Category Archives: Teaching

Can Phenomenon-Based Learning Help Students?

We are proud to partner with our suppliers to provide you with the best products for your classroom, and we are also please to share this blog post from our partners at GSC International. 

Can Phenomenon-Based Learning Help Students?

As someone with a lifelong love for science, I always did well in science class at school. I don’t say that to brag. Quite the opposite, actually. Recently, while writing some instruction sheets, I found myself struggling to recall subjects I had remembered learning in high school physics class almost eight years ago. I remembered drawing free body diagrams and being able to dissect each force like it was my job. I also remembered easily solving algebraic equations for any variable I needed. When it came time to recall these skills, however, I was getting things wrong left and right and finding it difficult to do my job and create a successful teaching aid to supplement our product.

This had me wondering: could I have learned these skills way-back-when in a way that left them more ingrained in my head and easier to recall? After some research, I found that the World Economic Forum has most recently ranked Finland first in “Quality of Primary Education” and second in “Higher Education and Training” in their 2017-2018 Global Competitiveness Index. Though I’m not saying Finland is the end-all-be-all of international education (their OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, scores have slipped in recent years compared to their past performance), this did give me some interest into researching what Finland might be doing right. One aspect of their educational program that piqued my interest was their recent addition to their educational system of requiring at least one “phenomenon-based learning” module. And, while I ultimately treasure my experience in the United States educational system, I can’t help but think that I would have enjoyed, and perhaps benefited from, a touch of phenomenon-based learning in my educational system.

Phenomenon-based learning, as explained by Helsinki’s city manager Pasi Silander, studies phenomena “as complete entities, in their real context, and the information and skills related to them are studied by crossing the boundaries between subjects.” This means that students will take a topic, say climate change, and investigate it from all relevant angles and disciplines. This differs from traditional subject-based learning where knowledge is divided by its individual components (i.e. math, science, history, etcetera). And, as pointed out by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), phenomena are at the core of science and engineering professions. People observe problems first, and then hypothesize ways to address those problems. They don’t walk around thinking about rote memorized formulas and concepts that fit into the problems they see in front of them. The NSTA points out that this sort of contextual, constructivist learning leads to “deeper and more transferable knowledge.” The NGSS have a provided a great jumping off point for understanding phenomena-based learning and how it is used to engage students in their scientific education here.

I remember my physics teacher in high school teaching a particular lesson as follows:

We walked into class and took our seats. There were a few formulas on the board and a free-body diagram. He sat us down and explained to us how these formulas would help us to properly assess the forces on the object in the free-body diagram. We would manipulate variables in the equation and do the math until we were able to plug in any values we wanted and could tell him which behavior the object in the free-body diagram would follow given its current state. I became pretty good at this and passed the tests fine. Applicable skills to this lesson like trigonometry and algebra were both separate classes that I took at different times in different semesters.

About ten years later, the memory of the experience is about the only thing I remembered from these lessons. After reading about phenomena-based learning, I wonder how well I would have retained this lesson had it been taught in a more engaging way. If the lesson were instead introduced to us by asking us to explain a car coasting down a mountain, or a tow truck lifting a car up into its bed, or something similar, would my investigation of the phenomena had yielded a more permanent grasp on the science behind the mechanical forces? After raising questions of our own relating to these phenomena, we could have simulated these situations in the lab to answer the questions we came up with. Could these lessons have been used to jump start or completely encompass my trigonometry education as well? I can never be sure. High school only happens once.

None of this was said to disparage my science teacher. He was actually one of my favorite teachers that year. That doesn’t stop me from questioning whether or not a different approach could have had a different long-term effect on my education. I can’t even guarantee that my retention would have been better and that the knowledge would have, in turn, helped me in my quest to write a useful piece of technical writing. It is fun to wonder, though, and I’m interested to see how its requirement in the Finnish school system effects student outcomes into the future. If you want a more in depth look at the changes to the Finnish education system, this article in The Straits Times, a publication from Singapore (who also does incredibly well in international education metrics) explains a lot of said changes.

