Sunday, July 30, 2017

When you are not the smartest person at the table...

This summer has definitely been one of growth and a changed mind set. Each summer, I anticipate a certain level of growth. I deliberately put myself in positions that foster that growth. For example, I try to sign up to share my learning by presenting at various local, state, and national conferences and events. I also use those opportunities to attend other sessions that are in my wheelhouse or way outside of my expertise. Always looking to learn, always looking to grow!

So, this summer was no different. I began my summer learning with a NASA workshop at Glenn Research Facility. This was a perfect way to jumpstart the summer. I found new resources. I shared some of my favorites. And, I just really enjoyed spending time with my pal, Patty Ryan. Sharing stories, brainstorming ideas, and just enjoying learning together.

I followed that awesome experience with local conferences in which I shared electronic book building, 3D printing, and Sphero. I truly enjoyed the small setting and sharing with teachers the success that I've had with my students using some fabulous tools. It was awesome driving with another pal, Jen Telenko. She shared her ideas for the classroom. I shared mine. By the end of the drive and conference, I was again energized by a fellow teacher. From Breakout EDU to flexible seating, we just connected. So many great ideas and plans.

I enjoyed a Drone training through WVIZ. My friend, Mary James and I had a lot of fun there! Just a couple hours working with drones brought awesome ideas for the classroom. We had a fantastic time flying drones together, and again it was all about the sharing of ideas. Conversations that just percolated ideas. The time flew by (literally) and we even left with a drone, curriculum, and extra batteries!!!

From here, I was off...traveling to San Antonio for ISTE and Houston for the ADE Academy and finally the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.

Phew! If it sounds exhausting, it was because it was. The flying part is always a little rough. Being away from my kids and husband is super difficult. Even though the kiddos are on their own path, and my husband works throughout the summer, I still miss them terribly when I travel.

What was equally exhausting was the learning...

It was actually at the Boy Scout Jamboree that this summer's biggest learning came to me. As I was sitting around a table, I was listening to a high school Chemistry teacher, a biochemical engineer, a software programmer, and a high altitude ballooning expert talk. I was doing much more listening than talking. The level of conversation was fantastic. The continual excitement and "what if" of the conversation was awesome, but it was also just very humbling to me. I quickly could see that some of what they were speaking about was way over my head, my understanding. I was definitely NOT the smartest person at the table. I was a sponge, absorbing through their conversation. I was learning like crazy...but, I was definitely not the driving force in the conversation.

I reflected back on how many times I felt this way during the summer. It became pretty clear to me that my summer has been filled with moments where I thought I would have all the background knowledge, all the expertise...only to find out that I was not the expert in the group. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing people that had so much to offer. My local teacher pals, Mary, Patty, and Jen taught me so much just on those car rides. My friend, Jon Jarc, had so much insight and learning to share at ISTE. Rich Perry and Julie Willcott never cease to amaze me with their creative genius. My time at the ADE Academy was FULL of moments where I just had to sit back, absorb, and be amazed by the educators around me.

We call each other our Tribe. We know each person has a strength. We learn. We grow.

This is one of the best parts of the human experience. I believe that if you always put yourself in situations where you are the smartest person at the table, you are missing out. Surrounding myself with much wiser, more creative, and gifted educators allows me to grow so much more than without them.

I know that summer is about relaxing and enjoying time off. That was my Hawaii trip this summer too! It's also about finding the inspiration that you need to continue innovating in the classroom. This growth is what I found as I worked with some brilliant people this summer.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Pitch Your Mars Settlement Plan!

Right now, we are getting into a PBL unit for Mars settlement plans. The 8th graders are getting that excited look of CREATION as we begin!

We began the unit with the NASA game, Marsbound! Mission to the Red Planet Kids LOVED this game. It was a great way to introduce concepts about a budget, mission goals, and available science. Plus, my favorite part...budget cuts! Kids get so invested that they are hilarious when I do this. Printing out these game boards and pieces and laminating them was definitely worth it!

Then, I integrating the movie, The Martian, for some background and inspiration. I have a video viewing guide that we work through that includes various levels of questions and background science. I also have the areas listed to mute and do a quick hide of the screen for questionable material. I have students get a parent release signed even though it is PG13.

