Mapping our Way to Successful Understandings: A First-Grade Science Unit
Our teachers are beginning to use the newly purchased software to organize our curriculum units in a consistent fashion. The Atlas Curriculum Mapping software asks teachers at all grade levels:
· to describe the New Hampshire standards related to, for instance, a science unit;
· to outline the key understandings and the knowledge our district wants students to gain from the unit;
· to clearly state the “essential questions” students should be able to answer at the end of the unit;
· to describe what skills students will use to explore any content area unit;
· To attach lesson plans and learning activities so that all district teachers can access them;
· To outline any vocabulary taught during the unit; and
· To share any assessments teachers are using to monitor student understanding.
First grade teachers, Kelly Marble, Karen Eade, Shannon McCurry, and Jeanne Howard, just completed a new science unit, Senses. During this unit of study students will read to learn about human senses, will explore using their senses to describe various objects, will use a variety of scientific tools—such as magnifying glass, balance, thermometer, ruler, scale, and microscope– as they gather first-hand observational information about things in their environment. The essential questions students will be able to answer once the unit is completed are:
· How do we gather information using our senses?
· How do our senses help us to learn from each other?
· How do our senses help keep us safe?
· What can help us gather more information than our senses can alone?
We believe that mapping will help students reach high standards and help teachers plan effectively. It has already encouraged a great deal of conversations among our teaching staff.
Doing Science Like Real Scientists
Pittsfield Elementary School and Pittsfield Middle High School teachers are involved in a special science project this year called the New Hampshire Education and Environment Team. Teachers from four districts in the state—Pittsfield being one of them—are receiving support and training in developing science units that get students outside doing field investigations. They observe, collect data, and study phenomena over time, just like real scientists do. One of the goals of the project is to use the field, woodlands, and bodies of water around our schools for scientific investigations.
On the right, fourth-grade scientists from Ms Lasky’s class record their observations on plant life growing in our neighborhood.