School Team of the Month - October 2017
What is the focus of your STEM Impact Plan work this year?
Students need to be able to confidently approach novel problems in mathematics, science, and a variety of non-academic contexts. Strong problem solvers – like strong readers – rely on a toolkit of transferable strategies that allow them to successfully approach a problem regardless of the specific nature of the problem. In our STEM Impact Plan, we identified those strategies, determined which are most foundational for students, partnered with our fellow science and mathematics teachers to explicitly teach those strategies to students, and ensuring students practice using those strategies to solve authentic problems in mathematics and science classes.
What exciting STEM experiences have happened at your school so far this year?
In seventh-grade science, we opened our unit with a Puzzling Phenomenon, an instructional strategy Matt Kloser introduced in Module 2 during our summer work at Notre Dame. Students considered brain scans from two people having the same experience then used student-created models to attempt to explain why that is possible. We revisited the Puzzling Phenomenon mid-unit, and students adjusted their models to include their new understandings. At the end of the unit, students used their knowledge of neural pathways to explain the phenomenon in full. This allowed students to see their own understanding grow and take the form of quality scientific explanations.
Later this semester, students in sixth-grade math will learn about ratios and scaling. In the spring, they will use this knowledge to scale up a piece of art to create a mural that can be viewed from our school cafeteria. I am working collaboratively with our art teacher, who will provide her expertise on murals and community art. We hope to also introduce some of the many powerful murals that exist throughout the city of Chicago.
In what ways have you been able to engage other members of your school, local community, or other STEM Teaching Fellows?
During our summer planning time at Notre Dame, our team reached out to our colleagues who teach math and science to ask what challenges our students have when tackling difficult problems. We took their input into consideration when creating our Impact Plan. During our August professional development days, we presented our Impact Plan to all the math and science teachers and modeled how to explicitly teach specific problem-solving strategies to students. In September, we had a check-in meeting to discuss successes and challenges and set aside planning time to integrate the problem-solving strategies into an upcoming lesson. From an administrative level, we have had the opportunity to present our plan to our principal and Academic Affairs Committee. We are very fortunate that everyone is on board and very excited to help our students develop transferable problem-solving skills.