Lelia walked into my classroom this morning, now a worldy 7th grader, and said,
"How are you going to pick what to show the 6th graders with the hurricane and earthquakes happening pretty much on the same day?" She smiled. I think she was cracking up that she still remembered doing this in my class last year. I smiled back and said....
"Well, I'm going to show them how to track hurricanes first...that story is still developing and the earthquakes are already finished. Nothing will change with them, so I'm starting with Hurricane Irene. What do you think?", I said.
I didn't know what she thought about doing all this so called work to learn science and she was with one of my more enthusaistic new 6th graders. I was hoping for an encouraging answer.
Again she smiled and looked at her friend with that "I told you so" kind of glance....
."I think that's a good one. I liked tracking the hurricanes and learning about them. Now I even notice when they're on the TV news and still remember all the stuff you taught us."
Yep...that's my science curse....remember a little bit about how the earth works and I think I've done my job as the 6th grade science teacher.
Mother Nature always provides a rousing start to my science class every year...
2011 is no exception. With Hurricane Irene upgraded to a Category 3 and threatening the East Coast, I thought we would have more than enough to engage my student. Low and behold....the double earthquakes occurred yesterday in Colorado and in Virginia.
Today we plotted our first data point on the Atlantic tracking maps. Using the NOAA data, I showed students how to find the data using the computer, how to draw the hurricane symbol which is a rounded "6" with another tail, and helped them plot their very first data point. We're concentrating on becoming excellent communicators....so learning how to create graphic pictures of the earth's operation is critical.
The only challenge to all this is that my school makes it darn near impossible to use any of the communciation tools to stay abreast of what's going on. I use my class Twitter account to monitor the up-to-date hurricane happenings at @ratzel66 Every night I curated all this into my newspaper format at the Ratzel Room66 Daily. In between issues, we monitor the Twitter feeds using TweetDeck. Or at least we did before this year.
Here's where the real world interferes with the learning
We've gotten a new filter and now many more things are blocked. We can't have access to them. So while the Smithsonian is publishing these fantastic tweets with all sorts of terrific info about the earthquake, I can't even access the hyperlink because it's blocked.
Is this really what they need to block? Why is it that computer hackers can do all sorts of amazing things and the programmers of school filters can't tell the difference between the Smithsonian Magazine and porn? Apparently using a URL shortener makes it fall into the category of blocked content....ugh.
Wouldn't it have been nice to be able to read the Scientific American article about Category 6 hurricanes? Category 6? Yep....atmospheric scientists seem to think that the "ferocity" of this century's storms may warrant adding a new category. Would that have stirred up loads of excitement when we read
I've asked for help from administration in getting these unblocked so we can use Twitter to stay up to date and follow the tracking data. I'm not hopeful because I don't seem to ever find an ear that sees it the same way.
I could tell you the whole tale of woe in how TweetDeck is now blocked, so I can save searches. I won't because you've heard it all before. Normally we create a hashtag search that we save and then use TweetDeck to follow any tweets that meet those criteria. Blocked can't do this anymore either. Sigh......
This is how to keep students interested in earth science
Make it relevant to what they see happening in the world around them. Help them to see the connection between science in a classroom or textbook and the world. This is what makes science exciting and makes my former students still "notice" hurricanes and earthquakes and tsunamis and flooding and.....on and on and on.