What a year 2020 was for education. We faced the challenge of remote, hybrid, and in-person learning during a pandemic. As STEM teachers this was especially difficult. As we close out 2020 and look towards 2021, it seems like a good time to reflect on classroom practices. What went well, what needs work, and what do we resolve to do about it. Below are things I resolve to do as we bring in the new year.
Prioritize Hands-On Learning
One of the greatest failures of 2020 was the lack of hands-on science with which my students were able to engage. However, this is not an unsolvable problem. Many educators found ways around the lack of in-person, or restrictions placed on in-person learning. While remote learning may soon be a thing of the past, it is still important to reflect on how and why to ensure student access to hands-on learning. Here’s how I hope to prioritize it regardless of setting:
I have been asking students to find things around their house to throw, roll, and push. However, this does not create a shared experience for my students, as they’re all utilizing different materials. I resolve to find a way to send supplies to my students on a semi-regular basis. Even if it is a printed out metric ruler, string, and a ball of clay, my students need access to common materials.
One of the most difficult things about hybrid learning is that some students get materials when other students do not. However, this in person time is so valuable as I can control the materials they do see. I resolve to prioritize hands-on experiences when my students are in the classroom, by having my remote students engage in another type of learning, and focusing on the in-person students’ hands on experience.
When we (hopefully) transition fully back to in-person learning, it will be so vital to remember the struggles faced by students prior. While remote learning did help students learn, it prevented them from experiencing science in front of them. I resolve to do everything I can to have hands-on learning at least 3 days per week. Once per week may have sufficed before 2020, but now we must make up for lost time.
Make Science Culturally Relevant
One thing 2020 laid bare was the inequities students face. Whether it was the pandemic’s impact on their family, their access to reliable technology, or required state and national testing, inequities abound. In lieu of this understanding, I resolve to make my students’ education more accessible, relevant, and engaging. Specifically, as a STEM educator, I want to ensure that the science I am teaching directly impacts my students’ lives. For example, using sports my students play, video games they use, and food they eat in my daily lessons makes the science I teach more applicable to them. In order to do this, I need to know these things about my students. Surveys and class discussions are easy ways to acquire this information so that I may utilize it in my lessons.
Cultivate Scientifically Literate Students
If 2020 taught us anything, it is that science education is vital to a successful society. While there are standards I must cover as required by my state, there is something greater to instill in my students. I resolve to cultivate an understanding of science literacy in my classroom. This may involve using more science vocabulary, increasing discussion of current events, and analyzing the scientific accuracy of news articles. It could also be as simple as discussing the importance of scientific literacy. Regardless, I want my students to leave my classroom with a fundamental understanding of the importance of science in our world.
These are my resolutions so far. I also resolve to come up with more! I will be writing about more resolutions in my next blog. For now, remember to take a breath. These are some of the most trying times in education in our history. Remember your why! Reflect on what has gone well, and remember that small scale changes can make a big impact. You’ve got this!
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