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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Science Extension...Electing to Follow Interests Part 1

It's almost been a year since my last blog post. I'm not thrilled about that, but I recognize that life can speed up in a heartbeat! Parenting has been a massive challenge for me. Home improvement is sucking the life right out of me. And, my science and tech world hasn't slowed down at all! I appreciate all of this, but just can get overwhelmed. So, lately, my platform of sharing ideas has been through FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter. It has been easy to share a picture or video with a short narrative. Ultimately, I'm trying to make my way back to this space for journaling, sharing, reflecting. My blog title is Conversations: Learning and Growing, and I believe that this type of writing has a more impact on me as a reflective learner.

 Here goes...

Science Extension Class:

I'm really excited about a new class that I'm teaching this year, my Science Extension class. My principal, Chad Carter, worked with our school schedule to allow for a rotating, 6 week course that students attend. We were asked to brainstorm how we would use these 6 weeks with students. With the 7th grade Science teacher, I brainstormed an extension class that would ultimately give students the support to run through their own "science fair" type of investigation. Supporting the students as they work through their questions, engineering challenges, building projects, or any topic that they are curious about has been my focus in that class. My job...help identify resources, narrow down focus, supply materials, pose questions, answer questions, and generally stay out of the students' way unless support is needed.

 My students have shown a range in passion. This is just a quick list of where the first 6 week's of rotation has brought us:

  • designing plant walls
  • researching how cosmetics are tested
  • learning to code
  • building a dog house
  • designing a prosthetic leg for a dog using 3D printing
  • learning to sew and creating a line of dog products
  • getting answers to questions about our solar system
  • testing light in different classrooms to see impact on plant growth
  • designing and 3D printing a container for hair accessories

  • creating a Friday Science news show (Link for a sample video)
  • creating a model of the Wheel of Fortune game show set with little Bits
  • dissecting (link to Instagram video)
  • and so many more!
I am absolutely loving the variety. Students are taking what interests them and designing projects that allow them to follow that interest. Seeing the investment in most students really leads me to believe that this type of independent study should be a reoccurring class for students as they progress through our school. Getting an opportunity to pave the way, make mistakes, recover, and keep moving forward is such a powerful pathway.

I titled this blog "Part 1" because I have a list of moments in this class that have caught my attention and felt worthy of blogging. Who knows if I will return with a Part 2, but I wanted to share a super cool story for a couple of students.


Bella...and her (probably not going to happen) prosthetic leg:


This is a favorite for me, partly because it involves Bella and partly because the multiple connections.
Two students, Faith and Jenny, decided that they wanted to develop a prosthetic leg for Bella in Extension Class. Bella is a 3-legged Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix that lost her leg years ago in an accident. She actually gets around fine with her little hopping motion. She even chases down our Alaskan Malamute, Leo. So, she doesn't really need a leg, but based on another students successful process with this a couple of years ago, I had a feeling the project would be worthy. It has been awesome!

The girls started out by just meeting Bella. They watched her walk, even taking video and discussing her hopping motion. They measured Bella and recorded all the details about where the leg was amputated. Then, the girls started doing research on prosthetics. They looked at materials, connectors, and possible structures. 

With some designs and ideas, I directed the girls to check out the virtual reality dog dissections on the zSpace machine that we are piloting in the classroom. Faith and Jenny were amazed at the connectedness of the muscle, bone, nerves, and blood flow. By just manipulating the zSpace simulation, they gained so much information and knowledge. The machine was also wonderful for a Prosthetic Lab simulation. The girls were able to investigate the structure and composition of prosthetics in more detail. Win! 


video


From here, enter Jon Jarc. Jon is a high school teacher that I consider a guru on many topics, but in this case I knew that he would be an excellent resource for my young scientists in the area of prosthetics through 3D printing and the mechanics of the device. I set up a Skype call with Jon and turned over the teaching to him! What an excellent collaboration. Jon chatted with the girls for about a half hour sharing his thoughts and recommendations. He asked them guiding questions to help them make discoveries on their own. When he held up the prosthetics that his students were making for children, it was an amazing connection. I couldn't have asked for a better moment for those girls. This really authenticated their work. It brought focus and possibility to their ideas.



Moving forward, the girls have used the sewing machine for creating a harness. (Link to Instagram video) They have used 3D printing for initial prototypes in the leg. They have worked with testing various material for strength, weight, and flexibility. The work is definitely on going. With every hurdle, the girls are discussing, problem solving, and referring back to their resources.

Will the leg get finished in time for the 6 weeks? Probably not. Does it matter? Maybe a little. I know that the girls are invested and hopeful. We will probably have to get Bella to make some more appearances in the classroom, which is just fine for me. The kids LOVE her, and she has some unintended pay offs for students.

So, following interests, passions. That seems to be a key in this Extension. I'm loving it. Not all students have had this awesome of an experience. Some students look less at following their interests and more at making time with peers. These projects don't always have the pay off or end well. I'll share about those too. But, my conversation...where I'm learning and growing...moments of success make all the difference for me. This Extension Class has had some awesome moments in it that have helped keep my heart in education.













Friday, February 12, 2016

Science Literacy: Sketching in Science

Continuing with some of thoughts on how to build science literacy. I'm thinking about how to use sketching in science...



I believe that students develop thinking skills when we ask them to write, draw, and sketch their thinking out. In my room, I use the app Paper by 53 on the iPad. Students always have the option to jump back to spiral notebooks, and some students do choose that method. But, I scaffold their interaction with the technology and process of sketch noting.






These are my steps with some gorgeous samples by a very talented artist, Millie Pettegrew. She created these amazing sketches using the Paper by 53 app without any stylus.


First, I show students my process in using the Paper by 53 app by mirroring my iPad to the big screen. I demonstrate how to change colors, undo, erase, use shapes, etc. I do this as a guided activity with a science topic. I'm not teaching the software as much as talking and thinking aloud about science WHILE I use the app. I hope that makes sense. During this time, students are periodically looking up at the screen and discussing the science with me.

Here is Millie's example from very early on in the year. We had watched a short news clip about an earthquake in Afghanistan. You'll notice that the drawing is relatively basic with minimal words and just some color, shape, texture changes.


I am a firm believer that for a video to be useful in class, the students must have an opportunity to strictly WATCH the video. Then, we discuss the video. Finally, we watch the video a second time with the sketch noting activity occurring simultaneously.

Students grow in their ability to share details in videos. This shows Millie's growth from the first sketch note done for a video.





Also, I ask students to use sketch notes to make meaning of the reading that they do. I also model this with students. This connection to text is super important. I believe that it gives students necessary practice pulling meaning from text to a visual representation. This is Millie's review of a website about Old Woman Creek.



Another way that we work on science literacy through sketch noting is when students use the process for designing. Giving students an opportunity to map out their ideas in a visual manner connects them to the build. This sketch note was completed by a group of students in my first period class. It shows their initial ideas for a protective placement for an Egg Derby. Not only is the design pretty cool, but the sketch is a gorgeous artwork!





Finally, making meaning of apps that share science is important. We use various apps for learning through simulations and interactive games. I think it is important to ask students to connect to the content BEYOND closing out of the app. So, frequently, I will ask them to sketch something that they connected with. Millie does a beautiful job using Paper by 53 to share some of her learning from iPad apps.





A closing thought...

there are so many ways for student to make meaning in science beyond text notes. Sketch noting is an option for supporting students as they develop science literacy. How else can we use these powerful tools?



Please share your ideas...