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FOSS in Action in Live Oak School District

Joanna Totino, FOSS Elementary Specialist and director of the Bay Area Science Project
March 01, 2015 | Case Studies

Top image: John Hayes works with students using the FOSS Mixtures and Solutions Module.

The success of FOSS is predicated on inspired and inspiring teachers. One such teacher is John Hayes, a dynamic and enthusiastic teacher who has been using FOSS in his classroom since 1994. John is such a champion of FOSS that he has made an extraordinary commitment to encouraging and mentoring others to use FOSS as well. His work has touched many students and teachers alike.

John has been a public school teacher for over 20 years in California and has been teaching with FOSS since the First Edition. He began teaching in a fifth-grade Spanish bilingual classroom in the 1990s at Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Watsonville, California. Later, John taught both elementary and middle school in Santa Clara Unified School District. In 2006, John moved to Cambrian School District, and presently, he is working in Live Oak School District.

Cambrian School District is located in Silicon Valley in the city of San Jose, California. Cambrian has four elementary schools with approximately 2,800 students. John was the principal at Farnham Elementary School in Cambrian School District from 2006-2009 before he decided to go back to teaching.

As a teacher, John was an integral member of the Science Leadership Team in Cambrian; he and four other teachers and the assistant superintendent participated in Cohort II of the FOSS California Leadership Academy, a collaboration between the FOSS staff at the Lawrence Hall of Science and K-12 Alliance/West Ed. The Academy provided a four-year opportunity for teacher-leaders and administrators to develop school-based leaders who can sustain the implementation of the FOSS California K-5 science program and cultivate science-centered schools.

John and the Science Leadership Team were instrumental in developing FOSS-centered Family Science Nights, integrating literacy lessons to accompany each FOSS investigation, and integrating ELD strategies for each FOSS investigation. The Science Leadership Team also provided FOSS PD workshops each year, focusing on notebooking, literacy integration, and instituting science buddies.

Lani Potts, former assistant superintendent and member of the team describes John's work: "John Hayes was involved with the deep integration of FOSS inquiry-based science and language arts in elementary classrooms. This included designing and implementing professional development and coaching to support this integration across the district. He also successfully created and maintained a science-centered classroom integrating various content areas as he moved toward sustaining a STEM environment."

The science-buddies program John helped to start in Cambrian brings upper grade students into primary classrooms to assist with FOSS lessons. (For more details see "Science Buddies," FOSS Newsletter, Fall 2011). John explains, "The program benefits not only students--upper-grade students are trained to teach science lessons to their younger buddies--but it also brings teachers together as partners and collaborators. It's truly the most authentic and rewarding ongoing professional development I've been a part of."

Lisa Landsberg, fifth-grade teacher in Cambrian, shared, "He provides ways for students to involve solving real-world problems into their learning of the content standards... Students are asked to think critically as they collaborate, communicate, and use technology to solve meaningful and real problems."

Most recently, John has had a significant impact on the Live Oak District, a small public school district with three elementary schools and one middle school in Santa Cruz, California, where 83% percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, and 65% of students are English Language Learners.

When John arrived at the Live Oak District in 2013, it was a time of transition in the district. The district was just starting to integrate Common Core State Standards, and this provided an opportunity for John to propose science-language arts integration at Live Oak Elementary. The prior emphasis at Live Oak had been on language arts and math curricula from textbooks, and FOSS offered experiential approach to learning, a new concept and an instructional shift for a school with a state-test-focused teaching/learning philosophy.

John's classroom became a pilot demonstration site to show how science could be the context for ELA, particularly with vocabulary and writing with notebooks. He was able to consign the FOSS Water Planet Module from Delta Education, which he used during ELA time. Teachers and administrators came to observe his integrated approach.

John next proposed to the administration that they continue the science-based ELA integration by purchasing the FOSS Mixtures and Solutions Module, Third Edition. The district approved this purchase, and he was given permission to mentor two fifth-grade teachers using FOSS. At that point, those teachers could only use FOSS during science blocks of time; there was no ELA/ELD integration.

As John was able to show the success of the FOSS and literacy integration, the district allowed him to integrate science and ELD, although ELA still had to be taught using the district textbook-based reading curriculum and new writing curriculum. During that time, Shoreline Middle School teachers visited his classroom to see how fifth graders were being prepared with notebooks and hands-on science and to check out FOSS as a possible pilot at their middle school. The University of California, Santa Cruz teacher-prep coordinator also visited his classroom to see how science-language arts integration might affect how student teachers are prepared in a NGSS/CCSS classroom.

John has always been a strong believer in outdoor science education. When he started teaching FOSS Third Edition, he loved the new embedded FOSS outdoor lessons. He has so far taught FOSS outdoor lessons in the FOSS Soils, Rocks and Landforms, Mixtures and Solutions, and Sun, Moon and Planets Modules. John shares, "I definitely love this new outdoor focus, which is one of the many things I like when I compare [FOSS] Second and Third Editions."

In spring 2014, Live Oak School District decided to fund summer school for the first time in six years, and the superintendent requested that John develop the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade summer school curriculum program that featured FOSS science and ELA/ELD integration, as well as providing the teachers with PD. John recruited Lisa Landsberg and Janelle Lam, former Cambrian colleagues on the Science Leadership Team and FOSS Leadership Academy participants, to train the summer school teachers in FOSS. The Live Oak District Superintendent and Curriculum Director, as well as elementary and middle school principals, visited the program to see how science could be the foundation for ELA/ELD--they were very impressed!

By fall 2014, FOSS Third Edition was being used at two elementary schools in fifth grade, and in John's classroom, FOSS science is the foundation for both ELA and ELD standards.

At the Superintendent's request, John gave a 45-minute presentation to the district school board, including an overview of FOSS, its philosophy, and the value of hands-on, constructivist science as the best curriculum and pedagogy to teach language skills, especially writing, to English learners. In Live Oak, John has been able to get full support for FOSS from the superintendent, school board, district curriculum director, and elementary site principals. John looks forward to expanding FOSS to all three elementary sites in the coming year. There are also plans being considered to continue a FOSS-centered summer-session curriculum.

It is no exaggeration to say that John is an inspiring lead teacher who is changing the lives of students and supporting teachers in a transition from textbook-based science instruction to hands-on investigations for their students. He is an amazing example of how one committed teacher can have a dramatic impact on an entire district. John invites other teachers along on the FOSS journey, encouraging and coaching colleagues to pursue integrated learning, helping others see how the combination of FOSS curriculum and a dynamic teacher can inspire imagination, discovery, and meaningful learning in students' lives.

John has taught FOSS from the First Edition to the Third Edition and can't wait to use the upcoming FOSS Next Generation Edition.