Teaching students during a pandemic is challenge, teaching students who are returning to in person instruction after 2 years is an even bigger challenge. Adding a new science curriculum pilot to the mix has added another layer of complexity to teaching in the 2021-22 year. But the middle school science teachers in the Walla Walla School District took on this challenge with grace and resilience.
Walla Walla Middle School Science Teachers started the process of looking at the OpenSciEd units in the spring of 2021. Teachers met 3 times on extended PLC days to learn more about the routines, setting up discussion norms, and anchoring phenomena so students could figure our challenging concepts. In September, each grade level engaged in a full day of OpenSciEd training in a physical science unit. (6th Grade Light and Matter, 7th Grade Chemical Reactions, and 8th Grade Contact Forces) After working together as a team and planning the pilot for fall with students, materials, or lack there of became a barrier. As the rest of the nation struggled with supply chain issues, so did these teachers. At times frustration almost derailed the efforts to pilot these units. However, this group of dedicated educators and their curriculum director sprang into recovery mode and made adaptations, shared materials across the buildings, worked together to make the best of a difficult situation, and move forward to benefit their students.
As part of the project, in November and December extended PLC days were used to provide the opportunity for check in, identify successes and address current challenges. As part of reflecting on the process teachers were asked…” Imagine you are talking to a friend or colleague who is about to start a new OpenSciEd, what are your helpful tips?” Here are a few of the responses:
- “Accepting when students are ready to stop. the documents are all “living” and can be revisited throughout the unit.”
- “Make it a daily or almost-daily thing to check in with your DQB”
- “Try to stick to the recommended timing as best as possible.”
- “First time through – try not to be overwhelmed with the amount of information in the teachers’ guide – I think it’s ok to start with what you can.”
The teachers are now wrapping the units and will begin the bigger reflection process of what the next steps are for Walla Walla. Climetime funding has made this professional development possible and has been an integral part of the middle school curriculum review.