Category Archives: STEM

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!

 

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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.

 

Genius Hour! We started our projects again….

Well, my 30-day blog challenge went out the window a while ago. However, I’m not discouraged and I’m starting over.

Genius Hour! We started our projects again and I’m really impressed by my students. Some had a bit of an issue with the brainstorming process. This doesn’t surprise me. Every year I get some students who can’t or don’t allow themselves a chance to think outside the box. I don’t blame them for this, I blame us; teachers and adults. For so long we have insisted on telling them projects should be 10-page research papers, not that sometimes research papers are good, but allowing them a chance to do something else upsets the cart. However, in the end, they all succeeded in doing something that related to themselves and they could enjoy.

I modified the Genius Hour project to suit our class a bit. Similar to last year. I wanted to modify the project to include the LAUNCH cycle. Nevertheless, this just did not work out this year. I did decide to use the Look, Listen and Learn process. This did help the students who were having a difficult time with the brainstorming activity. I do like the LAUNCH cycle and the book was great, but I really want to make sure I have everything in place before having my students do it. I am hoping to work with the Physics teacher to use the LAUNCH cycle for next Mars Rover project. For those of you have not read LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student, I would advise you read it. It is a great way to start your Genius Hour project. The authors John Spencer and  AJ Juliani have written a very creative way of empowering students to utilize design thinking when completing their projects.

A Plus this year was I changed one of the components of my Genius Hour Project, I added the “A”, Art. Instead of STEM, I now used STEAM. This has been a great idea, I have a couple of students working with Music and Drawing. I have one student investigating sound with different enclosures. Another student creating a new Alien and Alien world.

My motto for this year’s project is to allow my students to be creative and enjoy their what they are learning about

What is virtual reality? – A simple introduction

An easy-to-understand introduction to virtual reality, the equipment it requires, and the things we can use it for.

Source: What is virtual reality? – A simple introduction

Article simplifies the VR topic. Introducing you to the basic background information about VR.

Bridges and Towers of Disaster

Alright so I’m still at my next blog post this one is going to be about the bridge/tower building project we did in class. One of the great things with this project is we didn’t use any 3D printing. Not that 3D printing has its benefits. But.. when I gave my conference talk earlier this year with the Diocesan conference I said that “3D printing should be used in the proper manner in a classroom meaning it’s a great tool just like virtual reality will be a great tool but you need to use it when it’s needed not just because it’s a tool or a toy.” I think what I’m trying to say is this; 3D printing has its proper place in the curriculum. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole. Just because 3D printing is cool and the kids think it’s cool that’s not the point of 3D printing. 3D printing should be used for an educational tool such as helping students learn about modeling and problem solving.

The bridge/tower building project is going to be based on earthquakes and students are going to construct a bridge or tower that can withstand the shaking of a magnitude of 8.5 and 9.2 earthquake. The lesson is coming from the Shaker, Rattle and Roll Earthquake Board and The Towering Toothpick Disaster lab activity. The Towering Toothpick lab is  already created, we purchased both together. The Shaker table is already built and we purchase the table through Sargent Welch. It made it a little easier for us, however it can be expensive so you can find other ways to make a cheaper shaker table. Here are some resources:

Engineering is Elementary

Shake Table

The activity fit perfectly into our curriculum. Students were allowed to use a certain amount of materials to build their towers. Materials included popsicle sticks, toothpicks and wood splints. There were two projects going on at the same time, I had half my classes building Towers and the other half building bridges. The bridge component was a bit different. I used some of the Tower lab to create a background. Bridge builders had a reduced amount of materials. They also had to complete an activity at Bridge to Classroom. This was their background work to the project. Part of their assessment I had my students create a journal on Google Documents for their lab group. Each day they answered questions and summarized their build. Pictures were taken each day and inserted in the journal.

Basically the criteria was set out in the lab activity for the towers, see below:

In addition, your building must meet the following requirements:
Buildings must be 45 cm tall.
Buildings must have 3 stories.
Each story must be 15 cm high.
Each story must have a floor; however, the floor does not have to be solid.
Buildings must have flat roofs.
Buildings cannot have solid walls (instead, the structures should be more like scaffolding).
Building bases (footprints) must be 22.5 x 22.5 cm.

