Maine DOE’s new Science & Technology Specialist and a new Blog venue

It is a pleasure for me to introduce the Maine DOE’s new Science and Technology Specialist, Shari Templeton. Shari brings a passion for science education and student learning, not to mention 30 years of experience in four districts to her new state role. Until this month, Shari taught at Wiscasett High school and served  as the  district’s K-12 Science Coordinator.  We are fortunate that our conversations about science education will be watched over and supported by this talented teacher and committed professional.

The welcoming of our new State Science Specialist comes with another move.  Maine DOE is taking this opportunity to integrate regular posts related to science into the Commissioner’s Weekly Update.  Shari Templeton, will  share important information about science education standards along with information about education topics such as educator effectiveness and proficiency-based education.  To make this transition seamless all 370 members of the SciTech Framework community will be subscribed to the Commissioner’s Weekly Update this week.  We look forward to serving you with science news in this new format and we hope that you will continue to follow along in the Newsroom and the Professional Development calendar for the latest information and opportunities from the Department. It is important that individuals beyond the science education community know about the great work happening throughout the state in science education, and by integrating these updates in to the Department Newsroom and Update, we can be assured science ed news is getting many more eyes upon it and the attention it deserves.

Please put your hands together and join me in welcoming Shari Templeton to her new role!


Inspiring engagement in STEM – the NGSS vision takes form at King MS

This report on the expeditionary learning linking science and engineering reflects the vision of NGSS.  Teachers Gus Goodwin and Peter Hill (and their teammates) at King Middle School create a meaningful context for science and engineering.  I am inspired by the student learning capture in this video report. Take a few minutes to watch it.  I think you will agree, you can see the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core disciplinary ideas in this  expedition.

MainePSP: a test bed for teaching practices aligned with A Framework for K-12 Science Education

Thank you to our friends at the University of Maine RiSE (Research in STEM Education) Center for this post to the SciTech Framework Blog. 



As readers of this blog already know, A Framework for K-12 Science Education describes an approach to science teaching that differs from traditional instruction. Traditional approaches focus primarily on students’ learning about science content. With a traditional approach students might also learn about scientific practices, but the tendency in many classrooms has been to treat scientific practices as a topic to learn in addition to the content.

The vision of the Framework promotes instruction where “students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas (p. 2).” The Framework requires that students demonstrate understanding of core ideas through engagement in practices and crosscutting concepts.

Teacher and students at Troy Middle School measuring.

Teacher and students at Troy Middle School measuring. – From Bangor Daily News files.

The Maine Physical Sciences Partnership (MainePSP) brings together rural Maine school districts, the University of Maine, the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, the Maine Department of Education, and several education- focused nonprofit organizations to build a sustainable infrastructure that strengthens rural science education. Supported by a $12 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the key initiatives of the MainePSP include science teacher recruitment, retention and preparation, teaching and learning of physical science in the critical grade range of 6th-9th, and research informing future rural education initiatives. Some of the work now underway addresses aspects of the K-12 Framework.

Troy Howard student pouring water.  - From Bangor Daily News files

Troy Howard student pouring water. – From Bangor Daily News files.

One of the MainePSP project’s core innovations is the selection and collective implementation of research-based science curricular materials. The middle school partnership selected two different sets of materials: Issues and Earth Science from SEPUP (Science Education for Public Understanding Project) for grade 6 and PBIS (Project-Based Inquiry Science) for force and motion, energy and chemistry, typically in grade 7 or 8. Grade 9 teachers selected EarthCOMM (Earth System Science in the Community) as the set of foundational materials. Each set of materials contains elements that are aligned with aspects of the Framework.

The common instructional resources in the MainePSP provide a basis for shared experiences and rich conversations among teachers and University of Maine STEM and education faculty as they discover together how to strengthen science teaching and learning. The most important conversations reflect the Framework’s increased priority on the learning of scientific practices and on the integration of those practices with science content learning. With the collaborating teachers, the MainePSP faculty is studying and working through some of the issues that allteachers will face as they implement Next Generation Science Standards, built upon the ideas expressed in the Framework.

Many findings are emerging from the MainePSP study. One important finding suggests that there are three commonly held conceptions of learning progress that are potentially at odds with framework instruction. They are that learning should be Definite, Rapid, and Extensive:

• Definite – students should learn something once correctly, and  then and move on. They should have a visible gain in proficiency or knowledge over a short time period.

