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A Day of Virtual PD and Exploring Citizen Science: ScIC5 by PocketLab

A Day of Virtual PD and Exploring Citizen Science: ScIC5 by PocketLab

WatsonBlog written by the talented Mrs. Watson. Visit her website here: 

This is the 5th Science is Cool "Unconference" that PocketLab has sponsored and the 4th one that I attended! I am always blown away by the smooth format, rich content, and high-quality presenters this unconference delivers to science educators! This unconference was held during my workday (6th-grade science teacher) so I rushed to log in during my planning period and was so grateful to catch everything I missed after work thanks to the video playbacks from the Facebook group! The unconference host, Dave Bakker, was wonderful to watch as always. He feels like part of my educator family and you can tell that he has great relationships with all those who give their time for this event. Dave makes a point to include and share real teachers' thoughts and questions throughout the conference and runs the whole program with ease and precision! THANK YOU SO MUCH and well done! Below are some of the amazing resources presenters shared and cool things I learned that I wanted to share with you.

If you want to learn more and hear about updates and future Science Is Cool events hosted by PocketLab please visit:


with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chuck Nice, and special guest Dr. Heather Berlin

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The SciC conference began with another awesome Cosmic Queries episode. Being able to see a Live episode of StarTalk where our teacher questions and voices are heard is always so special. Today, Dr. Heather Berlin joined the StarTalk gang and discussed the neuroscience of learning.

The first question that was asked was "What change happens in our brain for learning to take place?". Heather explained how "Cells that fire together wire together" so repetition and studying will help you remember information more readily. Additionally, factors like emotions, laughter, and dopamine help tie things together and significantly help with memory.

The conversation then transitioned into knowing and learning things that are already known versus the genius that is creating something that nobody has done before. Neil said that "A genius has seen what everybody else has seen but thinks what nobody else has thought". Heather then added that these flashes of genius and insights don't just come out of nowhere, but that a lot of work and research has to be done first. Only after the work, if you give the brain some time to process, new creative insights can be formed.

Heather then started sharing something that many educators will find goes against what they have been taught. She said that a meta-analysis of data regarding the different types of intelligence (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) showed that the varied teaching styles did not change how the student learned. In reality, individual learning styles versus structured and guided learning styles made a larger difference in learning. However, if you change up your teaching methods, you will cut up the monotony of learning, increase the excitement of the lesson, and raise dopamine levels which all lead to higher retention. So teaching with different intelligences in mind can still be beneficial after all! Yay!

This revelation led to the discussion of the importance of giving students real-world problems that can open up the doors of curiosity and drive the learning process. Allowing students opportunities to experience immersive educational experiences from field trips to interactive museum exhibits or hands-on labs is a way to help embrace natural curiosity. Of course, school funding permitted! :)

Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:


SCIENCE FRIDAY with Xochitl Garcia and Ariel Zych

Bees Have a Hairy Secret: Static Charge: Here are the Slides this dynamic duo used. The goal of Science Friday is to increase the public's access to science information and scientific information using the radio. They also have videos, articles, lesson plans, activities, and when there isn't a pandemic, live events to promote this goal. In their presentation, they completely modeled a lesson for us, starting with a phenomenon... Bees... Why is an insect so hairy/fuzzy? Well for pollen of course! The Science Friday team taught me something I had never heard about. Bees and flowers actually have electrical or static interactions that help with pollination. Xochitl and Ariel brought this concept home with some fun static electricity demos involving balloons and further captured their audience's attention with full pollination costumes. They followed up their mini pollination lesson by introducing a citizen science project from SciStarters called The Great Sunflower Project that anybody can get involved with to help scientists and participants better understand trends in pollination.

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Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:



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Encouraging a Culture of Curiosity & Discovery, Modeling Holistic Ways of Learning & Promoting Positive Gender Norms: This is a wonderful refreshing family TV show (targeted ages 7-11) and is the 1st ever pan-African science show! The people at N*GEN rose above the challenges that students and educators were facing during the pandemic lockdown and created these amazing science videos. The videos engage students by teaching them a variety of science concepts while including tips on relaxing and health, singing songs, and activities to get kids up and moving. A very important factor that contributes to the massive success of these videos is that the kids are being taught by real scientists who look like them (not the stereotypical old guy with crazy hair in a lab coat). Allowing students to explore their curiosities and engage with people they can relate to is completely changing the way these kids are connecting to what science is. It is also opening up their minds to the possibilities they have in these STEM careers. Season 1 is now available to audiences beyond Africa (See the youtube channel) and the production of season 2 is in progress.

Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:


WALT DISNEY IMAGINEERING with Josh Gorin - S.T.E.A.M Powered: Inside Walt Disney Imagineering: Josh explained that "Imagineering is the group within the Walt Disney Company that conceives, designs and builds all the physical experiences around the world... working to make the impossible possible and to bring fantastic stories, worlds, and characters to life". He shared his journey to Imagineering, and how Imagineers, like kids, are curious about the world. This journey was made possible through educators who supported multidisciplinary projects and embraced the value of connecting subjects through STEAM. Here are the 3 principles to help guide a person to success in Imagineering:

  1. Everyone is creative (with varied and unique creative outlets).

  2. The ability to work with people who don't see the world as you do.

  3. Just get started! Nothing starts out perfect!

There are some great resources available to help educators facilitate these principles. You will definitely want to check out the Disney-Khan Academy resource Imagineering in a Box linked below!

