Winter Trimester 2020
EDU 575: Inquiry to Practice
Synthesis - Lesson Study Cycle 2
During this lesson study our team’s goal was to craft a science lesson that would ignite student interest, encourage collaboration, and result in rich scientific conversation where students can make connections from classroom learning to their homes and cultural experiences. Our host teacher, Lilly, works in a Montessori school and has a class of 24 1st-3rd graders. She is a thoughtful planner who has strong connections with each of her students. She noticed that her class was very interested in science, specifically animals and bugs. Lilly expressed to our team that in general, she is less than enthusiastic about teaching science. She chose to use this lesson study as a vehicle to push her practice as a science teacher as well as to integrate student interest and culturally relevant practices into her classroom.
Research and collaboration guided the development of this lesson. Each week we met to discuss our findings, share ideas and wonderings, and decide on what we needed to research next. In these meetings, ideas sparked, and our lesson changed and grew stronger. We can break our research down into three main areas. 1. What it means to design and facilitate high quality STEAM learning experiences 2. Purposefully integrating culturally relevant pedagogy into elementary school science. 3. Using student interest to incorporate play into science lessons. The research helped us to develop a sequence of thoughtfully crafted lessons, specifically for Lilly’s class, on ants and their homes.
1. What it means to design and facilitate high quality STEAM learning experiences.”
We began with the challenge of creating excitement and engagement for the student and the teacher, as Lilly was ready to commit herself to planning a series of science lessons. Elementary school teachers are responsible for teaching all subjects, and Lilly has an additional challenge of supporting and engaging three different grade levels of students! Our research emphasized that the quality of the interaction between teacher and student is truly what matters, not the background of the teacher (Newton & Newton 2001). So having a science background can be helpful when teaching science lessons! And teachers who do not have a passion or background in science, will not hinder the student’s learning, especially when the teacher knows her students and cares for them as much as Lilly does!
Our research led us next to look at different options and types of science that could suit all students needs. We learned about STEAM, Science Technology Art Engineering and Math. STEAM leads students to apply design and the arts as part of problem-solving. STEAM also encourages students to explore their creativity as part of their learning.” (Krakower &Martin, 2019) Based on this research we realized that there are many different ways that we could incorporate science to support Lilly’s students. Because they are eager to create art, and are in need of collaboration strategies. We ultimately decided on having the students participate in an ant home design challenge.
2. Purposefully integrating culturally relevant pedagogy into elementary school science.
As we began thinking about ants as our lesson’s focus, our next steps were to figure out how to integrate culturally relevant practices into our lessons. Culturally relevant pedagogy is a student centered teaching practice that draws on and bolsters the backgrounds and experiences of students (Ladson-Billings, 1995). Our research on Culturally Relevant Pedagogy steered us to consider differences in student's and their homes, and compare and contrast that to differences in ants and their homes. This leads us to the idea of what makes a home a home? We wanted to get students thinking about what makes their homes and cultures special, and we wanted all students to listen and learn about the homes and cultures of their peers. To ensure that all voices were heard during this part of the lesson we decided to use a talking stick. Having a tool to help students have a chance to share or to pass can relieve anxiety amongst shy students (Coplan, R. J., & Weeks, M. 2009). This helps the students anticipate their turn to share, but also gives them the autonomy to pass and not share. Ladson and Billings say that “Culturally relevant teachers use student’s culture as a vehicle for learning.” By having students think critically and share about their homes, they will be able to make connections and notice differences! This culturally responsive practice will drive their learning and support their scientific studies.
3. Using student interest to incorporate play into science lessons.
As ants guided our planning, we went back and forth on what our culturally relevant science lesson on ant homes would actually look like on lesson study day! Our research guided us to take a play-based approach. According to Jarret, “Learning through play is intrinsically rewarding. Children learn more if they find learning fun. They can also develop lifelong dispositions toward learning” (Jarret, 1997). We wanted to create an engaging activity that would draw fourth students backgrounds, and support them in scientific studies and collaboration. We considered having students role play as ant colonies. Role play can increase student engagement by placing them in a more active role during learning (Wood et al, 2016). Children can use art, play and dress up to dive deeper into learning. “This sort of playing around can encourage creativity…. and enable them to construct their own understanding of the world through experience.” (Jarret, 1997) We really liked how Jarret emphasized the use of role play and of using art to help students connect deeply with their learning. We ultimately decided on having students use materials to design and build their ant homes as teams.
This research enabled our team to develop a science lesson that engaged students, encouraged collaboration, and guided rich scientific conversation where students made connections from classroom learning to their homes and cultural experiences. This work was a team effort that involved intensive planning and serious attention to detail! Our team used our assets and skills to collaborate and learn from this wholesome teaching experience.