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  1. Marina Van der Eb
  2. Maine STEM Partnership Coordinator
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, University of Maine, Maine STEM Partnership
  1. Jim Fratini
  2. Teacher/ Co-PI on STEM+C grant
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Maine, Hermon Middle School
  1. Sara Lindsay
  2. Associate Professor
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Maine, Maine Center for Research in STEM Education
  1. Emilie Oesterlin
  2. Graduate Assistant
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Maine
  1. Katie Wright
  2. Teacher
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. RSU 29 Houlton Middle/High School

Integrating Computing into Science Teaching and Learning in Grades 6-8: A Div...

NSF Awards: 1842359

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

In 2018 we started down an exploratory path to see how we could integrate computer science into middle school science classrooms through an NSF-funded STEM+C grant. Working as a research-practice partnership, middle school science teachers, education research faculty, and computer scientists collaborated to see how computer science and science could be taught together in a way that emphasized learning in both content areas and to identify the supports needed for middle school science teachers to make these instructional changes in their classrooms. During the past three years we have developed and piloted three middle school science units that integrate computer science into middle school life, physical, and Earth science classrooms. Through integrating these topic areas, it ensures that all students have access to learning computer science, an increasingly valuable skill in today's world, despite the fact that many schools in Maine do not currently have dedicated computer science courses or trained computer science educators. Understanding and leveraging computational thinking proved to be a key component to meaningful integration and teacher comfort with using and teaching elements of computer science in their science classrooms. Many of the teachers came into this work with little or no computer science experience and are now eager to expand the integration into other units they teach. While it may seem initially daunting, there are many accessible opportunities for bringing computer science into the science classroom, regardless of your level of expertise, and we hope this work will inspire others to give it a try!

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (29 posts)
  • Icon for: Marina Van der Eb

    Marina Van der Eb

    Lead Presenter
    Maine STEM Partnership Coordinator
    May 10, 2021 | 08:33 p.m.

    Hello! Thank you for coming to learn about our work! We have had a lot of fun exploring options for integrating computer science into middle school science topics and know that there is much more to be learned in this area. We would be really interested to hear about what others have tried and what supports were helpful for teachers who were taking on CS and integration for the first time. Focusing on computational thinking and doing CS Unplugged lessons proved really helpful for our team, especially for those who were new to CS. We would love to hear what has worked in your classrooms!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Bernard Yett
    Zitsi Mirakhur
  • Icon for: Kit Martin

    Kit Martin

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2021 | 12:15 p.m.

    Really awesome work. Loving the integrations here, especially how you are leveraging teachers' practices. The CT-thinking as a tool in the box sounds like its a cogent analogy as well. Looking forward to the next steps!

     
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    Laura Millay
    Marina Van der Eb
    Zitsi Mirakhur
    Katie Wright
  • Icon for: Perrin Chick

    Perrin Chick

    STEM Education Specialist
    May 11, 2021 | 07:04 p.m.

    As a parent of a middle school student in Maine, I find this project wonderful. How do you go about recruiting schools and educators to participate?

    Perrin Chick

     
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    Zitsi Mirakhur
  • Icon for: Marina Van der Eb

    Marina Van der Eb

    Lead Presenter
    Maine STEM Partnership Coordinator
    May 12, 2021 | 11:28 a.m.

    Hi Perrin, nice to see you here! I think we probably do things similarly to your work. We generally do a combination of email blast recruiting and trying to spread word through educator and admin networks. As I'm sure you know, word of mouth goes a long way in Maine. It is all generally self selection though to help make sure everyone participating is really excited about being part of the work. We're hoping to bring on some new schools this coming year so if your school is interested let us know!

  • Icon for: Zitsi Mirakhur

    Zitsi Mirakhur

    Researcher
    May 12, 2021 | 10:27 a.m.

    Hello! I loved watching your video and learning about your work.

    In our project (you can watch our video here), we found that in-person professional development sessions were important sources of support for teachers who were integrating CS into 3rd-5th grade science. The characteristics of in-person PD that teachers found to be particularly effective were: active learning, modeling of lessons and pedagogical approaches, guided practice in learning new CS/CT skills, and time for teacher planning and collaboration. Teachers also benefited from one-on-one coaching, and access to coaches via phone and email as needed.

     
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    Marina Van der Eb
  • Icon for: Katie Wright

    Katie Wright

    Co-Presenter
    Teacher
    May 12, 2021 | 11:01 a.m.

    Thank you for your feedback. I was interested to see in your video and read from your comment, that one-on-one coaching was beneficial as a strategy to support PD. As we look to continue our work and expand our community, we are considering peer support/coaching as new teachers work to integrate CS/CT into their content. Thank you so much for sharing what you have learned!

