We recently had the pleasure of attending ITEEA’s 81st Conference in Kansas City, MO. This event, held annually by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, provides opportunities for technology and engineering educators to learn from and share with other technology and engineering STEM education professionals. This year’s Conference theme was Technology and Engineering Bring STEM to Life.
There were so many incredible sessions, exhibitors—and breaks for the best BBQ we’ve ever had from a gas station!—but our favorite event of the conference had to be the ITEEA STEM Showcase.
The Showcase is a unique opportunity for award-winning educators from across the United States to share ideas, techniques, and best practices for everything including learning activities, equity, and classroom management techniques. Each Showcaser focuses on a single element of technology or engineering teaching and learning that they feel they have exemplified.
We were honored to see that many of the Showcase presenters this year focused on using Science Naturally books in the classroom! Read on to see how four incredible educators use our books to spark curiosity in their students, draw cross-curricular connections, and bring STEM to life!
Alma Miller: Exploring STEM through Literacy
Alma Miller is a Science Education Consultant for the District of Columbia. She is a presidential awardee and the D.C. state coordinator for the national Science Teachers Association. With her clearly demonstrated excellence in science education, she is a frequent presenter at ITEEA’s Annual Conference STEM Showcase.
This year, her Showcase presentation centered on the use of If My Mom Were A Platypus: Mammal Babies and Their Mothers by Dia L. Michels. She employed this book as informational text for her students to reference as they identified the various geographical and environmental issues associated with endangering the continued existence of the featured mammals.
Ms. Miller’s students then used Makey Makey technology to devise a Q & A Tool that allowed them to match each mammal to the environmental issues that endanger its life. Introducing the use of Makey Makey opens the door to a large number of cross-curricular engineering and technology connections.
Students gained hands-on experience making circuits, exploring the transfer of energy, and designing and creating tangible models. Her approach deepens students’ understanding of the interrelation of literature, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Conni Crittenden: Connecting Outstanding STEM Books with Design Process
Conni Crittenden is a celebrated science teacher at Explorer Elementary in Williamston, Michigan. She is a presidential awardee for excellence in elementary science teaching, has won a McAuliffe Fellowship, and has chaired K-12 science in her school district.
She also established and directs the McAuliffe Lab for the Integration of Science, Math, and the Arts at her school, and has introduced the use of a Beam robot in her classroom to allow homebound students to participate in class activities. Clearly, she is an innovative force in science education.
Her Showcase presentation focused on using Science Naturally’s science trade books to support the engineering design process. Focusing on environmentalism, many of the engineering projects center around reusing materials.
One activity begins by reading a page of One Minute Mysteries: 65 MORE Short Mysteries You Solve with Science. The mystery in question is “Home on the Range,” which features a family that, while hiking in the mountains, fantasizes about building a house and living in the wilderness.
The mother isn’t sure this is such a good idea, saying “There’s no electricity and you kids couldn’t live for more than a day without your gizmos. You could never get the power company to run an electrical line this far out into the woods.” Her child, Fiorella, responds, “Well, if we were allowed to build a house here, we could make our own electricity.” She proposes a few suggestions: solar energy, wind power, a water wheel, and burning wood.
After discussing this possible scenario, Ms. Crittenden’s students delve into practical applications of Fiorella’s energy-generating solutions. How does a solar oven work? Could school-aged children plausibly make their own? Ms. Crittenden’s engineering students can make their own by using her Solar Cooking Pringles Can Experiment! What about wind energy? Try Fan Car Physics! For water energy, Ms. Crittenden provided a Water Wheel experiment.
She also used 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science and 101 Things Everyone Should Know About Science to launch design-focused activities for her students.
Cathy Barthelemy: Using Content Stations in Engineering Units
Cathy Barthelemy is the Executive Director of Education at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The museum seeks to engage Fort Worth’s diverse community through creative, vibrant programs and exhibits that interpret science and the stories of Texas and the Southwest.
One of the museum’s most unique features is their Museum School, an early-childhood learning program housed at the museum. Working here, Cathy has a unique perspective on science education.
Ms. Barthelemy’s Showcase presentation demonstrated how educators can make sure their content is covered during their Engineering units. She suggests using “content stations” to reinforce the concepts students need to solve their problem or create their product.
One activity she presented built on concepts presented in the first “League of Scientists” mystery, Ghost in the Water. In the book, the League learns that the green ghost haunting their school pool is actually an illusion created by Fluorescein, a dye that glows under a black light or sunlight.
Her “Glowing Inquiry” Task Card allows students to explore this substance themselves (note: this activity should only be done with adult supervision). This is just one of the many ways Ms. Barthelemy identified that investigations can give students insight into how the science in the story worked.
She also suggests an inquiry based on content from Leonardo da Vinci Gets a Do-Over by Mark P. Friedlander. Of course, da Vinci was an innovative and prolific inventor. One of his ideas was a parachute.
Though he never got to test it out, his parachute very much resembles those that we have today. Ms. Barthelemy’s activity involves having students build miniature versions of Leonardo’s parachute, observing how it works, and then modifying it to hold more weight. Check it out here.
Naveen Cunha: Navigating Mars
Naveen Cunha is a 2019 ITEEA Teacher Excellence Award winner and the coordinator of Bryan Independent School District’s Odyssey Program, an advanced academics STEM program. The Odyssey Program provides an interdisciplinary, technology-rich environment that partners with local, regional, and national programs to enrich the learning experience. Throughout the three-year program, students follow a “Mission to Mars” theme to approach a variety of STEM topics.
At this year’s conference, Mr. Cunha received his award and presented at the Showcase. Using the books in Science Naturally’s Math Madness book set as a launching off point for students interested in outer space, he presented a problem-based learning unit for students to address the challenges standing in the way of navigating the surface of Mars. His students devised solutions to varying distances, a harsh climate, and an unforgiving terrain using different kinds of robots and tools.
He found the “really authentic scenarios” presented in 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Math to be the perfect inspiration for students to study space science.
Are you an educator who uses Science Naturally books in the classroom? Let us know what you do with them!