Planning Day Reflection

Now that you have completed your planning day, whether it was solo over the weekend or with colleagues during a school day, respond below with a few paragraphs about the work that resulted from that planning day.

  • What great strides did you make in your planning and thinking?
  • What can you share that may help others in the Western Maine Teaching Community in the shared goal of supporting authentic science investigations in the classroom?
  • What is left to do?

If you have any useful artifacts that can be shared, consider sharing them in the Vital Signs Curriculum Bank -


What great strides did you make in your planning and thinking?
I was able to align my plan with my class schedule.
First, I want my students to understand how food webs represent energy flow in an ecosystem and how a food web may be altered or disrupted. Dissecting and analyzing owl pellets, will allow my students to construct a food web based on the data we collect as a class.
Next, introduce students to invasive species. This will include a variety of invasive species and discussions of how these invasive species were introduced to a new ecosystem and what effect they may have on food webs.
Introduce students to the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (video) and the Vital Signs website. Allow students time to explore Vital Signs Missions to see examples of pictures and collected evidence.
Finally, students will complete the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Mission on Vital Signs.
What can you share that may help others in the Western Maine Teaching Community in the shared goal of supporting authentic science investigations in the classroom?
I found that by demonstrating to my students and discussing with them how important Hemlock Trees are to our backyard food webs (along with how it would personally affect us if Hemlocks were removed), students were very excited about helping and being part of this investigation.
Video of Hemlock Woolly Adelgid
What is left to do?
- Print I.D. species cards from GMRI and create groups
-Teach my students how to identify a Hemlock Tree, take good pictures, and record valuable data.
-Complete Hemlock Woolly Adelgid Mission

First, I want to thank VS again for making this possible. It was really nice to be given this planning time! Thanks!

What great strides did you make in your planning and thinking?
With this time, I was able to plan out the first several weeks of school. Although still a work in progress, I am combining some of my "old favorites" with activities from both Vital Signs and BirdSleuth from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I've attached the timeline in the Curriculum Resource section. The unit is basically scientific inquiry, incorporating the skills and processes that make quality investigations.

In class, we are starting with skills of observation. Next we are going to get outside for some open nature observations and "I wonder..." statements. This will lead us to prepare for our investigation into purple loosestrife in the area. Using the 10 day curriculum fairly closely, we'll play Oh Deer!, look at examples of good observations, practice some field work skills, and then head outside for our first observation! I'm a little nervous about the camera work, so I think I'll have that be one of the skill stations. Continuing with scientific inquiry, the final project will be a nature investigation that students self-select, design, plan and perform at home.

What can you share that may help others in the Western Maine Teaching Community in the shared goal of supporting authentic science investigations in the classroom?
I think it's important to "just do it". Class time at the beginning of the school year gets filled up with so much - getting to know the students, establishing routines and expectations, etc (fire drills) I never get through what I had hoped. But, after planning and then revising, it looks like I should have students posting an observation by the second week of October.

What is left to do?
I want to print some color versions of the ID cards and scope out the area behind our school that we'll look for the purple loosestrife. Although I'm not sure that there's any there, I think that it will provide plenty of biodiversity within the quadrats for us to observe. Learning the terms used on the ID cards will help students become more proficient and knowledgable.

Al Shaefer does a lot with the Avneza app and I will be contacting him to see if some of his forestry students or perhaps some seniors would like to work with my students with our mapping of the school grounds project. I don't see that happening fully until the spring but it would give us planning time.

Don't bother....It doesn't work well at all. I took multiple photos of the same leaf and got different answers each time. Many were way off.

Great strides:
I spent uninterrupted time (hooray) planning out my lessons in a sequential order to start this fall. Hopefully, I did not "pack" too much into one session but I feel confident my pacing is fairly accurate. Students will be outside exploring plants with a science notebook, identification resources and hand magnifiers on some days. Other days we will be doing a group activity to gain better understanding of the "why are we doing this and how does this relate to me?" concepts.
Authentic share:
It is important to me that students be able to spend time in the field looking for plant species. I am reminded of Charles Darwin who spent months walking the islands of Galapagos and was just beginning to understand there were differences between same species from the various islands. My students need time to find a specie and identify it correctly, whether it was what they were looking for or not. Authenticity requires dedicated time in the field doing research.
What's left to do:
I need to print out all the materials I need for myself and for students, informational charts, game pieces, Learning Intentions, links to NGSS. All of this will be organized in a binder listed by Day #1, Day#2 etc so I can hit the deck running. Also, I need collaboration time with my school colleague who teaches Humanities to these same students. We will go over the Informational Writing Rubrics and discuss how to weave this unit in so it supports her teaching. There is also a need to research for more nonfiction texts in the form of a read aloud which would be a great kickoff event and/or resource to connect back to during and at the end of the unit. If anyone has a grade 5/6/7 title in mind which would be an appropriate Read Aloud book to connect to Invasive Species, I would love the information.

Hi hebronstation school,

So nice to get some uninterrupted time to plan! I love the memory of Darwin, and his travels and observations in the Galapagos. Time to explore and observe is a truly valuable experience and skill to learn.