     
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    Zitsi Mirakhur
  • Icon for: Zitsi Mirakhur

    Zitsi Mirakhur

    Researcher
    May 12, 2021 | 11:29 a.m.

    That sounds like a great strategy! Is there a good way we can keep up with your work? We have wrapped up our project and are in the analysis/writing phase but would love to see how your work continues. 

  • Icon for: Marina Van der Eb

    Marina Van der Eb

    Lead Presenter
    Maine STEM Partnership Coordinator
    May 12, 2021 | 12:04 p.m.

    Our website is probably the easiest way at the moment but we're always happy to connect via email. We would also be really interested to read your publications once they're shareable! We are also entering the writing phase and will hopefully be able to share those soon. Is there a place where you have documented your one-on-one coaching process that we could reference? It would be great to build our model off of what you've learned. 

     
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    Zitsi Mirakhur
  • Icon for: Zitsi Mirakhur

    Zitsi Mirakhur

    Researcher
    May 12, 2021 | 04:06 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your site! My email address is: zitsi.mirakhur@uky.edu. If you'd like to send me a note, I'd be happy to share our forthcoming research brief (which will include some information on the one-on-one coaching process) with you.

  • Icon for: Jessica Moon

    Jessica Moon

    Graduate Student
    May 12, 2021 | 02:48 p.m.

    As a former middle school science teacher and now publicizing a computer science curriculum, I am really interested in how you integrated the two subjects. I noticed a focus on computational thinking in your video. Are there any kinds of lessons you have found to be really effective at merging science and CS or any science topics that seemed to fit particularly well with CS?

  • Icon for: Katie Wright

    Katie Wright

    Co-Presenter
    Teacher
    May 13, 2021 | 08:56 a.m.

    In our Earth Science module, we incorporated Scratch Programming into continental movement and "debugged" an issue in the coding that had the subcontinent of India in the wrong position in the Pangea formation.  The students had to apply their content knowledge of where India should be and use CT skills to fix the coding of the India sprite. They were engaged and collaborated, and applied their new programming skills in an extension project that represented evidence of continental drift. Thank you for your interest!

  • Icon for: Jim Fratini

    Jim Fratini

    Co-Presenter
    Teacher/ Co-PI on STEM+C grant
    May 12, 2021 | 03:12 p.m.

    In the physical science classroom we applied coding of Edison Robots to learn about uniform motion and acceleration.  By using the robots, it became a very highly engaged activity and students were able to collect data and graph out the different types of motion.  There was also a lot of creativity and collaborating where students created mazes for others to code. This reinforced the concepts learned, along with the students being excited for each science class.

  • Icon for: Karen Mutch-Jones

    Karen Mutch-Jones

    Facilitator
    Senior Researcher
    May 12, 2021 | 05:43 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing your project and allowing us to get a glimpse of the ways in which teachers weave CS into science learning activities.  How exciting to hear a teacher say that students are requesting more CS in their classes!  As someone who is involved in integration projects also, I was struck by the statement 'Computational Thinking - the gateway to integration' and I appreciated comments about the ways in which CT practices are tool that help you to explore the field. I wondered if you could say more about how you support  teachers to incorporate CT activities or to notice CT practices that are already in their science units.  

    The teachers in the video expressed learning a great deal from the PD and project experience.  I'm  wondering what your research focuses on - are you collecting data on teachers' or students' sense of efficacy or teachers' skill in constructing integrated units...or maybe something else?  A wonderful and valuable project. Thank you!

     

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Lynda Gayden
  • Icon for: Katie Wright

    Katie Wright

    Co-Presenter
    Teacher
    May 13, 2021 | 08:55 a.m.

    We collect data on student engagement through student surveys, and teacher interviews. The interviews were designed to get insight into content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge and were semi-structured to allow for other themes to emerge. Thank you for your interest in our project!

  • Icon for: Karen Mutch-Jones

    Karen Mutch-Jones

    Facilitator
    Senior Researcher
    May 15, 2021 | 06:31 p.m.

    I look forward to hearing/reading your results in the future!  Thank you for sharing more about your data collection and a focus of the analysis.

  • Icon for: Aditi Wagh

    Aditi Wagh

    Researcher
    May 13, 2021 | 09:45 a.m.

    Hello! This is very interesting work. There are a lot of cool connections with our project (https://stemforall2021.videohall.com/presentati...) in which we're supporting students in modifying and decoding models as a gateway to understanding how computing can be used to express and articulate disciplinary (in our case, math and science ideas). I'm curious about how you're identifying what science/content topics to integrate with CT. Is that driven by the RQs, the teachers' preferences or something else? I'd also love to learn more about what your RQs are, and any preliminary findings.

