How Cold is Snow?


I recently had an opportunity to spend some time with a great team of kindergarten teachers.  We were exploring the nature of STEM lessons and thinking about ways to include more STEM in the classroom.  This lesson was originally planned for kindergarten students, but it would be easy to revise for older students.  Check out a copy of the student page, here.

We started by making predictions to answer the question, “How cold is snow?” Younger learners often don’t have a strong sense of the numbers we use to describe temperature and making the prediction helps build this background knowledge.  We used wire less Vernier Temperature probes to check the temperature of a cup full of fresh snow.  Using the meter setting, students will notice that the temperature seems to keep changing.  Ask groups of students how they will decide when to record the temperature.  At this point, students may also have additional questions to test…Is the snow colder at the top of the cup than at the bottom?  Is a snow ball colder than loose snow? Is the snow outside colder than the snow inside?  The wireless temperature probes allow for these questions to be easily tested.

After establishing a basis for the temperature of snow, we push into the real STEM part of the lesson.  Building a snowball keeper!  Provide a set of materials for groups of students to choose from – we included different sizes of styrofoam cups, paper coffee cups, plastic cups, a variety of lids, plastic jars with lids, different types of fabric, packing peanuts, bubble wrap and tape.  Working through an engineering process, groups of students can build a snowball keeper, check the initial temperature and decide where they will leave the keeper until the end of the day.  As groups of students share their keepers, you may want to grab short video clips when they explain why they chose the materials or configuration they used.

There are many ways to extend this lesson based on student questions or curiosities.  You’ll find possible discussion questions at the end of the student page as well.  I would love to hear your comments if you test this one out in your classroom, especially if you revise for a different grade.


Winter Tech Integration


Page Keeley has a classic problem, The Mitten Problem, that can be used to help elicit students preconceptions about heat and how heat is transferred.  This temperature assessment probe, coupled with Vernier Temperature probes can provide an excellent phenomenon-based learning opportunity in your classroom.

Begin by setting the stage for children, “Sara’s science class is investigating heat energy.  They wonder what would happen to the temperature reading on a temperature sensor if they put the thermometer in a mitten.”  Using temperature probes, students can plan and carry out their own investigation.  Oftentimes, this first investigation leads to more questions as students “often believe that some materials and objects, such as blankets or mittens, are intrinsically warm.”

  • I wonder what would happen with my really warm ski gloves?
  • I wonder what would happen with the fuzzy socks I wear at home?
  • I wonder what would happen with my winter coat?

These questions, lead to an additional investigation and support student’s sense-making in the ways heat is generated and transferred.  If you want to try this investigation in your own classroom, here’s one way to think about setting it up.

What is Scientific Discourse?


You’ve probably been hearing a lot lately about scientific discourse and argumentation in science.  Are you wondering what that means?  Are you wondering what that looks like in a classroom?  Me too!

I started with the Science & Engineering Practices and found that practice #7 is Engaging in Argument from Evidence. “Argumentation is a process for reaching agreements about explanations and design solutions. In science, reasoning and argument based on evidence are essential in identifying the best explanation for a natural phenomenon.  In engineering, reasoning and argument are needed to identify the best solution to a design problem.”   It’s important to note that in science, argumentation isn’t meant to be divisive or quarrelsome.  Argumentation is meant to support bringing forward differing ideas and use evidence to determine the best answer or solution.  It’s meant to be collaborative and collegial.

STEM Teaching Tools has several resources to support teachers in shifting the discourse culture in their classrooms.    How can I get my students to learn science by productively talking with each other?   helps to explain why this shift is important and offers this Talk Moves resource as support.  Is it important to distinguish between the explanation and argumentation practices in the classroom?  helps to establish the difference between explanation and argumentation, with reasons to support both types of conversation.

