KnowAtom's Blog

Nicole Lanoue

My love and curiosity for science were fueled at a young age by experiments with backyard river algae and physics lessons with Bill Nye. For me, science is a lifelong quest for discovery, inspired by the amazing world we live in. I believe that through scientific knowledge, each person has the ability to improve their lives, create innovative technologies, and empower society. Lanoue has taught kindergarten through fifth grade science and engineering to students in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. She also has a background in strategic planning to improve resources and practices for effective teaching and learning. Lanoue has a passion for transforming education by providing highly engaging STEM learning experiences for every student. She joined KnowAtom in 2007, where she collaborates on the design and implementation of STEM curriculum and labs. Lanoue holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Gordon College.

Recent Posts

17 Reasons Why the NGSS Science Framework Was Developed

Oct 4, 2021 by Nicole Lanoue

Updated on November 17th, 2023. 

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released in 2013. They are research-based K–12 science content standards that aim to improve science education for all students. These Next Generation learning standards are a critical component in many STEM curriculums.

In this article you will learn when the NGSS Framework was created and who took part in the comprehensive, multi-year development process. This effort was led by states across the country, and included feedback from diverse stakeholders, including education professionals, scientists, and the public. As teaching professionals, by developing a more robust understanding of how and why the NGSS standards were developed, we can better understand the importance of implementing them in the classroom and engaging our students to think like scientists and engineers when learning STEM. 

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, STEM

How to Take KnowAtom Lessons Remote

Aug 6, 2020 by Nicole Lanoue

As many schools and districts move to remote or hybrid learning this school year, preserving what makes science learning most valuable for students, whether it's in the classroom or remote, is critical.

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Topics: Remote Learning

Facilitating Productive Discussions: Tools for the Classroom or Remote Learning

Jul 30, 2020 by Nicole Lanoue

Dr. William Glasser, a renowned 1960s American psychiatrist, said, “We learn 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear, 30 percent of what we see, 50 percent of what we see and hear, 70 percent of what we discuss, 80 percent of what we experience, and 95 percent of what we teach others.”

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Topics: Remote Learning

How to Navigate Remote Learning: Tips and Tools from a Veteran Teacher

Jul 14, 2020 by Nicole Lanoue

We’ve all heard the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” In the spring of 2020, most of you had to live it. In a moment’s notice, teachers across the U.S. pivoted to a remote learning model with scarce notice.

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Topics: Remote Learning

Concrete Ways to Ask Students Better Questions

Jul 16, 2019 by Nicole Lanoue

This blog is the second part of a two-part series titled "Asking Better Questions: The Key to Deeper, More Engaged, More Authentic Instruction." To read the first part, click here.

"Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them. School is no longer about the quick right answer, but about the ongoing mental work of understanding new ideas and information." (Vygotsky 1978)

Given this, the questions that we ask shouldn't be about quick right answers. Instead, they should be about getting students to engage in the mental work—the cognitive load—of understanding new ideas and information, which can come from the individual or other students.

What are some techniques and some practical approaches that you can use?

  1. Start by identifying key big ideas, or concepts, for yourself that are a part of the unit.
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Topics: Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Phenomena-Based Learning, science education, engineering education, Three-Dimensional Learning

How To Ask Questions that Lead to More Engaged Students

Jul 10, 2019 by Nicole Lanoue

How do the questions we ask students influence the quality of classroom instruction—and by extension, the depth of students’ learning?

This question is critical for classrooms implementing the Next Generation Science Standards and adaptations of the NGSS. Creating a next generation learning environment requires space for creativity, analysis, and decision-making so that students can develop the control and agency necessary to develop and use the three dimensions of the NGSS—science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts.

For students to develop control and agency, they need opportunities to be creative, to independently and collaboratively use the eight science and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts to make sense of the disciplinary core ideas, and then have the opportunity to own the result of their efforts, regardless of the outcome.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Standards, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Phenomena-Based Learning, Three-Dimensional Learning

Instructional Leadership is Essential for a Successful NGSS Implementation

Dec 5, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

Last week we talked about why focusing on a building or district's culture is so important for a successful implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards.

This week we turn our attention to the important role that instructional leadership plays in culture, which in turn affects how successful any implementation will likely be.