  • Icon for: Laura Millay

    Laura Millay

    Researcher
    May 13, 2021 | 10:10 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing your video! Our project is a research-practice partnership so groups of teachers and researchers worked together to identify science content within three broad science content areas (life, Earth, and physical science) that the groups could envision enhancing through CT integration. Considerations for the groups included finding content that all of the teachers in the working group were planning to teach in the coming year and being able to envision meaningful enhancements for the science content using the elements of CT that we introduced through our project. So it was a creative and a practical process. Thank you for your interest!

  • Icon for: Marina Van der Eb

    Marina Van der Eb

    Lead Presenter
    Maine STEM Partnership Coordinator
    May 13, 2021 | 10:29 a.m.

    Hi Aditi, the topics we chose were collaboratively decided upon and came about for a few different reasons. We worked with teachers from several different districts with different teaching roles so we focused on topics that all of the teachers in a content area addressed. We also looked for topics that we knew students struggled with and where CS may be able to support the science learning. For example, understanding the theory of plate tectonics can be a pretty abstract topic for students and grapples with scale which we have found to also challenge students. This seemed like a place where some modeling work (in our case using Scratch) could support students as they learn about how plates move. And realistically, we also wanted to make sure the topic was exciting enough for our teams to work on for an extended period of time. 

    Our research was approached from an exploratory perspective. We're interested in the potential of CS and Science integration to support learning of both content areas and we're trying to identify some of the supports that are helpful for teachers as they try to do this in their classrooms. We are still pretty early in our analysis phase but we can certainly share more once we're further along. Some of the things we have found to be important for this work is having a strong support community and in addition to providing time and space to try things out and just explore what options are available, both in terms of topics to explore and the technology that is involved.

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Lynda Gayden
    Aditi Wagh
  • Icon for: Aditi Wagh

    Aditi Wagh

    Researcher
    May 13, 2021 | 11:45 a.m.

    Very helpful! Thanks for sharing. Look forward to learning more about the work!

  • Icon for: Aditi Wagh

    Aditi Wagh

    Researcher
    May 18, 2021 | 09:13 a.m.

    Hi Marina and team! I'd love to connect and learn more. I've been doing research around integrating science and CT at the middle and high school levels at Northwestern and now at MIT. There are a lot of exciting parallels between the work, so I'd love to talk. Give me an email address to reach out to and we can connect? 

  • Icon for: Laura Millay

    Laura Millay

    Researcher
    May 18, 2021 | 01:32 p.m.

    Hi Aditi, That sounds great! You can reach us at Marina.Van@maine.edu and Laura.Millay@maine.edu - thank you!

  • Icon for: Eric Pyle

    Eric Pyle

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 13, 2021 | 11:07 a.m.

    As a science teacher educator, I have long been fascinated with the prospects of integrating science and computational thinking, and how science teacher professional development perspective.  This seems to be a "natural" for middle grades, but from experience is much more challenging in high school.  What perspectives can you offer for how students' computational thinking might be supported or enhanced in high school mathematics and science classes?  Physics seems like low-hanging fruit, as does chemistry, but what about Biology and Earth Science?  I also find myself curious to learn more about the particular model of computational thinking employed here.  I am not trying to challenge any model, but would like to resume some work in this area in the future and have seen a number of different frameworks for computational thinking.

  • Icon for: Laura Millay

    Laura Millay

    Researcher
    May 13, 2021 | 11:35 a.m.

    Hi Eric, The framework we used for computational thinking was of computational thinking as a set of concepts and approaches that could be used to enhance learning in the middle school science classroom. Teachers in our project found it helpful to make these concepts and approaches explicit in the classroom, as a kind of touchstone to help students recognize and generalize some of the strategies that they or their classmates used in learning science and computer science concepts. I think that same process - of having students work through using aspects of computer science to learn science content (for instance, programming robots to explore motion in physics) and then reflecting as a class on the ways that computational thinking (for example, decomposition) contributed to the learning process - could also be useful in high school. The poster we used to support classroom discussion about computational thinking was adapted from www.barefootcomputing.org. One thought I have about how/why it was useful for teachers and students to refer to the poster is that the process of reflecting on an activity or learning process and breaking it down into parts and naming the parts, is itself a computational thinking strategy that can be empowering for participants. There is something useful in the basic idea that complex activities can be broken down into identifiable, repeatable parts - or that a participant can choose to tweak/debug a portion of an activity and begin to turn it into an algorithm to make the process more smooth and effective. I think it's potentially empowering for students of all ages and also for adults to draw connections between our own activities and learning processes and processes that are at the core of CS. Thank you for your interest!