The bridges had different requirements. Most of the criteria related to the materials. However, students were required to have a 30 cm long bridge. They were to follow their design from the website. The bridge component of the project was new. So student feedback on the project would be important to improving it for next.

In my next post I will go over the positives and negatives about the whole project. We are already thinking about what we are going to do next year.   

GOES-R Mission

Source: GOES-R Mission

This new mission could be not only a great weather and climate tool. But also a great educational tool.

Project Atmosphere-Severe Weather Days

The Monday back we had another guest speaker- Bill Bunting Operations Branch Chief (Chief of Forecast Operations
Branch Storm Prediction Center)of the NOAA/NWS Storm Prediction Center. Mr. Bunting discussed his role at the Storm Predication Center and the center’s role in weather prediction. The Storm Prediction Center has about 700 people working in the center and typically four forecasters on shift all the time.  He went over the history of the weather service; it was established in 1870 by Congress with Army Signal Corps. An interesting fact, the word Tornado couldn’t be used for the first 30 years in the service. Amazing huh! After going over the history of Weather Service Mr. Bunting went over Tornadoes and the prediction center’s job. The three main challenges in Severe Weather Predication is accurate assessment of current state of the atmosphere, accurately reflecting atmospheric processes in numerical models and conveying forecast (and uncertainty) accurately. Pretty impressive challenges, but something they are trying to improve on. Mr. Bunting ended with going over different radar maps and tornado predictions. An interesting talk and great information.

20160725_082423_001

After lunch Bob went over the Atmosphere and it’s basic structure. Once we finished that we had our “Best Practice” presentations. Everyone was to show one practice that worked for them in class. Some really good ideas were shared. Some were digital and others were activities used in class. For instance, one teacher shared an activity in which she had students name movies and songs with weather in their names. It was a fun activity and a great warmup to the topic. Other teachers showed off their digital resources such as Nearpod,  Plickers, and Showbie ( ipad app). This was an excellent way to collaborate and talk about what we do in class that works. I think this was one of the highlights of a workshop

Next day we continued with extreme weather, the Director of the National Hurricane Service Dr. Rick Knabb spoke to us about the Hurricane Center. He worked first for the Weather Channel and then became Director of the Center. The purpose of the center is to Advance Hurricane Forecasts, Warnings, and Resilience. His explanation and description of various components of Hurricanes and their forecasts were great. Every storm has its own characteristics and threats. But the one thing that was common in all Hurricanes was the storms surge which is deadly hazardous. “Storm surges are responsible for 49 % of deaths and rain (inland flooding) is responsible for 27% deaths. Not surprising Storm Surge doesn’t occur as frequently, flooding occurs more and is more deadly.” Amazing Statistics. He continued to talk about Hurricane Preparedness and the Hurricane Awareness Tour. The tour sounds really good for students and its suppose to be coming to Raleigh next may. Something I would love to take my students to. Part of this effort is the new hashtag they are using to promote preparedness for hurricanes

#ItOnlyTakesOne
#HurricaneStrong

The whole effort is part of the National Weather Services Weather- Ready Nation. A great question asked by one of the participants was about “How do we change Hurricanes?” Dr. Knabb’s answer was “the reality is we can’t do it” or rather it would cost billions of dollars. Plus he believes most have too many environmental consequences or could make it worse. He believes we should improve practical reasons such as making better evacuation plans and better forecasts. Totally agree with him from what I have read about this topic. Great morning with him and tons of information. You can follow him on twitter @NHCDirector.

After lunch we had our usual weather briefing and then listened to Robert Rutledge, Head, Services Branch of the Space Weather Prediction Center. Why is space weather important? I think most who read this know why, infrastructure, grid, and satellites. Mr. Rutledge talked about how the Sun at any time could send out a Solar Flare or CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) that would affect the electric infrastructure and other items. The Space Weather Prediction Center hosts a ton of information about the various Sun events. Another website I have used in class for our Sun unit is the SOHO website.

