Category Archives: Class Ideas

Where does coding fit in your class?

I love coding. That being said, I never found the time in the past to do it in class. I teach science and I know coding is great for introducing another part of STEM. But where can I fit it in? I’ve been racking my brains trying to think of a ways to include coding into my class. I know our Physics teacher does coding in her classes. And there have been many times she has offered her robots to me.

Then I began to think about it and finally came up with some ideas. After reading about the Hour of Code event, I decided to try something in class  (if you don’t know about this is you can read about it here). When do we code in an Earth Science Class? When the students do their Genius Hour or Citizen Project. I have some students who love to use our EV3’s or they create a game for class. Students love the programming blocks in the EV3’s. We also use these in our Robotics Camp. The EV3 program is similar to Scratch and works on a type of “block interface”.  My other project in class takes place at the beginning of the year, I have students use Scratch to introduce themselves.

Scratch.JPG

It was a basic introduction to scratch. I had Students code sprites to answer three questions. Students had partners for the project and had to create a conversation between their sprites. The questions were based on “getting to know you”, or introductions for the beginning of the year. I wanted to change this up a bit and figure I would try this out. I think they enjoyed it, I will probably find out on my semester survey. There were some problems; I need to structure my introduction a bit more, and let them do a tutorial on the program. I’ve already decided to implement some things for next year.

Why am I bringing this up now, well I started to think about Ozbot.  This summer I had a chance to test the Ozbot out and found it pretty easy to use. We are thinking about getting some for our Robotics Summer Program. This is a great way to introduce students to coding and can be a great introduction into programming robots. But how could I use this in class? Could it be integrated into my Earth Science Class? Questions I haven’t answered yet. But does it have to be a part of the class? Could I make this activity a reward when we end a unit? Again I haven’t decided yet, but I can guarantee I will come up with something and when I do I will post it here.

So where does coding fit in your class?

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Designing Group Projects So That Everyone Participates – John Spencer

Collaborative projects can easily fall apart in the classroom. You start with a great idea but next thing you know, you have half of your students checked out. So, how do we fix this?   Listen to

Source: Designing Group Projects So That Everyone Participates – John Spencer

After listening to the podcasts I’m rethinking my group projects. How do you get all parties involved in the project? Buy in? How do you get students to own the process? John Spencer does a great job in giving teachers ideas how how to do this. But obviously each classroom is different, and something that works for me might not work for you. And there will always be that one or two students you just can’t get to work. Its frustrating I know, but its one of the things Teachers have to accept, its called “human behavior” (well that’s what I think). The classroom can’t be perfect.

 “It’s complicated, John Spencer says and its because kids are complicated”.

I know the projects that are successful in my classroom are the one’s that students are engaged and have ownership. “Creative Collaboration”, definitely agree here with John Spencer. Our earthquake towers are one of the most successful projects we do in class. Students take ownership and work together on building something.

I’m definitely taking some of John Spencer’s suggestions and implementing them in the some of my projects in class.

Thank You Mr. Spencer great article!

 

Finally a successful Genius Hour

Yes, this topic has become a major point in many academic discussions lately I just recently attended a webinar with AJ Juliani who is a guru of the Genius Hour.  It was mentioned at my school recently during a faculty meeting and I found out another teacher was using the project format.  This really got me pumped because I have been the only one doing this project for the past 2 years. My version of the Project’s a little different but after looking at other teacher’s blogs and some of the resources on Genius Hour I started to realize that I am on the right course with it. This is my introduction to last year’s Genius Hour which was a great time for the kids I believe.  I think most of the students were engaged in their task and most of the students enjoyed their projects. Sorry for such a delay with the blog post, but it’s been a busy summer and beginning of the year.

Last year’s Genius Hour went well, because of student’s choices for the project, they were part of the success. Some of them decided instead of creating and solving a problem, they would help gather data and research their topics.  So, what they did was they joined citizen science projects.  At first, I was a little leery of this because I thought this really isn’t the purpose of Genius Hour but this is what they were interested in and what they wanted to do so I allowed it to happen.  One young man got involved with North Carolinas Critter cameras which I thought was great idea, he applied for a critter camera and when he set it up he started to help with research, sending photos in to scientists.  He was so enthusiastic about this project and at the end when he presented his enthusiasm just overflowed. The student thought it was such a great project that he is continuing to do it even beyond finishing the Genius Hour project.  After presenting there were some students who got really excited too and wanted to know more about the project.  I know it was not problem solving or creating something to solve a problem. But it was helping scientists and I was happy I let him do it.  No regrets.

