Lori Towata

I'm a third-grade teacher who has always loved science. NSTA is a wonderful resource for delving into content related to NGSS and I’m honored to be a part of the community.




HIDOE-KMR complex area elementary school

Recent Posts by Lori

Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:07 PM in Science Lessons Outside of the Classroom
Catherine's ideas about a bit of an independent scavenger hunt is great. I do something to that degree by starting off in a small area of campus and expanding outward after students become used to the expectations. Safety and considerations to other classrooms on campus make for short "sidewalk" excursions before an off-campus event. I always start the year off with 3-5 of these visits around c...

Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:00 PM in Science in the Average Day
This thread is so informative. I'm not yet at the point where I'm unable to set aside science instructional time, but I can see that looming ahead as the challenges to achieve adequate yearly progress on state assessment targets increase. The language arts integration is what works for me for science instruction, but I'm also able to integrate science with our state's general learner outcomes (lif...

Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:47 PM in Mars Curiosity Rover
Erik, I finally had time for my students to make connections between the data being sent from Curiosity and the connections to how this study relates to third-graders in Hawaii. I just showed them pictures from the same article that you linked to! They were very excited as our study this quarter relates to rocks and soil. While they're not yet ready to make analytical jumps regarding the soil c...

Recent Reviews by Lori

Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:31 PM
4 Energy: Pick and Choose elements for Lower El.
The Energy SciGuide is divided into three themes: Recognizing Energy, Thermal Energy, and Changes in Energy. Energy in motion, stored energy, and energy generated from heat are the guidelines to recognizing types of energy. I really like the usage of the teacher resource links provided in the SciGuide. The sites that offer raw data information (Sun Source links) are extremely helpful in accessing information that fits my grade 3 benchmark about the sun’s energy (present in the form of heat and light energy). Students can see “real-life” data about the sun including sun spots on the SOHO link; on the “How the Sun Works” student link, there is embedded video links about the “Unfolding Universe” about the sun that might be independent study opportunities for students to view as extensions of their learning. The text is not geared for grade 3 students and seems a bit much, but the composition of the sun and its layers might be worth pointing out in comparison to earth. Parts of the lesson plan for recognizing energy can be adapted for early elementary use—in the form of building a concept map as a pre- and post-recognizing energy forms task. The lesson, as a third-grade lab, needs to be adjusted to provide quick demos: standing in the sun, holding something up that the wind would catch, using sun-sensitive paper, rubber band for the different energy forms. The Thermal Energy Theme focused on links that were more accessible to students. I loved BBC bitesize interactives and use them as part of my science instruction all the time. However, I would recommend the KS2 bitesize activitity of “Keeping Warm” which is more at my students’ level in measuring heat of polystyrene, cardboard, and foil. While it’s not an exact match, the interactives are specifically geared to my age-group. The popcorn lesson for the lab can be achieved as a demonstration without the extensive task of having students write up a formal lab report. Third-graders would love to draw pictures of the kernels popping. The concept of explaining gas contraction for thermal energy seems a bit challenging at my level. Students can connect to steam rising by using hot water in a jar covered by a lid; this has a direct connection to the hydrologic cycle which IS a grade 3 learning objective. Of the students sites associated with the theme of Conservation of Energy, “The Energy Problem” site with the bouncing spring is the most visual and easily communicated to students of any age. They can see the bars of the types of energy change and adjust over the spring’s period. I had issues with the use of peanuts (due to student nut allergies) and the match/heat source required of this theme’s lesson so will leave that for middle school activities. I need to think a bit more on what lesson might best fit the needs of my students. Since the SciGuide is intended for primarily upper elementary grades, many of the concepts need to be adjusted for presentation to my eight-year-old students. Most of the student sites need to be presented to third-graders in using “chunking” strategies and may best be used for pictures, simulations, and videos. The labs seem to be a bit extensive. I think that some teachers are looking for quick demos if students need more in-depth discussions or opportunities to question rather than extended 4-5 periods of lab lesson activities. I would have liked more visual student resources; many of the recommendations are very text-heavy, even for middle school students. Overall the SciGuide did have extensive teacher background knowledge with genuinely useful pieces, but I think it’s primarily well-suited for middle and high-school use.

Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:59 PM
4 Rocks at All Levels with Minor Adjustments
The Rocks SciGuide provides resources that would better help a teacher communicate information about rock formation, the rock cycle, and about possible misconceptions students may have about the subject. This SciGuide focuses on three themes: 1) Formation of Rocks, 2) History of Rocks, and 3) Soil. The Web site connections to Windows to the Universe (even though the site had a “busy appearance” and the animations from the classroomzone.com sites were especially helpful in providing visualizations of real rock formation types. Among the most effectively interactive, was the BBC2 KS3 interactive. While it was extremely text-heavy, the animations and interactive nature of that example was very helpful. Ideally, the SciGuide is still intended for instruction of students at the secondary level. Most of the more accessible content is targeted for grades 5-8 students. I think it is adaptable for students at the elementary level (I am in grade 3), with scaffolding and teacher-lead discussion through grade 4. The middle level lesson on sedimentary rocks can be adapted with a change to minimized materials. The content of rocks might work well with the other science objects relating to processes of earth and possibly plate tectonics. I did appreciate that the SciGuide referred to the on-site NSTA K-4 resources, but what I really appreciated were the flash simulations (as could be found in the SciPacks). The flash simulation that built the rock cycle garnered those “oh, oh, OHs!” with my students. They really enjoyed seeing the reinforcement of these concepts as we teachers (always so short on time) don’t have millions of years to teach about rocks!

Tue Sep 13, 2011 9:46 PM
4 Coral Reef SciGuide Needs K-8 input
The Coral Ecosystems SciGuide provides an overview of potential resources that would be appropriate to teaching about coral organisms, its symbiotic relationships with zooxanthellae, habitats of coral reef creatures/relationships between the coral reef organisms, or how to address the human impacts relating to the coral reef environment. This SciGuide focuses on three themes: 1) Coral Reef Biology, 2) Coral Reef Ecosystem, and 3) Coral Reef Conservation. I found the biology section very helpful in understanding how I could present information about the structure and function of the coral as a living organism. The lesson plans target directed/group-based instruction primarily for high school students (9-12) and need to be heavily adapted down for middle school (6-8) and elementary school teachers (k-5). My fellow elementary educators really need to sift through the lesson plans to see what might work for them, if technology is not easily accessible. Tutorials for my entire class are not a viable option. I did appreciate the wealth of Web-based resources like the photo galleries of coral reef organisms, movies, and simulations (for my betterment as an educator). I especially liked the student-friendly Fisheye View cams (a provided link), that allow students to see time-lapse coral spawning. I showed my students the multitude of galleries through classroom projection, and they were impressed! I would like to see more opportunities for other NSTA teachers (or forum members) have the opportunity to directly use their input to adapt elementary-based lessons. The SciGuide is a starting point, but I need to be more creative and find hands-on materials appropriate for eight-year-olds.