“If I start now, maybe I really will get better organized.” This issue is dedicated to all of us who plan to do things better next year. We offer it now—summer—when teachers have time to actually use it (except for those souls at year-round schools who may want to save this issue for their next break).
One of the most remarkable teachers I’ve ever known was a paragon of organization. She taught kindergarten and had a rainbow of different-colored plastic containers. She had a tub for every topic in every week. Sure, organization skills alone weren’t what made her a great teacher, but they allowed her time to focus on teaching. In “A Handle on Hands-on”, authors Schiller, Joseph, and Konecki provide practical, commonsense ideas to make your life in the classroom easier. Snag those plastic tubs when they go on sale. Spend time now organizing and labeling your materials. Consider asking the principal for a paraprofessional to help manage supplies. It’s time well spent.
One thing I wasn’t prepared for when I started teaching was planning and conducting field trips. From requesting buses to scheduling trips, I knew nothing. I regret some field trips had little educational value because I failed to adequately plan them. Authors Fredericks and Childers (“A Day at the Beach, Anyone?,”) provide a timeline for everything from learning outcomes to safety tips. While their article focuses on a trip to the beach, the advice can be generalized to almost any field trip whether you live in Kansas or Connecticut.
Some of the suggestions in this issue are not intended for the individual teacher, but a single teacher may lead the charge. In “Is a Materials Resource Center Right for You?”, author Peters describes how some districts have constructed centers to manage science supplies. This issue is a real obstacle for many science programs. Investigation-based science requires stuff—lots of it. Vinegar, rocks, paper clips, pennies, magnets, containers, and other items from the small to the significant—Who keeps track of the consumables? Who replenishes the kits? My bet is that you are the one in charge. This article provides an alternative to those last-minute morning runs to the grocery store. A centralized resource center might not work everywhere but it can confer a huge advantage.
Another way I wish I planned better was to take advantage of university or college resources. Colleges have staff and resources to help you as you plan and teach science. Studying insects? Need an eager entomologist? Call a college. Professors and researchers are often enthusiastic about sharing their passion for their field. In “Plants on Display”, authors Lawniczack, Gerber, and Beck provide an example of a creative use of university resources. The authors set up a plant display that illustrated basic principles in botany. The display was available for all classes and provided some aesthetic benefits for the common spaces.
We also have a few summer-focused articles. One centers on a critical health concern: sun exposure. Helping your students understand the consequences of overexposure to the Sun and how to prevent it can be lifesaving. Another provides some summertime reading options for those long, lazy days at the beach (of course lathered with sunscreen and under an umbrella). Yet another explores that amazing liquid, water.
Whatever you do this summer, we hope this issue finds you relaxed and rejuvenated and eager to start the new school year. Enjoy!