"Today we are learning about thermal expansion. What does thermal expansion mean?" asked Washington Middle School science teacher Sebastian DiNapoli.
"When something gets hot it gets bigger and when it gets colder it gets smaller," said a student from Matt Schrader's class.
"So when matter is heated it expands, and gets less dense. You keep the same amount of matter but increase the volume. However, the density decreases," said Mr. DiNapoli. "When cold, matter contracts, which causes it to become more dense. As we do the lab today, you need to keep these two main ideas in mind."
Washington Middle School science teacher Sebastian DiNapoli demonstrates a thermal expansion lab to students in Matt Schrader’s class.
Mr. DiNapoli was preparing fellow teacher Matt Schrader's class for a lab. Washington Science teachers Mr. DiNapoli, Mr. Schrader and Kay Eklum recently collaborated on a project where they moved to their fellow teacher's classroom over a three-day period and taught a heat unit to seventh- and eighth-graders. Mr. DiNapoli taught thermal expansion, Mrs. Eklum taught conduction, convection and radiation and Mr. Schrader taught heat transfer.
"I really liked switching teachers for each subject," said Washington Middle School seventh grader Drew Simmons who is in Mrs. Eklum's class. "Seeing the way a teacher presents the material gives you a different perspective on a subject than you might see with your regular teacher. I didn't know either Mr. Schrader or Mr. DiNapoli really well except seeing them in the hallways and it was good to meet other teachers too."
The teachers' heat unit collaboration came about from their Professional Learning Community science meetings held three times a week.
"We talked about swapping classes during the beginning of the year in-service day. We thought, what if we could take each of our strengths and use that to teach all our students. As the school year progressed, and we were able to meet in our common content area, it allowed us to really talk about what is working and what isn't in teaching science to our students. Through those discussions, the classroom swap developed," said the teachers. "Our focus is student-learning and it is important to have time in your week to focus on content and how students can best learn the information. It has helped this year, as the entire science department aligned curriculum across the district, which allows all to be on the same page at the same time."
Every Thursday, each of their students is given a common formative assessment in a computerized test based on what they learned in class that week. Teachers can immediately see the results of these assessments and determine what is still challenging the students. The teachers look to see if one of them has better results than the others in a topic, share what they are doing differently, and adjust their teaching based on the results. On Fridays, teachers re-teach to those students that need to better understand the topic. For the top eight students in each class who have mastered the skill, they receive a "Fun Friday" activity, which is motivating students to study more.
"The teacher swapping received a lot of positive feedback from the students," said the teachers. "It was motivating to them to have a different teacher. A couple of students who weren't that interested in science in our own classes really flourished and were motivated with a new teacher. We are also making connections outside of the classroom too in the hallways as we better know all of the students in each of our classes."