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Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:




Learn Ways to do “Hands-on Science” Virtually! : Panelists spoke on how to engage students with hands-on activities that bring students joy and excitement to their learning. The resources the panel members provided (see the terrific programs linked below) are such valuable assets to help teachers easily bring this joy to their students. The panelist talked about how the pandemic shutdown has forced teachers to find new ways to connect with their students to make sure their needs are being met. Both students and teachers have shown tremendous creativity, flexibility, and resilience and have proven that if we collaborate we can solve the problems that we face.

DR. LIZ WARREN - Senior Program Director for the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory


The International Space Station: Humanity's Great Learning Outpost (Grades 6-12): Dr. Warren starts her presentation with her awesome story of how she ended up in her career. Her story, like so many others who shared today, brings home the importance of letting children explore their curiosities. We as teachers should support the natural scientists that our students already are in any way possible. Her work with the International Space Station (ISS) is something to marvel at. The ISS is a science lab looking over our planet that allows for research in all fields of science and STEM to benefit our life here on Earth. Dr. Warren goes on to talk about life on the ISS from dehydrated food that the astronauts eat, to the way they recycle the coffee (water) day after day, to the technologies used to get to space and the science labs and experiments being done. The resources she shares from are so cool! There is SO much available to support our curriculums as science teachers, and not just for space science standards! Some experiments done on the international space station are proposed by students so if you go to the website you can learn more about how they can get involved.

Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:



Making the Case for Project-based Learning (Grades 9-12): Before I say anything else about his presentation, I have to mention how passionate Gary Curts was throughout his entire time on camera. I felt like I had a personal coach teaching and motivating me to jump into Project-based Learning (PBL)! He spoke about his extensive travels, research, and training and how they all collided together in Egypt to create a meaningful PBL curriculum. At 1 point in his presentation, he said "Schools are too much of a factory. Kids go in and kids go out at a certain time and that's where learning happens, but learning happens everywhere it just takes some creativity." By focusing on the "learning happens everywhere" part he explained how implementing the 7E (elicit, engage, explore, extend, elaborate, explain, evaluate) project-based learning cycle and long-term activities lead to meaningful learning. Teachers following the learning cycle can lead to students gain relevant 21st-century skills that promote critical thinking and independence. For example, he described how students could create their own art and unique pigments while exploring chemistry principles. The high-impact practices of PBL teach students how to break free from the traditional educational models and more easily become creative and collaborative leaders able to solve real-world problems.

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Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:



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Cultivate an Explorer Mindset with National Geographic! (Grades 4-12): As a certified National Geographic Educator, phase 1 workshop facilitator, and someone who was very upset that I spent way too many years of my teaching career without knowing about Nat. Geo. Ed, resources, I was absolutely thrilled to see Nat. Geo. Education in the lineup for this conference. Mary did an outstanding job explaining the variety of free resources that Nat. Geo. Education has available for educators and students. She started by hooking us in and describing her fascinating start in science while working with Orangutans, well more specifically their urine! Then Mary dove into sharing the many resources available and linked below. I have to reiterate what she said about these resources being FREE and constantly growing to meet our needs as educators. As a self-proclaimed PD junkie, going through Nat Geo Ed Certification was one of the most impacting learning experiences for me as an educator. The skills and ideas they teach positively impact my teaching every day. I highly recommend that and any of the other courses they offer. The courses Nat Geo offers are of the highest quality and the collaboration within the cohorts of teachers around the world really is something unique and special. The resource library has a growing collection of over 4,000 free resources for both educators and students. Explorer Classroom meetings allow students a virtual and truly unique learning experience with a real professional explorer. I was excited to learn about the all-digital and free explorer magazine which gives students access to relevant and level science reading materials. Mary did not have time to mention it, but I would also highly recommend looking into the amazing mapping resources Nat Geo Ed has! She finished her presentation by sharing 2 very cool citizen science apps iNaturalist and Seek (more kid-friendly) that allow anybody to help scientists collect diversity and population data of various organisms throughout the world. I love that these apps create a community of science enthusiasts that help with the identification and classification of life in our own backyard with a click of a button!

Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:


SCISTARTER with Caroline Nickerson

Introduction to Citizen Science: Caroline Nickerson started her presentation by sharing her story of how she fell into science. Her story was one that I sadly hear from my new students at the beginning of every year...the proclamations that science isn't their thing and the memorization and tests are way too difficult. This narrative is echoed by many students who, as young kids, were naturally curious explorers. Too often the "traditional" style of teaching drives these curiosities away. For Caroline everything changed when she discovered citizen science, yay butterflies! Now she is presenting the fantastic SciStarter resource to conferences of thousands of science teachers! I was highly impressed by SciStarters site and products. They have essentially created a catalog of easily accessible citizen science projects that anybody can do. These projects are sorted by grade levels and have been designed to help students and educators easily explore their interests. There are challenges and events that make the projects more gamified and as a result, more engaging for students. If you want to start looking into citizen science and get ideas for relevant real-world learning projects for your classroom, this is definitely the resource to start with!

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Here are some of the resources shared by presenters and participants during the session:


This was a fun way to end a day of presentations. The panelists engaged in lighthearted discussions from everything to space beehives and bee soccer, burritos, memes, and weighing astronauts. There was also an interesting discussion on how the pandemic has altered education. All panelists shared their thoughts and agreed that despite the challenges education and learners have faced, many positive changes have come from it. We are all hoping that the positives stay with us all as we start transitioning to post-pandemic life and education.

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Something that was new at this conference was that at the breaks we were treated with short videos from Hooked on Science. These demos were quick and easily reproducible, but the videos are so well done you might just want to sit back and let Jason Lindsey do the teaching! Find these and so many other resources by going to the PocketLab Resource page!

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Original post can be found here:


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