The second project I wanted to mention was completed by a young woman. She came to me and she was fretting about the project. Her concern was that she was not a science person. I asked her what was she interested in and this initiated a discussion on what would she might like to do.  My guidelines required that the project only needed to be within the area of science technology engineering or art.  We started to discuss the project and I told her to think about. She came back the next day with this idea to create an alien world and alien race with the knowledge that she obtained from biology and other Science courses. Her project was amazing, she created a new alien race and the planet they lived on. I’ve inserted some of the pictures of her alien and some of the worksheets.

I was amazed at the detail she put into her creation. She told me she was so excited about this and she felt that it was something she would love to continue. I told her I thought that was fantastic and that maybe she could find somebody to write a story around the alien.  The student thought that was an awesome idea and over the summer we kept in contact.  I continued to receive updates on her progress during the summer.

I think this is a great example of what Genius Hour is about. The excitement afterwards with some of these projects really made me understand how important it was to give students their learning back.  Putting learning back into the student’s hands has become a goal of mine this year. The combination of Genius Hour and Blended Learning, has been successful in implementing this goal. I think the success of the Genius Hour Project last year, has driven me to improve the project.  I won’t change much however, I will allow a bit more leeway on their topics and see what comes of it. I did do a journal last year to try to keep an eye on how they were doing. I found that it kept them on task and could be used as evidence of their learning.  I’m already planning the next one for the 2nd semester.

Freedom to Learn — User Generated Education

I was painfully bored during my K-12 education. I looked forward to college anticipating that it would be different – more engaging, more interesting, more innovative. I was wrong. My undergraduate education, except for a few bright spots, was just an extension of my K-12 education including more grill and drill with sages on the […]

via Freedom to Learn — User Generated Education

Below are just a couple of quotes from the blog post that I truly appreciate. I’m not interested in reading this book. Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn.

Much significant learning is acquired through doing. “Placing the student in direct experiential confrontation with practical problems, social problems, ethical and philosophical problems, personal issues, and research problems, is one of the most effective modes of promoting learning” (p. 162).

One cannot measure the difference in attitude, the increased interest, the growing pride in self-improvement, but one is aware that they exist. (Rogers, 1969, p. 19)

Climate Change

Source: Climate Change

Check out the response to the Booklet being sent out to Teachers about Climate change from the Heartland Institute. Here is another source mentioned on the NESTA website The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change

Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming: the NIPCC Report on Scientific Consensus, and a DVD, History of Climate Change in Greenland. The package looks official with the NIPCC’s seal in the upper left corner. The deceptive marketing is intended to take advantage of many teachers’ unfamiliarity with climate science….

Citizen Science Projects

Oh wow! Another blog entry! This time it’s about another project I having going on in class. I’m always looking for different ideas to use for class projects. If one works then I will use it again, if not I try others. This year I decided to use an idea one of my NASA colleagues has used in class; Citizen Science Projects. I really had never thought about this type of project before until I listened to this person give a discussion on the topic at an NSTA conference.

The reason I choose to do this project is because I believed that students should know more about what is happening in the science community and become informed citizens of science. I also like the environmental issues that some of the projects address. Different environmental issues are being addressed every day in the news, so I felt my students should understand the problems their generation will face. Which leads to a positive of this project, I have a good number of students working with the National Wildlife Foundations certified habitats. They are creating habitats that meet the criteria to become certified habitats by the NWF. Many of the groups are working with their parents to develop an area in their backyards to a “Garden for Wildlife” or “Wildlife Habitat”.  Another project a number of students are doing is Project Noah, a site that you post your spotting (pictures) of wildlife in your area.  The site allows a teacher to create a classroom and students can sign up. Through this site, the teacher can keep track of the student’s spottings. Students learn about different species from around the world and their scientific name for these species. I have taken part in this project and have posted some awesome pictures of animals. My username is rippie772011. I’ve enjoyed doing it too!

Project Noah is a tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere

This has been such a success in class that I think I will be doing this again. I’ll give students a project survey at the end to see what I might have to do to improve the project. But overall I think it is going great. I’ve listed the various resources students used to pick their projects.

Project Noah: http://www.projectnoah.org/education: You will sign up under my classroom
Cornell Labs: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/about/definition
SETI: https://seti.berkeley.edu/
SciStarter: http://scistarter.com/index.html
Globe Observer: http://observer.globe.gov/
Hubble Telescope: http://hubblesite.org/get_involved/citizen_science/
National Geographic: http://nationalgeographic.org/idea/citizen-science-projects/
Zooniverse: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects?status=live
National Wildlife Federation: Certify your garden (this one you will need your parent’s help)- https://goo.gl/lNKQos
Globe Program: There are various readings and projects to do with this program. Please see the Teacher.
Museum of Natural Science- There are opportunities to work in labs. You need to see the Teacher for this.

