, I have been formally accepted into a NASA mentorship program where my objective, along with three other mentors, is to empower pre-service elementary teachers in the sciences. My dad has always joked with me about how elementary teachers become elementary teachers because they don’t think they can do higher level math or science. I don’t blame them. The word calculus is intimidating to most and physics can give some people nightmares, but I love science and so do children. Children have so many question about how the world around them works, they seem to all be natural scientists.


We were told that these pre-service teachers would be coming to us with a strong background in reading, writing, and teaching to the test. Immediately, I thought of this talk I had seen at NCTE last fall on science notebooks in the elementary classroom. I want to use these scientific notebooks in these two hour sessions I’ll have with these teachers. I want them to write down notes about what we’re doing, practice sketching, write about how the feel about science (and hopefully this improves from a hate/fear science point of view to a confident/like, if not love approach towards science). I want them to practice what they might one day teach in having students keep science notebooks. Science notebooks also seem to solve a problem of having the pre-service teachers come in and be totally nervous and afraid of what we might do in this class. Science notebooks meet them halfway because they fall into the reading and writing category. The other really great thing about science notebooks is that, if the teacher decides to use them in their classroom, they can meet multiple standards at once. They will be meeting science standards and writing standards. It even embraces the increased non-fiction side of the Common Core.


Super mega awesome blog here on how to do science notebooks. Click the link; you won’t regret it.

So when I brought this up, all of the professors in the room seemed really excited about it. I received lots of enthusiastic nodding and comments. We could use the pre-service teachers notebooks to present at Nebraska Academy of Sciences this spring and it would show some sort of qualitative data that we could show to NASA as well. Science notebooks are winners. Yet, my other mentors seemed a little less than enthused. One said, “Yeah, we could have them write “I like science,”” as if that would be enough. I want the science notebooks to be so much more. If the teacher does a good or even mediocre job on their science notebook, it can still be used as a resource for them to flip back through and find ideas for their classroom. “I like science” helps no one if that’s all that’s in the notebook.


This was pretty much my reaction, but I’m not going to force it. It will be what the teacher makes it.

Another mentor said that they would rather really put their focus on experimentation and have the science notebook be optional. This straight out annoyed me because if a scientist doesn’t write down what they’ve done, then their experimentation is invalid. They will never get published if they don’t have something written down to the point where someone else can repeat exactly what they did. Science is also about replication, but if you don’t write something down, then it might as well have never happened. (This also made me think about how I feel about non-teachers/teaching majors teaching teachers how to teach and I still don’t know how I feel about it, but that’s a different post for a different time.) Reevaluating my own feelings on this though, I wonder if I’m not pushing the science notebook too hard. If I’m not too wrapped up in the idea of cross-curricular work and building resources for the future. Should they be optional? Is asking a pre-service teacher who is volunteering to meet with me twice a week for a total of four hours to write about what we’re doing too much? Too boring? Does my want to use scientific notebooks not really align with what science is or what my objective is? I don’t think so, but what do you think?


I didn’t even know what picture to put here because I’m so confused by this and my feelings about it.

I was also thinking that it may be beneficial, while they’re doing their experiments, to talk with them not only about science, but about how they can connect science to curriculum areas they might be more comfortable with, such as reading. I want to talk with them about incorporating science with their English side. For example, if they’re teaching This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, you could do a science unit on marine ecosystems or fish. In a classroom where reading and writing are your standardized test and your students spend all day with you, I think we should respect that and incorporate science within that model. Science and English do not have to be separate beings that sit in their own corner and never really look at each other.


Art, English, science, and ethics all in one book? You betcha’!

What are your thoughts on this? Am I asking too much with the science notebook? What about my cross curricular ideas? What are your ideas?



2 comments on “NASA and Notebooks

  1. kelseyempfield
    January 20, 2014

    Stick to your guns and stand up for what you believe in! I’m with you about the notebooks..keep us posted about what happens. Also, glad to see you back in the blogging saddle! It’s about time.

  2. Pingback: Sunday Saloon: What I’ve Been Reading Online 2/2/14 | kelseyempfield

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