On average students are engaged in academic talk only 2-4% of their day!   One thing you can try is to invite a teaching partner into your classroom to track time spent in teacher-centered talk, student-to-teacher talk and student-to-student talk.  This data can help you understand the reality in your classroom and plan for any needed shifts.   For me the bottom line is that all students must talk about their experiences.  This forces students to think about and articulate their observations and questions.  This thinking and talking leads to important learning.  It is crucial that focused and productive talking are opportunities for all students.  Beyond initial conversations, students need to learn to listen to one another’s ideas and to build on each other’s ideas while deepening their own understanding.  One strategy for this kind of structured talk is this partner protocol.  If you are interested in trying out this, or any other discourse protocol and want some help – don’t hesitate to contact me.

STEM Clock Hours

What is STEM?  What are STEM Clock Hours?  Do I need STEM Clock Hours?  


STEM is a curriculum, career or content way of thinking that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  Contrary to some opinion, STEM is not connecting those content areas into a lesson but rather, the deep integration of content that allows for application and problem solving.

STEM clock hours are a new layer on renewing teacher certifications.  “Beginning in 2019, renewal applications for professional and continuing teacher certificates must document completion of at least 15 clock hours, or at least one goal from an annual professional growth plan, with an emphasis on STEM integration to meet this renewal requirement.” (Professional Education Standards Board)  This requirement applies to several teaching endorsements, including: Elementary Education (K-8), Secondary Math and Science, Designated Sciences and CTE.  Check the website for your specific certification.   In order to qualify, your clock hour certificate or transcript must clearly state, STEM.

The State of Washington is fairly specific as to what professional development qualifies for this requirement.  Those offering professional development for this requirement, must be able to answer “Yes” to the following questions:

  • Will the STEM activity have an impact on STEM experiences for students?
  • Does the STEM activity provide examples or resources to use with students or other educators?
  • Does the STEM activity provide examples or resources about STEM-related career choices to use with students?

If you are a Central Valley teacher, there are a couple of ongoing opportunities to earn STEM clock hours.

  • iTEach STEM occurs monthly during the 2016-17 school year
  • STEM Online is a part of the Science Online classes

For more information or to learn about more STEM opportunities, contact Jennifer Chase (

For other Washington State certification questions, I found this article by Maren Johnson to be extremely informative.

Phenomenon-Based Teaching


Phenomenon-based science lessons may be the new catch phrase in science education, but it is relevant to consider when you’re planning your instruction.  I’ve spoken to many teachers who are intimidated by the phrase “phenomenon based” and aren’t sure how to organize their science lessons around a phenomenon.  I’m here today to break down that barrier.

STEM Teaching Tools suggest that a good phenomenon, or anchor, builds upon everyday or family experiences and is just out of reach of what students can figure out without instruction.   For example, I might use the hand full of rocks in the picture above as the phenomenon to launch a series of lessons exploring the rock cycle.  Why are they all different when I picked them up in the same place?  Why does one have holes? What are the stripes?  TJ McKenna has started a website, Phenomena for NGSS, as a place to collect and share these organizing ideas.

Videos can be another source for phenomena, or when searching for images to support your ideas.  I was having a conversation with 4th grade teachers last week about the Space Systems unit.  We were talking about how shadows might fit into the launch of the unit.  A quick search yielded this video and many other time lapse videos showing shadows changing.  An open-ended question, “What’s happening?” can encourage conversations and engage students in the content.  There are also several YouTube channels, such as Veritasium,  which use phenomenon to engage learners.

I know you’ve heard the questions, “Why do we have to learn this?”  Using a phenomenon (or anchor, or discrepant event…whatever you call it) helps engage students in the learning and it helps lend a relevance.  A phenomenon should be within the grasp of students, should be familiar and yet just out of reach as far as their ability to explain, and a phenomena should push them to wonder, to ask questions, to be curious.

If you’re still wondering, here’s one more way to think of phenomenon-based science lessons…

What’s going on in your classroom?  Leave a comment or send an email!



Jump Start 2016 Reflection


I am at the end of the Jump Start, Teachers Guide for Tech, summer online class!  This post marks my reflections and goals for future implementation.  I have really enjoyed the course and the people who’ve shared their learning and thinking along the way.  For me, this was a very effective way to think about the content, practice new tools and collaborate with others.

