• Crosscutting Concepts: The Bigger Picture

    Posted by Katya Vines on Monday, December 01, 2014 ( 0 )
    As teachers across America contend with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), many are no doubt asking themselves whether these are really any different from previous standards. One way to answer this question is to look at the crosscutting concepts: eight broad concepts that transcend disciplines in science. As an example, look at the crosscutting concept, Patterns: Observed patterns in nature guide organization and classification and prompt questions about relationships and causes underlying them. The NGSS suggest that this crosscutting concept is useful for teaching topics as diverse as relationships in ecosystems, evolution, tectonic processes, and chemical reactions. On the face of it, the crosscutting concepts look very similar to the unifying concepts and processes in the National Science Education Standards (NSES). However, an important difference between the crosscutting concepts and the unifying concepts and processes is that the crosscutting concepts are now integrated into the performance expectations in the NGSS. This means that every lesson should combine disciplinary content with both crosscutting concepts and science and engineering practices as discussed in an earlier post.

  • The Science of Learning: A Self-Regulatory Perspective

    Posted by Brian Mandell on Monday, November 10, 2014 ( 0 )
    How do you learn? Think about it honestly for a second. Do you create notecards? Do you watch instructional videos? Do you even know? Have you ever asked your students how they learn best? Discussing the science of learning with students tends to be a messy business. It takes time and is usually outside our areas of expertise. Understanding how students prepare for an assessment is arguably more important than how they perform. At least then we, as teachers, have something to work with as we reconstruct our students’ misconceptions. Student working on an assignment from a unit in STC™. Photo by Smithsonian Science Education Center.

  • Is there an ocean below your feet?

    Posted by Julia Rothchild on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 ( 0 )
    A piece of synthesized ringwoodite, the blue mineral that may contain oceans’ worth of water in the Earth’s mantle.Image courtesy of Some scientists think Earth’s oceans formed when icy comets hit the planet. But new research suggests a different origin for the oceans: they simply seeped out of the center of the Earth. The finding, published in Science, suggests that a reservoir of water is hidden in the Earth’s mantle, more than 400 miles below the surface. Try to refrain from imagining expanses of underground seas: all this water, three times the volume of water on the surface, is trapped inside rocks. Called ringwoodite, the rock is bright blue and is only formed at high temperature and pressure in the Earth’s mantle. The water would have been squeezed out of the rocks, “almost as if they’re sweating,” Steven Jacobsen of Northwestern University told The New Scientist.

  • 2014 4-H National Youth Science Day Preview

    Posted by Kittrina Thompson on Friday, October 03, 2014 ( 0 )
    With less the one week remaining, anticipation is rising for the2014 4-H National Youth Science Day, taking place October 8, 2014. The seventh annual science event explores the ins and outs of aerospace engineering with the 2014 National Science Experiment,Rockets to the Rescue! To get you prepped for this exciting 4-H event, here is what you need to know about this year's4-H NYSD!

  • Smithsonian Science How Returns

    Posted by Ashley Deese on Wednesday, September 24, 2014 ( 0 )
    Smithsonian Science Howis back with an all-new series of webcasts! This year, teachers can bring more Smithsonian scientists into the classroom through a live television-style program that is streamed through the web. These webcasts air twice in one day, at 11am EDT and 2pm EDT. The live show format allows for students to interact with the scientist in real-time. Students can join the show by submitting questions, participate in fun quizzes, and engage in polls. The scientist will also answer student questions on air throughout the webcast. This gives students the opportunity to interact with these scientists without ever leaving the classroom. Once the webcast has aired, your students can explore the topics from the webcast further with the provided classroom activities, lessons, and readings. Resources from ourSTC™curriculumare also included. There are a variety of topics for the webcasts. Check out thescheduleto find one that fits into your lesson plans. Or watch them all!

  • LASER i3 Summer Professional Development Prepares for Sustainability in Houston

    Posted by Dana Bulba on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 ( 0 )
    Over the past four years, the SSEC has immersed itself in a $35+ million U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) grant: the “LASER i3” project. With a full-time team of roughly 8, the SSEC has been implementing its approach to science education (the LASER model) in 125 schools across northern New Mexico, North Carolina, and Houston, Texas. While roughly half the schools have actively taken part in all aspects of the SSEC’s LASER model – from taking part in Strategic Planning Institutes (SPIs) to receiving science materials and teacher training – the other half has been carrying out their science programs as usual. All the while, the Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) at the University of Memphis collected data in order to validate the program … What are students learning? Do attitudes differ between the schools? What works and doesn’t work? The schools the SSEC has actively worked with over the past several years are classified as “Phase 1” schools, and the schools that have been involved in the research component only are classified as “Phase 2” schools. Fifth grade HISD teachers conduct an investigation in the Level 1 Motion & Design training. One of the main goals of the LASER i3 program is to sustain the program within the regions. And, even though the 2014 – 2015 school year marks the end of the funding period, nearly 500 Houston teachers representing 49 Phase 1 and Phase 2 Houston Independent School District (HISD) schools dedicated part of their summer break to bettering their science teaching this summer. The sense of possibility, dedication, and excitement was palpable among the science teachers.