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Topics: Next Generation Leadership, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, STEM Education Policy, Three-Dimensional Learning

3 Features Shared by All Next Generation Formative Assessments

Jul 26, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

In any part of a next generation science lesson, formative assessments provide useful feedback to both the teacher and the students in the moment.

Formative assessments can come anywhere in a lesson, so they can be verbal, written, electronic, and take a variety of different forms. However, they all share three characteristics.

3 Features Share By All Formative Assessments

  1. Similar to a milestone, formative assessments occur in the moment as students are engaged in making sense of phenomena, which includes planning and carrying out investigations. This allows students to incorporate the feedback into their thinking and their work, becoming more aware of their own learning process.
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Topics: Formative Assessment

Why Are Formative Assessments Essential to Effective Next Generation Science Instruction?

Jul 19, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

The Next Generation Science Standards are all about students developing the skills to work with ideas, both their own and those of others.

That means that it's not sufficient to know about something. Students have to be able to form an opinion, have an idea, to work with that idea to be able to inform themselves, and also to refine the idea over time, perhaps through experimentation or through prototyping.

This is a significant shift from traditional science instruction, one that will require changes from both teachers and students. 

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Formative Assessment

How Do Formative Assessments Benefit Elementary and Middle School Students?

Jul 13, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

Formative assessment needs to be a key part of any next generation science instruction.

At its core, a formative assessment is an opportunity for useful insight on behalf of both parties—the teacher and the students. Often, formative assessments look a lot like a conversation because they’re bilateral, with both parties offering ideas, listening, and acting as a critical skeptic to the other.


How Formative Assessments Benefit Students

Students get frequent, focused feedback that is useful for improving their learning in the moment.

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Topics: NGSS-Designed Curriculum, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Formative Assessment, Three-Dimensional Learning

Lawrence Public Schools Sees Uptick in Science Performance Among English Learners

May 30, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue


Lawrence is one of 26 “Gateway Cities” in Massachusetts, which means it is a mid-sized urban center that was once home to industry but struggled as its manufacturing jobs disappeared. Gateway cities are home to the largest numbers of English Learners (EL) in the state. In the case of Lawrence Public Schools, 71.3% of students' first language is not English.

In 2015-2016, Lawrence Public Schools adopted KnowAtom’s K-8 science and engineering curriculum and hands-on resources because of KnowAtom’s success in helping other large urban districts significantly improve the science learning outcomes of all students, including EL students.

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Topics: Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction

How to Get Students to Participate in Socratic Dialogue

May 23, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

A strong Socratic dialogue can be helped by the layout of your class and how you organize students. We'll focus on three different formats for Socratic dialogue.

Choosing a Socratic Dialogue Format

The layout of your classroom and how students are positioned can go a long way toward getting students to be active participants. The format you choose will depend on your grade level and the familiarity of your students with Socratic dialogue.

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, Next Generation Science Classroom Instruction, Three-Dimensional Learning

Why is Socratic Dialogue So Important in a Next Generation Science Classroom?

May 9, 2018 by Nicole Lanoue

A next generation science class is all about students learning how to work with ideas, both their own ideas and the ideas of others.

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Topics: Socratic dialogue, Phenomena-Based Learning, Three-Dimensional Learning

Girls and Women in STEM: Enhancing Equality and Opportunity

Nov 27, 2017 by Nicole Lanoue

The conversation about women in STEM is everywhere and growing exponentially in popularity, something seen in the sheer number of headlines written in the past few years. What you may not know, however, is that while women are better represented in the science and engineering workforce today than in the past, there are still gaps, especially in the engineering and computer sciences fields.

In grades K-12, a report by the National Girls Collaborative Project found that more girls than boys took advanced biology and pre-calculus classes, but male students were six times more likely to take engineering classes and slightly more likely to take calculus beyond pre-calc. After high school, the numbers drop even more dramatically.

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Topics: STEM

Using STEM to Unlock the Potential of Rural Classrooms

Nov 24, 2017 by Nicole Lanoue

"When the going gets tough, the tough get going." It’s an old adage, but one that holds a lot of truth, at least when it comes to the youth in rural and tribal communities hit the hardest by our most recent economic downturn. This is our heartland: areas that have lost jobs, industry, and population over the past decade. It’s an old problem, but one that a STEM education can potentially help solve.

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Topics: STEM

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