I love NGSS and that it is pushing me to try new things. Blending science practices with concepts and cross-cutting concepts has been a challenge...love the way it changed the way I teach.
Right now I'm teaching energy....learning how kinetic and potential energy relate to each other. My biggest discovery is PHeT. Online simulations allow my students to try an idea, make a guess and then test it out. Energy Skate Park is just the best!!!
The biggest undiscovered treasure is the lesson plans that people have added to the simulation's homepage. For me, I use them with clickers as a formative. Kids test out their ideas and then write an explanation of how things really worked out. During class, we discuss each question. Those discussions always lead to someone asking another question and then another. This is an example of what someone has already created and offers to users of Energy Skate Park. My students totally groove on these kind of question challenges.
You never know what direction those questions will go, but you definitely realize that students are involved.
Anyone else using PHeT to stretch towards the new NGSS standards?
We just concluded a 3Day Edmodo chat about drones
Is it legal to use drones?
Is it wise to use drones?
Is it ethical to use drones?
All the 6th, 7th and 8th graders in my building engaged in this chat, through their science class, and all science teachers moderated every post and comment that these students generated. It's a lot of posts, I won't lie to you.
Just look at the quality of their talk, though.
You can tell there are strong emotions that are in play during these conversations. Yet they found a way to be civil to one another and help each other think thru the ideas and even improve their writing techniques.
Doing these kinds of chats is so important to helping students see a way to communicate with each other about topics where they may have very different ideas. They learned to be willing to listen to each other and use what they've learned in English class in their Science class.
Transferring knowledge from one content area to another is never easy going.
We couldn't have done this without the help of Popular Science's Kelsey Atherton who helped us find articles that 8th graders could read and still not scare the daylights out of them. Thank goodness for the help Twitter provides in finding willing partners.
Amazing stuff this creative time. Let students have a little time, new equpment and they can find their passions. I'm on a new adventure...part of what I started a few years back. I told you my journey in my book Teaching in High Gear, which is all about letting students find their voice and work on things that interest them.
Here is the latest work that has grabbed their interest. Makey Makey. As Martinez and Stager say in their book Invent to Learn, "....The neat phenemona and playfulness of Makey Makey makes it a great introduction to physical computing prior to tackling Raspberry Pi or Aduino....." and later "....learning your way around a circuit board ...will pay big dividends in other projects."
So what are they doing?
I showed them the Pharrell Williams Happy Trombone Loop. From that, they thought up recording the sounds of our school and looping them into an original piece of music. We're just a couple of days into the project...stay tune for what will happen next. But I can tell you that this has them 1000% engaged and they are coming up with new ways to change the project....and it is catching the interest of other groups. Maybe I'll have more that want to try out their ideas soon.
You never know where reading and writing about something will take you.
Drones are the perfect example. I've been working with my students how to work a scientific argumentation discussion around a topic that would engage them.
Drones fit that bill, so we've been wondering
Is it legal to use drones?
Is it ethical to use drones?
Is it wise to use drones?
Gathering information from articles, DVDs and even a guest speaker (an aerospace engineer who knows drones first hand).
Which led to students wanting to bring their drones to school and fly them for all of us. Why not? It makes a high interest study even better. So they brought them in and we had a blast.
Some were small and could fit in your hand and others had their own metal case....and wouldn't fit in your hand.
We had a blast.
And it made students more aware of possibilities and opportunities they might have to turn a hobby into a career or profession.
I am prepping a new science argumentation topic for my students...we'll be doing an Edmodo online asynchronous chat in mid-September. As I read this week's worksheets, I realized I have a whole subgroup of students that read so well that they need more challenging materials.
I don't know much about drones...pretty much limited to what I've seen on TV shows and a smattering of news articles. Luckily I do read Popular Science....and they have a reporter who seems to specialize in drones. I popped off an email to him and asked for help. In no time, I got back an email with 3 suggested articles. All were well within the range of my students and will be perfect. Shout out to Kelsey Atherton...you are my hero and I really appreciate your good help.
I also thought it might be a perfect spot for a parent or other adult to come in as a guest speaker. I sent out an email request....got 2 replies within 24 hours. One from a dad that is an aerospace engineer for Honeywell and another one of my former students who is drone hobbyist. We are so lucky to have the engineer come into the classroom (having to take a day of his vacation time) to talk to all 6 of my science classes. In addition to learning about drones, he's promised to do a short infomerical on what aerospace engineering is all about as a career choice. And the now a college freshman student will come and fly his drone around for all of us....showing us how to control it and download live video onto the iPhone.
How often do we, as teachers, give up on a topic that we know is real-world and engaging for our students because we personally don't have enough knowledge? I'm guilty of that. I have learned that is a multitude of people out there willing to help if you just ask.
Can you imagine how much better this unit will be with the additional expertise and help from these experts?
Image credit goes to "Flying Robots 101" and Wikipedia Commons.
Today I had a great first day of class. In the midst of going over all the rules, procedures and safety protocols......we addressed extra credit. The classes wanted to know what was an "example".
Here's what I gave them....what important mission is tied to both ancient worlds & is out of this world? Tell me all about it tomorrow.
Result----> tonight I've gotten several emails from students who are tracking the mystery down. I'm sending them back more direction to take their investigation. It was the first day of school AND they are ready, eager and already learning.
Gotta love these middle schoolers. Do you know what they're searching for?
I'm one of the luckiest teachers in the world. No joke.
I work with amazing teachers who are more than willing to lend me their expertise and critical eye. Step One: I have been able to send a draft of my opening unit lesson plans to them....and they send time reading, reviewing and commenting on my lessons. They don't get paid. They don't get anything.
But they do this to make "all of us" stronger in delivering our content to students and helping them fall in love with science.
Here's a perfect example....the standard calls for explaining the relationship between mass and energy. Step Two: I hadn't addressed that in my mini-experiments.....they pointed that out to me and I was able to go back and find out how the lesson could be changed just a bit to include this.
I just overlooked this part and my colleagues helped me cover it. I was doing all this from my personal computer at home, since it was the summer. Now that school has started, I've moved all this to my Dropbox folder so that I can access the file at work and also share it with my colleagues as it gets closer and closer to being complete.
That's why I'm posting this.....together we are smarter than I am by myself. Hopefully what I've started in the lesson will be helpful to my colleagues and give them a way to incorporate all three componenets of the NGSS lessons (crosscutting concept, science practices and content). Students will be the beneficiaries of this collaboration.
I wish we had more time to do this formally....there is "time" but usually someone tells me what I should be doing with it. I think I have a pretty good idea and what I need to do.