Explore Mi-STAR’s Latest Updated Unit: Unit 6.4: Protect Your Cell Phone

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Mi-STAR’s latest updated unit combines the best parts of the original with the latest innovations from Mi-STAR based on an extensive expert review and community feedback to make one of our best offerings to date.

If you already teach unit 6.4: Protect Your Cell Phone, the updated version presents some major improvements. The updated version uses a streamlined lesson sequence and assessments to develop the same standards in less time and in a more user-friendly manner, while maintaining the engaging hands-on investigations and demonstrations.

We updated this unit based on two main sources of feedback:

  • An extensive EQuIP review from the experts at WestEd, the publishers of the NGSS. '
  • Comments from teachers across Michigan who taught the unit in the past.

“The EQuIP review process was very thorough and we got many great suggestions on how to maximize the NGSS alignment,” said Gregg Bluth, Senior Research Scientist at Mi-STAR, who led the unit revision project. These reviews led to the unit being recognized nationally as a Quality NGSS resource and shared as an Open Education Resource on the NextGenScience website.

WestEd’s review focused on maximizing a lesson’s NGSS alignment, which is sometimes at odds with classroom practicality. As a result, “we heard from teachers that the EQuIP-aligned version of the unit felt weighed down by all the reflection and call backs to the standards,” said Bluth.

“To resolve this tension, we invested a great deal of time on developing a cohesive storyline and unpacking of the NGSS standards to really focus on scaffolding student understanding of these complex standards. To help support students, we introduce some Grade 3-5 PEs with the intention of ensuring that the whole class can work at the middle school level by the end of the unit,” said Bluth.

The additional scaffolding, coupled with a more student-friendly approach to modeling norms, makes the unit better for students and teachers alike, according to Barb McIntyre, a retired teacher and Research Associate at Mi-STAR.

“The updated unit really focuses on making Newton's laws visible by connecting them to relatable phenomena. This helps connect the dots for students who may not have an intuitive understanding of physics or who would not infer the connections on their own,” said McIntyre.

McIntyre added, “In the earlier unit there was such a heavy focus on the modeling conventions that the modeling felt more like an assessment than a way to express your ideas. The updated version simplified these norms to help students make their thinking visible and express their understanding. Students experience modeling as a useful tool to express their ideas.”

Ashley Poole, a teacher at Hillside Middle School in Kalamazoo, helped design the updated unit and piloted it in her classroom. She agrees with McIntyre: “My students showed less frustration with the modeling because of the simplicity. The new force modeling norms are so much better since I understand it better and can teach it better. As a result, students are doing much better at it.” Poole especially liked how the updated unit scaffolded planning investigations for students. “Students seemed to do better with identifying an investigation’s variables. The unit sets up identifying variables so well, now you could have students start to design some of the investigations themselves or even do a science fair.“

The updated version along with Kendall Hunt workbooks will be available to all 2023-2024 Mi-STAR subscribers this fall. Check your MyMi-STAR Dashboard for the latest news.

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Mi-STAR was founded in 2015 through generous support provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. Mi-STAR has also received substantial support from the National Science Foundation, the MiSTEM Advisory Council through the Michigan Department of Education, and Michigan Technological University.