Workshops on science and writing, presentations discussing technology, and special events focused on physical and Earth science and chemistry were among the many activities taking place on the second day of NSTA’s Detroit Area Conference on Science Education.
Attendees analyze a shoe print mold during a workshop titled CSI Science Meets Creative Writing.
This event is taking place at the COBO Center in downtown Detroit. To read a story about the first day of the conference and a special preconference event, click here.
Attracted by the popularity of the CSI television series, several attendees decided to begin the second day of the conference by attending a workshop titled CSI Science Meets Creative Writing. Presented by an English and a science teacher, this session enabled educators to explore a mock crime scene investigation and write about their case.
“We kept hearing ‘teach writing,’” said seventh grade English teacher and presenter Jen Haberling of her reasons for developing the workshop with fellow presenter Susan L. Ghysels. Ghysels, a seventh grade science teacher, and Haberling decided the best way to accomplish the writing mandate and engage students in science was to develop three crime cases and have students write about them.
Attendees at the session were able to engage in The Case of the T.P. Tricksters. The case involved a male named Chad who had returned home from a football game one night. He heard an intruder near his home and noticed toilet paper had been thrown in the yard of his parents’ house. Attendees had to determine who was responsible for throwing the toilet paper.
Haberling and Ghysels explained to attendees there were three suspects in the case. Suspects included “Sure Can Throw” Scotty, a local football player on the rival team; “Powerful Tossin” Paul, known as a local neighborhood prankster; and “Just Can’t Miss Johnny,” who was recently eliminated from the hometown Eagle’s football team.
To determine which suspect committed the crime, attendees examined shoe print molds and fingerprints. They also looked over an analysis of toilet paper and fabric.
After examining the evidence, students would be encouraged to write any final questions they had in order to help them solve the case, explained Haberling. She added that the question and answer process should solidify what the labs have already done and not just lead students to a suspect.
In addition to writing any questions, the activity also involved a writing exercise where students would be asked to describe their prime suspect based on the clues and the evidence in the case. Students would need to explain why they came to their conclusion based on the data in their labs. The explanation would need to be written in paragraph form, the presenters noted.
The papers would not be graded by the teacher, Haberling noted. She explained that students should trade papers with one another and evaluate their peers’ work. The students are hard on one another, Haberling said, noting they demand perfection from one another.
Attendee Andrea Cruff, a special education teacher from Midland, Michigan, noted the activity would benefit both her regular and learning disabled students. “I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate writing into the science curriculum,” she said. “This was awesome.”
Attendees build an earthquake-proof structure during a workshop titled Dynamic Earth—Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Landslides.
Sponsored by the education divisions of the American Chemical Society, American Geological Institute, and American Physical Society, attendees had the opportunity to attend various workshops throughout the day as part of an all-day event called Physical Science and Earth Science Day at NSTA. This event featured six workshops consisting of inquiry-based activities that attendees could take back to the classroom to teach chemistry, physics, and earth science.
The workshop titled Dynamic Earth—Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Landslides, enabled attendees to perform several activities to learn about the energy in the Earth’s system.
In one activity, attendees viewed a video titled Why Earth Science? The six-minute film included various images of the Earth ranging from mountains to glaciers. Following the film, attendees were asked to write one word on an index card that described the energy in the Earth’s system.
Examples of words written by attendees included change, movement, heat, violence, radiation, dynamics, and waves. Presenter Ann Benbow of the American Geological Institute then had attendees take their cards and place them on the wall to make a word wall.
“If you did this with your students, what would be a next logical step?” Benbow asked the crowd. Attendees said students could categorize the words under such headings as atmosphere and geosphere.
“Before you walked in here, you didn’t know about the energy in the Earth’s system, “ Benhow said. “Now you have a snapshot.” Benbow added that a word wall can help build students’ understanding of the Earth’s system.
In another activity, attendees built an earthquake-proof structure using index cards and clear plastic tape. Designed for grades 5–8, the activity enabled attendees to learn how different magnitudes of earthquakes affect structures differently. Attendees also learned, that depending how the structure is built, the damage to the structure can vary.
Attendees tested their structures by shaking a clipboard three times that was placed beneath their structures. Many of the structures built by attendees withstood the mock earthquake.
“I just taught plate tectonics to my students,” noted Liz Outzs, a middle school science teacher from Indianapolis. “I wish I had these activities.”
Neva M. Li, a teacher at the Crockett Technical High School in Detroit, made a presentation to attendees titled Transitioning to Technology-Based Learning. This session enabled attendees to explore various ways on how to use technology in the science classroom and align lesson plans with district, state, and federal guidelines.
Li began the presentation by explaining that teachers need to ensure learning is authentic, meaningful, and relevant to today’s 21st century learner. “Technology is a part of that,” Li observed.
Li shared several examples of technological devices with attendees by showing them an iPod, a video camera, and other gadgets. She explained that students could make videos with the camera, for example. “Kids have become little experts with cameras,” Li quipped.
Li noted in a recent survey that 20% of students indicated that had not used social networking technologies, such as text-messaging. “They are far more digitally inclined than we are,” Li observed.
She noted there are several advantages for using technology. She explained it is portable and can connect students to the world. Technology can also enable students to share information and provide instant access to resources.
Li also noted that technology can help with teaching learning disabled and gifted students. For example, gifted students can gain opportunities for further in-depth explorations.
With technology, students become engaged learners, Li noted.
Teachers can continue their learning opportunities by attending by attending NSTA’s Western Area Conference on Science Education in Denver, November 8–10.
For more information, visit www.nsta.org/conferences.