  • Icon for: Sara Lindsay

    Sara Lindsay

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 13, 2021 | 12:02 p.m.

    Hi Eric, Thanks for your interest and questions. I've been working with the Life Science teachers in our project, and I think some of the approaches they took for integrating at the middle level are very transferable to high school and beyond. We focused on integrating CS and CT into several lessons of an ecology unit, including one that had students using simulation models to explore predator-prey interactions. CT comes into play when students explore the factors that influence the model, tinkering with different parameters to see what happens, spotting patterns, making predictions, and evaluating results. With students who are more comfortable with coding, you could challenge them to change the program to include a new variable. Even just understanding the structure of the computer simulation model and what each part does aligns with decomposing problems and understanding algorithms. I'll let others from our team speak to Earth Science and the computational thinking framework.

  • Icon for: Eric Pyle

    Eric Pyle

    Facilitator
    Professor
    May 16, 2021 | 10:56 a.m.

     Hi Sara, thanks for your reply. What you described for Life Science is a cool approach, and it would be interesting to see what happens with students when the model that they have created "blows up" or becomes more complex of an issue than a simple set or algorithms can adequately define.  Then they will be ready for complex systems thinking.  I would love to know more about your Earth science efforts.

  • Icon for: Katie Wright

    Katie Wright

    Co-Presenter
    Teacher
    May 17, 2021 | 08:13 a.m.

    Good morning, Eric. In our Earth Science module, we incorporated Scratch Programming into continental movement and "debugged" an issue in the coding that had the subcontinent of India in the wrong position in the Pangea formation.  Students had to apply their content knowledge of where India should be and use CT skills to fix the coding of the India sprite. They were engaged and collaborated, and applied their new programming skills in an extension project that represented evidence of continental drift. Two years ago when we started this work there were many ideas and directions we considered going in, including data collection in the field with sensors and the use of CODAP data on earthquakes to provide evidence of plate boundaries. I believe there are ample opportunities to include CT/CS in Earth Science. Thank you for your interest in our work.

  • Icon for: Sam Poll

    Sam Poll

    K-12 Teacher
    May 17, 2021 | 11:18 a.m.

    Hi Eric, I am not sure if you are interested in what content the Physical Science module contains, but I wanted to jump and explain just in case! We used Edison Robots and CODAP to help the students more deeply understand the concepts of distance vs. time graphs, distance vs. displacement, and uniform motion. Students start by engaging in an unplugged activity where they begin use computational thinking skills to begin to think about what coding is and students get a chance to program a solution to a maze that they create. Throughout the module, students program their robots, collect data, and graph that data using CODAP. They begin with changing the speed of the robots and collecting data to see how the differences impact a distance vs. time graph, and then progress to programming robots to match given distance vs time graphs, and then finally create distance vs. time graphs for the solution to their mazes that they previously had created. For students who are new to coding, there is can be a progression of simpler blocks for code (EdBlocks) to a more complicated block-based code (EdScratch). There is also opportunity for students to go text-based if they have prior coding experience (EdPy). There is a lot of troubleshooting and debugging along the way and students had a lot of fun working with the robots! From my view as a teacher, this really helped students understand distance vs. time graphs at a much more comprehensive level.

  • May 17, 2021 | 05:49 p.m.

    Congratulations to the team on finding such cool and engaging entry-points for computational thinking in science classes! I wanted to share with you our work: https://videohall.com/p/2142 which integrates science, computational thinking and engineering design for upper-elementary students.

    Also, I was curious about the research questions and desired outcomes for this project - are they more teacher focused or student focused? For example, are you only measuring student engagement and interest or also students' learning of computational thinking and science concepts? Are you measuring teachers' self-efficacy or any other teacher-facing outcome variables?

  • Icon for: Laura Millay

    Laura Millay

    Researcher
    May 18, 2021 | 01:28 p.m.

     Hi Satabdi, Thank you for sharing your work! Our research questions focus on teacher and student outcomes. Our original questions included exploration of knowledge (content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge) that were helpful for teachers as they integrated computer science into science instruction, and the supports that were most helpful to teachers in gaining that knowledge. We've explored this question primarily through three sets of semi-structured interviews conducted with participating teachers. One interesting theme that has come up in the interviews is teachers' confidence for engaging with and teaching computer science, and this is something that we are exploring in our analysis as well. In terms of student outcomes, we wanted to see whether student learning of science and student engagement could be enhanced through integration of computer science into science instruction. To answer this question, we've gathered data from science and computer science content surveys and an engagement survey, as well as classroom observations. Thanks for your questions and interest!

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