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Editor's Note

Engaging Families

Many of us closed out the school year in an unprecedented way. Now we are considering what school will look like in the fall. To support our readers, Science and Children has reevaluated our upcoming themes. We will continue to provide support for teaching and learning in a wide variety of platforms. Many of the selections shared in this issue can be adjusted for at-home or virtual learning. Teachers and parents have forged a bond and a renewed a level of respect for each other during this pandemic. We will continue to need each other as we move back into school later this year.

As a K–5 science coach, I’ve been involved in quite a few professional learning opportunities during the pandemic, with most offering suggestions and support for distance or online learning for K–5 students. For me, three essential takeaways have been:

  • Access and equity
  • Social-emotional sensitivities
  • Sensemaking and other 21st century skills

Equity means we need to consider our student’s access to technology, physical resources, and adult/mentor assistance while at home. Whether we provide asynchronous or synchronous labs or lessons, they must be accessible, fit our students’ needs, and be sensitive to economic and family situations. Learning has never stopped at the classroom door, yet now we are challenged to provide meaningful learning opportunities to our students in new ways and through “new” technologies.

During the summer months, it will be essential to allow children to get outside to experience nature as well as provide opportunities for families to be involved in sensemaking through STEM and STEAM experiences. Whether we are encouraging our families to cook together, be involved in citizen science projects, or engage in engineering design, finding and promoting opportunities to move away from screens to engage in hands-on science and engineering opportunities will be more than “good” teaching—it will be essential for our children’s social-emotional health.  

We are continually trying to make sense of our world, and children do this naturally without specific guidance or instruction. Tapping into learning opportunities grounded in sensemaking and phenomena will be crucial to engagement and critical thinking skills development. 

In whatever types of classrooms we return to, we can support our student’s prioritized literacy and math learning through a student-directed inquiry model.

The challenges are many, the uncertainty palpable as we begin to think about the 2020–2021 school year. Yet, through the collective spirit of educators, we will be able to create 21st century learning opportunities for our students. Moving beyond mastery of the “Three Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic), we will need to emphasize the necessity of citizens responding more fluidly to a changing world. The evolving educational landscape underscores the need for flexible and persistent students skilled in the “Four Cs” of critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.

Please stay connected with your NSTA community for support, guidance, and collaboration. We are listening to your needs, and together we can educate our children to adapt and succeed in this challenging educational environment.

Stay healthy, stay positive.

Levels

Early Childhood Elementary

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