ECI 306

ECI 306 — Teaching Science in the Elementary School — Fall, 2013

General Information

Instructor: Jeff Bloom

  • Office: Eastburn Education Building, Room 143
  • Phone: 928-523-0665
  • Email: jeff.bloom(AT)nau.edu (BEST means of communication)

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 11:00 am to noon & 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm

Class Times: TTh 11:10 am to 12:25 pm & 12:45 pm to 2:00 pm



ANNOUNCEMENTS & NEWS

  • Mountain Campus Science Day — September 20, 2014, from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. (Posted 8/16/2014)
  • NO Friday Partnership Practicum this year. — Our practicum will focus on the Mountain Campus Science Day. (Posted 8/20/2014)


Some Thoughts on the Course

This course has been completely redesigned to address some of the most pressing concerns that our children will have to face in their lifetimes. Although the current political efforts in the United States are pushing a particular agenda, including the Common Core standards and continued high-stakes testing, this course focuses on much more important concerns. As opposed to national efforts this course is based on some of the best research and scholarship in education over the past few decades.

This course is designed on several fundamental principles:

  • Learning is a social process — Students need to talk, share, collaborate, argue, and negotiate as ways of developing deep and meaningful understandings.
  • Learning is a complex process — Learning is basically about making changes to the way we think in order to survive and thrive in the future.
  • Learning should be meaningful — Students need to engage in making connections to interests and previous understandings.
  • Learning is transdisciplinary and transcontextual — All learning spans multiple disciplines and contexts, including contexts of knowing (emotional, aesthetic, et al.)
  • Learning should be relevant — Learning should address current and future problems, issues, and other areas of concern.
  • Learning is an active process of knowledge construction — Students need to focus on constructing their own understandings, which is not a process of rote memorization.
  • Learning involves active engagement in questioning, inquiry, and problem solving— Students need to actively engage in these processes and step out of the traditional "schooling game" of going-through-the-motions, trying to please the teacher, and doing the minimum amount of work to get whatever "grade" one wants. Learning is about growing as an individual. Playing the "school game" is not about growth at all, but is about stagnation.
  • Students should be knowledge producers — Rather than being "consumers" of knowledge, students should be the "producers" of knowledge. All written work should be crafted for communication with a public audience (which can be achieved through posting work on our course website).
  • Real learning in this course and beyond is about being a professional — Being a professional is not some superficial act, but rather is about:
    • being totally engaged,
    • always being hungry to learn and grow,
    • being thoughtful,
    • being deeply critical about the assumptions that underlie our actions in the classrooms and that underlie the contexts of schooling and society,
    • being totally concerned for the welfare of our children,
    • working diligently to help children appreciate one another across differences and through commonalities, where children's personal and social well-being always trumps subject matter content and other typical curricular concerns.

I am greatly saddened by students who have come through my courses and through the program and have just gone-through-the-motions; remained aloof and disconnected; thought only superficially; were just interested in getting a grade; were not interested in their own growth and change; were not really interested in caring deeply about children and their growth, development, and welfare; were not willing to go above and beyond their own hesitations and expectations; and limited themselves (and thereby limit children) to low expectations of what children are capable.

My hope is that you will try to get the most out of this course by:

  • Reading avidly — all required readings and anything you can get your hands on (this hold true for your entire teaching career)
  • Attending all classes and outside activities
  • Fully engaging in all activities and discussions
  • Being open and willing to transform (seeing page 15 of Additional Readings)
  • Thinking deeply and critically
  • Developing your written work to communicate to the public
  • Striving for excellence as often as possible, but don't be willing to just "go-through-the-motions" and don't be satisfied with the mediocre (in anything)
  • Being kind and compassionate (especially with children)
  • NEVER underestimating children
  • Not thinking of children as anything less than being fully human with abilities to care for others, make decisions, and think deeply.

This course places great emphasis on learning about how children learn, think, inquire, play, feel, and interact. In order to develop deep understandings of children, we must be extremely sensitive to how schools, teachers, and all kinds of situations and actions affect children and their abilities to learn and grow into decent, caring, and thoughtful participants in society. Although the focus of this course is on how to teach science, the "real" focus is on how to create learning environments that promote:

  • deep and meaningful conceptual learning that spans all subject matter areas and contexts of human experience,
  • the development of self-confidence,
  • the development of participatory learning and knowledge production communities in the classroom,
  • a sense of struggle and uncertainty that can blossom into high degrees of expertise in solving problems,
  • creativity,
  • the development of "visions of the possible" that often are suppressed by schools and society.

The course also promotes your development as:

  • a teacher (as mentor, model, orchestrator, etc.),
  • a professional (whose life is dedicated to the welfare of children),
  • a learner (who is driven by curiosity and visions of what is possible for children),
  • inquirer,
  • scholar (of teaching, learning, and schooling),
  • critic,
  • artist,
  • and so forth…

This course supports student professional development that is aligned with:


Required and Optional Course Downloads:


Carl Sagan's warning prior to his death in 1997.

Not much has changed, other than a worsening of our fears of knowledge and intelligence.



So, what are the implications for our teaching of science in elementary school?



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