Camp Day 3: An Authentic Moment

I am really tired, and today was suppose to be a day to recharge so I will make this short. Camp was very interesting today, mostly because the campers came to a space not so familiar to them, but very familiar to us. On our “home turf”, it was up to us to make sure that our guests felt welcome and I can say that they did.

Going to a lab in Hutch, a major hub from my undergrad days, was cool because I was aware of how the labs were setup. Also, in the halls of the 2nd floor of Hutch have animal skeletons and remains, something my campers were really into and inquisitive about. I wished I had more time for them to examine and discuss the shark and fish skeletons, but we needed to get to work.

We started off with observing our water samples under microscopes, then filtered samples under stereoscopes, and finally counting coliform colonies. The execution of the microscope and stereoscope activities faltered because material management was not handled well by the team. Still, all the campers made slides and viewed them under the microscope. The stereoscope activity faltered for the same reason. Luckily, the bacterial plates were able to be handled by myself, while Tiarra had the campers’ attention. The station was ready to go by the time they were done with the stereoscope.

Making slides!
Making slides!
Filtered sample our campers examined.
Filtered sample our campers examined.

Most of the campers were not too enthusiastic about counting the colonies, and they quickly disengaged after their first plate. I and J stepped up big time, especially Jan, who counted 7 plates. After that station, it was time for lunch, and the campers were really good about asking if they could take off their safety gear, and following directions during clean-up. It was great!

During lunch, team chemistry was building and we were able to talk about presentations. When we entered a break-out room to perform data analysis, Jam stepped up and initiated a conversation about what to do for their presentations with the other campers. Cal told us about that magical moment when a lesson plan comes together and students work on their own, and I felt magic in that room. When we transitioned into data analysis, Jam also showed great interest in trying to understand the graph I presented and wanted to come back to that same room. So instead of saying that my lesson plan lead to that magical moment, I will say that the room was magic instead (probably because it was intimate and possessed fewer distractions than any other space we had used previously).

I hope to feel the magic once again tomorrow!

Camp Day 2: I used to be an adventurer like you…

…but then I took an arrow to the knee…and the arm, the chest, foot, hand, eye, and the place where the sun hasn’t shined since I was a babe. Day 2 was a disappointment. Time management was not the strongest, neither was utilizing sterile technique. But mainly, the second half of the day was sub par, following a great start.

We managed our materials so good, at least in the beginning...
We managed our materials so good, at least in the beginning…

We started with a photo scavenger hunt icebreaker. We broke the group into teams of two and tasked them with finding three things: the largest tree, an animal, and a relaxing place. The intent behind this activity was to get the students used to collaborating with one another and to reinforce the theme of the day: data collection! The team I was watching decided to take a picture of a large tree (it was fairly large), a squirrel, and a man sitting on a park table. Jo then judged the pictures both teams took and the results were…a tie! The campers quickly understood the point of the exercise as a data collection exercise that was in the spirit of camp. They also had fun doing it and were willing to talk to work out doing it.

Discussing investigable questions
Discussing investigable questions

Next, we went over investigable questions by first defining the term in simple language that the campers could get. Then we presented them with an example of an investigable and a non-example. Some campers quickly agreed that they could perform an investigation with the example rather than the non-example, as the non-example was too complex. Two campers dissented as they thought they could tell us the answer to the non-example without research, and not the example, so that had to mean the non-example was right. The other campers argued that point and everyone unanimously agreed on the correct example. This moment was a highlight as students were arguing from evidence (Tiarra’s definition of an investigable question). We basically did the same exercise again, but instead replaced the examples with those relevant to the investigation. Some of the previous problems arose, marking that not all the campers had a firm grasp on how to identify an investigable question, but again, they eventually agreed on the correct choice. We had a question and were ready to investigate! But a protocol was required. Using the same teams, the campers were presented with a model of the beach and were asked where data should be collected. There was a great discussion about how far away samples should be taken, whether sand samples should be taken, if sand samples closer to the grass would be “cleaner” than those closer to the water. We decided that we would collect a river sample, a sample by the pier, between the pier and the lifeguard chairs, and by the lifeguard chairs. NOW we were really ready to start this investigation! We had to suit up first though…A time management solution that I came up with too late was having my hip waders on before the campers arrived. This way they would see how they would look, and I wouldn’t have to spend 45 seconds – 1 minute putting the things on. After a period of time that was far too long, everyone had their gear and were set up. Day 2 of camp was the day where practicing authentic inquiry really hit the pavement. With the data collection that was planned to occur, our campers were going to be getting messy at the beach. And they did.

