To me, the skill of offering an organized curriculum that interprets and develops standards and outcomes that reflect strong student voice is simultaneously the most daunting and rewarding challenge of internship. During the Autumn quarter I had the challenge of designing and teaching a three lesson unit that aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The big idea of this unit is to engage students in active inquiry about the sunlight affects the Earth’s surface. My three unit curriculum is part of an eight lesson unit on the relationship between the sun and the Earth that spans the first quarter of the year, and culminates in the students building model structures to offer protection from the sun. That said, my curriculum is organized to be one central piece of a grand unit about the sun that aligns with NGSS standards and outcomes which my mentor school adopted this academic year. The learners are typically developing kindergarten and first grade students. All of our 57 k/1 students have preschool educations, and are accustomed to inquiry-based, child emergent instruction. The classes are divided into 4 small classrooms, ranging from 12 to 15 students, and two of the mixed-age classes congregate for science. My mentor school’s mission is embedded in social justice, and the NGSS science curriculum facilitates the integration of social justice into each unit of study. One of the outcomes of this unit on the effects of the sun on the Earth is to illuminate the necessity of the earth’s creatures to have protection from the sun, or lack of it. It is a value to society for children to learn about basic needs, i.e. shelter, and the resources that are needed to attain these basic needs. The subject matter for this curriculum is conceived and organized in collaboration with our school’s science specialist, instructional coach, and k/1 teacher team. I had the privilege of organizing 3 lessons that fit-in as the 3rd, 4th, and 5th in an 8 lesson sequence.
As evidence I am presenting 3 lessons that I designed titled, The Effect of Sunlight on the Earth. This science curriculum demonstrates competence in presenting an organized curriculum aligned with standards and outcomes determined by NGSS and my colleagues. The overarching goal of this 3 lesson subsection of the quarter-long unit is to engage students in hands-on, reflective engagement about how the sun affects plants, humans, and the Earth’s surface. The instructional practices of this unit are a combination of direct, inquiry-based and constructivist. The larger unit culminates in the students partnering to build and test a sun-protection structure. Students are prompted to draw from the knowledge they have constructed about the relationship between the Earth and sun over the prior 7 lessons. This building and testing process serves as a formal assessment of student learning for the entire unit.
The sample lesson I am presenting is titled, How the Sun’s Heat Affects People. As the learning target students develop and demonstrate an understanding that the sun gives heat to different parts of the Earth in different ways. Also students will demonstrate an understanding of how humans adapt to the variations in the sun’s heat on the Earth’s surface. The learning targets relate to the unit’s central focus of teaching students how the Earth’s living beings adapt to the sun’s energy. Students look for clues in photographs of people in extremely cold or hot places on Earth as the lessons primary learning activity. As the teacher reveals the geographical location of hot and cold places on Earth the students look for a pattern in how the sun gives heat to different parts of the Earth in different ways. Also, students are engaged in a discussion about the qualities of clothing and tools that are utilized by humans to adapt to the sun’s heat. Student voice, i.e. “people use umbrellas in really hot places to protect themselves from the sun”, shows that the learning targets have been achieved. The teacher formally assesses achievement of the learning target by talking with students as they journal about whether they would rather live in a place on Earth that is extremely hot or cold. The teacher asks them to write, and/or draw about what clothing and shelter they would need to protect them from the sun’s effects.
As a result of creating and organizing these 3 lessons as part of a unit aligned to NGSS standards and outcomes, I learned the value of building scientific knowledge over a scope and sequence for effective student learning. The implications for student learning in offering an organized curriculum that is aligned to standards and outcomes are that students built steadily on their understanding of the interconnectedness of the sun, Earth, and all living things over an extended period. Therefore, student’s appreciation of how the sun’s interplay with the Earth ties into the basic needs of living beings was constructed as a long-term knowledge piece. Moving forward with a commitment to offering an organized curriculum as part of my commitment to best practice, I will continue to utilize this unit of science curriculum and integrate feedback from colleagues and students as means of refinement.