GRS Summer Camp Day 3: Lab coats and goggles and gloves, Oh my!

Wednesday is traditionally hump day. Not so for camp! Today was the day the campers came to the U of R to use the labs and the respective gear that comes with it. Part of being a scientist is looking like a scientist and today’s actives came with lab coats, which got even the most jittery of students to focus in on what was being done. However, a change of scenery also comes with its own hiccups, the most pertinent being that the campers are fast eater, but slow walkers. This meant that we did not given enough time for our transition from Hutchinson and back, which did throw off our day to a degree.

As I was saying earlier. The coats and goggles and gloves solidified the identity as scientists. The nitrate and pH testing kits also did the same, as there were chemicals and test tubes and things were changing colors which very much fits the campers’ paradigm of what a scientist looks like as we saw from the APK’s. By putting the campers in that mold they did own the safety and protocol. Unfortunately this identity development taking priority meant we fell a bit behind once again, but not to fret; day 4 is designed to take some of that slack and get us back on track. Yay!

One of the highlights of the day was the college tour. There were minimal levels of interest in most of the actual buildings, but a lot of interest in the campus’ superstitions, mainly the one about walking under the clock tower. Basically the rumor goes if you walk under the clock tower, you will not graduate and that bad luck will follow you to other colleges. When passerbys also commented on the superstition, it gave the university and the campus its own tinge of mystery and intrigue. It made the campus unique; just like the Freedom School has its own traditions, it gave the U of R its own traditions and it gave the campers an “in the loop” feeling. I think the message was clear when no one walked through it, daring not to challenge the superstition.

Once again, time for my pluses and arrows:

One consistent plus is that I am capitalizing on moments that require authentic thinking. When there was a road block I gave the appropriate wait time and after a while, some solid ideas and questions formed. Even though some of the thinking did not yield a concrete result, it modeled very well the notion that scientist do have to make judgment calls, some of which are difficult. Another plus was my modeling of the protocol for the various kits. Because this was a new thing for the campers, I was very explicit in that had to be done and could also guide the student using fewer words. The actions combined with the instruction, then doing the procedure step by step was a result of forethought in the amount of prior knowledge the campers had and also allowed me to own the details a bit more.

One of my arrows I discovered today was my lack of acceptance of my pluses. To be honest, camp has beaten me up a little and when so much seems to go wrong it is hard for me to see and continue doing the things that work. With me lead teaching tomorrow, I need to take additional heed and give as much thought to my pluses as I do my arrows. Another arrow is that because of my ability in materials management, I have not stepped enough out of my comfort zone to connect with the campers. I do make personal connections, but not as much as I would like. I would like to try and use break and lunch to just chat outside of the context of camp and find common interest with the campers. Lastly, I am still struggling with the line between team leader and instructor. I do want the fun element of camp to stay, but sometimes I find myself being too lenient or too strict in a given situation. I need to be more consistent in my tone and actions (which I have been doing) for specific action. The appropriate tone is needed for the appropriate misbehavior, especially if we’ve addressed it multiple times.

Camp is halfway done and I lead tomorrow, so I’m resting up/micromanaging.Goodnight and I’ll see you tomorrow!

GRS Summer camp Day 2: The name of the game is observation

Day 2 brought great weather, and I’m not just saying that because of the rain from the day before. For late July, it was a calm, clear, and cool day. A perfect day for taking observations, which would be the main focus of today.

After a day of humility and a lot of opportunities for growth, I was partly relieved in taking more of a supporting role today. It helped me process the lessons I learned from day 1 and also helped me to learn from a more zoomed-out perspective; i was able to learn not only by doing what I was doing but also watching the lesson unfold without the preoccupations of being the lead teacher.

Today went more smoothly as the campers were not shivering and the prospect of data collection was a reality today. The energy level of the group was much higher and the models they created were much more fleshed out. We were able to capitalize on this energy by having improved materials management which saved valuable time and we also more clearly scaffolded the activities we were doing giving them a greater purpose. However at the end of the day, the bus from the Freedom School came about 25 minutes later than we expected it to, and we found it difficult to make up that lost time and try to normalize after a tricky day 1. Sometimes (or actually, most of the time) multiple tiers of priority are required. Some things can be cut out if time does not permit, some things have to be done to some degree regardless of time, and some things are essentially prerequisites to a certain activity. They may not seem important in the grand scheme of things but are absolutely necessary as a scaffold or as a transition into an objective.

Now for my personal pluses and arrows:

My big plus was giving more explicit feedback during the small group discussions. I really put in the effort in highlighting specifically what the camper did well, pointing to exactly what was done with great thought and effort right on their page. I also did well in a supporting role in both materials management and an attention to detail; it helped an already hectic and jam-packed day run efficiently. Through my role I also noticed how a small camper/leader ratio can also be challenging for the campers. Individual attention is great, but it is also distracting to have multiple voices facilitating and trying to hit the mark on all that facilitating.

My arrow was on owning the details, especially in the science content. The plating did not go as planned, and had I caught the mistake it could have been avoided. It comes with time, but I have to start noticing more things simultaneously. Another arrow in that was safety protocol. In my lack of ability in awareness of multiple things, I did not enforce the safety protocol as hard as I should have. Once again, it all comes down to owning the details and being aware of everything in light of still having a lesson to teach. This is a tall task, but one that will come with time and effort. This is also something I would not have noticed if I were not in a supporting role and able to both facilitate and observe.

Two days down, four to go. I bend but I do not break. So much learning in such little time, but if you think about it, its a really efficient way to learn my strengths and weaknesses.

