CSTA Classroom Science

If You Give a Teacher a Flyer...

By Alyssa Nemecekova-Fairfield, CSTA Upper Primary Director

I was fortunate enough to attend the Climate Summit pre-conference day at the 2019 CSTA Conference in San Jose. In addition to wonderful speakers, the pre-summit offered participants an opportunity to sit in on roundtable sessions to learn about the efforts of many people who are educating our youth about climate change. At the Cal Academy of Sciences table I was given a flyer that introduced me to an app called iNaturalist. This lead me to download the app and start loading photos I had already taken of interesting flora and insects. This then lead me to take more pictures, load them into the app, learn more about them, and ask more questions.  With my head full of wonderings, I come across the campaign for the NASA GLOBE Clouds FAll Data Challenge. Now I could expand my photo-taking to include pictures of clouds. Imagine my excitement when I received the satellite images!. Comparing my photos with the satellite images piqued my curiosity. After totally geeking out it dawned on me that this phenomenon connects with 3rd grade DCI ESS2.D and I wondered if the kids would geek out as much as I did. Luckily for me, I was able to work with a third-grade teacher, Kim McClinton at Vista del Monte in Palm Springs Unified School District to find out. Our plan was simple. First, we had students take photos of the sky. The students were informed about why they were taking pictures and were super excited at the idea of their work contributing to work real scientists are doing. Students are, at the time of writing,  awaiting the satellite images to come back from NASA to compare their photos and it will be exciting to hear what conclusions they draw from the data.  

The reason I am sharing this with you is that sometimes we, as teachers, need to remember that lessons do not always need to be big. Collecting cloud data was a quick extension of what students were already learning, and we were pleased with the engagement that occurred around this small piece. Enough so that we are looking for other ways to incorporate citizen science into upcoming science units.

Back to the pre-conference roundtable...it all started with someone handing me a flyer.  So, take the flyer! Try something new, even if it’s not going to be as perfect as you like. The first step is the hardest, make it small.

Alyssa Nemecekova-Fairfield is the current CSTA Upper Primary Director and an Instructional Coach at Palm Springs Unified School District in Palm Springs.


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