Taking the temperature of the sand
Taking the temperature of the sand

Which was exciting, they were getting out there and collecting samples, taking temperatures and making observations. A regret I had was not designating the positions with flags, so the campers could just be directed to where those spots and could get samples. We also wanted to ensure that all the campers got the opportunity to collect data with every tool we brought, which was more time consuming than if we just gave them individual roles. When it came to analyzing the samples, specifically plating them, I was not the best role model. I forget to have them wear gloves and goggles for safety, and had to be reminded by Michael. Though after that, I was impressed with how they campers followed directions and all but two campers did not have to be micromanaged.


But at the end of the day, our campers had a late lunch, and I had to collect more data for them after they left. It was not an optimal day, but one I can and will learn from.

Camp Day 1: Rain, Rain, Go Away!

So, we are starting off of this year’s GRS Camp with a bang, a soggy bang, but a bang nonetheless! Despite the heavy downpour, powerful winds, and the cold (at least for the summer), we persevered.

Some of campers actually came to join us, which was pretty wonderful. And they were great sports when it came to still doing science work while the weather surrounding us was not optimal. I especially appreciated their enthusiasm when it came to watching the giant waves come in, a silver-lining provided by the weather.

Not to delay them, the Green team asked that they create an initial model of what the beach looked like to them on a “normal day.” Using chalk and the pavilion floor, our campers constructed beautiful models of the lake, sand, and sun (which could not join us in person this day, unfortunately).

Chalk it up!
Chalk it up!
Modelin' w/ chalk!
Modelin’ w/ chalk!

After that, we got our trash bag ponchos on and headed into the storm for some observations! Reminding the campers that science is messy work, we got soaked. Our campers took it like champs, and noticed broken seashells, white foam on the sand, wet sand is heavier than “drier” sand, all the sand is moist, and the sand was wetter closer to the water than the boardwalk.

We could not get really close to the pier because of time and  worrying about the campers’ health. Luckily, I took some pictures of the pier prior to the campers coming. With it, we were able to have a good discussion on turbidity (“The water on which side of the pier looks cloudier?”).  We also talked about stressors that affect the lake, such as algae and bacteria. Surprisingly, the discussion on pH also went well, and they were able to understand that living things can’t survive in very acidic or very basic conditions (“Do you think fish can live in lemon juice? How about bleach?”).

The pier
The pier


Soon enough, it was lunch time where the Green team just got to know each other better. It was interesting hearing about their interests like basketball and Michael Jackson, and gave me some ideas of how to engage certain campers.

After lunch, Tiarra and myself attempted to see if the campers were willing to elaborate on a question they had that we could turn into an investigable one…but they were sort of done for the day. I could not really blame them, considering the weather. Tiarra came up with a great idea to keep them engage in science talk, by having them jump up and down while passing a stuffed toy around. The person holding the toy would have to answer a question about turbidity (“What is turbidity?”). Campers responses included, “stuff in the water”, “cloudiness”, and “algae, bacteria, and dirt,” which was wonderful to hear.

Then we decided to wrap-up with developing a team name and chant. Our new team name is “The Science Kids,” and the chant was almost exclusively made by myself as I was hoping to start off and then have the campers join in, but they were happy just having me do the chant. We’ll see if they have any input to add to it tomorrow.

