A National Network of Teachers Helping Teachers Teach K-6 Inquiry Science: The "ASK a Teacher" Project

The "ASK a Teacher" project builds on 20+ years of four multi-year professional development projects that developed and researched a strategy to improve K-6 teachers¹ science content knowledge by showing teachers how to adapt science kit activities so that the science inquiries could also be used to enhance students' reading and writing skills.

The outgrowth of the projects is this website that opened in 2013 and now contains 73 lesson plans and annotated videos of ASK lessons. The 73 lesson plans and videos were generated exclusively with distance technologies. The full lesson videos and the edited lesson vignettes with inserted teacher commentaries were all produced using remotely controlled video technologies that facilitate synchronous video and audio interactions. In its first 24 months of access, teachers from 575 schools and teacher educators from 192 colleges visited the website more than 18,000 times to view or download lesson plans and videos.

The ASK a Teacher project is entering a new phase designed to (1) increase the number of teachers contributing lessons in order to capture a broader range of lessons and better represent a national perspective, (2) improve the value of the site as a professional development tool by incorporating commentary by science content experts, and (3) study the impact on the science content knowledge of teachers contributing ASK lessons, on teachers who visit the website, and on students of the teachers who visit the website.

Thanks for joining us.

We are teachers - Teachers helping teachers teach more than science by teaching inquiry science.

We are the "ASK Project” Teachers. We participated in creating this project in 2007 and have been getting ready to invite you to join us. "Teachers Helping Teachers Teach Inquiry Science: Just Ask" is funded by the National Science Foundation. As part of the project, we are offering this website so that teachers nationally and internationally can access their ASK lesson adaptation notes and lesson video recordings. We hope you will join us to share your ideas and interests by clicking on "Contact Us" in the menu.

Who Are We?

We are the "ASK Project".

We (the original ASK project participants) teach in elementary schools of rural and small-town districts in Missouri and Iowa.

"Our “Adapting Science for Kids” project builds on 25 years of NSF-funded work by the “ASK” team as a K-6 professional development strategy in which we are using distance technologies to reach teachers whether located in rural, small-town or urban centers.  So far we have produced:
(1) a set of more than 130 ASK lessons with more than 70 accompanying classroom videos which are specific to using inquiry science to "teach more than science," 
(2) this ASK website for teachers to share their lessons and ideas with other teachers, including teachers expert in "Adapting Science for Kids,"
(3) for teachers who wish to share their lessons -- a free system for recording science lessons at-a-distance by a videographer who will record, edit, give feedback, and post the lesson, and
(4) research evidence on the impact of ASK communities of practice on school districts' programs, teachers and students in nine school districts."

Wherever you are, we invite you to join us. You may wish to merely chat with us via Email or join us in online in Elluminate or PolyCom “Community of Practice” sessions or share your notes and/or videos for lessons you have adapted to “teach more than science when you teach inquiry science.” We can help you create the notes as well as record and edit the videos for you -- and perhaps offer you graduate credit for your participation with us.


What is an ASK lesson?

I like to adapt lessons to teach more than science when teaching inquiry science. “Adapting Science Kits” has been the “ASK” in justaskateacher. However, we create “ASK” lessons whether the lesson is from a science kit, some other source, or a lesson created from scratch. "ASK" now means "Adapting Science for Kids." When I start to adapt a lesson, I ask myself, "How can I use this inquiry science so that it helps students learn something else in my curriculum? I like to add something to which the science contributes easily and which also contributes naturally to the science. In my case, I usually come up with reading, but it could be writing, language arts, math, or another area. Because I'm always under time pressure, I try to make sure that the ASK lesson does not extend the time for the lesson, but rather pulls together the science with the reading into one effective and fun lesson. The students like it, I like it, and I get more done in the time that I have. Check out some of our ASK lessons under "Shared Resources," try your hand with adaptation, and then share some of your ASK lessons. It's fun and very helpful. We can even provide a free videographer to record, edit, give feedback, and post the lesson if you decide to share it.


Shared Resources

Here you can see our ideas in our lesson notes (TLANs) and in our lesson videos. We also hope you will join us by sharing your ideas in the "Contact Us" menu and by live online "Community of Practice" (COP) sessions via PolyCom or Elluminate.


The NSF-Funded "ASK" Project – A Brief History

When we wrote the proposal to the National Science Foundation, we were responding to the “Discovery Research K-12 (B2)” call for “full scale projects that provide resources and tools for use with K-12 teachers that (1) are grounded in research on teaching and learning, (2) incorporate appropriate technologies, (3) provide ubiquitous access to resources, tools and methods, and (4) show their potential to impact student and teacher learning nation-wide.” Our submission proposed to build on 15 (now more then 25) years of our NSF-funded work by our “ASK” team of teachers. We had been adapting science lessons as a K-6 professional development strategy and using distance technologies to reach teachers in small, rural school districts.

We developed and tested a new generation of ASK resources and distance delivery strategies. The products include: (1) a validated set of ASK lessons and accompanying classroom videos, (2) a web-based community of practice facilitated by PolyCom View Stations and an “Elluminate Live” portal where ASK activities and classroom videos can be accessed and posted and where teachers can interact with other teachers (including teachers who are expert in adapting lessons) nation-wide, and (3) research evidence on the impact of ASK on school districts programs, teachers and students in our field test school districts.

The ASK idea of helping other teachers “adapt” science inquiry activities to account for student ideas and interests and to enhance competence in reading, writing, math, and other curricular areas responded to the call for teacher education programs that “...prepare teachers to think about the enterprise of teaching as building on the existing knowledge base and preconceptions of students…[and that] …convey a model of teachers as learner, who continually develops expertise that is flexible and adaptive.” (Donovan, Bransford & Pellegrino, 1999, p. 46).

More than building on teachers’ prior knowledge, our ASK approach utilizes and respects prior knowledge and recognizes that “much of what a teacher needs to know (and know how to do) is learned in the context of practice [from other teachers]” (Schlager & Fusco, 2004, p. 129). Our ASK approach builds “communities of practice” with colleagues within school buildings and districts and with colleagues and experts outside—both of which are critical to continued professional development (Darling-Hammond & Ball, 1998).

We developed and field-tested the new generation of ASK lessons and the website for building communities of practice in nine small, rural and small town school districts. Based on our success with the ASK lessons developed earlier in our FOCIS (1988-92), PALs (1994-98) and Science Co-op (2000-2007) for FOSS, STC and Insights kits, we began a working library for use in these field tests. We are offering these “Teacher Lesson Adaptation Notes” (TLANs) and lesson videos on our “justaskateacher” website for teachers in the USA and beyond.

Give us a shout! We are here to help.

Ask Program Email: matthewscc@umsl.edu