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Next Gen Pioneer Kellie Goodman

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Next Gen Pioneer: Kellie Goodman

Fourth-grade teacher Kellie Goodman is aligning standard elementary science kits with the new Next Generation Science Standards, pushing deep inquiry, investigation, collaboration, and scientific debate.

“Scientists, ready!” Classroom talk stops, backs straighten, and index fingers fly to temples, pointing at hard-working young brains. “OK, show me what happens inside a circuit,” says Kellie Goodman, turning to a chart illustrating the D cell battery, wire, and lightbulb her fourth-graders have been using for hands-on experiments. She challenges them to explain what happens inside each component. “Chemical energy!” “Electric energy!” “Light energy!” One boy compares the wire to a “freeway that electricity runs through.”

There is applause at each right answer and compliments from Mrs. Goodman, who is herself a study in positive energy. “Look at you!” she tells her class at Gregory Heights Elementary School in Burien. “You are problem-solvers! Scientists, I am so excited you have applied what you’ve learned! Now turn and talk about the journey electricity takes through the circuit.” The room buzzes with excited conversation.

This electricity lesson is based on a traditional elementary science kit. But there’s little traditional about the way Goodman -- who has been adapting the kits to meet new inquiry-based Next Generation Science Standards -- is teaching it.  “I use the kits for the materials, taking a couple steps out of each lesson plan, then I send the kids off to investigate,” says the animated teacher, who used a land-and-water kit as a springboard for studying erosive factors behind the tragic Oso landslide. “I want my students to master real-world scientific thinking and practices.”

Her fourth-grade “scientists” must find multiple ways to solve problems and offer scientific explanations for what works and what doesn’t. Mrs. Goodman continually challenges them. “OK, we have one big idea. Now let’s add on.” Expectations are high, and students are eager to meet them. “She pushes my thinking,” says one girl. “And when I want to give up, she makes me finish. She makes me really proud of myself.”

Goodman is one of Washington STEM’s five statewide professional development (PD) Pioneers, selected for what one Washington STEM leader describes as “super passionate” teaching. As a PD Pioneer, she records all her lessons using special IRIS Connect technology, with camera and microphones that capture her and her students live. She is using the video to package adapted science units, annotating each with her instructional strategies. When complete, these will be shared in a STEM-PD library of best teaching practices aligned with Common Core and Next Generation Science standards.

“It was scary at first to try out the technology, to be videotaped everyday,” says Goodman. She quickly learned the benefits. The kids felt like “superstars.” And she was able to examine her own practice in fine detail and identify what worked. “I really wanted to try something new, push myself professionally, and be part of this movement to collaborate with others on improving STEM professional development and science teaching practices,” she says.

What viewers will see on her videos is a dynamic teacher with deep content knowledge and masterful instructional moves. In a highly diverse class with a large percentage of special education students and English language learners from multiple countries, she opens doors for all levels of learners, carefully defining concepts and preparing hands-on activities that explain them.

She constantly reinforces learning. A favorite strategy is the summary table, a chart that visually captures the learning progression of a unit with columns for student observations, what was learned, and how that learning explained a phenomenon.

She gives her “scientists” abundant time for targeted conversation and collaboration. In student conversations, table-to-table, you hear sophisticated debate skills at work. “I would like to politely disagree with you,” one student tells another. On the wall hang a long list of discussion prompts: “This shows...” “This connects to….” “In other words…” “An example of this is … “

Goodman worries science is getting the short shrift in elementary schools. Only three kits are offered at grade-level per year, and testing does not emphasize the subject. “We are covering the mathematics part of STEM; it’s the ‘s’ (science) and the ‘t’ (technology) and the ‘e’ (engineering) that are getting neglected.”

To provide more opportunities for students, she is coordinating the pilot project for the Washington Informal Science Education Consortium (WISE), which links schools to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Pacific Science Center, Woodland Park Zoo, and other local institutions. Their experts help students put their new knowledge to work. This year, students sampled local water, including classroom water, and tested it for fecal coliform, analyzing their data and making evidence-based claims.
“The students are now making presentations for the community,” says Goodman, whose enthusiasm for science has spread to every level of learner in her classroom.

“I used to not like science at all,” admits one earnest girl. “But when she teaches it, I know what to do. Now, I want to be a scientist when I grow up.”

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