  • A Teacher's Perspective

    Posted by Chrissy Romero on Friday, September 05, 2014 ( 0 )
    The following blog was written by LASER i3 New Mexico teacher and Site Coordinator Chrissy Romero. Ms. Romero teaches at Gonzales Community School in Santa Fe, New Mexico and has been an immeasurable asset to the LASER i3 project since the first summer of training in 2011. Ms. Romero has demonstrated exceptional commitment to the program; she has supported and trained her fellow teachers, and she has been involved as both participant and faculty member at leadership development institutes. The SSEC would like to thank Ms. Romero for her dedication and for sharing her reflections on LASER i3 with us. The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) recently hosted the LASER i3 Strategic Planning Institute (SPI) for New Mexico LASER i3 schools at the Sheraton Uptown in Albuquerque. As we approach the last year of the grant, the focus was on creating strategic plans that would help school districts continue inquiry science in the future. It was apparent from the participation and excitement that we have come a long way since the first teacher trainings in 2011. Chrissy Romero (at left) looks on as participants at the 2014 NM SPI begin the “Change Game,” a research-based simulation to gain strategies for effecting change in a school system.

  • Butterfly Wing Optics

    Posted by Julia Rothchild on Thursday, September 04, 2014 ( 0 )
    A Morpho butterfly looks like this. Emanuela Carratoni/iStock/Thinkstock The deep iridescent blue is even more dazzling in real life. And yet this butterfly’s wings, according to any sort of chemical analysis, are completely colorless. Nothing in them is truly blue. The mystery of how light that is the color of satiny sky can radiate from translucent material has puzzled scientists since Newton. The quandary is simple: how can something be produced from nothing? As is often the case with science, the answer has been there all along, but simply took a while to find, as scientists needed powerful microscopes to make the discovery. When they at last brought the wings into focus beneath a lens, the lurking cause of color emerged: scales. The wings were blanketed in millions of scales. Of course, this doesn’t seem like an answer at all. How can translucent scales, even quite a lot of them, create color? There must be some element inside them that exudes blue. As it turns out, it is not the miniature tiles themselves but their configuration that matters. A butterfly’s wings may be covered by two, three, or more layers of scaly sheets. The layers are stacked and buttressed by microscopic arches and columns like a miniature Roman city. When a ray of light strikes a wing, some of it bounces directly off the top level of scales. Some of it burrows through the first layer and bounces off a lower level. Light falls from the sky as waves that are like coiled springs. Some of the waves are huge – if you encountered them as water at a beach, they would crash over your head in an instant. Some of the waves are very small, like the surf where the ocean meets the sand. Our eyes see waves of different sizes as separate colors. So when a pack of waves ranging from Chihuahua to German Shepherd stream from the sun down towards the jungle, every color in the world rains down upon the wings.

  • The Energy Beneath Your Feet

    Posted by Julia Rothchild on Thursday, August 07, 2014 ( 0 )
    When the house feels cold in the winter, I turn up the thermostat. But not without a twinge of guilt. I know that at the touch of a button on the little white control box, a furnace hidden somewhere around the house starts huffing and puffing. To churn out hot air it guzzles electricity, which is unfortunately neither renewable nor environmentally friendly: most electricity is made in power plants from coal or natural gas. Burning any of these materials releases toxins into the air. These in turn contribute to raising temperatures and air pollution levels all over the world. The touch of a button on a thermostat nudges the furnace into electricity-consuming action. (Image from here.)

  • If You Can't Stand the Heat…

    Posted by Cathy Wang on Monday, August 04, 2014 ( 0 )
    The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) is proud to celebrate another successful year of sponsoring and hosting the 2014 Smithsonian Science Education Academies for Teachers (SSEATs). Last week, the SSEC wrapped up Energy: Past, Present, Future—an academy dedicated to understanding the history of energy production, the current state of energy needs, and future technologies to enhance energy efficiency and conservation. On average, Americans have the world’s largest energy consumption while accounting for less than 5% of its population. Americans also account for a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. We rely heavily on fossil fuels (natural gas, oil, and coal) for more than 80% of our energy needs. With oil and natural gas reserves increasing by 30–40% in the past few decades, what used to be a crisis of energy sources is now an issue of fossil fuel misuse. The aftermath of this energy misuse is directly related to our current global climate change crisis, a fact that presenters throughout the week emphasized. Global climate change is now a relatively accepted concept across the global community, but what is scarier than growing caron dioxide levels is the rate at which these emissions continue to increase. We are now taxed with the responsibility of halting the current rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

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