After finishing the day we worked on our group projects that we would present the next day. The day ended on a quiet note. The next day we would start the last leg of the workshop.

 

 

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”.

Computer Science in the Science Classroom

First let me just say that Computer Science can include a broad range of topics. One of those topics can include 3D modeling or coding. Recently I was asked how can you implement these in a science class. Well my answer was I can do it because the administration supports it. However, as I think about it I would figure a way to integrate the topics into class. Meaning, even with testing and other requirements today there are ways to implement some of these computer topics in class.

Here’s an example I’m working on now; of course this can be a bit different for middle and elementary school, but I think it the premise is the same.

I’ve decided this year to give my Forensic class a different end of the semester project. This year I’m having my students Write/Sketch/Build a crime scene. This will include 3D printed parts. I’m giving the students a bit of a change and allowing them to use the 3D printer for some of the building parts. Below was a test of our 3D printer and a hotel room stl file from thingverse. Let’s see what they come up with. This should be fun.

(This file is created by lgstoian)

In my other class Earth Science I have students working on the Genius Hour/20% project. Which I still have to give an update on. I can briefly say it’s working great this year. Two groups have chosen to do their project in Computer Science. One group is working with the EV3’s and the Space Challenge. Which includes building and coding. Using the challenge has been a great way to introduce students coding and robotics. I’m especially looking into introducing coding at some point hopefully in the future.

 

The second group is creating a video tutorial on the 3D modeling program Tinkercad. They are creating this video for a middle school audience. They will use their video to teach middle schoolers how to create various items for 3D Printer. Part of their project, which I think is a awesome, they are creating houses for a another groups tsunami project. I can’t wait to see their work I think it’s going to be great. Actually they are actually making this video for another teacher I know. Her class is starting to use a 3D printer and she would like some type of tutorial for her students. Since her and I are collaborating on a talk at the NSTA National Conference in Tennessee. We thought this would be a great way of collaborating on the topic of 3D printing. Our talk is “Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation: Using a 3D Printer to Energize Your Teaching”come on by if you at the conference.

And We are Off to States-Robotics

Just a bit of an update on Robotics. Actually more of a summary of the year to this point. I neglected to write an entry for the past events, so I’ll catch up here.

We started the year off at Cisco, for the Kickoff to the NC FTC Challenge competition year.  And I will say what a challenge this year.  You can read about the challenge and watch a short video at the NC FTC page. It was a great day, two of our students got a chance to work with Congressman David Price. Half our team presented in different sessions during the day.

robotics      Robotics Kickoff 2015 (1)

Once our team found out the challenge for this year they got to work. The next event was a scrimmage and they didn’t do bad.  New wheels and a base were created using the shopbot and 3D printer. A couple of bumps in the competition but overall they did okay. This is the time the team usually will redo and improve on their build. Hint for mentors and coaches in robotics, give the students as much time as possible and allow them to experiment. Sometimes we need to let them fail to succeed.

Lauren Pettibone robotics tournament (368)-X3

The next event was the qualifier on January 17th held at Cardinal Gibbons, we had 24 teams from around NC come for a day of competition.  This year we hosted the event in the Gym and broadcasted the event. We estimated about 300 people came to watch throughout the day. If you missed it  check it out the broadcast is on High School Cube Channel. Over 600 people have watched so far. We didn’t do as well as we wanted to and had to go back to the drawing board. But that’s the point, making the robot better every time. We had two weeks to improve the robot. Our next qualifier was at Trinity High School. There we did well in our first two matches and then had a servo break on us. Overall the robot ran well. But again we needed to make some more modifications if we were to do well at the next competition. Ended up we won the Think Award, for our engineering book. We qualified for States. So the young men and women who worked hard on the robot are now getting a chance to go to States and try to qualify for the super regionals.

Through this whole thing I think the team learned a great deal about persistence and teamwork. Never expecting to place the team’s hope was to win something so they would qualifier. They did that and also came in second for another award. They might not have won the tournament. But they did well. That is the one good thing about First Robotics, they do give everyone a chance to win something even if they don’t win their matches.

Next stop for the team is States at A& T University in Greensboro on February 20th.