Rainbow Flowers

Rainbow Flowers

 

This is an easy experiment that has a colorful ending!

This is an easy experiment that has a colorful ending!

Is it possible to create or change the color of a white flower?

This is a great experiment when you teach students about plants. The best part is that you can use this for any grade level from K-12 when studying plants. The level of differentiation can be molded by explaining more about roots, xylem, phloem, transpiration and water absorption in plants.

Here is what you need:

  • White flowers (daisies or carnations)
  • Food coloring
  • Large plastic cups (clear is better)
  • Knife or scissors.
  • Access to water.

Procedure

  1. Fill the plastic cups about half full with water.
  2. Add a lot of food coloring and mix.
  3. Cut the bottom of the flower on a 45 degree angle.
  4. Observe the flowers every 2 hours.

 

How does it work?

The food coloring is brought up the petals of the flower.  The plant must utilize that water for photosynthesis so the petals take on the color of the food coloring in the water.

 

Ways STEM can get lost in schools

STEM is not a new concept, it’s been around since about 2001.  The integration of Science (S), Technology (T), Engineering (E) and Math (M) was created to help bring about a more integrated approach to teaching topics that can naturally go together.  It is an outstanding idea that can help teachers and schools develop curricula that crosses over.  It can foster team teaching with multiple departments.  It can help inspire students to consider a field like engineering for a college major, because they’ve had lots of exposure to it at an early age (the same applies to the other pieces of STEM).

stem

As a science teacher I’ve always tried to integrate and design things that crossed over.  One example of crossing into STEM design would be more than just content – but in action and planning.  In Life Science we had students in their technology class design a web page that would serve as a travel website for a biome.  Spiraling the type of content you teach in any grade will allow you lots of opportunity to integrate and execute STEM in all of your lessons.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been teaching a while…and I’ve seen the great teaching hot trends come and go.  We had integrated science, backward design (UBD), spiral curriculum and now we have STEM.  Each time a new trend came out I became a little too aware that these acronyms became more of a public relations tool and less of a mantra for the improvement of curriculum.  In this way STEM too may get lost if a school only buys into saving face and claiming that they really do STEM.

A school that really buys into STEM will get away from the teacher centered classroom and try to make an inquiry based classroom (as much as possible).  It will require problem solving, discovery and exploratory learning which requires more planning and design by the administration and teachers. Adopting this type of teaching is a conscious decision that can require schedule change, classroom change and even subject matter changes.

Hopefully STEM will not get lost like other trends because it has some really solid principles that can help create independent thinkers.  Even if your school does not adopt STEM you can always take small steps to create an environment of inquiry that inspires students to do what they do best…be little explorers!

Fitting in all that required material!

In middle and high school science we need to keep our students interested, engaged and active.  All too often we can fall into the pattern of talking for too much of a class and not allowing time for synthesis and hands on activity.  This is especially true of this time of year when we approach the time when the end of the year is in sight.  We know we have a lot to cover and the instinct is to push through the material.  But is this really quality?

So much material...so little time! There are more effective ways to fit in material.

So much material…so little time! There are more effective ways to fit in material.

 

#1 – Teach the minimum

When you are pressed for time you shouldn’t deviate from the required elements.  Choose those topics that are vital and part of the standards and curriculum – and work out from there.  Add elaboration or extras after all of the required core material is accounted for.

#2 Stick to your plan

This sounds like such a basic  mantra, but it is very easy to stray off the path.  The plan you have made is essential to getting through your required elements in the curriculum.  Do not deviate.

#3 Fall back on curriculum maps

If your school has a curriculum mapping program – ask to see them.  How did prior teachers manage their pace and scope in order to complete the course.  Curriculum maps that are well put together also show pacing and even have materials.

The Curriculum Mapping Planner: Templates, Tools, and Resources for Effective Professional Development

#4 Be open to advice

Perhaps a co-teaching colleague or department head has an idea.  You don’t always have to agree with advice but it is always good to listen.  Sometimes a fresh opinion can open up new highways to teaching.

#5 Be prepared to make cuts

There may be some really fun things you had planned…or even a field trip that must be cancelled or modified.  If there has been a bad year for snow days or there have been reasons why you are behind it sometimes means we have to cut out some things for a year to ensure a complete course.

#6 Be creative 

Perhaps all the biomes can be covered with presentations.  Are podcasts off the table?  Use media and other means to try to bridge gaps whenever possible.  A project can fulfill information as well as traditional teaching methods.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box!

Alternative Assessment in Science

Every school has a discussion of the best ways to assess the knowledge of their students. The more we learn about standardized tests the more we learn that they are not always the best tool to judge if your students have truly absorbed the material. There are some amazing ways in science that teachers can alternatively assess their students without compromising the paper and pencil test. Science is a hands on subject that allows us to ask our students to use their knowledge in a hands on manner.

An all too familiar cycle!

An all too familiar cycle!

Here are some ways we can determine if our students are mastering material instead of traditional tests:

 

1) Lab Practicals

  • A lab practical doesn’t always have to be a lab “test”. A lab practical can mean a problem proposed to students they must solve using their knowledge. Inquiry can be a big part of this activity as we encourage our students to critically think out their problem using the scientific method. This is a step away from “programmed” labs that offer the students little opportunity to think on their feet.

2)  Technology Based Assessment

  • Podcasts can offer a window into the mind of a student. Ask them to create a video explaining their topic to their classmates. Be creative and allow their personality to take over as they use video to communicate.
  • Virtual labs and simulations can help students assess pieces of the course that your school’s budget can’t manage. If you want to simulate fly mating experiments or DNA technology – some piece of the curriculum that is unreachable – this form of assessment and learning can help you bridge many gaps.
  • Hand held classroom devices. These systems are expensive but worth their weight in gold. Each student can individually be assessed a little like a game show as they buzz in their answers. You get instant feedback on your laptop and can also see who’s paying attention and who really understands. This is also great when you have a student who needs a little more time to catch on or one that doesn’t like to be singled out. Everyone gets to participate 100% of the time.

3)  Science Fairs/Presentations

  • Students of every age can be asked to come up with an idea and test it. Science fairs are great ways to allow students to demonstrate their mastery of scientific thinking. The students can be restricted to topics that have been covered in the course for further assessment.

4) Field Trips

  • Students love them and we can use them to our advantage because kids love to get out into the open to learn. A well designed field trip can offer more assessment and application than 10 paper and pencil tests. The caveat is of course the amount of planning and organization that must be done.

As we move away from pure paper and pencil tests we can all benefit from having a few different forms of assessment in our grading systems in science. As the students migrate out of secondary school and into college they will be better served if we have taught them to think on their feet rather than to memorize facts.