 

10 Things Pixar Can Teach Us About Creativity

Source: 10 Things Pixar Can Teach Us About Creativity

Could be used as a teachable moment in class when working creative projects. Thinking about reading the book too.

Learning from the students

I’m starting my blog challenge by writing a few words about a learning moment I had in class. Yep, I learned something from my students and it was fantastic.

We had been talking about geological history and going over various topics in the chapter. Our discussion began with my sharing my experience I had with the Siemens Program. During my time there I had the opportunity to work at a dig site with mammoth bones. My training also included getting certified as a lab technician with radiation certification. We were working in a lab with radiation materials and working with the  XRF(X-ray Fluorescence) to identify the layer’s elements in the dig site. You can check out my blogs on my PD experience in an earlier blog entry.

Students began to talk about mammoths and elephants. Their size differences. I was honest and admitted I had no idea. I know I should have, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember. Especially because I was an Earth Science teacher I should have, but… So they decided they needed to look it up and show me. I decided to go with the flow, thinking “Let’s see where this takes us”. Yep, learning experience. By the way mammoths stand at about 5 m tall while elephants are about 3.5 m tall, I’m rounding here.

Point to this post is as a teacher to admit you might not know the answer can be an asset to your students. It seems after this we started to discuss various other topics that the students were interested in and wanted to understand that was related to the geological time line. By admitting I didn’t know something this sparked inquiry in my students and made the class one of exploration and inquiry. While having fun. And the students? I think they actually respected me more because I fully admitted to them I did not know all the answers.

Resolutions or Goals?

Its that time of the year when everyone makes their resolutions. To me they are Goals, what do I want accomplish this year. A challenge, because by April, I’m totally lacking the determination I was in January. And my teaching goals are a bit different from my personal goals. I’m not sure everyone agrees, but my personal goals are more geared to me, teaching goals more geared to students and others. I thought this infographic was interesting, these are the top responses for resolutions. More personal, but now look at the teacher resolutions.

Both have some great resolutions, but just a bit different right? So what’s my point? My point is I think why people give up on their “resolutions” or “goals” is because we overwhelm ourselves with too many.  Start simple and work your way through the year, add more when you think you are ready. As a teacher I really think that my goals in the classroom help my personal resolutions. Ms. Cabeen does a good job in summarizing some resolutions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with your own.

So what are my Goals? Again I’m calling them goals. Honestly, I just want to take each day and try to do the best I can in being a positive influence on my students. There are many ways to do that and that is where some of my personal goals meet my teaching goals. Positive is the key word for this year. Bring out the best in myself and my students. And be optimistic, negativity never works. Too much energy spent on the negative thoughts. If teachers are going to be that positive influence on their students they need to show students there is always hope. Optimism and being positive can be that hope.

Bridges and Towers Part II

In my previous post I talked about the Bridge/Tower project we did in class. In this post I’m going to go over “the Good, the Bad and The Ugly” as they say. Let’s start with the good, students seemed very engaged with the project. Groups were working together and coming up with some great ideas. At first it was a bit slow for some, they seemed to be having a hard time with an open-ended project. I allowed them to decide on their design process.This was a bit different for them at the beginning. But once they knew the criteria and what was expected of them they off to the races. The open-ended part of the project I really liked it because it gave students a chance to experience the problem-solving I was hoping to introduce with the project. I did have some students come after school and during lunch to finish their design.

 

The Bad, well only a few towers fell. And you might think it weird that I’m saying bad for this. But I think the criteria was good, but fewer materials should be used. Or a budget created for the project. This might restrict the structures and create a more realistic goal. Due to the amount of the materials allowed and no real restrictions there weren’t many buildings falling. For the Bridge part of the project I think we need to come up with a few more restrictions. None of the bridges failed. I actually added weight to some to see if they would fail. So bottom line is we need to adjust our material use to increase the challenge.

 

The Ugly, Glue! They went through more glue than I’ve ever seen. Once they attached the different parts they had to use blow dryers to dry their work.  I think the glue needs to be regulated also. A bit messy also. Make sure they have tables or desks covered. I have high school students and quite honestly I was glad I used plastic table cloths. Made a huge difference with cleanup. As for anything to do with the material. I would introduce Earthquake Waves before giving this project. We had thought having students research the background information, such as Earthquake waves, would be ideal for this project. But I feel like the students really didn’t get a better understanding of that information. Part of the lab activity had background information on Earthquake waves. It’s good information, but I think I need to access their knowledge after the project. We did more of a survey.  I think this goes along with all the other changes we have talked about doing next year. For the Tower, limit the material and create a budget. For the bridge, limit the weight, materials and create a budget.

 

A definite project for next year, I think the improvements we make on it will increase the student’s learning process.