Connect with Students by Leveraging Phenomena and Incorporating Modeling into the K-12 Earth Science Classroom

Thursday, Friday 8:30am-11:30am TSU - Humphries: 103


Kim Kotowski, Wilson County Schools

For ALL Earth Science teachers! Participants will learn to leverage scientific phenomena and align them to appropriate standards (NGSS with connections to TN science standards and others) We will use anchoring events based on these phenomena to frame a unit or a lesson segment that requires students to generate models or explanations. We will loosely follow the Ambitious Science Teaching framework; AST helps guide teachers in planning for engagement to elicit students' ideas.


Bring your students' worlds and experiences back into science! Developing relevant learning segments is key to getting students engaged in class. Discussing and questioning phenomena (observable events) that students have either experienced or heard about before makes them great collaborators in your classroom. You can ask your students, Ever wonder about... Why is metal shiny? Why does the wind blow? What causes auroras? The possibilities are endless if we look to what is happening outside of the classroom.

Working in small groups, colleagues will learn how to begin the creation of a new learning segment centered around a phenomena based anchoring event. We will outline how to support ongoing changes in student thinking and pressing for evidence based explanations in your classroom using modeling, CER (Claim-Evidence-Reasoning), and high-level questions.

Questioning is a hard technique, often teachers lead their students to answers without realizing or ask low level yes or no questions to quickly check for understanding. Participants will learn to differentiate between probing and pressing questions and how to use these techniques to get students thinking deeply about scientific phenomena.

Workshop Program »


This workshop is designed for K-12 science teachers. If you teach science, you will benefit!


  • Propose 5 phenomena that are observable, interesting, complex, and aligned to appropriate standards.
  • Research and create exemplar explanations for these phenomena.
  • Develop appropriate models for your phenomena.
  • Outline a lesson sequence based around 1-2 phenomena.
  • Develop high-level questions that correlate to each lesson.


Day 1: We will discuss the best ways to plan for student engagement: anchoring events and phenomena. Participants will be immersed in a mini lesson to experience how phenomena work and how creating scientific modeling can elicit students ideas as well as support on-going changes in thinking. Time for questions and reflection.

Day 2: Bring your standards! Participants will work on developing units based around phenomena. We will craft exemplar explanations and models that outline what students will need to learn in order to develop evidence-based explanations of the phenomena. Methods to support this will include CER and modeling. We will then reflect on how to push students in your classroom through questioning techniques.

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