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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Making Science Matter to Kids: Connect 'em to Scientists in the Community (Story/Video from my 6th grade classroom)

After doing Workshop Model unit planning this summer with +Sam Bennett and working off Cris Tovani's use of a Roundtable event in her classroom, I set a Scientist Roundtable idea as a goal for our 6th graders near the end of 1st quarter. Bounced idea off of Sam and coach +Jamie Neibling and went from there. I work with 3 energetic and FUN/BRILLIANT 6th grade science educators, a.k.a. co-conspirators who also wanted to run with it. I contacted Patty Dailey, Program Director at Science Pioneers, to help us find scientists for this event. She gave me a list of science mentors to contact.

We sent out an invite (created a Smore form) with an embedded google form to about 30 KC scientists on the Science Pioneers science mentor list, and to our 6th grade parents, asking them to give us leads. We had about 12 scientists show up in the morning and 12 in the afternoon, ~3-4 per classroom. (Note to KC area educators: Science Pioneers is working to get the scientist mentor list live and accessible on the web to educators in early 2014, with easy scheduling options! Contact Science Pioneers with any questions.)

The outstanding local scientists that came to share with my lucky and happy kids:
Scott Hageman, Paleontologist, Park University
Associate Professor of geology/geoscience and Assistant Sean of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences. Brought fossils and let science stories of snails drilling holes in shells unfold before kids' eyes. :)
Dr. Greg Claycomb, Chemistry, Park University
Assistant Professor and program coordinator of chemistry. Brought demos and portable projector. Cool!
Betsy Betros, retired; B.S. Entomology, M.S. Environmental Science Engineering
Author of A Photographic Field Guide to the Butterflies in the Kansas City Region by Betsy Betros (Sep 9, 2008) SHE SIGNED ONE of her books and donated it to us! Shared her love of books and stories.
Dr. Larry Finger, retired crystallographer, Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington; grandpa to one of the kids. The mineral Fingerite is named after him!
Kate DelehuntBlue River Watershed Association Education Director.  Works with kids and with teachers! She's a dynamo!
Gary Engemann, retired; Chemist and teacher; grandpa of another of the kids! Great stories!
Hospitality crew committee prepares signs,
name tags,  table layout for Scientists visit!

One of the signs the kids created in
a short amount of time!
THANK YOU, local science community of KC, for your time, knowledge, and love of learning! You impacted our kids' minds and hearts today. :)

 Takeaways from the Scientist Roundtable event:

1. Power of CONVERSATION--the power of stories and the chance for kids to be active participants, talking WITH real scientists and being able to ask them questions when the questions hit 'em in the brain as important and necessary to know!

Writing in their SmashJournals
in their own format/style. 
Writing her notes, her way.
2. Power of IDEAS and PEOPLE and EXPRESSION over facts and tests to foster love of learning and lifelong learning--The common goal of both kids AND scientists on Friday was to get smarter and share with each other their knowledge, questions, wonders...and a little piece of themselves, which is most precious. 

Result: Amazing day that the kids ENJOYED. Autographs were asked for!! At 3:00 the kids were still going strong and only left due to bell and buses. 
Result: Already hatching plans to work with most of the scientists in our upcoming units. The kids will contact them if they want their help in crafting awesome learning experiences..and I know they will. The scientists were gung-ho about it.
Result: Behavioral, Emotional, and Cognitive engagement. Hearts and minds moved.
**We educators need to deliberately reach out to and plan with community resources, especially people, in mind. We can do a better job of that. There is great untapped power in connecting kids to people and resources in the community. I know there is much more I can do. 

Organizations that arrange for scientists to work with kids on a regular basis, gently mentoring and extending a big arm 

If we get kids DOING the work of scientists WITH scientists, we're setting kids up to ENJOY science. We DO things we enjoy. Too few kids even consider going into science because they know so little about jobs and possibilities out there in the world. We have to let kids get curious and find out through talk and interaction.

I have learned this very lesson from setting up events for #edcampKC---JUST ASK!! You just have to ask. People really do like and WANT to do things for kids/educators/learning. The thing is....we don't ask 'em!

Watch the kids and the Scientists. Why haven't I done more of this connecting kids to the community?! Lookout, community, 'cause here we come for ya. It won't just be me this time; the kids will be seeking you out, too. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great post Laura, and I couldn't agree more. The part I don't think most teachers understand is that there are experts all over the place who are willing to come and talk to and work with students.

    Thanks for sharing, this is a great example of providing students an opportunity to do authentic work with real people.