Category Archives: Project

Sustainable Smartphone

Source: Sustainable Smartphone

This challenge looks really good for an environmental/engineering project. It would be a great start to Genius Hour. I’m wondering if I should point this out to some of my kids who are having problems with finding a topic for our Genius Hour this year. I like how it is using technology that the students use in everyday life.  You might say ugh smartphones, but I think this is a good way to show the impact of smartphones on the environment to our students. I have to give credit to Mrs. Chen who did this for her National Geographic Certification Capstone. The project has fours parts to it.  Hope this idea can work in your class.

Your challenge has four parts:

  • First. explore the social, economic, and environmental impacts of smartphone raw materials mining, manufacturing, and disposal and identify impacts that could be addressed by new smartphone materials and technology.

  • Second, evaluate new materials and technology that could mitigate the impacts that you identified.

  • Third, use design thinking to identify the component(s) of the mobile phone that could be made more sustainable with a change in materials.

  • Fourth, present your design research proposal.


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!


Invite Your Students to Create Their Own Countries With this Geography Design Project – WeAreTeachers

Your students will transform into world explorers in search of new land.

Source: Invite Your Students to Create Their Own Countries With this Geography Design Project – WeAreTeachers

This looks like a cool lesson for Geography or History Teachers. A new twist on it could be using it for Alien Planets when doing an Astronomy Unit.

Feedback…Is it important

After reading a blog entry from Random Teacher Thoughts Blog “Feedback Failure”, I started to think of about the two projects going on in class,  Genius Hour and Citizen Science. I agreed with the blog, you can’t just let the students go through a project and not give them something as they complete the assignment. The author of the blog is reading “Hacking Project Based Learning” by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. According to him Hack 7 talked about feedback. Side note here I will probably have to read this book. After reading the article I started to think about what I do for my projects. I have always valued students opinions and ideas in class, this has led me to give surveys to find out what needs to be improved. My point here is that the students have always suggested giving feedback. To address this, I had students create a journal in Google Documents. They shared the journal with me and their partner. Students have a rubric to follow when filling out the journal, it specifies exactly what they should have in their journals. Journals are due every couple of weeks. I wasn’t asking them to write a book, but I wanted a summation on what they were doing. I also wanted them to understand how science notebooks and journals are important components of science experimentation.

The project is still ongoing so I can give up to date progress. While keeping an eye on everyone’s progress, I have found that some have fallen behind. I’ve given them a bit of nudge by commenting in their journal. This is the type of feedback I think students need in order succeed in completing their projects. I would also like to point out here that, students find the journal check a great way for them to communicate their questions or research. I think students really do need feedback from teachers, sometimes it may seem to students that Teachers are only worried about the end product. Feedback allows Teachers to convey a sense of caring about the whole process.  So is feedback important? Definitely!

Google Docs makes it really easy for them to keep track of my feedback, and for me to keep track of their project. I do however want to try other forms of digital “journals”. Maybe next year trying OneNote.

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: You will sign up under my classroom
Cornell Labs:
Globe Observer:
Hubble Telescope:
National Geographic:
National Wildlife Federation: Certify your garden (this one you will need your parent’s help)-
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.


LEGO Challenge Calendar Free Printable for Kids

Want some great new LEGO building ideas for your kids or family? We have a 31 Day LEGO challenge calendar perfect for screen free fun. Free printable.

Source: LEGO Challenge Calendar Free Printable for Kids

Maybe we could change this to suit High School Science Class? Ideas?

Cybraryman Internet Catalogue

Source: Cybraryman Internet Catalogue

Great resource for summer reading. Already a month into vacation and I still haven’t caught up with my reading.  You can also look at AJ Juliani’s Blog for some interesting suggestions.  Enjoy!

An end to a great project

Well as the school year ends so did our Mars Imaging Research Project. As you can see by the last student entry on our blog, we had a couple of surprises that we found during our research. Students were excited when we discovered a couple changes in their research sites. We might not have discovered RSL’s but we found some interesting changes on the surface of Mars.  During the presentation Dr. Meyer’s pointed out some interesting features in the students research areas. Overall I think the students did pretty good and the presentation went well.  Hopefully our work will be posted on the MSIP site.

Their last assignment for the project included a reflection on their research and what they learned from the research.  A summary of the assignment appears below:

Write a 2 page reflection on this project. Include the following:
1- Explain the section of the research you worked on and explain what results you found.
2- Describe what you learned from the project.
3- Would you do this project again? If so why? And did you like it?

Not very intense but I believe it was to the point and valuable to my assessment on what they learned from the project.

Students were very good in their responses. Meaning they were very descriptive and  informative about their thoughts. I was impressed by how many really enjoyed the project and would do it again.

Hereare some examples of their reflections in their own words:

I learned a lot about teamwork from this project. Every member in the group did their part, sometimes with the guidance of other group members. The continuous group meetings we had gave me something to look forward to after school because the topic interested me. Once I finally understand how to work the websites we were working with, understood the information, and got going with my research, it became a very enjoyable task for me.

The Mars imaging research project has affected and changed me in so many ways. I’m a lot more open minded and ready to try anything new. I learned so many things that I never knew even existed. I’ve never had an interest in science at all, but this project sparked a new love and appreciation in science for me. The things I loved the most about the Mars Imaging Research was the enthusiasm and support from fellow imagers, the amazing experiences, and finding my new interest in science.


I am really happy with the research and work the students put into the project. Of course our lead student Alex is the one to set us on this path. His enthusiasm and love for the topic was a motivator. We were all grateful to him for his guidance and help in this project.

Alex was a great team leader he always kept us on task and his knowledge of Mars definitely helped us with what we were looking at.

