As we move toward late fall and early winter of 2020, we have much to be thankful for, even in this most difficult, unprecedented year. With schools following a patchwork of face-to-face, hybrid, and virtual models, all teachers, at whatever grade-level, have been returned to their “rookie year” of teaching as they struggle to find ways to meet the needs of learners in their physical classrooms and on screens.
With a quick search on social media, the outcry from teachers, especially preschool and elementary teachers, is, “How can I teach STEM during the pandemic?” As with every challenge, there are breakthroughs and innovative solutions. Teachers have been taking advantage of free resources from museums, national parks, nature centers, national and international institutions, as well as each other. Children have been offered the opportunity to experience virtual field trips, collaborate with classes in other parts of the country or world, and meet with experts and scientists through video chats. Teachers have also been creating and sending the learning home with take-home science and STEM kits, including thermometers, seed starters, mealworms, and magnifiers, just to name a few.
Advocating for student choice, encouraging curiosity and wonder, and supporting critical thinking have always been essential components for promoting rich, enduring learning. There seems to be a subtle shift occurring, allowing teachers to create space for student wonder, inquiry, and student-directed learning opportunities. As we all know, learning occurs everywhere and anytime, so some teachers are banking on this expansion of limitless opportunities for students to take on responsibility and independence of their thinking, sharing, and learning, while exploring the world around them.
This month, we focus on Earth and Space concepts. Many of our authors offer suggestions and tips for transitioning their lessons into hybrid or virtual models, respecting students’ social distancing requirements and specifics about resources and materials. Whether it’s patterns of motion of the Sun, Moon, and stars or the geologic patterns affecting Earth’s surface, there are multiple entry points for authentic learning about the world in which we live. Promoting daily observations allows students to discover patterns, construct models, and engage in scientific thinking. Creating online or in-class space for sharing, evaluating, and debating helps to develop foundational science literacy.
As always, we’d love to hear from you about how the ideas shared in this issue of Science and Children have enhanced learning in your classrooms. Let’s keep the dialogue open as we learn about what works and what doesn’t within our classrooms’ walls.
With a heavy heart, I inform our Science and Children community of the passing of Bill Robertson, our Science 101 columnist for years and years. He helped so many teachers dispel misconceptions and understand essential science concepts while bringing humor and wit to each installment of Science 101. As our way to remember Bill, we’ve asked a few of his colleagues and friends to share a few memories and thoughts about our mentor Bill Robertson.
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