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NSTA 2019 Reflections & New Ideas

This year I was lucky enough to head to the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) national conference in St. Louis. This was my second year attending and getting to present. Jenny O'Sullivan and I presented our Green Screen + AR session to highlight the First Grade Garden project. Then we had Suzette Milu join us to share how we integrate tech into science. We discussed the importance of meaningful integration to increase engagement and document mastery of content. If you are interested, you can check out our NSTA presentations and materials for Bringing Student Creativity to Life in the Elementary Science Classroom and Transforming Your Science Classroom Through Technology at bit.ly/nsta19.

Every time I go to NSTA, I realize how much I DO NOT know. I can definitely learn SO much about good science and STEM integration. I definitely don't do enough STEM lessons in my first grade classroom so, these last two years, I chose to attend sessions that focus on just that, STEM integration. These lessons get me so excited to come back and jump in to what I like to call "Storybook STEM". Jenny and I came up with that one on our flight home. That is why I love attending this conference, or any conference for that matter. They get me fired up to try new things and to go outside of my comfort zone. The problem is, I get back to school and I lose focus as I get swamped with everything on my plate. This year, I wasn't going to let that happen.

When I got home, I thought about everything I learned at this year's conference. One thing that stood out was giving families more ways to join in the learning process, especially with Science. Science is about curiosity. As I was wandering the exhibit hall after a session, I stumbled upon one of the book seller's booths. I stopped, of course, since I am TOTALLY addicted to children's books. I was flipping through beautiful nonfiction science-themed trade books, and I was reminded of an idea I had the previous year after NSTA. What if I make book baggies with science investigations, activities, etc. for kids to take home? Kind of like "Family Science" but all surrounding a nonfiction science picture book. What if students could take it home for a week and just explore. Nothing mandatory. Just an opportunity to spark some science based conversations with family or friends. What if students got more opportunities to use their science vocabulary outside of school, without boring old homework sheets? And so began the planning.

First things first. If I wait to start this next school year, I will get distracted again by all the things that encompass the beginning of the school year. I decided, if I was going to do this, there was no better time than the present. So I came home and started to plan. The first step was to get the materials. My idea was all surrounding books. Good books. NSTA featured the "Next Time You See a ______" books. Awesome! I knew those were going on my want list, but there just weren't enough. I typically have 18-20 students in my class so I would love to get enough books to send a different book home with each student every week. I went to did some research and found the "I Wonder Why" series. These are fantastic books that all start with an "I wonder" question and there were a wide variety of topics. Yep! Those completed my set of books. Now... how to get the funds to buy them. I decided to go to donorschoose.org to write a grant request. I also decided that if I was going to do this, why not try to get this for ALL of the grade level's students? So I wrote the request and within a day, thanks to the generosity of my family, friends, and coworkers, as well as matching happening from a generous corporate donor, this close to $1000 project got funded.  Then three days later, my books arrived!

Books and some hand lenses for our "Science On the Go" bags


My next steps are to compose some "suggested" investigations, research, and more to get kids interacting with the content with someone at home. I have 23 different books/topics so this part will take a while, but I am up for the challenge. I have a classroom of students coming in August as my inspiration and I can't wait! Stay tuned for a follow up blog post in the future once this project is planned and set in motion.

Some teachers are counting down to the end of the school year and their final days with this year's current students. Me? Well, I am reflecting on my practice and counting down the days until I get my new students. Am I passionate or just plain old cRaZy? How about both!

Happy summer y'all!




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