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Local Ecosystem Observation Cycle: Supporting Preservice Elementary Teachers Engagement in Sensemaking

Journal of College Science Teaching—May/June 2024 (Volume 53, Issue 3)

By Jessica Stephenson Reaves and Anna Arias

Equitable sensemaking enables students to draw on personal resources to investigate and explain phenomena and problems within their communities. Although equitable sensemaking allows for meaningful understanding of big ideas of science and deeper engagement in the science practices, many non-science majors including elementary preservice teachers (PSTs) do not have opportunities to engage in equitable sensemaking within their secondary or college-level courses. This paper describes an innovative cycle developed to support PSTs’ engagement in equitable sensemaking entitled the Local Ecosystem Observation Cycle (LEOCycle), which was used in both online and in-person sections of an integrated Earth and Life Science undergraduate course for PSTs. In the LEOCycle, students observe, wonder, investigate and make sense of phenomena within their local ecosystem via shared online platforms. We investigate the benefits of engaging in this cycle, PSTs’ prior experiences, and their changing thinking about investigating science outside. The PSTs’ surveys and work within the course suggested that the LEOCycle facilitated students’ connections between the ideas within the course with their personal experiences and supported the development of a community of practice. ??The “LEOCycle” provides an example of how to facilitate students’ equitable sensemaking of science ideas in local ecosystems within science content courses.

Environmental Science Inquiry Preservice Science Education Sensemaking Postsecondary

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