• Rapid – Students should have rapidly expanding experience and a rapid progress through the curriculum.

• Extensive – should have exposure to a large volume of content.

On the surface, these three conceptions of progress are attractive. Of course we all would like definite, rapid, and extensive progress that results in a lot of learning! Framework-aligned learning, particularly the learning of science practices and the critical thinking that the practices require, develops slowly over many repetitions; its progress is sometimes difficult to perceive, and it is, of course, not voluminous.

The MainePSP’s work with teachers across many different schools also provides evidence that it is not just the teachers who will need to develop new ways to think about student progress as science instruction aligns with the Framework. The teachers work in contexts that are shaped by expectations from building administrators, parents, school districts, state standards, and state assessments. The MainePSP sees the adoption and enactment of Framework-style instruction as a community-driven endeavor that will take place over a period of years.

The MainePSP, with its engagement from curriculum coordinators and whole school districts, provides a unique opportunity to encounter and work through the challenges of moving toward Framework-aligned instruction across the whole system of supports for science education in Maine school districts. It is our hope that lessons learned from this Partnership will inform the adoption and enactment of instruction congruent with the new Framework and the forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards.

MCCL considers NGSS

Educators in Maine regularly ask how the development of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will connect with the work being done by the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning (MCCL). I attended the meeting of the MCCL Science group that met last week in Lewiston. What follows is my summary of the work that MCCL has done in science and the MCCL leadership’s picture of where the work is headed in the future.

Over the last two years, the MCCL science group has identified measurement topics for science.  The measurement topics are built from the Maine Learning Results.  In the spirit of plan, do, check and adjust, during the winter and spring of the 2012-2013 school year, the MCCL Science group is refining the current scopes and scales that support the identified measurement topics .

Karen Caprio, Lori Lodge and Linda Laughlin invited me to join their meeting and share information about the Next Generation Science Standards. The MCCL Science Group plans to reconvene this summer after the adoption of the NGSS.  The Cohort is committed to becoming “students” of the Framework and NGSS Science standards. Using this knowledge as a base they will plan for future revisions to the MCCL work to reflect the NGSS.

Science educators participating in the MCCL

Science educators participating in the MCCL

Science educators participating in the MCCL

Science educators participating in the MCCL

A peek into Biddeford Middle School’s NGSS review conversation

Ann Putney from Biddeford Middle School (BMS) reflects on the conversations that the BMS science professional learning community (plc) had while providing feedback on the NGSS. 

From Ann….

As we launched into our review, questions immediately arose about the language of the PEs. “How will the kids understand this?” was Tammy Lavigne’s first question. At BMS, the PE that is currently being worked on in a classroom is required to be posted in the room and discussed with students as the unit progresses. One of Tammy’s great strengths is her knowledge of and focus on 12-and 13-year olds, and how to best match her curriculum to them. The way in which we will communicate Performance Expectations to our charges in more student-friendly language is a question for us in the future. And… we have to remember… this IS still a draft.

Ethan Davis

Ethan Davis

“Our kids could never do that,” was a second comment. We reminded ourselves that we were looking at grade-span endpoints. Maybe the PEs are difficult to achieve at right now at BMS, we agreed, but what if we looked at the NGSS continuum from Kindergarten onward? We began with the Kindergarten standard “Structure and Properties of Matter,” to see what was introduced there. We discovered continuity in the practices, in particular and the cross-cutting concepts that built confidence among our group that a “culture of Science education” would be achieved in a comprehensive implementation of NGSS. This was a key realization for several of us in two ways: 1) that NGSS must be implemented throughout the grades, beginning in Kindergarten, and 2) that the Frameworks vision “that students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas” could be fulfilled by implementing NGSS. In other words, if the “culture” exists, yes our students will be able to do this. (A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross Cutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. page 2)

Chelsea Brittain, Barbara Burgess, Lori Hickey and Tammy Lavigne

Chelsea Brittain, Barbara Burgess, Lori Hickey and Tammy Lavigne

The NGSS review process has truly been participatory. Biddeford Middle School’s teacher comments are being reviewed along with all comments from ALL states across the nation in order to ensure that the NGSS may be as workable as possible for all stakeholders, including classroom teachers in a small city in Maine.