It is great to hear that you plan on working with your humanities teacher. For the investigation, will you focus on barberry or do you have another idea in mind? It would be great to see your sequential plan shared in the Curriculum Bank here - (just log in and click on "post my resource"). Even if your plans are tentative and under development, this is a good thing to share and get some feedback on.

I love the idea of starting with a read aloud. While I don't have a book idea off the top of my head, I did find this video from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center that talks about natives versus invasives in a forest habitat ( It is a bit long, but there are some great engaging questions and information throughout the video.

Does anyone have any read aloud ideas for hebronstation school?

A week or two after our meeting I spent two hours scouring the school grounds trying to identify trees for myself and to see what invasive species might be lurking. I discovered I recall next to nothing about my tree identification. So it's taken over a month but I finally have secured some help from Oxford county soil and water and Oxford county forester. We plan to meet on the 23rd so they can help me plan my back to school investigations. I'm pretty sure a good portion of the trees I wanted to get to are surrounded by poison ivy, but my skills at identifying that are also pitiful. I discovered the leaf snap app is very unreliable and the tree I'd books I have are hard to follow. I am hoping Merle and Michelle can help me find easier resources for kids. Does anyone know of any good field guides?

We do have some loosestrife but only two or three plants look like the kids could get near until I confirm no poison ivy.

Merle Ring from Maine Forestry Department and Michelle Windsor from Oxford County Soil and Water came out to OES on the 23rd and we spent a few hours scoping out the grounds. We discovered a large variety of invasive plants and trees. I know have a better idea of how to begin my year. Going on the population over time curriculum, it's going to be a great fit. I hope to start getting them thinking by getting outside the first week with nature journals and generating questions they'd like answers to based on observation outside within the parameters of 'What's going on at OES schoolyard?'. They told me about two great apps - 'About My Woods' and Avena Maps - PDF Maps that allows you to pinpoint exactly where you found something and label it. They also refreshed my memory on a number of things I learned as a wee one. It's starting to come back in dribs and drabs. And on a positive note, there wasn't much poison ivy in areas I would like to get kids into.

I am behind the eightball getting student accounts setup as I have been setting up my humanities counterparts room and we've been interviewing madly. Finally have some one but they can't start when school starts so I have been working with long term sub, working with other new grade 6 teacher and wearing too many hats.

The beginning of the year classroom activities and lessons keep changing as the cast of characters change...we are a work in progress but I hope to be in full swing with the 10 day curriculum by mid September..

Hi there Qawilson,

Happy to hear you are getting out there and looking around on your school campus. I think it is great to work together with your local soil and water district and forester (hopefully they can confirm whether or not there is poison ivy around those potential study sites).

I am curious to hear more about those few loosestrife plants. A teacher in Massabesic has been monitoring an area with only one loosestrife plant for a few years now. His students have been engaging in questions of how it got there, will it change year to year, how might the plant affect biodiversity, etc...they also noticed a beetle (the Galerucella beetle arrived and is a did it get there??). Anyway, just a plug in there for starting small and collecting data over time.

As far as tree ID goes, I really like the Forest Trees of Maine guide, which happens to all be available online here -

Remember, as long as you are starting with a good question, you have the tools available to collect the data and you don't have to be the expert. The VS community is here to support you and your students in these investigations. Can't wait to see what you all find.

Merle Ring gave me a nice color copy of the book and is sending me a couple more. The new guides are wonderful and it will solve my issue of lack of color printer! With multiple copies and some printed species cards from Vital Signs, multiple groups can share nicely.

What great strides did you make in your planning and thinking?
I actually did the planning part! I have done much informal thinking since our initial workshop. I had nothing in writing, nothing concrete. It's easy to put those things on the back burner and then before you know it you have put them aside completely. I now have a solid base for the start of the school year with one of my classes. I am excited about the investigations! I went from I will have my kids go out and try this a day or two to planning a full unit with a final project of their own authentic investigations.
· What can you share that may help others in the Western Maine Teaching Community in the shared goal of supporting authentic science investigations in the classroom?
Don’t feel like you need to have it all figured out. It doesn’t need to be perfect. The idea of sharing now is that we hope you can all bounce ideas off one another and feel supported by a broader network. I do not really feel confident formally sharing until I have actually done the lessons with my students, but I would be comfortable informally sharing the ideas that I have. I plan to work closely with my ELA teacher (and eventually may be bring in math and social studies) in this project. I will also keep in touch with Candace who is in my district about what she is doing and share with her what we are doing as well.
· What is left to do?
When I get my laptop, I need to go to school and print out all of the links /lessons that I put in my unit plan and organize them in a binder like I do all of my lessons. This makes it so I can follow it day to day and not have to search for anything. When the school year starts it will be a matter of reviewing the individual lessons to make sure I am confident in the execution of them, have the materials....I also need to practice setting up the teams on the site. I tried it last year and had some issue but did not have a specific task I was working on, I was just playing around. At this point, that is about it, I feel pretty confident about my plans with the support of the resources available to me.

Hi Pistol,

This is exciting and great advice regarding #2!

Would you be willing to share your unit in the curriculum bank (, just click the "post my resource" link)? It would be a great resource to others to build on. Even as you iterate it you can update with your new versions. Don't be shy about adding draft work to the curriculum bank. :)