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Technology Enhances the FOSS Science Program in the Greece Central School District, Rochester, New York

Lisa Buckshaw, Director of Math and Science, and Aimee Lyon, Elementary Science Mentor Teacher, Greece Central School District, Greece, New York
September 16, 2005 | FOSS in Schools

Top image: Students view a magnified image of a larva on their monitor. the computer is connected to the microscope to the left of the monitor.

Greece, the eighth largest school district in New York State, adopted FOSS in 2002 because it provided them with a science program that was matched to their standards and promoted instructional practices that were consistent with their district goals. Along with the commitment to improve science education, the district also has a commitment to provide technology resources and has encouraged teachers to embed technology into the curriculum.

At the elementary level, there is a wired computer lab, capable of serving an entire class; a wireless, mobile computer lab; five student computers in each grade 1–5 classroom; and three student computers in each pre–K and kindergarten classroom. In addition, all 12 elementary schools have cordless microscopes and a flex cam camera. Classrooms are outfitted with an Imagination Station that includes a monitor connected to a computer system that can project Internet sites, presentations, etc.

The teachers have been implementing FOSS and finding creative and interesting ways to enhance the investigations through technology. And the results of this emphasis on science and technology show increased student achievement in both science and reading. In 2003–04, student performance on the fourth-grade New York state science test increased by 7% compared to the previous year, with 44% of the fourth-grade students exceeding the state standard in science. There were also significant gains by fourth graders in English language arts scores, which may be a result of the science/technology program.

At each grade level, teachers have enhanced the FOSS science modules by integrating the technology resources available to them with the science investigations. We have highlighted some examples.

  • Erin McElheran, a kindergarten teacher at Pine Brook Elementary School, integrated technology into the Animals Two By Two Module. Her class observed and sorted pill bugs and sow bugs by using two different tools. While half the class observed with hand lenses and recorded observations, the other half of the class used the flex cam to see if they could uncover more details. The groups then switched to see if either tool left out important details in their observations. This helped reinforce how tools are helpful to scientists in different ways.
  • Theresa Kermis, a first-grade teacher at English Village Elementary School, found a unique way to integrate technology to enhance students’ retention during the Balance and Motion Module. She walked around and took pictures with a digital camera while her students investigated balancing the crayfish with clothespins. She put these pictures into a PowerPoint slide show. The next day, they recounted their experiments by flipping through the slide show. Ms. Kermis used the drawing tool to circle and highlight ideas on the slides as students discussed and explained what they did. The kids loved it so much that she taught them how to use the drawing tool so they could point out the information as they were sharing what they remembered. This set up the students for success by reviewing previous learning before engaging in a new lesson.
  • Maryrita Maier, a second-grade teacher at Parkland Elementary School, found that technology made her Insects Module come to life. Her students used the flex cam to observe the different insects. The flex cam allowed students to see greater detail than they could with a hand lens alone. The students were able to critically analyze changes in the insects as they progressed through their life cycle stages, and their observation records were flooded with detail. At each stage of metamorphosis, they took pictures with the Intel® Play™ scope and printed them to create a timeline. The students then wrote descriptions to narrate the metamorphosis process. Mrs. Maier worked with small groups to show them how the technology worked.
  • Judy Davis, a third-grade teacher at Buckman Heights Elementary, used technology during the Earth Materials Module. In Investigation 1, Part 3, students observed the results of evaporation. Mrs. Davis had the students start crystal observations with a hand lens. Then she used the flex cam to magnify the crystals on the TV monitor. She placed samples of the crystals on black construction paper for better visibility. It was amazing how much more detail students were able to see. They then drew their observations, compared their results with the two tools, and discussed what they saw and how it got there. Finally, they compared their observations to a key to try to identify the crystals.
  • Heather Wolbert, an administrative intern at English Village and Lakeshore Elementary Schools, found ways to integrate technology into the earth science modules. While teaching the Water Module, her students made slides of water on different materials to observe surface tension. They used microscopes to compare results. Her students used the flex cam to observe water absorbency, surface tension, evaporation, and condensation. For absorbency, the class observed how different paper towels absorbed water. They moved the flex cam to get a close-up, side view of the surface tension of water on a penny. Then, using a light as a heat source, they observed the water evaporating from a penny. For condensation, the class chilled a water bottle and used the flex cam to observe evidence of condensation. Ms. Wolbert also had her students search the Internet for pictures of water in different states of the water cycle. They put these images into a graphic organizer program called Inspiration™ and created their own water cycle posters.

Painted Lady butterfly eggs under magnification.

For more information about this article, contact:

  • Lisa C. Buckshaw
    Assistant Superintendent of Student Learning and Accountability
    Greece Central School District
    P.O. Box 300 N.
    Greece, NY 14515-0300