Scientists and teachers, together for literacy

(Note: This post by Kelly Gaier Evans at Battelle Education is a cross-post from the Literacy Design Collaborative blog)

Kids enter the world exploring their surroundings. Asking questions. Trying to find out how the world works. This is science. As planetarium director, Neil deGrasse Tyson says “Science is how we explore the environment though experimentation.”1

Yet by the time students take the ACT test for college, almost 2 in 3 fail to meet the ACT College Readiness benchmark in science!2 Let’s be honest, all standardized test have limitations. Nevertheless, these are widely used measures that help give us a snapshot of where science learning stands.

How do we maintain this excitement kids have for science? How do we challenge students to go further with scientific literacy? Scientists do some pretty cool stuff. How do we connect what students and teachers are doing in school with what real scientists are doing every day?

Enter Battelle Education. Battelle Education manages several STEM networks’ connecting teachers and schools to find ways to share education strategies that engage all students. Beyond that, Battelle Education is a venture of the Battelle Memorial Institute. Every day, the people of Battelle apply science and technology to solving what matters most.

Scientists at Battelle have done amazing things. One recent breakthrough is a technology3 which empowers paralyzed patients to regain conscious control of their fingers, hands, and arms. It bypasses the patient’s damaged nervous system so that the brain can communicate directly with the patient’s muscles. It’s inspiring. And it’s the reason Battelle is invested in education. We want to nurture our future solvers.

So back to our question. How do we encourage a child’s natural curiosity for science AND challenge her to go even further?   How do we create authentic and challenging yet attainable science experiences for students?

Battelle Education connected effective science educators with scientists who solve real problems facing our world today. Together they applied their knowledge and captured what it would look like for students to read and write like a scientist.

The Literacy Design Collaborative provides a tool for teachers to share good instruction. It helps teachers scaffold how students read, conduct research, and capture their learning through writing.

Connecting these two, we created the Battelle Education’s LDC Science prototype collection.

150424 LDC science boxes 3

The collection is composed of three prototypes which build upon each other:

  1. Data Analysis
  2. Controlled Experiment
  3. Design Process

Peter is one of the science educators involved in writing these prototypes. He is an incredible science educator.  After working with Battelle scientists and engineers, he shared, “It has become clear to me that data analysis is the foundation of true experimentation and true experimentation is the foundation of rigorous design.” He continues, “I believe science curricula can take this progression into advisement and seek to use concrete tools to develop students’ ability to analyze data, carry out data collection strategies, and design meaningful, testable solutions to the needs of the world.”

While the prototypes are still in draft form, we are incredibly excited to share this sneak peak. The prototypes include a big overarching task and a breakdown of the skills students need to develop in order be successful on that task. Below you can see a general description of what to expect in these prototypes.  If one of these sounds like something you could use with your students, please sign up to be notified when they are released.

Battelle Prototype 1: Data Analysis

data fluency sketchHow do students develop data fluency? This prototype isolates the data selection, analysis, and reporting process.

How are kids reading/writing like scientists?

Scientists analyze and interpret data. It is central to the scientific process: ask questions, carry out testing, gather data, analyze data, report on that analysis. This prototype has students isolate the data selection, analysis, and reporting process in order to further develop data fluency.

By using pre-existing data, teachers temporarily remove the “experimentation” stage of the scientific process in order to focus student learning on how to choose data that can answer a scientific question, and how to interpret and present that data.

Why is it important?

We ask students to carry out meaningful scientific studies but often do not realize that they are not fluent in their ability to analyze data. Developing the ability to analyze and interpret data is so important that the Next Generation Science Standards designated it as one of the eight Science and Engineering Practices. Students are asked to engage in this science and engineering practice across every grade band with a growing level of complexity.

Click here to sign up to be notified when this prototype is released.

Battelle Prototype 2: Controlled Experiment

sci process sketchHow do you support kids in going through the scientific process?  Ask a question, gather background knowledge, develop and carry out testing, gather data, analyze data, and report on that analysis.

How are kids reading/writing like scientists?

Kids are asked to write a question and gather background knowledge on that question. They use this knowledge to write a method for their experiment. Then they carry out their experiment and collect data. Once they have collected data, they analyze this data to prepare them to write and present their findings.

Why is it important?

The development, implementation, and analysis of a controlled experiment is the backbone of science.  This module will help students through this scientific process.

Click here to sign up to be notified when this prototype is released.

Battelle Prototype 3: Design Process

real world sketchHow do you research, design, and present a solution to a “real-world” problem?

How are kids reading/writing like scientists?

When engineers design a solution to a problem, they read a request for proposal. They research possible solutions. They create solutions. Engineers have to present their solution for approval and convince others to hire them for the job. Then they continue building and testing their design in a controlled manner (i.e., carry out a controlled experiment). The process does not end after they have a design. That is when it is important to communicate the details of their design and articulate how the solution meets the original requirements found in the request for proposal. The design prototype helps student scaffold and capture their design process with excellence.

Why is it important?

Production is the essence of STEM education.  Purposeful production is the definition of design.  This LDC module is based on the process Battelle Memorial Institute engineers go through in designing and prototyping solutions to the world’s problems.  This process has led to the Xerox machine, the CD, and countless other innovations!

Click here to sign up to be notified when this prototype is released.

Back to Peter. What is it that Peter has learned through this process?

“I was amazed that the true design process scientists and engineers go through is far more detailed and formal than I had realized before – and to see how that process could easily be applied in the K-12 setting to produce student-designed products of very high quality and intentionality.”

So, let’s see what happens next. This collection is currently in draft form. This summer, Battelle Education will bring together additional science teachers and scientists to create modules based on these prototypes. The modules will be implemented this fall with students. Then, we will come back together to conduct some data analysis of our own. We will look to see how much students learned using these prototypes.

While writing this, there are children scattered across campus.  It’s take your child to work day here at Battelle. Kids are participating in science activities with their parents. During one event, they are learning how Battelle’s Haz Mat team safely addresses a spill. What spill? Stale Peeps, leftovers from the recent Easter holiday. Kids, from kindergarten on up, are learning how the team communicates during such an event. Kids are smiling. They are learning. My mission in the Battelle Education office: spread this excitement to kids beyond those with parents at Battelle.  I hope these science prototypes will support that goal. Time will tell. Time and data, as we follow our own prototype and test our design.

“People think science literacy is being able to recite facts.
It’s not that. It’s a part of it. But it is not the main part.
The main part is how do you look at the world?
What does the world look like through your lens?”
Neil deGrasse Tyson in Scientific Literacy1


1 Scientific Literacy. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

2 2013 ACT College Readiness Benchmarks Report.

3 New surgery gives mobility to paralyzed man. CBS News.

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