GEMS Video

GEMS Video


[Upbeat futuristic music] [Clapping] [Female Instructor] What do you predict is
gonna happen? Which one do you think will fall more slowly
and hit the ground last, the hammer or the feather? Yes. [Female student] I predict the feather would
fall uh last because its really light. [Andrew Fraknoi] Kids come into even the
most basic of science classes with a repertoire of ideas developed from their everyday experience. It’s a kind of reality that kids have constructed
for themselves, but it may not correspond to the actual reality with which the universe
presents us, and aligning those two realities can be one
of the most challenging and rewarding tasks of a science teacher. How do you take a child’s understanding of
nature and bring that understanding in line with what nature’s actually doing in a way
that is satisfying for the kids themselves. The key idea in the GEMS program, the way
that uh science is approached, is to give kids the tools to discover the ideas and facts
for themselves. To put together a kind of mental picture of
how the world works by gathering data, by comparing what we know to different possible
ideas or theories, coming to a conclusion, and talking about it. [Music begins] [Student 1] I don’t think the planet would go – would be in uh basically a line going
that way. [Student 2] Yeah, that’s what I was gonna
say too. [Isabel Hawkins] NASA uh has been involved
in uh education and public outreach uh since its inception almost 50 years ago, and they
support activities such as development of curriculum materials for K-12th, for students and educators starting
from the very young uh because its important to inspire uh the children from the very beginning. [Male teacher] What I’m gonna be doing is
I’m gonna back up, and I want you to be looking at your planet X and planet Venus at the same
time, and when I back up, and they look like they’re about the
same size, I want you to raise your hand. [Isabel Hawkins] And that’s why NASA has invested
into uh this wonderful resource, the formalized ideas into a curriculum material
called the GEMS Space Science Sequence, so that educators and students can take uh
all of that knowledge and that inspiration and put it into a practical application
that will help them through uh all walks of life. [Music begins] [Female teacher] I want you to predict, what do you suppose is gonna happen with Mercury
and Venus and Earth as Mars does Mars’ orbit. In your head, make your prediction, one, two,
three. [Rhythmic clapping] [Male narrator] The students in this classroom are forming a human model of the solar system. They’re grappling with complex concepts about
the behavior of objects in space and learning through doing. This human oral activity is just one of the
activities in the solar system unit of the GEMS Space Science Sequence for middle
school students. [Bryan Mendez] Oh we’ve had an experience
with the Lawrence Hall of Science even going back before the Sequence in working with them
to develop curriculum, and the kind of curriculum they do is very appealing because it fits
in well with the way scientists actually do science. [Teacher] Mercury, what’d you do? [Student] I had to go around more. [Teacher] What happened for you Venus? [Student] Uhm I’m still going on the same
circle. [Bryan Mendez] Its hands on, its minds on,
it gets students thinking about the activities that they’re doing, trying to teach the content to them
at a deeper level rather than just having them memorize facts to regurgitate on a test. These are the kind of people that are doing
curriculum that really fit well with NASA’s goals. [Narrator] GEMS curriculum sequences consist
of units, each varying in length with each unit focused on carefully selected foundational
concepts. Curriculum sequences provide in-depth instruction
around a core of essential concepts that address educational standards with the goal of building
student’s conceptual knowledge and inquiry abilities. [Jacqueline Barber] Building a chance for
students to learn in depth uhm involves creating a sequence,
a collection of activities that build on each other, that are coherent, that enable them
to become experts. So when we set about to develop the sequences,
we had scientists around the table helping us figure out what is really the most essential
content in the discipline. [Man] So the first unit on scale, in that
we go: what’s in space, what’ve you seen in space? the sun and the moon you’ve seen those
right? And the earth we’re standing on, you’ve seen
that. So these are three things we’ve seen, let’s
focus on those ones, that’s something we’ve decided in this group. Let’s focus on three things they can actually
see. [Narrator] We like to think of the GEMS curriculum
sequences as curricula that’s cognition based, taken into account what cognitive scientists
have come up with over the last ten years about how kids learn. They might be reading, and they might be doing,
but the goal is they’re understanding over time. [Teacher] We’ve added three more of these
to the concept wall today, and I’d like to ask someone to read this first one that goes