What was my Favorite Module? I loved learning about Thinglink because I had never played with it before and I was excited to try something so new.  There really wasn’t a module that wasn’t meaningful and relevant however.

What Module was the Most Challenging? Simultaneously the most challenging and the most rewarding was in working on this blog.  I started this Word Press blog about a year ago and I have really struggled with meaningful content, a regular posting schedule and sharing the URL with others.  Through this course, I have built a much more realistic and practical approach to using a blog and I think it will work well in my current job as a Curriculum Coordinator.

What Tools will I Start Using? I plan to continue using Word Press, as well as continue using Twitter professionally.  I also already have plans for several more Screencasts to support online courses that I offer.

What’s Next? I have been working through the tutorials to become a Google Certified Educator and I am going to finish that process before school starts in September.

3 Immediate Goals:

  1. Complete tutorials and the online test to become a Google Certified Educator by August 26.
  2. Add  video tutorials to both NGSS 101 and STEM Online courses before the new Science Online session begins in September.
  3. Add a column to my weekly plan that includes a weekly blog post.  Send a link to both curriculum teams each week to forward to teachers.

Take-Aways… This was a rich learning experience made more meaningful by having the intentional practice through a blog and a small group for collaboration.  I look forward to practicing with the tools more and  having a more confident approach to using technology.

Screen Casting

So, today I learned how to use Screencast-o-Matic!  This is one of the tools that I was most excited to learn to use during this technology Jump Start.  There are so many times that I wish I could just show someone my screen, thinking it would be so much more efficient than trying to describe what they should see or what they should look for when they are back at a computer.

I offer several online classes as well as face-to-face professional development.  Much of the real work of PD happens when a teacher is back in his or her classroom trying to remember the specifics.  I love the idea of offering short videos like this one to support their learning and practice.

This tutorial is a bit longer than recommended and I think I may edit it down a little more still.  I wanted to develop something that I can use with teachers this fall, and I thought of walking them through the NGSS @ NSTA website and showing them how to find classroom resources that are aligned with the NGSS.  I scripted this a bit and tried it a couple different times and I can see that (as with most things) screen casts will get better with time.  I was pretty excited by the first attempt though!


Mind Maps

I chose to work with mind maps for my Module 6 assignment because I don’t really like mind maps.  I like to organize my thinking in outlines or take sloppy notes the first time and then organize them into outlines as  layer of sense-making.  Mind maps always seem a little …random and cumbersome to me.

I decided that for this experiment, I would not do a rough draft on paper but use the online tool to help with my thinking and I wanted to create something that would help with our district’s curriculum work.  First, I tried Coggle.  I am looking forward to reading other people’s posts, maybe I just tried this on a bad day, but it seemed to reinforce everything I don’t like about mind maps.  I got frustrated and walked away from the project.  Today, I went back to the assignment and tried it again.  I decided to use something different and went to Popplet  It was a completely different experience!


There was a short tutorial when I first logged in that showed me how to use each “popple”.  This tool is very easy to use, and very easy to rearrange.  The essential questions were added in last, though they should have been first. Typically this would cause me frustration because I would need to rearrange everything to build the new level.  With Popplet, you can grab a popple at any level and drag it.  Whatever is linked to it comes along for the ride.

I loved that this tool was flexible enough to allow me to change my mind and hold my thinking.  This would be a great tool to teach students to use as a way to organize their thinking and make sense of big ideas in science.

Social Network

I use all three social networks listed – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  However, I have tried to keep my Twitter account more professional and my Facebook and Instagram accounts more personal.  I know there is some great content on all three sites but this has seemed to work for me.  Like blogging, I have struggled to maintain and active Twitter account as I don’t typically “come up with” unique things to tweet.  This is something I would like to change, and I appreciate the nudge from this course to push back into that arena.  I have enjoyed reading my Twitter feed and have heard it described as some of the best PD available online.  You can find me on Twitter @jenchase13

I logged in this morning and spent some time completing Module 5, here’s the proof…

My original tweet:


My response:


and my retweet:

Retweet 1

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