Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Case Studies in Science Education

Najwa and Pat — Grade 1

Teacher Profile

Name Najwa & Pat
Experience 24 years and 22 years, respectively
Grade & Subject Grade 1, all subjects
Classroom Elementary school in an urban district
Demographics 40 students, 20 students per class, 6 special needs students
Science Teaching 5 meetings per week
Curriculum Specified by district


Module 1 -- Introducing the Case

Pat and Najwa are first grade teachers in adjacent classrooms. They teach in an inclusion setting, where special needs children receive additional help from a para-professional and become integrated as much as possible into the learning activities of the whole class. Both Pat, who is trained as a special needs teacher, and Najwa, who is a regular classroom teacher, believe that the larger school community plays an important role in their students' education. They combine classes and invite aides, student teachers, and fifth-grade volunteers to work alongside their students for an ambitious science activity consisting of simultaneous stations on the theme of animal habitats.

Najwa and Pat want students at the first grade level to experience the processes of science and to make ties between science learning and other subject areas. The two teachers meet before and after school to share ideas and plan team-teaching activities. By working together, both teachers hope to design science activities appropriate to the range of abilities in their classrooms and to find ways of involving the school community by recognizing that "it takes an entire village to raise a child."

Animal Homes

In Pat's class, students listen to stories such as The Mitten, to learn more about animal homes during winter. Najwa's class focuses on the adaptations that animals make to their winter homes.

Discussion Questions

How have Najwa and Pat put into practice the idea that it "takes an entire village to raise a child?"

What would you consider to be the most important challenges of science teaching and learning in an inclusion setting?

What strategies would you use to try to meet the needs of all students?

Module 2 -- Trying New Ideas

During their planning together, Pat and Najwa have decided to integrate a home-school component in their science teaching and learning. To launch the activity, teachers and students meet in the library and discuss the project and distribute materials that students will take home.

As part of the study of plants and their seeds, students are asked to work at home with their family to (1) identify fruits and vegetables, (2) look for the seeds within them, (3) count the number of seeds and draw their shapes, and (4) compare numbers of seeds. Students are asked to bring the seeds to class. After the seeds are classified and sorted by shape and size, students construct, read, and interpret bar graphs.

Najwa and Pat believe that activities such as this encourage a closer relationship between teachers and families and encourage students to begin assuming responsibility for their own learning. Strengthening the connection between the learner, his or her family, and the school benefits the students by expanding the community that supports the child in the science classroom.

Seed Project

After identifying the different types of fruits and vegetables from pictures, students work with family members to classify fruits and vegetables found at home. With adult help, students (1) cut open the fruits and vegetables and draw them, (2) look for the seeds inside and count and draw them, and (3) bring the seeds to class. Later, students construct bar graphs comparing the numbers of seeds.

Discussion Questions

How do you think the seed project aligns with Najwas and Pat's philosophy that education requires the support and participation of a child's community? How do you think it aligns with meeting the needs of all students? How might an activity like this be changed to address both goals?

What do you think is most important when designing activities that aim to connect science learning at school with science learning at home?

Using science content appropriate to your situation, what types of home-school activities would you design?

Module 3 -- Reflecting and Building on Change

Toward the end of the school year, Najwa and Pat decide to move their science lessons outdoors. Continuing with the study of plants and their seeds, Najwa and Pat have enlisted the help and support of parents, fifth-grade students, and other teachers to establish stations for students to visit.

There is a writing station, led by Pat; a seed classification station; a shopping station, where students use their mathematics skills when weighing and buying fruits and vegetables; and a planting station, where students plant seeds in terrariums.

Najwa and Pat will encourage their students to record their observations on plant growth during the summer. This is another way of involving community, or village, in its students' learning.

Outdoor Science Stations

Parents, fifth-grade students, and other teachers participate with students at three stations where students classify seeds, shop for fruits and vegetables, and plant seeds.

Discussion Questions (this is larger heading)

What issues does Najwas and Pat's approach to science teaching and learning in an inclusion setting raise for you?

As a strategy for meeting the needs of diverse learners, what do you consider to be the advantages and disadvantages of letting students participate in designing activities?

How do you incorporate the idea that "it takes a village to raise a child" into your science teaching and learning?


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