Many thanks to my colleagues: Chelsea Brittain, Barbara Burgess, Ethan Davis, Lori Hickey and Tammy Lavigne and to BMS Principal Charles Lomonte for providing us with time to complete our review.

Maine posts great input on NGSS

Thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the second and final public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  I am grateful to all of you for the priority you gave to this important effort.

Maine had great participation in the NGSS survey. According to stats released by Achieve, Maine was one of the most active states in the nation based on population.  Bravo!

Achieve expects to release the final document at the end of the first quarter.  Keep reading the Framework!

Also, look for future posts about:

  • NGSS and the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning
  • What the Physical Science Partnership Grant (U Maine RiSE Center) can tell us about implementing the vision of the Framework and the NGSS
  • Practices 5 and 6 and MLTI tools
  • Maine Curriculum Leaders and NGSS implementation

Tools to enhance Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Practice 4

This practice is all about making the thinking visible and we are lucky!

The MLTI tools provide a rich set of tools to support analyzing and interpreting data AND provides a great context for collaborating with teachers of mathematics. Some of the tools offer similar features so you and your students can choose the one that is the best fit.

As always let’s consider what the Framework says about the progression of analyzing and interpreting data from the elementary level through high school.

At the elementary level, students need support to recognize the need to record observations—whether in drawings, words, or numbers—and to share them with others. As they engage in scientific inquiry more deeply, they should begin to collect categorical or numerical data for presentation in forms that facilitate interpretation, such as tables and graphs. When feasible, computers and other digital tools should be introduced as a means of enabling this practice.

In middle school, students should have opportunities to learn standard techniques for displaying, analyzing, and interpreting data; such techniques include different types of graphs, the identification of outliers in the data set, and averaging to reduce the effects of measurement error. Students should also be asked to explain why these techniques are needed.

As students progress through various science classes in high school and their investigations become more complex, they need to develop skill in additional techniques for displaying and analyzing data, such as x-y scatterplots or cross- tabulations to express the relationship between two variables. Students should be helped to recognize that they may need to explore more than one way to display their data in order to identify and present significant features. They also need opportunities to use mathematics and statistics to analyze features of data such as covariation. Also at the high school level, students should have the opportunity to use a greater diversity of samples of scientific data and to use computers or other digital tools to support this kind of analysis.

Students should be expected to use some of these same techniques in engineering as well. When they do so, it is important that they are made cognizant of the purpose of the exercise—that any data they collect and analyze are intended to help validate or improve a design or decide on an optimal solution.

Screen shot 2012-11-25 at 5.02.53 PM

Numbers – Students can use this software to enter, display, and analyze data in tables, spread sheets, and variety of graphs.

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Data Studio – Students can collect realtime data using PASPORT sensors OR  enter data from other sources to create graphs.   Students can use a variety of tools to analyze, summarize, and display their results.

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Students can quickly sketch a graph and then extract data from it in a number of ways. It is very useful as a way to show trends and concepts without needing extensive data sets.

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Logger Pro – Students can collect realtime data using Vernier probes OR enter data from other sources to create graphs.   Students can use a variety of tools to analyze, summarize, and display their results.

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Bento – This is a database  management tool. Students can sort and create reports from their data.  There are a number of templates that students can customize.  For example, could image students modifying the Exercise Log to collect data for a heart rate lab. The program creates entry sheets for data that are dropped onto a spread sheet.

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GeoGebra – Students can use this geometry software to create and analyze constructions. This is a powerful geometry, algebra and calculus application and a perfect complement to science.

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Grapher – This tool is pretty sophisticated.  It can create 2D and 3D graphs from simple and complex equations. It includes a variety of samples including differential equations.  It is also capable of dealing with functions and compositions of them. Grapher is able to create animations of graphs by changing constants or rotating them in space.

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MyWorld GIS – Students can import GIS databases from the web and analyze geographic data. This offers a very different window on data visualization.

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PhotoBooth – Students can record and compare photographic observations.

Sketch Up Pro Logo

SketchUp – This program should also be considered an analysis tool. Students can use Sketch up to test 3D models. By making creating prototypes in SketchUp students can test the practicality and feasibility of their ideas.
And . . . don’t forget that you can listen to the NSTA webinar on Analyzing and Interpreting Data with Dr. Ann Rivet from Teachers College Columbia University.