Mrs. Yamilis Ocasio

Renaissance Charter School at Tapestry
Kissimmee, Florida
Mrs. Yamilis Ocasio, 6th Grade Science Teacher

Teaching science on a regular basis is challenging enough since we’re not only supporting ELA and Math classes, but also simplifying the complexity in scientific explanations of life events.  When teaching middle school science (6th grade) in a hybrid model where more than half of the students are online observing the class, it becomes an experience that challenges the greatness of science.

In this new classroom setting, the use of technology must be embraced, and the hands-on activities befits a partnership agreement, where at least one of the students is present in the classroom and the others can be online. This is one strategy that   I have used to adapt to this new modality of teaching.  I also use virtual breakout rooms to group the students for different activities.  Some of these activities include team projects and reading discussions such as Socratic Seminar. These activities are meant to familiarize the students with having conscience dialogue about scientific topics with their peers, so I can explore their curiosity, guide a line of thinking and hear them talk to each other.

One of the greatest challenges for 6th grade students is to adjust to the increased expectations and responsibilities in middle school. Usually, at the beginning of the school year, students seem to be constrained and less likely to actively participate in classroom discussions. This trend of the students being a bit shy hasn’t been different in a hybrid modality this school year. Still, I have increased the amount of interactions in group work using breakout rooms so the students can feel more comfortable talking and sharing ideas with other peers better than directly to the teacher. The use of digital project/study groups where the students can have their own chat (supervised by me) has helped increase the participation and ease the nerves of students and increased their confidence. The students have used these digital groups to share information and, with the help of available resources, create digital posters, presentations and videos. We are now starting individual presentations of research about modified hypothesis, which have engaged them in looking for scientific evidence to prove wrong some urban legends in science. For any person, presenting in front of a group of people with confidence is scary and difficult to achieve. So far, the students are giving support to each other and it encourages them even more when they see other students presenting, which reflects on the connections they are creating between them.

My goal this year is to put in each student’s mind the idea that science education occurs not only one way. Education can take place from me to them, from them to me, between their peers, and through self-paced activities. I want to embrace their curiosity, so they can own their knowledge and rediscover the scientists in themselves.

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