Identify desired results

At the end of the school year I would like my 8th grade students to look at my science class and look at what they were able to accomplish and feel that they were engaged and apart of something that wasn’t traditional. I want my students to move beyond inquiry and just hands on activities and consider their wonderings and to explore their wonderings in a way that takes their thinking beyond the content. When I think about what I would like my science class to look like I came up with an environment in which students are allowed to collaborate, solve problems, design their own experiments based upon their own interests. The class looks like more of a workshop where I’m more of a facilitator of the discussions and the work. Students work on engineering projects or challenges that allow them to deepen their understanding of the science behind the question or the problem. I want students to be involved in engineering challenges to help foster student collaboration and problem solving. I hope by incorporating genius hour students will feel empowered to take science beyond the sixty minutes they have science each day. Incorporating genius hour will hopefully impact students beyond my science class. My thought is that as my students take science beyond my class it will inspire their siblings or other students to explore science and their wonderings.

In order to achieve this type of class I have decided to incorporate genius hour (genius engineering) once a week within my 8th grade science curriculum. I currently have only one section of 8th grade science with around 38 students including diverse learners. Last year my class periods were only fifty- four minutes and it was often a struggle to complete lab activities. This school year all of our core classes will be sixty minutes long giving us a little more time for instruction. I follow NGSS standards and STEM based lessons but I’m missing the engineering practices in my lesson. I want students to be involved in engineering challenges to help foster student collaboration and problem solving. I hope by incorporating genius hour students will feel empowered to take science beyond the sixty minutes they have science each day. Incorporating genius hour will hopefully impact students beyond my science class. My though is that as my students take science beyond my class it will inspire their siblings or other students explore science and their wonderings.



I would like my students to able be to:
  • Identify a problem
  • Determine what questions have yet to be answered about the problem
  • Propose a question that defines an engineering problem
  • Identify criteria for a successful solution

Implementing genius hour with my students will require me to scaffold the process in the beginning. I will introduce my students to weekly engineering challenges to get them used to collaborating to solve problems and then eventually progress to individual challenges and ultimately students will design their own challenges based on their own interests. I will use activities from the following sites as well as other resources:


Determine acceptable evidence (performances of understanding)
Determining acceptable evidence of student understanding is going to be a challenge, as I have to really consider what it is I truly want them to understand. After reading the article by Wiggins and Jay McTighe I had to rethink my student objectives and outcomes. According to Wiggins and McTighe, an understanding is a mental construct, an abstraction made by the human mind to make sense of many distinct pieces of knowledge. The standard further suggests that if students understand, then they can provide evidence of that understanding by showing that they know and can do certain specific things. Prior to reading this I would associate student understanding with just demonstrating comprehension of the content. Now I want my students to be able to engage in metacognitive conversations with their peers and me. I would like to see evidence of students actually thinking about their own thinking processes and contemplating the how and why of a problem and the solution to the problem.
The 8th grade curriculum is centered on physical science and within the concept of physical science there is a lot of abstract content that forces students to think and explore. Mastery or understanding of these concepts would be evidenced in application of the concepts during genius hour or during engineering challenges. When I consider the outcomes of my yearlong project I would like to see the following as a measure of success:

  • Students drafting their answerable questions and designing a solution
  • Constructing their design and presenting it to the class with a clear understanding of the science behind their work.
  • Students collaborating and offering each other quality feedback and demonstrating understanding of their peers work
  • Students actually having a finial product and presenting the process and final product to the class
  • Students actually using technology beyond Google to enhance their projects and demonstrating their knowledge of various technologies beyond the digital world.


Plan learning experience and instruction

Context:

This school year I will be teaching a section of 7th and 8th science. I have chosen to focus on my 8th grade science class for my yearlong project of incorporating genius hour/engineering. I will have a class of approximately 36 students of the 36 there are at least eight diverse learners. Last year my class periods were only fifty- four minutes and it was often a struggle to complete lab activities during these shortened periods. This school year all of our core classes will be sixty minutes long giving us a little more time for instruction. I am currently following NGSS standards and STEM based lessons but I’m missing the engineering practices in my lessons. I would like my students to be involved in engineering challenges to help foster student collaboration, understanding, and problem solving that goes beyond the classroom.
I have always believed that students should learn science through inquiry and hands-on activities. I have been very successful in giving my students these opportunities as well as the opportunities of incorporating math and technology within my science classes. What I have come to realize is that despite ensuring that my students have these opportunities they are still missing some very important aspects of science. They’re not being given the opportunity to truly understand, problem solve or deign their own experiments.

Content:
I would really like for students to embrace the wonderings of science and use those wonderings to explore problems and design solutions. I want my students to be able to take science beyond the classroom and see science in everything that that they do. I want them to see the relevance and understand the why it's important and the how its used in everyday life. This can be accomplished by having students apply concepts that they have learned within the physical science content and apply their knowledge and understanding in engineering practices during genius hour.


Pedagogy:
In order to achieve my desired student outcomes my instructional strategies will definitely have to be student centered. Using instructional strategies such as:
  • Independent Group Projects
  • Group Projects
  • Public reviews
  • Labs
will foster the workshop environment I'm looking to create within my classroom and encourage the metacognitive conversations that will help my students think about their thinking and understanding.

Technology:
I plan to incorporate several forms of technology within my classroom. I would like my students to see that technology is more than just computers, projectors and smart boards. We will look at tools and various other nondigital items within the classroom as technology. I would like my students to develop their own working definition of technology.

Teacher Demonstration:

I'm not sure what this will look like just yet.......