Wayne's World of ScienceThis page is written by Wayne Fisher;our Elementary Science Specialist and guru of all things science...

This power point goes with a talk I shared at the Spring 2017 North Carolina Science Leadership Association meeting. Following is a transcript of the talk.

A Message for New Teachers and Not So New Teachers posted November 26th, 2013

Dear Elementary Science Teacher/Leader,

One of my favorite events is the New Teacher Orientation held in August of each year. For two days, Cynthia Dey and I meet with new teachers to share general information about elementary science in CMS and specific information about what it means to be a teacher.

Last week I emailed all the new teachers to congratulate them on their first three months of being in the classroom. I want the teachers to feel good about their decision to be a teacher. I have heard it said that people who feel good about themselves produce good results. I agree.

As experienced teachers and educators, it is also good to be remind ourselves of why we teach, whether it is teaching students or working together to help students be better students, teachers better teachers, schools better school, the district a better district, and the world a better place.

At this Thanksgiving time of the year, thanks for all you do to help students learn.
Following is the message I shared with the new teachers in CMS; in many ways, each day presents opportunities for each of us to be a “new” teacher.


For New Teachers in CMS …..

Okay, raise your hand high if you have high expectations for yourself and your students. (Go ahead, no one is probably looking and if they ask, just explain what you are doing.)
Now raise your hand even higher. That “extra” tug you feel is why you are an extra-ordinary teacher!

Congratulations on your first three months of being a teacher and helping to make this world a better place.
Hopefully you have had more than a few “teachable moments” and not too many “bad hair days”.

If you are struggling with the challenges and responsibilities of being a teacher, or even if you are not, I suggest watching
the video we shared at the New Teacher Orientation about “Passion”.

That video, which I am listening to as I type, is available on the Elementary Science Wiki page for PD.
On that page you will also find many more resources to help excite students about learning through science.

Remember, if asked, “Who is the best teacher?”, the answer is “I am!”
You are the best teacher for your students and they are fortunate to have you as their teacher.


PS. If you need ideas for elementary science, check out the wiki, the Help Sheet, or email Cindy Dey or me and we will share.
Teaching is about caring, sharing, and daring. Thanks for caring for your students, sharing with your colleagues, and daring to be a teacher.

How Do We Raise Test Scores? The Right-Wrong Question? posted November 14, 2013

When the 5th grade science EOG scores were released in 2007-2008 there was much gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands about what to do about the low scores across the district. That version of the EOG was the first time our students were tested using a new science curriculum. The state average was 40.0, CMS 39.6. Many CMS schools had proficiency rates less than 20%. A question that was posed to me by many principals and teachers was “How do we raise test scores?

I answered the question then by paraphrasing a response from Mike Mathos, a consultant to CMS. Mike’s answer was that “How do we raise test scores?” is the wrong question because it can lead us down a path where we focus on raising test scores and not on helping students learn. If “How do we raise test scores?” is the wrong question, what is the right question? His answer and mine is “How do we excite students about learning in a way that leads to higher student achievement?”.

Since 2007 we have done much to excite students about learning through science. However, the 2012-2013 5th grade science EOG scores may indicate that excitement does not equal higher student scores. The state average for the benchmark version of the new EOG is 47.1%. Our CMS average is slightly higher at 48.5%. Unlike 2007-2008, we had fewer schools with low proficiency rates, and more schools hovering near the state average or higher. That is good news!

I will take a closer look later to compare EOG results from 2007 to 2013 to look for trends that will help inform the steps we need to take to figure out a) what is working, b) what is not, and c) what we will do next. In the meantime, I am rethinking my answer to the question “How do we raise test scores?”. I now think that “How do we raise test scores?” is the right question, if we answer it in the right way.

The right answer to the question is that to raise test scores we need to do several things.

First, we need to be sure to start with the essential standards and work hard to align assessments and activities to specific science objectives that will create opportunities for students to master the objectives.

Second, leverage what we are doing already in the Common Core to also support learning in science. Use stories with science content, aligned to standards, to help students learn to read and write. Challenge students with formative assessments to help improve academic vocabulary.

Third, take advantage of the many resources available to help organize learning opportunities for students in science such as Discovery Education, Science Wiki, Science Listserves, Elementary Science Helpsheet, Science Alliance meetings, K-12 STEM Conference on Jan 7th, etc.

Finally, keep the EOG scores in perspective. If your scores are lower than expected, do a Fish Diagram to identify causes as to why scores are lower, identify what worked well and what did not, and create a plan to move forward.

Just as in 2007-2008, I will develop a district plan to improve test scores and share that plan with principals and teachers. Each teacher and grade level team should also be thinking about their plan to help excite students about learning in ways that also raise EOG scores.

The 2012-2013 EOG scores are an opportunity to reflect on what we need to do to raise the bar so every one of our students can be successful in school and in life. Although disappointing in many ways, the data will help us make progress towards our goals of helping all students learn. And it is about progress, not perfection.