Not to mention, Alex was very informative. The information he provided us with to get started, and how he guided us through the whole project was exceptional. I don’t think our group could have done it without him…


If I was to change anything I would use this in class and put aside some time each week to complete the research. If you plan ahead you can probably complete the project in less than a month.  At the website the MSIP advisors give you a schedule you can follow depending on the type of research you are completing with your students.  Mars Imaging Project is perfect example of STEM in the classroom. But more importantly I think it shows students how research is not a perfect world, everything can change in an instant especially when dealing with a dynamic planet like Mars.  As one student said “the unexpected is what science is all about”.

Update on Modified “Genius Hour”

Just a short up date on how my version of Genius Hour is going. I changed things around this year by allowing students a bit more freedom with topics. Again another change made because of last years results or rather outcomes from the project. Which, by the way I think are improvements on the implementation of the project.

We have passed the halfway mark on our projects and I think this year they are going much better than past years. Or should I say they seem more organized and students seem to be on track with everything. I had put Fridays aside for students to work on project, but there have been changes along the way. Of course, when does anything stay on schedule? Flexibility is the word of the day when coming to this project. Which really doesn’t bother me. If you are going to do this project you can schedule those work days, but a little advice be flexible if you can.

I posted the introduction to the project in a previous post 5-ways to launch your genius hour projects. After Brainstorming students started a journal to track their progress with the project. I made it on line so I could grade their progress and comment on it. I used Google Documents to make it simple. I handed out an outline on how I wanted the entries to look, but gave them a good deal of latitude about their information.  Some of the requirements I obtained from ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS “Engineering Design Notebook”. So far their journals are looking good. Some of the students needed a bit more guidance when working on their journals, but overall they are getting the hang of it.

Entries should include the following:
• Daily logs and notes
• All sketches, photographs, videos, plans, and drawings
• Notes from design
• Calculations relevant to your project
• Documentation of the changes of your project
• Research information, such as computer print-outs and newspaper articles
• Notes for presentations, reports, proposals, etc..
• Any resources being used in the project

Some information taken from ROBOTC Curriculum for TETRIX and LEGO MINDSTORMS “Engineering Design Notebook”

(resource:  and

I have some interesting projects this year, one set of students are using music and bacteria. They want to see if bacteria will react to sound. Another set of students are working on the Star Trek Replicator Challenge , being a Star Trek fan I was excited they decided to do this.  A great engineering challenge and hosted by the Future Engineers Website.  Another project has students creating a tutorial on how to use Tinkercad and a 3D Printer. This is part of a 3D Printer collaboration effort with another teacher. Also it’s a great way to introduce 3D modeling to my Forensics classes for their end of the year project. There are a ton of other projects that are interesting to say the least.

Students are deciding on how they present the information. I’m getting a variety of formats. Websites are bit more popular with this years group. I do have the normal Google slides and PowerPoint but they are becoming a bit more creative with adding video etc. As we get closer to the final projects I’ll make another post to summarize the whole process.

2014-15 Good, Bad and Ugly

By flipping this year I was able to do more labs and activities in class. This resulted in some good and bad moments in class. The good was the ability to connect more concepts to the labs in class. At the end of the school year I always give a class survey and ask students for their feedback. From this I get my “good, bad and ugly”.

The “good” students did enjoy the labs that we did in class and believed they learned a lot from them. They did however prefer labs that I explained to them in detail. Meaning, introducing them to the procedures etc. The inquiry labs or PBL activities where they created the procedure etc. were not their favorites. Why? Because they had to think outside the box a bit. They also felt they needed a bit more guidance in these activities. To improve on this I hope to introduce this a bit earlier in the year. Develop the skills they need to succeed in completing an inquiry or PBL activity. I hope while teaching students to “think outside the box” , to introduce them to proper lab write ups.  Some really cool ideas for inquiry and PBL labs can be found at different websites such as Edutopia .  Also information on formats for lab write reports can be found any where on the internet, but I do like the UNC writing center  Handout.   It is a bit detailed but can be really helpful resource. And of course NSTA forums have some really good suggestions.

A “good/bad” that took place in class were the students 2nd semester project, students were allowed to choose a topic based on their interest in science and do an experiment on that topic. Some of the projects were very good, one group actually had a marine scientists Skype with the class. Another group worked on the EV3 Mindstorm Space Challenge. That was the good part, the bad part;  I had started out hoping to do the “Genius Hour”  or 20% project. But other items took precedent and I veered away from that idea.  Some students didn’t quite get the idea and ended up picking a topic and doing the project last minute. Changes need to be made no doubt. But I think I want to change this around and implement the “Genius Hour” or 20 % Project. There are some great blogs by teachers who implemented this project. you can also type in the hastag #Genius Hour and you will find some great resources. Both are similar, “allow students 20 % of class time, or one hour per week, to work on and explore one topic of their choice” (Definition taken from 20% Project website). So an improvement on this is definitely in the future.

Now the Ugly! Group Lab Journals. I tried to implement this year and it just got pushed to the wayside. After the first couple of tries, it just didn’t work. I think part of the reason for the flop on this was I didn’t really take enough time to show students how to properly enter labs in the notebook. I had assumed they knew how to do this. Also it was easier in some instances for them to hand in their work with Google documents.  I truly believe that group journals are harder to use than individual. Some might disagree with me, but I found it was easier for the group to rely on one person to do the entries. I think creating jobs at the beginning of the year for the lab groups would help. I’m actually thinking about going digital for lab notebooks and using OneNote from Microsoft. Still looking into it, I’ve been watching TeacherCast and their videos on how to use OneNote. This is one of my projects for this summer.

So the summer has been about improving certain strategies and also learning new ones.