Nismec       News

Issue 2.1   March 2006

The Northern Indiana Science, Mathematics and Engineering Collaborative
NISMEC | ND Outeach | School Districts -> Mishawaka | New Prairie | South Bend | Elkhart | John Glenn | PHM |

Introductory Note
HASTI 2006
Elementary schools
Middle schools
Summer Programs
*ND workshop
*Quarknet & JINA
*HPS workshop
Other News
*Clear Domes
*Reading First
Recent articles
Editorial info

Guided Inquiry is our Focus

A Year for Science and Education Collaborations

Introductory Note NewsReturn to top

NISMEC's strong presence at HASTI 2006:

 The Hoosier Association
of Science Teachers, Inc
   The annual meeting took place in Indianapolis 8-10 February 2006: a triple-sized booth housed our joint programs of Quarknet, JINA, Saint Mary's and NISMEC; several presentations from NISMEC associates were given. These included a very busy first day on the Wednesday with three- and four-hour workshops led by Joseph Bellina (Saint Marys) and Karen Morris (Notre Dame), in the morning on "Up Close and Personal Learning - by Guided Inquiry" (four hours), and in the afternoon Professor Bellina led the discussion on "Assessment and the RTOP protocol"(three hours).
The figure shows the booth ready for visitors...
    With the help of the Partnership grant (see below) many teachers from the Mishawaka elementary schools were able to attend the conference. Their presentation with the NISMEC group (The Teacher Science Institute) was well-attended, and they were also able to see examples of several other "Guided Inquiry" programs from other schools around the State. The title of the conference was "Making Connections", and this was achieved. Besides the three-day booth, other presentations by NISMEC colleagues included Beth Marchant (the Quarknet Cosmic Ray project), Joseph Bellina (Why do Guided Inquiry Anyway?), Mary Hynes-Berry (Snowflake Bentley, Science and Literacy), Gordon Berry and Kent Mikel (Guided Inquiry in Middle School). Our nearby partners, the Elkhart Schools and ETHOS (David Emory and Patsy Boehler), gave two presentations, while Kevin Johnston (Jimtown HS) talked about his Notre Dame nanotechnology research as part of the RET programs.

    Kent Mikel, Discovery Middle School, preparing for the workshop.

Return to top

Elementary School Programs

"The circuit lights the bulb"

"Bellina checks the Notebooking..."

"A very large light bulb!"

"Watching a teacher present.."

Return to top

Middle School Programs
    The format of the Notre Dame one-month summer workshop for 2005 consisted of 1 month's focus in guided inquiry, consisting principally of three parts linked together by the use of guided inquiry and the connections between middle school requirements of mathematics and science: these three parts were:
    • Middle school mathematics problems in the 7th and 8th grades, led by Professor Mario Borelli, of the Notre Dame Mathematics Department.
    • The Size and Scale of Everything - Measurements in astronomy and astrophysics, led by Professor Philip Sakimoto of the Notre Dame Physics Department.
    • Guided Inquiry Learning in Physical Science for the 7th and 8th grade, led by Professor Gordon Berry of the Notre Dame Physics Department.
    Ten teachers attended the workshop from the three neighboring school districts of PHM (Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation), Mishawaka (Mishawaka School City), and South Bend (South Bend Community School Corporation).

    Cheryl Nix(SB) & Mark Baldwin(PHM)

    Megan O'Connell(SB), Madeleine Martinez(SB), Kent Mikel(PHM), Patricia Chrenka(SB) & Beth Ann Reed(SB, now Turkey)

    Jon Creakbaum(PHM), Beth Albright(SB) & Courtney Bulger(Mishawaka)

    Madeleine Martinez(SB) & Megan O'Connell(SB)
          Contacts have continued with and between the teachers - with classroom visits by Gordon Berry and Phil Sakimoto; unfortunately, only email contact has been possible with Beth Anne, who is teaching for a year at an American base in Turkey; the group also presented a workshop at HASTI this February(see above); Kent Mikel will be helping in our second middle school workshop to be held in June-July this summer (see below for details).

    An "incident" in a Mishawaka middle-school classroom
    Laura Dorbin's students at John Young Middle-school in Mishawaka were confronted with a comatose lady near their lab benches when they came to class one day last semester. After the dazed lady recovered sufficiently to go to see the school nurse, they spent the class-time honing their detective skills to work out what had happened...

    Happily the patient fully recovered, even after undergoing the incident several times within the same day. Apparently the school nurse is a wonder-worker!
    [The visiting investigator was Karen Morris, the unfortunate lab assistant was Shirley Dorbin].
Return to top

Summer Programs at Notre Dame and Saint Marys Return to top Return to top Return to top