I have no doubt that working together we can anticipate higher scores each year as we learn how to help students learn a new curriculum using new technologies in ways that challenge all of us as leaders in education and in the classroom.

Wayne Fisher
Science Specialist
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

August 12, 2013 ----- Another School Year Begins!
It's hard to believe that yet another school year will start two weeks from today! 2013-2014 will be my seventh year as the Elementary Science Specialist for CMS, after teaching Physics at Myers Park HS from 1997-2007. I have learned a lot the past few years about how to build capacity for elementary science in a large urban/suburban school district. This year I plan to capture some of the lessons learned about which programs have a significant impact on teachers' practice and increase in student learning.

For starters, I have put together an Update for Elementary Science in CMS for 2013-2014. That document, along with a Help Sheet for Elementary Science is on the Home Page of this Wiki.

I have also dusted off and updated the "ABCs of Elementary Science in CMS". That document will give you a both a broad and specific understanding of programs, projects, people, and policies that are the heart of of our elementary science program in CMS. Here is the link to that document.

Look for more updates about elementary science in CMS on this page. Be sure to register for one of the three elementary science listserves ( K/1, 2/3, or 4/5) available to teachers so they can be in-the-loop for professional development opportunities, free resources, exciting programs to help engage students in learning through science.

Wayne --- 8/12/13

Update November 26, 2012 Well, it's only been three months since I last updated this page! But browsing through last year's posts below, it was August 9th, 2011 and December 5th, 2011 between the first and next post, so I'm improving.

Our wiki has blossomed and now stands at 1476 members! WoW! While most teachers learn about and register for the wiki at the start of the year on the Elementary Curriculum Day, teachers continue to sign up for the wiki throughout the school year.

At the request of many teachers who provided feedback about elementary science on August 23rd, I asked for help from my "Science Leadership Team" to revamp this wiki so it was 1) more teacher friendly, 2) included style as well as substance, and 3) was easier for teachers to use to locate resources to excite students about science.

That team of volunteer "Wiki Writers" included Stephanie Nodelman at Newell, Jill Thompson at JV Washam, Whitney Godfrey at Rivergate, and Kari Strandberg at River Oaks. They have done a wonderful job in helping to "norm" the wiki so it "performs" as a tool for teachers to enrich and enhance student learning.

This is an open wiki for CMS teachers which means anyone can post a comment, share an idea, suggest an activity, or ask for help to learn more about science concepts and how to help students learn those concepts. One very under-used feature of the wiki is the "discussion board". Next time you visit the wiki, click on the block to the right of the "Edit" button to see if there are any active discussions for that page. If not, you can start a thread.

Teaching is about caring, sharing, and daring! Share an idea today by daring to post on the wiki!


Update August 26, 2012 Typical postings for the start of a new school year would include information such as where to find helpful information like the Science Resource Guides for each grade level. ( Look for them on the Science Resource Guides 2012-1013 near the bottom of the list on the right).
Principals may be interested in more general information about elementary science in CMS or the status and procedures to purchase science kits. ( Visit the Principals' Page for Elementary Science).

There are many resources on the Science Wiki to help teachers be better teachers and students better students, but the key ingredient for success as a teacher is attitude. There are many ways to develop and nurture "attitude". One way is to have a plan to keep things in perspective.

Here is something called "Life's To Do List" that I found posted on a school bulletin board around 1996.

1. Establish financial security.
2. Launch a successful career.
3. Find and maintain satisfying relationships.
4. Balance work and family needs.
5. Maintain positive self-esteem.
6. Raise well adjusted children.
7. Help parents age with dignity and respect.
8. Eat well, get plenty of rest, and exercise regularly.

I look forward to working together this year to excite students about science. Do email questions, comments, suggestions, and concerns to w.fisher@cms.k12.nc.us . Wayne Fisher

Update June 8, 2012 Where did the year go?!

Much has happened since the February 1st update. Today is the last day of school, students will be out for the summer, and all that is left is closing out the records, packing up the rooms, and deciding what to do this summer.

For my part, I have been working on planning elementary science PD for next year, including working with my colleagues in Curriculum and Instruction to coordinate our plans for the five requied workdays for the Common Core and Essential Standards.

I am also working with a team of elementary science teacher/leaders to develop new Curriculum Resource Guides for Elementary Science. You have seen drafts of those guides during the Common Core/ES PD days this year.

The final versions of the resource guides will be rolled out at the STEM Institute for Elementary Science planned for June 26/27 and August 1/2. Those are some of the places I will be at this summer.

I'll also be visiting 42 schools that are hosting Camp Invention! That program does a wonderful job of getting teachers and students excited about STEM.

Thanks for all you do to excite students about learning!

PS we are now up to 828 members! Pass the word and encourage your colleagues to sign-up!

Update February 1st, 2012 It's hard to believe how fast time is going, or seems to be going! This school year is now half over and believe it or not we are already planning for 2012-2013 summer professional development.