For tomorrow, I need to give more explicit wording to science concepts and practices. I also need to be more explicit in the practices we just performed and are going to do next and why they are important to science inquiry. We have decided to split two campers up during data collection, to maximize their efficiency. We are also going to have more energizers and activities to maintain engagement. With the addition of the clipboards, organization (which was a problem since we moved around the pavilion to stay dry) should be easier. The chalk model idea was good, but the rain eventually got to it, so the revision part we were hoping to do was never completed. We might use the chalk again for Day 2 because the campers really enjoyed it.

Hopefully, the only thing wet on Day 2 will be the sand…



Trusting your Gut

So in just a few short days, the GRS science camp will have started. The cohort has been busily preparing for this event, formulating goals and objectives as the foundation for our lesson plans. So far, it has been a grueling and intense experience and will even get more so when camp actually starts.

When I think about camp week, I am filled with a sense of dread. I know that this experience is meant more for us (versus the campers), since this the first real chance we have at applying theory into practice with actual students. But I cannot help my desire to have my campers to leave the camp feeling more like scientists. I want them to have learned something about the beach ecosystem. I want to have an impact on them.

Of course, if I can fulfill my goals through meeting the objectives then I should not have any worries. Developing goals to lead the campers where we want them to be, as well as objectives to reach those goals, planning around them, and planning around the possible hindrances to those plans are all meant to ensure that “failure” does not occur. Perhaps to my fellow cohort members, what constitutes failure will be different. To me, success would be having each camper willing/able to see themselves as scientists. Failure would be the opposite, where they leave thinking that science is not for them, and I not having the means to know why.

Now I am not one to begin a project with failure as a focus, I tend to think of myself as a person who is willing to tackle new challenges. Though as a person who is not very proficient at planning, thinking about elements outside of goals and objectives has been particularly difficult. Especially when it comes to the outline posed in the Warner Lesson plan. I cannot imagine keeping all the information I write in there to stay in my head. I suppose that with backwards planning I should not have to, as the final script and activities (which I hopefully remember) that are developed have been influenced by everything I have done previously. In the end, the written lesson plan is a window to my thinking and can be remodeled if my thinking changes. Another element that has been interesting to tackle, has been understanding what I should write into each box of the Warner lesson plan, but I’ve decided to go with my gut inclination and get feedback as time goes on.

Trusting your gut is a really good title for this post actually. As the cohort prepares for a challenging week, we should be reminded to trust our instincts and not to second guess ourselves. We know what we are doing and are have some wonderful people supporting us (including fellow cohort members). We will make camp an amazing experience for our campers and for each other!

The Relevance of Culture

For our most recent Critical Commentary, the third one to be precise, we read “The Culture of Power and Science Education: Learning from Miguel” by Barton and Yang (2000). The article was a case study examining the cultural influences that kept a man named Miguel from obtaining a science education. These influences included the conflict between his own ‘hood culture and the “culture of power.” From readings from my other Warner courses, I described ‘hood culture as the subordinate culture and the “culture of power” as the dominant culture (Schmidt, 2005).

While Miguel had an interest in animals which could be used as an “in” for an education in science, this interest was never capitalized by either the subordinate or dominant culture. In fact, both cultures actively ensured that Miguel did not receive access to science education. The subordinate culture believed that science was only for geniuses and anyone that walked that path had turned their back on the ‘hood. The dominant culture also had expect everyone like Miguel were destined for blue collar work and placed him in classes accordingly, not considering (maybe?) the perpetual cycle that was being generated.

These perceptions are just one form of barrier that blocks access to the means of empowerment, such as being scientifically literate. Those within the dominant culture are privileged with greater access. For science teachers, it is up to us to help bridge the gap with those students that are underprivileged. Our pedagogical practices must have a cultural relevance to our students in order to succeed in this goal. It is a matter of social justice, after all.