Other News and Items of Interest
Return to top

Return to top

    Learning to read and learning science: right ways and wrong ways
    The whole November/December 2005 issue of
    NSTA's journal for elementary teachers, Science and Children, was devoted to "writing to learn science". Of course, this is complementary to our normal view that Guided Inquiry in the science classroom leads to advances in reading and writing! Sure enough, just a look at the titles of the articles, indicates how many ways science learning can provide support for reading:
    * Science Notebook Essentials by Michael Klentschy.
    * Five good Reasons to Use Science Notebooks by Joan Gilbert and Marlene Kotelman.
    * Mystery Box Writing by William Straits. I saw an effective use of this technique recently in the classroom of Beth Albright at LaSalle Intermediate Center, South Bend
    * Science the "Write" Way by Valarie Akerson and Terrell Young.
    * Ecosystem Journalism by Amy robertson and Kathryn Mahlin.
    * Learning Logs: Writing to Learn, Reading to Assess by Daniel Heuser.
    If you are a member of NSTA, you can see the articles in their archive; otherwise, it is strongly recommended that you find the copy of a friend or check the school library - MUST reading for all K-6 teachers who want to improve reading scores and science scores at the same time!
    [Also note that the November/December 2004 issue of Science and Children also contains 3 valuable articles on "Writing to Learn Science": The first article, "Making Thinking Visible" by Roxanne Greitz Miller and Robert C. Calfee discusses graphic response organizers, great tools that I use even in introductory college classes.]
          Unfortunately, these effective techniques must be contrasted with other developments in reading requirements and testing in the early grades: "The No Child Left Behind Act signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002, established Reading First as a new, high-quality evidence-based program for the students of America" (part of the introduction to the U.S. Department of Education's Reading First program).
    This could be an effective program for early reading, especially since there is some (not a lot) of federal money available. However, States that have been applying for such Federal funds have run into roadblocks, especially if their proposals do not consider particular reading program support coming from DIBELS, and its associates.
          What is DIBELS, you might ask? DIBELS (The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) is a University of Oregon based company with a focus on using phonics, and only phonics to help early (mostly K-3, but also some tests up to 6th grade) readers, and to provide testing for those readers. I quote from the official DIBELS web page "DIBELS are a set of standardized, individually administered measures of early literacy development. They are designed to be short (one minute) fluency measures used to regularly monitor the development of pre-reading and early reading skills." The focus of this program solely on phonics has led people to point out that this develops "speed reading without comprehension".
          The Education Board of the State of Indiana has thankfully rejected this process, regarding "reading with understanding" as being a key. This principle matches the ideas behind science notebooks and most non-fiction reading-for-learning systems. Under the pressure for US government support, many other States have taken up the DIBELS programs, including Texas, Florida, Washington, Kentucky, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Illinois. In Chicago, teachers have been issued "palm-pilots" to keep track of the students' DIBELS tests (not paid for by the Federal funding). Weaknesses deriving from the narrowness of this phonics-based program are becoming clear: see, for example, comments from many teachers being submitted to the DIBELS Clearinghouse section of Susan Ohanian's website
          An even more serious failing is the pressure from the Federal Government to guide State schools to use a specific program. An article by Kathleen Kennedy Manzo in NSTA's Education Week entitled "States Pressed to Refashion Reading First Grant Designs: Documents Suggest Federal Interference". lays out the case against the "Federal armtwisting" taking place during several of the State negotiations.
    * [Note: NSTA members can read the archived version. But the article is freely available at NABE (the National Assoication for Bilingual Education).]
    I quote here a short section from the article:
    A number of state and district officials, publishers, and critics have charged that federal officials and consultants have overstepped the federal Reading First initiative’s authority by:
    • Pressing states to use certain consultants and professional-development advisers;
    • Directing state officials to alter their choice of assessments, in some cases requiring a state legislative change or waiver;
    • Requiring applicants to use specific approaches for evaluating core reading programs;
    • Judging state applications inconsistently and holding different states to different standards; and
    • Giving preference to some publishers by providing extra support materials aligned to a handful of reading programs.
    We are not surprised to find that the University of Oregon DIBELS originators were close consultants with the White House during formulation of the "Reading First" program, and also continue to have significant consulting contacts (contracts?) with the U.S. Department of Education.
Return to top

Return to top

Recent Articles of Interest
    The National Science Foundation Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI)
    SEI ( "is first and foremost a volume of record comprising the major high quality quantitative data on the U.S. and international science and engineering enterprise. SEI is factual and policy-neutral. It does not offer policy options and it does not make policy recommendations. SEI employs a variety of presentational styles—tables, figures, narrative text, bulleted text, web-based links, highlights, introductions, conclusions, reference lists—to make the data accessible to readers with different information needs and different information processing preferences."
    "SEI consists of seven chapters that follow a generally consistent pattern; an eighth chapter, on state indicators, presented in a unique format; and an overview that precedes these eight chapters. The chapter topics are
    • Elementary and Secondary Education
    • Higher Education in Science and Engineering
    • Science and Engineering Labor Force
    • Research and Development: Funds and Technology Linkages
    • Academic Research and Development
    • Industry, Technology, and the Global Marketplace
    • Science and Technology: Public Attitudes and Understanding
    • State Indicators
    "An appendix volume contains tables keyed to the first seven chapters."
    This is a valuable source of information on the state of education in general, but the chapter on elementary and secondary education is the most relevant for our audience....SEI is available on the NSF website (

Return to top
Editorial information, etc.

    .........mathematics, engineering and the other sciences too!
Return to top


Return to NISMEC: