Science Lab in San Mateo County - Classroom by the Bay

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Just a few weeks before the start of another school year, 22 teachers across San Mateo County gathered at Marine Science Institute, located in Redwood City. This group of Pre-K to 3rd grade teachers registered for KQED Science Lab and were excited to plunge into four days of professional development.

The teachers came dressed in layers for unexpected Bay Area weather and sat outdoors overlooking the San Francisco Bay Estuary. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. The warmth of the sun, clear blue skies and the occasional sighting of brown pelicans gliding above the shores, set the stage for a jam-packed day of learning about marine science.  Sharing the space with the teachers that morning were 50 young children participating in the Shoreside program. Both teachers and children were on a mission to learn from the bay, find cool critters and have fun.

But before observing invertebrates from a mud grab, or pulling up marine life using a beach seine, the teachers first had an assignment. Each one was given a hand-held, pocket-sized video camcorder—a Flip Ultra HD—and asked to record a child engaging with marine life at one of the designated stations. The purpose was to explore how video could serve as a viable tool for formative assessment—a way to evaluate the quality of learning to support teaching and learning.

Wendy, a Kindergarten teacher, recorded a group of preschoolers at the fish station who were about to touch a flounder for the first time. After a bit of trepidation and some squealing, the children used their two fingers to feel the scales from head to fin. Words like slimy, soft and smooth were shared aloud. One child observed a yellowish color around the mouth of the fish and asked, “Is it wearing lipstick?”


Recording the child's observations, questions and thinking at various stages of the inquiry process, provides an opportunity for teachers to use video as a way to document and assess student learning. It’s also a great way to get to know a child.

Over the course of the training, teachers will have the opportunity to integrate technology, science, engineering and math, and learn to make it all meaningful to their own teaching practice. Dr. Christi Harter, San Mateo County Office of Education's STEM Center Director, commented, “Today was the first day of the training and it exemplified what STEM education is all about.”

To learn more about using video as a documentation and assessment tool, use these six guidelines and explore using digital media in everyday practice.

Science Lab teachers - Let's hear from you! Add your comments on your experience.

Thank you Marine Science Institute and STEM Center of San Mateo County Office of Education. You ROCK!

Science Lab teachers - Please complete this survey. Best wishes for a fun-filled year of making videos and integrating STEM!