I view Science as being both outwardly experimental and inwardly experiential. More than simply the acquisition of facts and theories, I strive, through a hands-on approach of discovery and inquiry, to develop investigative problem solving skills while bringing out in my students the determination to overstand the reasons and life-lessons behind the observed phenomena. From this perspective, science serves as a powerful vehicle for the discovery of the underlying unity in the apparent diversity as well as the development of the student’s intellectual power, empathy, and discipline of character. I like for Science to be a time in the students’ day where they can experience and express a positive creative synthesis of their various personal talents within a disciplined and structured environment.
Often in my classroom students are asked to draw upon their knowledge and skills from the various branches of
academics including mathematics, theater arts/public speaking, writing, conceptual design and drafting, computer literacy, social studies, and the intrapersonal skills necessary for accomplishing activities involving other group members.
MYP-Middle Years Program based Assessment
I was MYP trained in Marrakesh, Morocco in 2004
In 2003 my school in Ghana underwent a schoolwide accreditation process for the IBO, this included PYP, MYP, and IB levels. Before a schoolwide launch I and another teacher were selected to be the pilot teachers for its implementation, receiving MYP training in Morocco. Over the next 2 years I was involved in the design of the MYP curriculum for science classes 6-9th grade. The move to a rubric based grading system was not easy. Parents were asked to shift their view away from thinking of grades in terms of just percentages to using the criterion descriptors. Eventually, after several instructional meetings, and few quarters of receiving grades in the new paradigm, parents were able to see how descriptors are more
informative of achievement than just a number for identifying a student’s areas of mastery and lacking. In Beirut, and here in Valencia, the schools are not IB but I retained the criterion and rubric-based assessment which allows students to know in advance the expectations for achievement when doing an assignment. To blend this grading system with the current school I convert the criterion scores into a percentage along with the descriptors.
The MYP system breaks science assessment into the areas of communication, conceptual knowledge, the scientific method, processing data, performance in experiments, and an understanding of societies applications of science and its moral and ethical
consequences. This is much more robust than the traditional percentage based assessment framework which is heavily focused on the lower level basic memorization and regurgitation of facts.
A typical day in my science classroom includes time for discussions about the day’s topic and a hands-on lab. My laboratory assignments take place both indoors and outdoors and are individual and group assignments that are geared towards leading the students through the higher levels of Bloom’s Cognition Taxonomy. For class lectures I use a large 9x9 screen, the material for which I buy online and then assemble in the classroom along with the school’s carpenters. Additionally, I have surround sound double stereo systems that bring the rumblings of a volcano or the roar of a lion to life. Along with this, in order that everyone can hear me clearly,
I use a wifi headset microphone, and on occasion we use a cordless microphone for students to give responses. I spend considerable time making lecture notes that are lavish and captivating using Keynote along with plenty of bells and whistles. New after winter break, we will be using the iClickr system which allows students to provide their responses in poll format. These and other features are designed to create an engaging and effective learning environment.
The backbone of my curriculum is the scientific method, problem-solving is its heart, and the pulse is the challenging engagement I provide through the presentation of activities that involve open-ended exploration. The career of doing science revolves around problem-solving and synthesizing various material elements, digital resources, knowledge and human relationships to overcome hurdles. Many students just want you to give them the answer, can the the lesson
into a series of recipe steps to follow. I on the other hand will, for example, give the students a set of supplies, outline the goals to be achieved, but then allow them time to experiment with different engineering designs in order to come up with the most effective solution. The key here is to make the work become play. In the video game industry the psychology of good game play revolves around adequate challenge that is not too easy nor too hard in order to further player involvement and return to the game for the eventual reward of mastery and achievement. As a teacher, my role is to gauge students and move the bar as growth occurs.
One of the keys to preventing potential fires is good parent communications. At the beginning of the year I compile a parent and student contact data-base in both my Gmail and Filemaker Pro database. Individual and batch emails are done in a snap and even remotely from the desktop via my iPad. Below are some pages from a Parents Newsletter that I sent out.