Touro College, Smithsonian Science Education Center Partnership Unleashes the Inner Scientist in Middle School Educators

Successful Workshop Helps Excite Teachers and Students about STEM

November 28, 2018
Dr. Amy D\'Amico, Division Director of Professional Services at the Smithsonian Science Education Center leads a breakout workshop session on using models to to explain phenomena in the natural world.
Dr. Amy D'Amico, Division Director of Professional Services at the Smithsonian Science Education Center leads a breakout workshop session on using models to to explain phenomena in the natural world.

The inaugural workshop, Setting the Scene: Innovations in the NY Science Standards was held on November 6 in Harlem’s Isaac Newton Middle School for Math and Science. The focus of the workshop, presented in partnership with Touro’s Graduate School of Education (GSE), was to improve science education leadership, educate teachers about new techniques to use in their classrooms and to spotlight the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) adopted by New York in 2016.

“Being able to better understand the crosscutting concepts of the Next Generation Science Standards will enable teachers to develop future scientists for the 21st century, as the concepts engender communication, patterns, systems and interdependence across the disciplines. That is why our partnership with the Smithsonian is so important,” said Dr. Jacob Easley II, Dean of the Graduate School of Education.

The NGSS identifies three important dimensions to learning science—crosscutting concepts, which help students explore connections across physical science, life science, earth and space science and engineering design; science and engineering practices, which spotlights what scientists do to investigate the natural world and what engineers do to design and build systems; and disciplinary core ideas related to science and engineering that build on each other as students’ progress through grade levels.

“As educators, it’s our job to use our imagination to engage and excite students about innovations in science and realize they only know what they know until they are exposed to something different. A teacher can change the world for a child and you are that person,” said Dr. Alexandra Estrella, Superintendent, District 4, NYC Schools.

Drawing participation of 50 teachers, the workshop included two breakout sessions covering the practices of argumentation and modeling. The first activity gave participants the opportunity to examine claims, evidence and reasoning and engage in argumentation by solving a murder mystery in small groups. Just as scientists and engineers regularly engage in argumentation to come to a conclusion, students will be encouraged to have these types of evidence-based conversations to share their ideas as well.

The second workshop highlighted how to use models to explain phenomena in the natural world such as observable events that occur in the universe and that science knowledge can be used to explain or predict. Engaged participants created their own models to explain what is occurring when water droplets form on the outside of a cold beverage, which demonstrated the importance of this term that is heavily emphasized in the updated science mandates.

“As a first year teacher who is still learning as I go, I thought it was important to participate in today’s workshop to improve the way I teach science. With my fourth grade students now preparing for the New York State test, I am already planning ways to implement everything I learned today in our next unit,” said Virginia Suarez, a science and math teacher currently working at P.S. 38.  

Ensuring that students in New York have better access to STEM learning opportunities prepares them to collect evidence and solve problems to successfully navigate through an increasingly complicated world.