to here. Who would like to read that one? [Student] Air resistance acts against the
movement of objects though air. [Narrator] Instruction in the GEMS curriculum
sequences emphasizes key concepts. These concepts are derived from the national
science education standards, Triple AS benchmarks for science literacy, and multiple state standards. This ensures that teachers can directly align
their presentation of sequences to the standards they are expected to teach and provides a
scaffold for further instruction, helping students articulate specific learnings and place what they learn in context. Sequences are flexible enough to be taught
all in a single year or over several years across the designated range of grades. This allows schools to teach topics at grade
levels specified by local standards and to apportion the time devoted to a particular
topic to best suit their needs. [Greg Schultz] One of the principal strategies
for years for GEMS has been that all their curriculum that they produce is rigorously tested in
real classrooms uhm, and we certainly employ that here as well. We had initial pilot testing in local classrooms
which became a national field test which went out to teachers in classrooms around the country. [Narrator] The units are designed to build
on one another, but are also written so individual units can
be taught stand alone [Teacher] Here’s something that I have that
helps me to find out what you’re thinking. It’s called a questionnaire. [Narrator] Each sequence has an integrated
assessment system including pre and post unit questionnaire and embedded assessments that
allow the teacher to gauge student progress throughout the unit. In addition, critical junctures appear at
points in the unit where students must grasp a key concept before they can successfully
move on. Providing more experience activities are suggested
as need to support and facilitate student learning. When a teacher gets a curriculum sequence,
what she’s gonna get is a teacher’s guide that explains what she needs to
present the unit. So that includes not only step by step suggestion
for how to go through a particular session but it includes information related to management,
related to science content. [Teacher] Remember yesterday, we couldn’t
agree what the last planet was going to be from the cards, and it was number eight which
was planet Mercury. [Female narrator] We have some just in time information
that enables her to read a bit of brief background at an adult level that helps prepare her to
present that information. We include pedagogical content knowledge,
accommodations that you might make for struggling readers, for English language learners, optional
activities that you can do if you have more time and wanna engage more in a hands on way. [Narrator] They teacher’s guide is carefully
organized for easy use. The left hand side of the guide provides step
by step presentation instructions. The right hand side contains a wide range
of scientific information, pedagogical guidance, assessment suggestions, and ideas to help
students who are having difficulties. It also includes descriptions of instructional
routines that repeat throughout the sequence. The students in this classroom participate
in a routine called an evidence circle. [Students chatter] [Narrator] Evidence circles provide students with the opportunity to collect and discuss
evidence to support explanations. Like scientists, they try to convince their
peers that there is evidence for their conclusions. They learned that science is evidence-based
and gained valuable experience in the language of science, scientific argumentation and making explanations
from evidence. A complete materials kit supports the activities in the curriculum sequences. [Teacher] Yeah but astronaut dropped a hammer and
a feather on the moon, what do you think would happen? [Narrator] The space science sequences also
include a CD-rom that features videos, images, and simulations, a tool that field testers
found to be a powerful aid to learning. [Teacher] What did happen to the feather and the hammer when
he dropped them? [Student] When they drop down both of them went
down at the same time. [Narrator] Another highlight of the curriculum
sequences is the use of short readings. These readings place what students are learning
in a real-life context, describing people who have played key roles in advancing science
or current discoveries and issues. When we begin to think now anew about
how to teach science, we are looking at giving kids a sense of becoming players in their
own understanding and that’s what this curriculum does well. Getting kids to act like scientists is one
of the most important things we can do for them and not just for their science learning. Teaching science through this kind of inquiry
based approach and giving kids lots of chances to inquire, to learn, to argue, to examine
facts is a skill which can stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. So if we’re going to equip kids for the 21st
century and maybe their kids for the 22nd century, we have to allow them to be consumers
not just of what we know but how we know it. [Music]

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