Science Comes to Life: How a Unique Partnership is Enhancing Instruction & Learning

Did you know that between 2002 and 2009 hundreds of gigatons of ice melted in Antarctica and Greenland? Students in schools all over NYC are studying this phenomenon more closely than ever before.  Thanks to resources provided by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New Visions science curriculum projects are leveraging a wide range of real world data from the museum on everything from global warming to local river environments to help science come to life for students.

Currently, New Visions has full Common Core-aligned curricula for high school math subjects, Earth Science, Global History, Living Environment, and U.S. History.

Over the last few years, a partnership with the Gottesman Center for Science Teaching and Learning at the American Museum of Natural History has provided the New Visions science team with support around curriculum materials, professional development and connections to the scientific community.  For instance, since the Summer of 2013, teachers have had the opportunity to learn alongside museum scientists and educators as they developed and refined teaching case materials about the Hudson River Ecology.

This collaboration was so well-received that we have subsequently worked with museum staff to provide professional development experiences for teachers around the GRACE teaching case and the Earthquake Risk in Bangladesh teaching case—all of these materials are now integrated into the New Visions Living Environment and Earth Science curricula.  Our common interests and focus on teacher and student growth have made this an exciting partnership!

Below, you will hear from two of the teacher-leaders who share how the AMNH partnership is enhancing their instruction and benefiting their students.
 

Joe Tartaglia, High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media

Joe Tartaglia (pictured on the right) with other members of the
New Visions Science curriculum project.

I teach Living Environment to incoming freshman in Brooklyn, NY.  I initially became involved with the Living Environment curriculum project at the start of the 2014-15 school year because I wanted the opportunity to rethink, and reimagine the manner in which science is taught to high schoolers who may not have had positive experiences in the past. 

As the only teacher from my school participating directly in the project, it was important for me to turnkey alternative approaches to teaching science, such as the 5E instructional model and group learning routines, with other science teachers at my school.  In my second year, I was accepted into the project’s advisory board, and assumed the role of teacher-leader, whose responsibilities involve taking a lead in revising the unit plans, curating additional resources to support teachers that are new to the program, as well as offering up suggestions for subsequent PD sessions. The teacher-leader role has empowered me to express what I was noticing in my classroom, and enabled me to further refine classroom resources and student deliverables.

The collaboration with AMNH provides the opportunity to take science out of the classroom into the real world.  For example, I have used a number of AMNH’s web resources for my ecosystems unit, leveraging the Museum's web-based interactive portal to Hudson River data, so my students can study the impact that invasive zebra mussels have on the local ecosystem.  As a result of this fantastic resource, my students were able to create excellent scientific explanations.

Next school year, I also plan to leverage the AMNH climate change ice core resources to help stimulate a discussion on the extent that humans have impacted climate change, and how to forecast future changes.  These resources will be helpful as I challenge some preconceived notions my students may have concerning climate change.

Finally, in the coming year, I’m hoping to plan a trip for my students to explore the museum’s new microbiome exhibit, “The Secret World Inside You,” which we recently toured during a professional development event, and which will tie in well with a mini-unit on evolution.  As I further refine my teaching craft, I will definitely look to further incorporate the multitude of resources available on the AMNH website, and their great selection of exhibits.
 

Michelle Pizer, New Visions Charter High School for
Adanced Math & Science II
(AMSII)

I am just completed my first year teaching in the South Bronx where I teach Earth Science to grades 9th-12th.

I’ve only worked for AMSII for a short while, but I have had so many great opportunities to enhance my teaching skills and science resources through informative PDs, collaboration with other teachers, and participation in the New Visions science teacher advisory board.  With the advisory board, I have been actively involved in developing and refining the Earth Science curriculum.  This experience has strengthened my ability to teach as I’m constantly sharing new and insightful ideas with other educators.

My teaching has also been enhanced by the AMNH partnership because I have attended several professional development events at the museum where I learned about valuable cooperative learning techniques and research databases, explored museum exhibitions and acquired new resources. AMNH has been particularly useful for my work developing the Earth Science unit on climate change as I plan next year to incorporate data into that unit from the GRACE satellites that look at the change in freshwater distribution across the world over time.  Next school year, I I also plan to bring my students to the museum to tour exhibitions that highlight the evidence of climate change.  One of these exhibitions is a model of a real ice core from Greenland which illustrates the change in climate, CO2 concentration, and local temperature over many years.

New Visions’ full scope and sequence curriculum combined with AMNH’s data examples and hands-on exhibits are truly transforming my teaching and making my students feel like true scientists in the field. I cannot wait to see what’s next in the partnership!

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