My initial reaction to the 2010 Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching was “WOW!” The participants, presenters, and exhibitors were enthusiastic and approachable, ready to explore, learn, and share. I spent a bit of time exploring the exhibits, in which I was very pleased to see a considerable variety of resources available to science teachers in Texas. What I was truly excited about, however, were workshops.
The first workshop I attended was Planetary Systems presented by Jody Harkrider. Participants worked in groups to sequence the formation of a planetary system using captioned picture cards. The presenter then led us through the correct sequence. This was a more in-depth examination of system formation than I have previously studied and I was intimidated at first. The straightforward approach demonstrated in this workshop, however, makes this topic feasible in the classroom.
Next, on Friday, I attended The Private Eye: Hands-On Inquiry for an Interdisciplinary Mind presented by Kerry Ruef. The Private Eye learning process involves using a jeweler’s loupe (pronounced “loop;” a small 5X magnifying glass contained in a tube) to see ordinary objects in a new way. The purpose is to use critical thinking and thinking by analogy to interest and challenge students to think out of the loupe (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Participants were given two loupes, materials (a sea urchin test, seeds, leaves, plastic netting), and information about the program to take home.
Also on Friday I attended Geoblox Models Cover the New Earth TEKS. My first encounter with GeoBlox was in Dr. Brad Hoge’s Earth and Environmental Science Studies course (NS3311) at the University of Houston-Downtown. I was eager to revisit them, especially with John Koonz, their creator! Koonz gave a short presentation on how and why he created GeoBlox. He also discussed the recent improvement in scale of his models. Participants completed two models (a convergent continent-continent plate boundary and a disappearing stream) and received clean copies for use in class.
On Saturday, I joined an unexpectedly small number of participants for Xtreem Biology: Explore the Cell Cycle Including DNA Replication and Mitosis presented by Pamela Harrell. In this workshop, we extracted the DNA of a strawberry and participated in multiple hands-on ways to explore DNA structure. The presenters supplied us with packets of the procedures and models for all the activities, which utilized the 5E Model of Constructivism. Participants in this workshop were eager to come up to the front to role play as a ribosome, t-RNA, and other characters in translation and transcription, and even form DNA chains! This was a very fun workshop.
These four workshops were a tiny fraction of what was offered. In a few instances, I was torn between two (and even three) workshops offered at the same day and time! CAST was a gold mine for a pre-service teacher: I am more excited and equipped to teach than ever.
Lisa Matsell (pre-service teacher)