Then, students chose to work in teams to design:
    • Rover design (working from the game) and 3D printing- I have 3 printers in the room to work with. We use a super simple app and website for design. The students also have the freedom to integrate Legos, cardboard, recycled products, and more! Whatever they need to pull together to make their design come to life. With so many print jobs, you might wonder how I manage the student requests...Google Form! They have to request a print by filling out a form. 
    • Space suit- Research, design, and drawing on paper or in the Paper53 app on the iPad. LOVE this! The kids are talking about basic human needs, material science, flexibility, function, and more. I will be so excited to share those designs.
    • Crew welfare- Students work to provide for mental and physical needs of the crew while on the 8 month trip to Mars and when on the planet! This entails a lot of students creating Spotify playlists, finding apps on the iPad to create music, designing work out facilities, and more. Having them research the ISS workout plan is a great place to start.
    • Settlement model- Students design a model for what they want the settlement to look like and have in it. This starts with research and watching videos like and Then, students can 3D print, use cardboard, Legos, recycled products, duct tape (more duct tape) to build the structure. Super fun!
    • Food production and distribution- Research, design, and possible model building. This is turning out to be one of the best parts of the project! Students are researching caloric needs and comparing sample diets from around the world. Talk about eye opening. Thinking of raising insects or guinea pigs for food was not the initial idea, but research shows... Also, a great way to get kids talking about sexual and asexual reproduction in plants.
    • Coding- I have a group of students that designed a Martian surface with mountains, craters, and debris using an old Lego competition table (4 ft X 8 ft). They used recycled products, sand, duct tape, garbage bags, cardboard, and more to design a challenging surface mission that other classes will code Sphero and some Lego Mindstorms through. The table is 2 levels of awesome student design!

    • Rocket building- I asked my local Meijer store to donate rockets, and they did. They are level one rockets. So, definitely, very little teacher assistance required. I bought extra charges for multiple launches. This will be fun to have a couple of students launch rockets for each class period. I'm going to require this group to collect video for an iMovie in which they share their settlement mission statements, include the other teams' artifacts of learning, and show the rocket launch. So, basically, this team will become my media team by the end of it.

Now, all of this will come together in a large table for models, videos, and other artifacts in a Shark Tank method of pitching their settlement plan to me, a group of 7th graders, and a retired NASA engineer. The class that has the most developed plan will be "contracted" for the Mars Settlement Mission.

I will definitely be posting updates on our Instagram feed! @lacrossescience

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sphero: Playing to Learn

These are my kids...

They are the eighth graders that make me laugh often, think deeply, and pour myself into my career. I really love them! Now, 3 years into teaching 8th grade, I finally feel like I have my footing with them, the content, and the learning styles and uniqueness that comes from 13-14 year olds.

My Ohio Standards have a marvelous section for 8th grade scientists that allow them to explore Forces and Motion. From the unseen to contact forces, there is some fun curriculum to work with. My Sphero Physics Fun had a phenomenal start this week!

Student groups began by creating a Book Creator lab report in which they used Sphero to demonstrate some of the basic concepts for Forces and Motion. From Newton's Laws to vocabulary associated with forces and motion, these kids were creative. They captured footage, used slow motion, and built some amazing lab reports.

It was pretty cool to see them working together, talking science, and working with the concepts. While some students still struggled with the content, I could definitely see progress. We were building #sciencecommunication skills the entire time, and that is a win!

My next step was to give students a competitive experience like Kaci Heins does at Space Center Houston! She inspired me with her Sphero activities. 

I decided to challenge my students to a triathlon! The athlete...Sphero. The training...programming and driving. The engineering a bathing suit and bike for the first two legs of the triathlon. The and more science!

So, I "rolled" the project out to students with this SLIDE SHOW.

We have 2 pools for the first leg of the triathlon built with pond liners and LEGO tables (Familiar?
Our stream table used these structures. #reuse) We have a bike course set up with foam pipe covers. #cheap Our marathon course is outlined with Sphero tape. It winds around lab tables and has 2 hills on it. #toughprogramming

Day 1 was used for student brainstorming, planning, and measuring.
Days 2 and 3 were ALL about building, testing, 3D printing, redesigning, programming, talking, FAILING, and more!

Goofy videos:

Why did I love teaching this week SO much?

I didn't introduce the formulas for speed...until the students asked.

I didn't remind students to use the metric system...until TinkerCad software and Sphero tape forced them to.

I didn't ask the students to memorize the different types of friction...they were asking about them on their own! Sliding friction, rolling friction, static friction...we were chatting all day long about them. 

Do we want to minimize friction? Should we try to increase this force? How is it helpful? How does it hurt?

I wasn't forcing students to look at random diagrams of forces...we were mapping out the forces together to represent Sphero's motion.

and, the list goes on!

Playing to learn isn't a new concept. I'm not doing anything special. I'm just following instinct, other amazing educators, and using some amazing tools! I love teaching. I love my students. And, I love learning and growing.

Here are a couple very cool links to resources, if you are interested:

My Place

My space.

Room 201.
Where science happens...

It's messy.
It's cluttered.
It's full of materials acquired from grants. Because that's what I do.
Write. Grants. Like. A. Boss.

It's full of ideas, questions, mistakes, and success.

We FAIL...we learn.

We PLAY...we learn.

We SHARE through #sciencecommunication...we learn.

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 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! 

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.