This wiki seems to have taken root and will continue to grow as long as we nurture it by adding resources, comments, topics, etc, that help us teachers to be better teachers, students better students, and our schools better schools. We now have 665 members. Most are "lurkers" meaning they are members who monitor activity on the wiki and who take advantage of the resources posted to assist teachers in their efforts to enrich and enhance student learning.

Using the 5th grade ecosystem concept of "producers, consumers, and decomposers", there are a few teachers posting or sharing resources on this wiki (producers). Most teachers, including myself, are also "consumers" in that we download resources to use with our students. There are no "decomposers" on the wiki, although soon that task will also be needed when I "clean up" all the information available on the wiki, and reformat it so it's more teacher-friendly. (Recall, or read below, my forming, storming, norming, and performing comments on March 15th, 2011.

A focus for the next few months will be getting ready for the 5th Grade Science EOG and other CMS formative and summative assessments. At the same time, we need to remember the wrong question is "How do we raise test scores?"; the right question is "How do we excite our students about learning through science?.

Several ways to excite students include Engineering Is Elementary, Science Olympiad-It's Elementary, NASA Educator Workshop on STEM, Camp Invention, Science Field Trips, Discovery Education, 3KNEX, Science Fair, 3M Young Scientists Contest, and just having fun doing science!

Do keep up with the Science Listserves which shares timely information about STEM events and professional development for K-5 STEM opportunities for CMS teachers.

Wayne Fisher
Update - December 29th, 2011 WoW! In the last three weeks, the number of teachers subscribing to this wiki has grown from 283 to 611, a 116% increase! I know much of that growth can be credited to the district-wide professional development for the Common Core State Standards and Essential Standards held on December 19th and 20th. But it's still encouraging to see many teachers now aware of the wiki and the resources it provides to classroom teachers to help enrich and enhance student learning.

Congratulations to Lisa Gonzales at Tuckaseegee who was the 500th person to sign-up for the wiki and Stephanie Miller at Smithfield who was the 600th person to join the wiki! Both received a copy of Dinah Zike's Big Book of Science Foldables (grades K-6) to help excite students about science. If you have not yet joined the wiki, you could be the 650th participant and receive your copy of the Big Book of Science.

Please do check out the new information and pages being added to this wiki such as the "Science and Engineering Fair" page and new resources being added to the "Science Wikis from Classroom Teachers" page. _

Update - December 5th, 2011
As mentioned in the first post to this wiki on March 15, 2011, the four phases of any new project are storming, forming, norming, and performing. After nearly nine months now, this wiki is somewhere between the norming and performing phases.

The wiki now has a critical mass of members, over 283 as of today. As word spreads from the top down at staff meetings or the bottom up from colleagues who find the wiki helpful, teachers are beginning to access the wiki more often to find resources or share resources to help them be better teachers.

Besides the Grade Level Alliance pages to the left, other popular pages appear to be Formative Assessments for 5th Grade Science, Graphic Organizers, and Science Wikis from Classroom Teachers.

A page that will be accessed more often in the near future is the New Essential Standards for 2012-2013. Besides links to the standards, crosswalks, and unpacking documents, lesson plans have been added for PD at the school level.

An aim of the wiki is to encourage more teacher-to-teacher sharing; feel free to start a thread, respond to a prompt, or contribute resources to be added to any of the pages.

Wayne Fisher Science Specialist _ Update - August 9th, 2011

It's been nearly four months since this wiki was launched and we have transitioned from forming and storming to norming and performing.
The overarching goal of this wiki is to help teachers grow in their teaching practice and students to achieve at higher levels. To do that, we need to work together to share resources, ideas, and strategies to excite students about science.

Please spend a few minutes browsing the pages posted on the right side of this wiki. Note which resources you may like to use with your students and share with colleagues.

Talk up the wiki with your grade level team and don;t be shy about posting your own resources. Do read and respond to the discussion prompts .... or start a thread of your own.

Our district has a wealth of talented science teachers, some of the best in the state, the nation, and the world. I encourage you to remember that teaching is about caring, sharing, and daring.

Take a few minutes now to share one idea that works for you to enrich and enhance student learning in science.
Wayne Fisher
The post that started this wiki ...
Dear CMS Elementary Science Teacher/Leader,
Okay, we now have an elementary science wiki for CMS!
Now we need to know what types of infomation and content we should include in the wiki to help teachers be better teachers and students better students.
I would like to hear suggestions from the potential users of this wiki before investing time to start formalizing the wiki.
In group work I would call this "forming, storming, norming, and performing". At this point the wiki is forming and storming ..... feel free to contribute to the process.
At some point I envision the elementary science wiki looking something like the math wiki. We have work to do to get to that stage.
I welcome your ideas and suggestions as to how best to go about giving birth to an elementary science wiki that can help create a buzz about elementary science in CMS.
So please have a go at posting your thoughts. Teaching is about caring, sharing and daring. Please share!
Wayne Fisher Elementary Science Specialist March 15, 2011