Engaging middle schoolers during the pandemic

School of Education, Richmond Public Schools and Chesterfield County Public Schools collaborate to get students “talking science.”

Headshot of Dr. Christine Lee Bae
Christine Lee Bae, Ph.D.

A team in the VCU School of Education’s Discourse and Learning Lab worked with middle school science teachers in Richmond Public Schools and Chesterfield County Public Schools on a project during the pandemic year to get students “talking science” in Google classrooms.

The project was part of a five-year (2019-2024) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to identify ways to connect science phenomena to students’ lived experiences, and track the ways in which students are motivated to engage in science discourse.

During the pandemic academic year (2020-2021), three lesson study teams of teachers in grades 6 (Christal Corey, Tracyee Hogans-Foster, Bianca Myrick), 7 (Emman Salem, Ingrid Saunders, Shannon Spacek, Phylis Wilson) and 8 (Andrea Bryant, Shannon Fasing, Michael Stange, Victoria Weber) worked with Dr. Christine Lee Bae, as well as Science Discourse team members including a postdoctoral researcher (Daphne Mills) and two graduate students (Martinique Sealy and Lauren Cabrera). Together, they worked to co-plan, teach, observe, debrief, and reflect on distance learning activities with a focus on creating more opportunities to make science talk accessible to their students.

Online tools and innovations such as Flipgrid, JamboardBitmoji classrooms and more were integrated to engage students in sense-making and sharing ideas about science phenomena in Google classrooms.

One Grade 8 teacher said of the work, “I learned a lot about facilitating discourse, and I feel like you have given us a lot of helpful resources.” Another Grade 7 teacher added, ““I just want to say ‘thank you.’ It made me think more about how to involve my students throughout the entire year, making sure that I give them a chance to share their voice.”

Read more about the Science Discourse Learning project.

Read more about the NSF grant.

Read more about this five-year NSF grant in VCU News.