Education Week - March 27, 2013 - (Page 10)

10 EDUCATION WEEK n MARCH 27, 2013 n Partnership Combines Science Instruction And English Learning California district teams up with museum By Nora Fleming Sonoma, Calif. and test English/language arts and math meant science instruction in elementary schools fell by the wayside. When science was taught, it was textbook-based or hands-off, rather than the hands-on practices that leading science educators say are necessary to build students’ deeper Dark window coverings block any sunlight from filtering into Gennifer Caven’s 3rd grade classroom here in California’s Sonoma Valley, but small lights can be seen flickering throughout the room. Groups of two or three students huddle together at their desks, taking STUDENTS SCORING turns using miniature flashPROFICIENT OR ABOVE ON lights to illuminate tiny figuSTATE SCIENCE STANDARDIZED TESTS rines and wooden blocks on white paper. When the lights hit the sides of propped-up manila file folders, shadows appear. These pupils at El Verano Elementary School aren’t just learning the science beFROM 2008 TO 2011 hind shadows, they’re also improving their English-language skills. Their instruction is part of a federally funded collabor- knowledge of the discipline, said Suative project between the 4,600-stu- perintendent Louann Carlamagno, dent Sonoma district and the Explor- a former science teacher herself. atorium, a science museum in San The Vadasz Family Foundation Francisco. and the Sonoma Valley Education Circling the room, Ms. Caven Foundation, two local philanthroprompts students to see what hap- pies, wanted to do something to pens when they move the light improve the quality of elementary source “closer” or “farther” away and science instruction and reached out how they can make the shadow “big- to the Exploratorium—renowned ger” or “smaller.” She asks them to jot for its science professional-developdown their findings in their science ment offerings and curriculum supjournals. port for educators. As shadows, small plastic horses But the funders didn’t stop there. suddenly grow twice their size; tooth- The district’s large and growing picks stuck into balls of clay turn into population of English-language terrestrial creatures. learners also needed support, they “There’s no screaming in science,” felt, and wondered if there was a Ms. Caven says to the excited chil- way to combine improvement goals. The birthplace of the California dren as they change the sizes and shapes of their shadows. wine industry, Sonoma Valley is As the release of the Next Genera- home to a diverse range of resition Science Standards draws near, dents, not only the wealthy. Many hands-on, inquiry-based methods of students are from poor families; 59 science instruction like those taught percent qualify for free or reducedin Sonoma are becoming more com- price meals. And a slight majority, mon. Yet its use of science to teach 51 percent, are English-learners. English is a novel approach—one Those numbers have increased in that offers significant potential for recent years. other districts to replicate, some eduMany of the students’ parents cators say, especially as the number work at the nearly 100 wineries in of English-language learners rises. the valley, or the hotels and restau“Science can be a nexus for learn- rants that support the 1 million or ing English for ells because it pro- so tourists who visit each year, Ms. vides a natural setting to learn a lan- Carlamagno said. guage,” said Okhee Lee, a professor While the Exploratorium had of childhood education at New York worked with schools and teachers University and a researcher on Eng- to improve science instruction using lish-learners and science. “Engaging inquiry-based methods in the past, ells in these practices merits special melding language instruction into attention, because such engagement science instruction was new terrican support both science learning tory, said Lynn Rankin, the director and language learning, but unfortu- of the museum’s Institute for Innately, instruction in U.S. classrooms quiry, which runs the project. The institute consulted with exhas not tended to bridge the two.” perts on English-language instruction on best practices for language Symbiotic Relationship development, and determined Before 2008, the school system in which were most relevant to infuse Sonoma Valley, a 17-mile-long area into best science-teaching practices. 45 minutes north of San Francisco, A pilot project was launched in encountered a challenge districts 2008 at El Verano Elementary—the elsewhere have faced: No Child Left elementary school with the highest Behind-induced pressure to teach percentage of ells and the highest INCREASED 32% rate of poverty in the district—with three teachers and a few lessons. Two years later, the Exploratorium was successful in winning a federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, five-year grant for some $3 million (and $600,000 in matching funds) to expand the project to all five of the district’s elementary schools. In many schools, language development is taught in isolation or as a pullout program where students are removed from class, often from science or social studies classes, putting the students involved at a “double disadvantage” for understanding science, Ms. Rankin said. “There seems to be the misperception that children have to have a certain level of language proficency to understand science, but we have a different view,” she added. “Science provides a perfect opportunity for language development,” she said, “because students want to make sense of their experiences and communicate their ideas. Science instead provides a context for learning language.” To date, 60 teachers have been trained in the method of instruction and 12 lesson plans have been developed for K-5, two per grade. Museum staff members regularly visit the schools and observe, and they provide monthly professional-development workshops. Each summer, teachers attend several daylong sessions to hone their skills. Improved Test Scores Victoria Silberman’s 1st graders sit on a brightly colored carpet, staring attentively at the whiteboard. “Where have you seen worms?” asks Ms. Silberman. In my backyard, in the garden, in the dirt, her pupils respond. She writes those words on the board. “What do worms need?” she asks. Dirt. Shelter. Water. Food. On a recent day, pupils first learn the words to talk about the long brown-and-gray earthworms slithering in Petri dishes on their desks before they’re allowed to observe them. Seeing, hearing, and discussing the FROM TOP: Ahasbai Guerrero studies shadows in Gennifer Caven’s 3rd grade classroom at El Verano Elementary School in Sonoma, Calif. San Francisco’s Exploratorium developed an inquirybased curriculum that blends English and science lessons. Yahir Mexicano spies a worm through a magnifying glass in Victoria Silberman’s 1st grade class.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 27, 2013

Education Week - March 27, 2013
N.Y.C. System School-Match Gaps Tracked
INDUSTRY & INNOVATION: Educators Questioning Timing of
Resident Teachers Are Getting More ‘Practice’
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Race to Top Districts ‘Personalize’ Plans
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Study Finds Gaps in ‘College Ready’ Math Offerings
Early-Algebra Push Found to Yield No NAEP Boost
Math Teachers Break Down Standards For At-Risk Students
More Teachers Group Students by Ability
San Diego Superintendent Pick Has Deep Parental Ties
Partnership Combines Science Instruction and English Learning
States’ Score Cards Pinpoint Problems Of School Climate
Experts: Later School Start Helps Sleep-Deprived Teens
Blogs of the Week
Project Aims to Expand Web Access
New NAEP Demands Application of Knowledge
Elementary Students Tackling Windmills
Policy Brief
'Parent Trigger’ Laws Catching Fresh Wave
School Angles Seen in Same-Sex-Marriage Cases
‘Sequester’ Cuts Still in Place Amid Budget Wrangling
Political Storm Rages as Acting N.M. Chief Presses on With Job
Congress Eyes Pre-K
REGIS ANNE SHIELDS & KAREN HAWLEY MILES: Want Effective Teachers? Think About Your Value Proposition
ALISON CROWLEY: Getting Rid of the GPS: Teaching the Common Standards in Math
STEPHEN R. HERR: Celebrating Without Accomplishing
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment
AMANDA GARDNER: The Many Keys To Radical Classroom Change

Education Week - March 27, 2013