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Leadership Breakfasts for Administrators/Family Day

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PATRICIA CATANIA

Assistant Principal
MS 131, 
Chinatown, New York City


As Assistant Principal of MS 131 in Chinatown, I attended two Leadership Breakfasts for school administrators that were sponsored by the NOAA Science Literacy for Grade 6 ELLs Project at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). These events fed my body and mind. They provided an opportunity for me to be a learner at the Museum and a leader in my school.

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The NOAA Leadership Breakfasts were facilitated by the education staff at AMNH and were designed to achieve five goals in developing administrators' ability to support Grade 6 English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers in teaching and learning about weather and climate.

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Maritza Macdonald, Director of Education and Policy at AMNH, facilitated a lively discussion with administrators that was designed to communicate the importance of science to society through an exploration of weather.

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NOAA Goal 1. Introduce visualizations as resources for visualizing science in general and for limited speakers of English in particular. 

Dr. MacDonald modeled a hands-on cloud investigation activity for administrators entitled Expedition to North America that the teachers and students had done during their field trips to the Museum. We were given the Globe Cloud Chart (www.globe.gov) to assist us in identifying the types of clouds depicted in three dioramas in the Hall of North American Mammals.

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In my school, 80 percent of the students are English Language Learners (ELLs). Using the concept of visualizations that I learned through the cloud observation activities at the Leadership Breakfast, I turn-keyed this concept in a professional development workshop for the Grade 6 and 7 teachers in my school. The teachers and I, working as a team, used this methodology with our students to create a school-wide rainforest mural, an activity that integrated reading, writing, drawing, listening and speaking to support the learning of all students in the school.

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NOAA Goal 2. Demonstrate the NOAA digital visualizations that were being developed at the Museum. 

At the Leadership Breakfast we viewed a DVD produced as an AMNH Science Bulletin entitled Weather and Climate via Satellite, a time lapsed view of the earth's ever changing atmosphere showing weather patterns and storms around the world over the period of a year. I used this DVD in a workshop with my teachers to deepen their conceptual understanding of weather phenomena, focusing specifically on hurricanes because they are easy to trace visually. Then we concentrated on watching the movement of clouds through the seasons in the New York area, the Caribbean, and in China, our students' homelands.

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NOAA Goal 3. Review and learn the use of tools for weather and climate studies to meet the requirements of the Grade 6 science standards and develop English language acquisition in ELL students.

Administrators received many useful materials and visualizations to support the school and our ESL teachers in developing students' understanding of climate and weather. The materials included a globe, a model of an ecosphere, and several books.

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As more ELLs are entering my school and classrooms around the world, I think it is important , in my role as administrator, to ensure that all teachers are responsible for teaching English to students. NOAA provided several excellent resources that support content area teachers in developing strategies to support English language acquisition. These resources included: Making Science Accessible to English Language Learners (West Ed by John Carr, Ursula Sexton, Rachel Lagunoff); Learning Standards for English as a Second Language (NYSED); andWhen they Don't All Speak English, An Island by Danling Fu.

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The 5 Es model of teaching and learning science disseminated by Carr et al. was helpful in getting teachers to embrace the idea of differentiating instruction, while connecting instruction to all students. The idea underlying this model is that students' engaging, exploring, explaining, elaborating are evaluated (5Es) continuously in an interconnected manner to check for student understanding and monitor student progress. The fact that the 5 Es model was presented as a graphic organizer in the book made it an easy sell to my teachers.

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NOAA Goal 4. Speak with scientists and educators in guided visits to two relevant exhibits: Climate Change and The Hall of Ocean Life. 

In the spring, the NOAA project sponsored a Family Day for participating teachers, administrators, students and their families. We visited the Hall of Ocean Life to develop an understanding of ecosystems. Afterwards, we went to the Calder Lab which was set up with different inquiry stations for students and their families to investigate. The students loved being able to touch and hold animal skulls.

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Students also liked the classroom exhibit of the Central Park ecosystem that was set up for the NOAA families in the Calder Lab. After the Family Day event, I went back to my school and collaborated with the science and ELL teachers to develop a scavenger hunt in Central Park, utilizing digital cameras so that students could record their findings. I also escorted students on additional weekend field trips to AMNH which was made possible through the generous donation of family memberships given to all NOAA teachers and students.

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Goal 5. Review 8th Grade Science Assessments to determine how the concepts of weather and ecosystems addressed by the NOAA program align with the New York State standards. 

Based on our discussion at the Leadership Breakfast about the program's support of the New York State Standards, I sat down with my science teachers, as a department, to analyze the New York State Grade 8 Intermediate Level Science Examination. The next step was to create a curriculum map for Grades 6 to 8 to ensure that all major concepts were covered during the three-year middle school course sequence. We focused on language usage, concept development, use of visualizations and models, connecting student learning to the real world, and developing the critical thinking skills necessary for all students to be successful. Creating double periods to be used as lab time is imperative to allow for exploration and development of students' ideas. 
Link to NYS science assessments:
http://www.nysedregents.org/testing/sciei/sciences8.html
NYS ESL learning standards Link to Bilingual/ESL standards http://www.emsc.nysed.gov/biling/resource/ESL/04lnter.pdf

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The NOAA program has been an extremely high quality, interactive experience. It assisted me in supporting teacher excellence through professional development, materials, and field trips to AMNH to learn from multilingual scientists.

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As a culminating project for the ELL students in our school, the principal allocated Title 3 funds to support the development of a bilingual book that was written, photographed, and translated by the class with the extreme dedication of the teacher and a teaching artist.

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