#Sciencisreal and so is this blog’s identity!

Being new to the GRS blogs I have been trying to work out this blog page’s identity; I think I’ve got it! As the blog’s tagline says “#scienceisreal” so I think I want to try to reflect on some real science that I engaged in each week. It is way too easy to teach science without doing science or even being scientific. I like to try to apply my identity as a scientist to my entire life though, not just a persona that I play in a classroom so this moment of reflection should help me think about the things I do in a scientific way throughout the week, or the real science that I notice I engage in on the day to day. Its important to me that my students know that I absolutely practice what I teach, so here goes…

I know there was a lot that I did, using simple machines, computers, technology, co-creating authentic experiments with students that I really did not know what the outcomes would be, but I can not get past the giant science thing that really consumed my life this week. I had…a cold.

Even though I did not choose to engage in this science I was involved and as I drove to and from work and school I had plenty of time to think about the science of what was going on inside my body and in my immediate environment. Not only that but I started to track the source of the cold that I was infected with and actively engaged in practices that might reduce my transmission of the cold to others. What science was I doing? Epidemiology:

  1. Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems. Various methods can be used to carry out epidemiological investigations: surveillance and descriptive studies can be used to study distribution; analytical studies are used to study determinants. (World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/topics/epidemiology/en/ )

Colds are a generic term for a group of respiratory viruses that infect people. They are not caused by

The Rhinovirus is the most frequent cause of the “common cold”

standing out in the cold (yes mom I had my jacket on when it got down to the 40’s and 50’s this week). According to the Centers for Disease Control colds are spread through the air and close contact with others. To stop the spread of the cold the CDC recommends:

If you have a cold, you should follow these tips to prevent viruses from spreading to other people:

  • Stay at home while you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with others, such as hugging, kissing, or shaking hands
  • Move away from people before coughing or sneezing
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose
  • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and objects such as toys and doorknobs

(CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/features/rhinoviruses/)

Well… as a teacher we had to modify that intervention plan a little bit because I really couldn’t sacrifice an entire week of learning with my students so bullet point number one was out. Instead I focused on points 2-6 and so far none of my students are showing signs of catching my cold but they may still be incubating the virus so I will have to wait until next week to know if my efforts to control the spread were successful.

The other half of Epidemiology is tracking where this disease came from. The short answer is my son, but if I tracked it back further his 5th grade math teacher (in a different school district 20 miles away) had the cold last week and through some interviews (I know these people, I am not running around like a crazy person blaming others for passing on the cold) it turns out that that teacher had caught the cold from a co-teacher who had caught it from their child who is in an entirely different school district yet another 20 miles away. The study of how diseases spread is pretty interesting. This little virus that has very little mobility in and of itself has co-evolved with humans to use us as transportation vectors to spread its DNA as far as it can go.

Because I have a self defined identity of being a “science person” I look at the world through this lens. Other people might just say “i’m sick and suffer, I say “I’m sick how’s that work”. As we discussed in class this week helping students create identities that can create questions like that is a really powerful way to help them engage in science. (Thompson, 2014) If anyone from outside of the class is reading this blog I highly recommend reading it too. See you all monday!

Thompson, J. (2014). Engaging girls’ sociohistorical identities in science. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 23(3), 392-446.


plutoI have to give credit where it is due, this post title is actually a chapter title from one of my favorite books, How I killed Pluto and why it had it coming by Mike Brown. This week was most definitely one of those weeks in so many ways. If anyone wants a fun book that really explains why Pluto isn’t a planet and never actually was one, this is the book for you! I have about sixty copies because we read it in one of the courses I teach so I can lend a copy out to anyone who is interested. In this particular chapter a whole lot of stuff happens in Mike’s life all at once. I don’t want to spoil too much but quite a few astronomical discoveries are made and some pretty big life changes take place as well. I didn’t really discover anything this week and haven’t had any crazy life changes but that doesn’t mean that this week wasn’t a busy one.

All week my students have started to move from summer mode to learning mode which means that our learning interactions get much more intense. In some cases that was some pretty high frustration levels but it was followed in one particular case by twenty minutes of laughing so in the end it was all worth it for everyone, but especially me (I can be selfish that way, sometimes I enjoy student’s happiness more  and remember it longer than they do).

Monday night I got to meet you all (or more truthfully most of you all) and that was wonderful; Thank You for a great first class!

On tuesday night I was lucky enough to sit on a panel of SUNY Master Teachers to field questions from pre-service teachers. The questions they had were wonderful and refreshing and from feedback they truly enjoyed our responses and found them helpful. Being that our panel was all teachers we structured the forum to force participation so everyone had to write down a question as they entered the lecture hall and then post in on the front board. We each then fought over which questions we would get to answer and began. One of my favorite questions was “when do you breathe?” and my response was that you really have to plan for your resting moments. It isn’t always easy to make yourself take those breaks but you have to for your own health and those around you. (Note to self: plan a break some time soon!) But as soon as I finished giving that answer I had to add another response to the same question. I realized that I really relax every morning M-F at 7:44 when my first class of the day starts. I love teaching and I love my classes and it is almost a zen like feeling that you get from being in the moment teaching. Its really all of the “administrative mumbo jumbo”  that is stressful, teaching is relaxation! (in a strange paradoxical kind of way)

Wednesday was take care of the homestead night which is never boring.

Thursday night was another class.

Friday was a day of science in my mind as I tried to use every ounce of scientific thinking I had to solve a real world problem; My water well was not supplying the water it should to my holding tank. So I attacked the problem starting at 6 A.M. assessed the situation but had to leave for work by 6:45. In between teaching I did real science, I researched my problem and networked with people who had more experience than I. My experts that helped out included a few students, one custodian, a retired auto mechanic/ friend and a professional well guy. At some time tonight we finally had a solution but it was a long process of testing circuits, running experiments, asking questions, reading, researching, trying more experiments, and eventually stumbling across the solution. It just goes to show how applicable learning science is to our every day lives. This wasn’t even a scientific principal that solved the problem it was scientific practice; questioning, testing, experimenting, evaluating, assessing, discussing, communication, research, perseverance, and LUCK! It really could have been anything but in the end after none of the tests that should have identified the problem found a solution on a whsherlockim we removed the three day old sediment filter. Why? Because as sir Arthur
doyleConan Doyle says “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” It runs perfectly now, but like a science guy finding an answer left me with a new question; why did a brand new filter fail?

So if any of you out there run into any well problems or any other issues please remember use science to find your solution! And I always love a good problem to solve so if you need help my brain is yours to tease.


See you all Monday.