Science Leader Transforming Middle School Instruction in Oregon

This month’s interview features Rich Bowden, a Science Instructional Leader from Monroe Middle School in Eugene, OR.  We asked Rich how IQWST is helping him make strides in his classroom and this is what he told us.

Activate Learning:  In what ways has using IQWST affected your classroom culture?

Rich:  At first it set the students on their heads. They didn’t know which way was up. This was so different from any other way they had learned before. They wanted me to tell them information, and simply memorize it. But when they asked me questions, I asked questions back. Before IQWST, I had done the same. However, IQWST allowed me to change my classroom to a completely inquiry-based classroom. The students are learning to be in charge of their own learning. The students began to have confidence in their own ideas, and not on whether I said something was right. They have become independent learners.

AL:  What are some ways that your students are demonstrating success in science as they use IQWST?

Rich:  Students are learning for the long-term not just for the short-term. This is what IQWST has to offer. I started using IQWST last year for the first time. In the third week of school this year, I was at a district science meeting, and one of the high school science teachers approached me. She told me that this particular group of freshmen (my former 8th graders) knew basic chemistry better than any group she can remember. Students are building a solid foundation in science in the 8th grade and taking what they have learned with them to high school. This is success!

AL:  IQWST focuses on reading, writing, and talking science--as students also “do” science.  How do the reading and writing activities support your students as learners?

Rich:  The readings are easily accessible to all students, but it is the writing that brings it home for my students. The readings are quite down to earth with only the necessary science vocabulary. The students can understand what they are reading about and how it connects to what we are doing in class. However, I can’t get enough of the writing in the 7th grade level units. Claim, Evidence and Reasoning (CER) is something I have been asking the students to use in their writing for years, but under a different name. However, what IQWST did with CER, which I hadn’t done in my own lessons, was put a spotlight on it that focused the students’ attention to evidence. At our Promotion Ceremony at the end of the year, one of our student speakers spoke about CER, “We learned something in science I will never forget - that evidence is specific, needs to be high quality, and you can’t ignore any of it.” Students in my class were constantly challenged to provide evidence to support any claims they made, and to connect the two with scientific reasoning. This is a strategy that they will be able to use no matter what field they go into, whether it is science, business, law, or others.

AL:   What differentiates IQWST from other science curricula?

Rich:  I have used several curricula in my 17 years of teaching. I have used ones that were inquiry-based and others that claimed to be inquiry-based. What separates IQWST from even the ones that do incorporate true inquiry, is IQWST’s comprehensive inquiry model.  The sequential build of evidence gathering and questioning that challenges the students’ thinking, and brings them piece by piece to a coherent understanding of concepts sets IQWST apart from the pack.