In another course I take, EDU 442, multicultural education and culturally relevant pedagogy was a recent topic of discussion. We looked at read a case study about a white science teacher named Mr. Hall, who built relationships with each of his students in a public city school. With those students that were struggling in his class, he would find out about their interests outside of class and engage with them that way, such as playing a few games of b-ball with them. I believe that his goal was to create bridges with his students outside of race, which he would do by telling stories about his wife’s pregnancy and his children. He took on different roles depending on what his students needed, ranging from surrogate father, mother, older brother, and friend.

This got me to thinking about how I will integrate culture into my own teaching practice and how that could be used to empower my students. For my current draft of my mini-grant assignment, my investigation involves school lunches and how healthy they are. I’ve been tinkering with how “healthy” will be defined/determined. Will it be by merely calorie count, compared to the national average amount of calories needed each day during lunch? I could try to test the fat and sugar content of each food in the lunch vs. lunches from home vs. food in the local community vs. school lunches in other districts. I think that comparing the school lunches between districts or even between private and public school s would be a fascinating look in the differences between class, and it would have a social justice slant because evidence found from that investigation could be used to motivate activism for improved school lunches.


What do you all think?




Barton, A. C., & Yang, K. (2000). The Culture Of Power And Science Education: Learning From Miguel. Journal of Research in Science Teaching37(8), 871-889.

Sheri Lyn Schmidt (2005) More Than Men in White Sheets: Seven Concepts Critical to the Teaching of Racism as Systemic Inequality, Equity & Excellence in Education, 38:2, 110-122

Integrating Video

Integration of Videos is a useful tool that more individuals in the education field are beginning to recognize.  This tool is getting more attention because of the benefits it has in the classroom setting.

Integrating Videos can help manage class time.  At times, educators may find a particular “hands on” activity that would benefit the student’s comprehension of the material being discussed in class.  However, there is not enough allotted time to cover content and do the activity. Videos can help with this.  A student can watch a content driven video prior to the class.  Or, the video could explain the activity, so the students are ready to go when they enter the classroom.   This could be very useful in a lab class that requires extensive explanations and procedures.  If they watch a tutorial video on how to carry out the experiment, less class time will be spent talking about how to do the lab, and more time will be spent actually doing the lab, answering questions, and reflecting on the ideas and meanings behind the lab.  However, there are a couple things that need to be taken in to consideration, when using a video as a supplement.  Does a student have access to the video?  Do they have internet, and a laptop, or computer, to view the video?  If not, a teacher needs to provide time and ways to make that happen.

By integrating videos, creativity is inspired.  A teacher is able to engage students in new and unique ways, which enables them to reach students that they might not have before.  A teacher can use a video as a demonstration, they can personalize a lesson and make it more relatable to students they teach.  Videos can be used as an introduction to draw students in to a lesson.  Below are two very dramatic examples of introductions.

Integrating videos not only allows the teacher to be creative, but the students as well.  Students can create their own videos to show their understanding of a unit, or as a part of a presentation.  This encourage a student to reflect on the lessons, and then personalize the information.  Again, there are limitations while using videos in this way.  One, as before the student needs to have access to the right equipment, such as iPads, laptops, internet, and proper software.  Another thing to keep in mind, is how easy it is to get sidetracked when creating a video.  A student, and teacher, may waste time focusing on minor details, like picking out the right song to go along with the video.

Recorded lessons are made possible with the integration of videos.  There are many different Apps that can be used as tools for this.  We found one called Educreations, which acts as a whiteboard.  This specific App is free of charge, but requires an account to be made to use it.  An entire lesson could be recorded, or just key and or/difficult points that a student may struggle with.  These lessons can be placed on an accessible site for both students and parents.  This allows for students who are struggling with content to go back and review what was stated in class.  It also allow their parents to watch the content, and maybe aid in the student’s comprehension of the material.  Also, if a student is absent from school, the lesson is readily available to them. A brief tutorial on how to use Educreations can be found here.

