Modeling is More Than Replicating

Students often examine and interact with models as they learn content. But is it really modeling when students create a 3-dimensional representation of a cell?

cell model

We’ll use the word “modeling” here to refer to the practice of developing and using models in science. Teacher modeling of behaviors, skills, and cognitive routines is incredibly important in classrooms, but this post will focus on students’ interactions with conceptual models.

From the page 50 of the Framework for K-12 Science Education:

Science often involves the construction and use of a wide variety of models and simulations to help develop explanations about natural phenomena. Models make it possible to go beyond observables and imagine a world not yet seen. Models enable predictions of the form “if … then … therefore” to be made in order to test hypothetical explanations.

Creating the cell representation pictured above might demonstrate a student’s ability to design to criteria or to recall the shape of organelles, but it isn’t really an explanation or prediction. Continue reading “Modeling is More Than Replicating”

EPS Integrated Scope and Sequence Site

It’s here! We’ve been working on the new integrated scope and sequence for elementary writing, reading, social studies, and science for over a year now. Thank you to the teachers, coaches, and principals who have provided feedback throughout the process.

You can access the site through the links provided here, using the Evergreen Bookmarks folder in Chrome, or through ClassLink.

At the site, you’ll find information specific to the content areas of  ELA, social studies, and science with images and links to resources. On the grade level pages, all 36 units for grades K through 5 are included, with unit themes, standards, resource suggestions, and integrated literacy task ideas.

We’ll continue to improve the format, add more details, and link more resources to make this resource as valuable and accessible as we can, but we continue to need your help. If there’s something that we can do to make the site better, please let us know! Your ideas and feedback will help us prioritize the ongoing work.

The End of Average, part 3

This is the final post on the The End of Average by Todd Rose. Check out part 1 and part 2 to see the whole series.

This post will focus on two ideas that come out of the second half of the book that have great relevance to our work as K-12 educators: if-then signatures and competency-based learning.

If-then signatures for personal learning profiles

Rose shares his experience receiving guidance from his academic adviser at Weber State that sounded personalized, but turned out to be identical to the advice given to a student with a very different academic background. How often do we give advice or feedback to students that is meaningfully different from the advice that we provide to others? If everything is pretty much the same, is it really personalizedContinue reading “The End of Average, part 3”

Engineering in Unexpected Places

We all engineer parts of our lives every day. Children (and adults!) engineer structures with blocks, Legos, and Minecraft. Cooks engineer recipes. Teachers engineer learning experiences.

Engineering K-2There are many different graphics of the engineering design process. The image above comes from Appendix I of the Next Generation Science Standards. At its core, engineering consists of three key processes: identifying a problem, developing solutions, and optimizing those solutions. Sounds a lot like a teaching and learning cycle, right?

TL CycleIt sounds a lot like almost any artistic process, too. A “problem” is identified (a piece of music to perform), solutions are developed (rehearsed) and optimized (director feedback).


What about mathematicians? Don’t they identify problems, develop solutions, and optimize? And how about writers? How are the processes of drafting and revising similar to designing and testing?

Engineering, design, and art are not always distinct activities; the lines between them are often fuzzy. Our students should know about and appreciate this “fuzziness”. It brings them closer to understanding the outside world and eliminates some of the potential barriers to STEM careers that students encounter. Students benefit from seeing engineering as something that everyone engages in because it makes the field more approachable and provides a set of useful problem-solving skills that students can apply in many different ways.

Interested in some additional reading? Check out this research brief:  Learning STEM Through Design: Students Benefit from Expanding What Counts as “Engineering” or this blog post on the connections between engineering and social emotional learning.

The End of Average, part 2

This post continues the conversation about The End of Average by Todd Rose.

There are plenty of times where considering the average of a group makes sense. It’s a way to improve predictions or estimations about large sets. Weather forecasts, experimental data, political polling, insurance pricing, and medical predictions are all improved through measures of central tendency. Averaging data makes a great deal of sense intuitively and adds value to many processes.

The problems with averaging, especially in education, arrive when we make what Peter Molenaar calls “the ergodic switch” – replacing information about an individual with information taken from an average. Knowing an average about a group might improve a prediction or estimation, but it doesn’t tell you much with certainty about an individual. Continue reading “The End of Average, part 2”

The End of Average, part 1

Recently I finished reading The End of Average by Todd Rose. It was a remarkable read that has me thinking about personalized learning, accounting for differences in students, and how we will continue to shift our practices as educators. It’s not very often that a book feels simultaneously familiar and challenging. It’s well worth a read by any educator and does a great job of identifying why education needs to be personalized. Continue reading “The End of Average, part 1”

Roles, Matrices, and Equity

I had the good fortune of attending a wedding recently (congratulations Dan and Candice!) that offered me the chance to strike up conversations with new acquaintances. One of these conversations was with Pat, a leader at a large STEM firm in Minneapolis. He was very interested in what steps we’ve taken as a district and region to support STEM instruction and prepare students for careers. He shared his perspective on what students need in order to thrive in the workforce. Continue reading “Roles, Matrices, and Equity”