Are you a teacher? Have you tried using phenomenon-based learning in your classroom? Or are you a student who has had experience with it? If you are either, I would love to learn more about your experience with this teaching method. Please comment below!

 

-Jacob Monash, GSC Go Science Crazy

The Best of the Olympics, told by Twitter

With the Olympics in Rio officially over, we wanted to take a look back at the most memorable tweets referencing the iconic event. From Neil deGrasse Tyson, to Leslie Jones and Samuel L. Jackson, here are the best of the 2016 Summer Olympics told by Twitter.

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These memes perfectly describe teachers going back to school

Well it’s that time of year again, a time where you can no longer lose track of the days and
use the restroom at your leisure. Yep, it’s back to school time. While some of you may have already started back (which is completely unfair, who changed the rule to starting before Labor Day anyways?) the rest of you may only have a couple more weeks before it’s back to the grind of grading papers and attending faculty meetings. To know that you are not alone in this journey, here is some humor to get you through the beginning of the school year.

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Some humor to get you through the end of the school year

I remember having to wait until lunch and the end of school.: It’s (finally) that time of year where school is starting to wind down and hopefully your schedule is filling up with some time for you to enjoy the warm weather! This time of year also makes for some awesome humor that perfectly sums up how everyone is feeling in these final weeks before the summer break you all deserve. We gathered some of the best quotes and memes to help you get through your final days of the school year, and for those of you who are lucky enough to already be done, here’s a good laugh anyways! Continue reading “Some humor to get you through the end of the school year” »

Thermo Fisher employees inspire students to take flight for Innovation at Tech Challenge

More than 80 employees from six of our California sites demonstrated their commitment to
STEM education by volunteering at the 29th Tech Challenge in Silicon Valley. The Tech Challenge  is an annual engineering competition set out to inspire students to combat a certain issue using engineering and design principles. This year’s theme was “Taking Flight” which challenged students to design and build gliders that could deliver supplies to a remote location.
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The Best Gifts for Teacher Appreciation Week


“To the world you may be just a teacher, but to your students you are a HERO!”
 This quote reminds us that the work teachers do every single day is something that should be rewarded and appreciated by everyone who’s lives they’ve impacted. We found some of the best ways to show teachers your appreciation for them this week that are thoughtful yet simple to create!

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The National Park Service turns 100

yosemite nat parkOn August 25, 2016 The National Park Service will be turning 100 years old. To get ready for this huge milestone in the organization’s history, they have been partnering with institutions across the country on different programs, events and activities to help increase awareness and support for America’s 407 national parks. Now more than ever, it’s important we encourage students to go outdoors and explore everything that nature has to offer and thanks to the National Park Service, we have been able to do that for almost 100 years.

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Dallas Students are STEM-credible with Donated Lab Safety Kits

The scientists and researchers who are making the next monumental breakthrough in science today all got their start in a classroom science lab. Whether it was the first time they looked at paramecium through a microscope or the first time they mixed hydrogen peroxide with potassium iodide, something clicked inside every one of those students and made them realize that science is going to be their life’s work. We here at Fisher Science Education are extremely proud to be the one providing students with products and resources that are used in this pivotal moment in their life so whenever we come across a school or district who does not have access to the necessary funding to provide these “aha” moments, we jump at the chance to help them. Read on to see how we implemented our new corporate social responsibility program to a school district in need.

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Chefs Rely on Ohaus to Teach Ingredient Consistency and Portioning

foodworld_penncollege_bodyphoto3Accuracy. Consistency. Reliability. These are the words that best describe Ohaus and the kinds of standards that are always top of mind when they’re designing their products. Their unwavering commitment to high-quality and durability makes them a staple in almost every industry so it’s no surprise that the students enrolled in The Pennsylvania College of Technology’s School of Hospitality’s Baking & Pastry Arts program are finding success with Ohaus balances.

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Celebrating Pi!

Pi Day is right around the corner (March 14th) and there’s tons of fun ways to celebrate this day in the classroom or at home! We’ve gathered a few of our favorite Pi Day activities for you to try with your students to help explain the significance of this totally awesome holiday. Please let us know if you try any of these in the comments below!

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