The integration of video can be a highly valuable tool, in which we can apply at the Get Real! Science Camp.  We were thinking on how the students can take the information they learn, and investigation and observations they preform and make it their own.  We can encourage the students to take a lot of pictures during camp, and at the end of each day, do a video journal of what they did that day, and what they learned.  At the end of camp, they can make their own video to show their experience at camp.  If they would like, then can incorporate the video in to their presentations.  Including them into their presentations, and sharing their videos, not only demonstrates their creativity, but encourages the students’ social skills.

For our purposes, recording videos will be easiest using the iPad. A good tutorial on the basics of using the iPad’s recording feature, including how to trim and share videos, can be found here.

If you are interested in integrating videos in your practice, then YouTube is your one-stop source (if you had not noticed quite a few YouTube videos have been used in this tutorial). There is a wealth of content already present on the site, and if you cannot find a video to fit your needs, YouTube comes with an easy to use video editor to allow you to create your own. This editor is also easy for students to pick up and use, especially for creating presentations or even vlogs.


It should be noted that video integration and its uses in inquiry-based learning is similar to any other form of literacy. Video is another format to share ideas and engage others within a common discourse. The content of the videos selected to be integrated, and the ways they are integrated, are key. Keep the following in mind when using videos:

  • Does the video’s content supply a narrative that prompts critical thinking? (perhaps by addressing common misconceptions)
  • Always ask, is this video necessary? How does it add to the lesson I am trying to give? Using a video for the sake of doing “something different” is not the way to go.
  • You can ask students for feedback on the value videos provided to supplement your lessons.
  • For video projects, try to provide a rubric that tries not to limit student creativity, but ensures that their work is indicative of their knowledge (provide guidance to avoid “all style, no substance” projects).



Flip learning successful in Cuba-Rushford middle school.(n.d.). Olean Times Herald. Retrieved July 7, 2014, from

Teaching video literacy for a media revolution. (2012, March 7) Retrieved July 7, 2014, from

The Flipped Classroom: Turning the Traditional Classroom on its Head. (n.d.).Flipped Classroom Comments. Retrieved July 6, 2014, from


Discovering the New Frontier

No. This post is not going to engage in the topic astrophysics, outer space, or even Star Trek. This is a disclaimer to those who thought it might be, but since you have already started reading…

A few weeks ago, the cohort was given a “Do Now” that asked us to respond to the prompt of “Learning in authentic spaces”. The phrasing of this concept was puzzling to me because “authentic” has connotations that I feel are misleading, at least to my comprehension of the concept. Authentic usually means real or genuine, but saying, “Learning in ‘real’ spaces,” does not resonate in the same fashion (although genuine could).

Responses to the prompt included (sorry if I write your point incorrectly):

Authentic spaces are

Eric- “culturally relevant” with high accountability placed on learners.

Ryan- interactive, communal & discussion orientated.

Kaitlin-real science spaces.

Jess-real and changing, not stagnant.

Jillian-using your environment to create a conversation.

Tiarra- can be anywhere if you are creative enough.

Alanna- where you see things you are learning about coming to life.

My major issue was that “learning in authentic spaces” evokes imagery of observing nature or physical places of learning such as museums. Virtual environments such as online forums or blogging communities are also authentic spaces, but are not readily thought of due to the use of the term “authentic”. My instructors did inform me that “authentic space” did incorporate virtual spaces as well.

Despite our discussion about the prompt, I was still confused about what constituted an authentic space. My general takeaway from our discussion was that authentic spaces are on a spectrum, with some spaces being more authentic than others. It would be up to how the teacher cultivates that space that would determine the level of authenticity present.

To help ease my confusion, I decided to perform some research by asking my instructor for relevant readings. Then by using the Find function of the Chrome web browser, I attempted to pull out quotes involving the term “authentic space” to derive meaning from. None of the articles/chapters had the term “authentic space”, so I decided to look at instances of “authentic” and “space”. (Take note that the use of numbering the quotes simply made referencing them easier, it is not meant as a ranking.)

  1. Rich media representations (e.g., large screen documentaries) and digital technologies, such as simulations and immersive environments (e.g., visualizations, interactive virtual reality, games), can expand more traditional hands-on approaches to engage the public in authentic science activities” (Bell, 2009, p.59).


  1. “Informal environments (spaces) often provide opportunities for learners to engage in authentic inquiry using a range of resources, without pressure to cover particular content, yet with access to engaging phenomena and staff ready to support them in their own explorations and discoveries” (Bell, 2009, p.79).



  1. “Some have argued that schools and science centers should learn from the authentic moments of curiosity and exploration seen in everyday learning—and try to recreate them in their settings… While pursuit of scientific questions for the sake of pure interest is often a goal in planning curriculum or museum exhibits, visitors may not have that goal. Yet the personal histories of scientists suggest that sustained everyday experiences are often seen as a crucial influence on their expertise development” (Bell, 2009, p.115).


  1. “There are also concerns that technology may decrease the social interaction that is a hallmark of learning in informal environments” (Bell, 2009, p.281).



  1. “Third, it makes more sense to organize learning environments (spaces) that allow students to become knowledgeable by participating in and contributing to the life of their community, which has the potential to lead to lifelong participation and learning” (Roth, 2004, p.2).


  1. “This implies that science educators no longer seek to stack educational environments (spaces) to coax individuals into certain performances, but that they set up situations that allow a variety of participatory modes, more consistent with a democratic approach in which people make decisions about their own lives and interests” (Roth, 2004, p.5).



  1. “We are therefore particularly interested in forms of participation that are continuous with out-of-school experiences and therefore have the potential to lead to lifelong learning rather than to discontinuities between formal and informal learning settings (spaces)” (Roth, 2004, p.24).


  1. “Because active, collaborative learning is important, space should support authentic, project-based activities. In addition, space may support informal learning, such as using the walls to post current research or artifacts from previous discoveries” (Oblinger, 2005).



  1. “Learning spaces convey an image of the institution’s philosophy about teaching and learning. A standard lecture hall, with immovable chairs all facing the lectern, may represent a philosophy of ‘pouring content into students’ heads.’ An active, collaborative teaching and learning philosophy is often manifested in a different design. Space can either enable—or inhibit—different styles of teaching as well as learning” (Oblinger, 2005).

Quotes 1 and 4 both wrestle with the issue of technology and virtual spaces from different angles. I believe that there is opportunity for technology to create authentic spaces for learning in a myriad of ways. Even in the case of 4, where conventional social interaction is mediated by a technology that requires a one person operator (removing person to person interaction), that single person can still reach millions of people and vice versa. Though it is on that individual whether or not they decide to interact with those millions or not.

It seems that authentic spaces refer to informal environments that allow for collaboration between participants. They naturally allow for those participants to interact with others and the space itself. In this way, authentic spaces are both distinct and fairly general with much room for subjectivity to decide which spaces are more authentic than others. As quote 9 states, “space can either enable—or inhibit—different styles of teaching as well as learning” (Oblinger, 2005). As teachers, it is on us to determine our style of teaching and how we want our students to learn. Our classrooms, or teaching settings, must reflect our style to be as authentic as possible for our purposes.



Oblinger, D. (2005). Leading the Transition from Classrooms to Learning Spaces (EDUCAUSE Quarterly) | the Transition from Classrooms to Learning Spaces (EDUCAUSE Quarterly) | Retrieved June 20, 2014, from

Roth, W., & Lee, S. (2004). Science education as/for participation in the community. Science Education88(2), 263-291.

Bell, P. (2009). Learning science in informal environments people, places, and pursuits. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.