GRS Summer Camp Day 1: Come hell or all manner of water

Day 1 of camp. All of the planning, the re-planning, the feedback, the nerves, the anxiety, the anticipation all comes together this day.

photo (1)

And apparently so did the rain… And I mean a lot of rain. I mean to the point where even Noah went “damn” while sitting in his ark. That much rain on the first day of camp meant going to plan B (which was moving to a pavilion that was a bit more sheltered by the wind) or plan C (moving into the first floor of the bathhouse which was indoors) or plan D (cutting the day short and going back early to LeChase). So many alternative plans meant having to change on the fly, only to have the plan change again. Eventually we settled with plan B and got everything unloaded. The biggest curveball of the day we that the campers would not arrive to Charlotte until 10:00 am, half an hour later than the original plan. This meant we had to take out the script and make some major changes and trimming away some extraneous bits of the lesson. It would have been great to have those bits of the lesson, but given the situation they were less important.

The campers then rolled in as we were finishing making a full set of garbage bag ponchos. They weren’t great, but they were better than nothing. When the campers got off the bus there was a large mix of emotions raining from anticipation to shivering reluctance. They had modified our science chants to incorporate a better rhythm. it got us moving and helped center the whirlwind of emotion.

Then came the first steps into science for Team Orange. Even though we were met with the resistance of “I’m cold,” and “I’m wet,” we still persevered and made some good observations and questions. My small group for observations did a great job despite the wind and the rain to come up with a solid set of observations. Granted it took some pushing and a lot of follow-up questions, but once it was clear the best way to make observations in that group was to focus on one thing at a time, we got the ball rolling. The rest of the day was a bit of a struggle. Part of it was the weather of course, but as much as everyone says it had an effect on the day, I still believe it was in part a slight failure in what to expect from the campers and not adjusting as well as I would have liked. Which is a good segueway to my personal pluses and arrows:

My pluses were that I was able to adjust given the circumstances. Weather aside, as the group leader, I was able to make some snap decision regarding the flow of the day. Another one of my pluses was that I was able to ask some true facilitating questions. The campers were flustered that there was no right answer, but I was able to push their thinking beyond the immediate and was able to ask “How?” and “Why?” but at the right times.

In my mind, my arrows outweigh my pluses by a lot. The main one was that when the rubber met the road, I caved in a bit and became indecisive. I focused too much on the potential repercussions of my decisions that I was paralyzed in making a call and sticking with it. For the future, I have to trust that everything can be repaired after the fact and just trust that my adjustments are fine and not as catastrophic as I make them out to be in my head. Trust my instincts.  Another big arrow was that the actives I planned involved too much sitting down and lasted a bit too ling. What i realized was that the campers had a lot of energy to dart, but somewhere around the 6-8 minute mark they lost the energy. Next time this means the activities have to be shorter with more of a transition form one activity to another and they have to be a lot more active. My last major arrow of the day was that I did not include enough time for reflection and processing of the activities. Because it seemed like I had so much to do in not a lot of time, I did not allow one activity to truly transition into another or allow campers to consider the activity in the greater context of the unit goal. The next time, I will include some time for reflection, even if it’s as little as a think-pair-share. Reflection is still a big priority and should not be overlooked.

Overall today was a day of humility and learning. I will always look back on this day on the whole and on the lessons I learned. I’m ready to go to day two.

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The weather is better, so that’s something.

Have a good plan B, but a better plan A

Apologies for the late blog post, fellow readers. Between trying to script and refine a Warner Lesson Plan for the first time it totally slipped my mind. But here we are, just a few days to go until go time! Having been an athlete this very much reminds me of preseason practice leading into a scrimmage. There is a lot of hard work put into preparation in order to be prepared for the games ahead. Sometimes its fun, and sometimes it is grueling and seems like there is no purpose, that you just work yourself ragged just for the sake of doing so. But without this work you are not ready and you find yourself ill-prepared. Working off that analogy, after all of the readings, projects and presentations, the planning now gets put into use in a semi-controlled environment. It has the same routine as a regular season game, but it is more a chance to work out some kinks in a more realistic setting. That’s what I have to tell myself about camp: it’s a scrimmage. I’m gonna go out there and execute what I have been working on all summer and do it to the best of my abilities. If things don’t go exactly how I want them to, that’s fine. The stakes are not as high, and as long as I am learning from them and giving it the attention I would give in mid-season then I am doing something right because once it’s truly go-time, the opportunity to make mistakes get fewer and fewer.

Now onto lesson planning… Holy smokes it is unrelenting. Sometimes it feels like you’re boxing against a tidal wave: every punch you throw at it seems to do little, and it hits back twice as hard. But I am learning so so so much! Every box is an opportunity for feedback and I can see my language and my attention to detail (something I have struggled with from time to time) shifting to a more teacher-esque place. It seems very natural and because I am writing it and am the one to carry it out I feel both confident and responsible for refining as much as I can.

One last point to make: I am still not very good at first days. I have had three internships where I was once of the instructors. I am 0 for 3 in good first days. I am 0 for 3 in mediocre first days. I don’t know why, but for all the planning I do it just doesn’t translate nearly as well as I’d like. Part of it is my disposition to introversion, and part of it is my self-doubt. I try very hard, and I am sure that my plan is great, but the execution falters because I lose faith in my planning in the heat of the moment. KB helped put it in perspective a bit. She said to believe in the lesson plan, even if you don’t believe in it entirely. Whatever decision I made, either via the lesson plan or as a last-minute adjustment, be confident and see it through. That helped big time, so a big thanks to KB! I’m a bit older and and a bit wiser since my last first day and because I believe in the goals and objectives I have set out, I’ve internalized everything better thus helping out in the confidence department.

It’s go time!


The Calm Before the Camp

Week 2 of Summer B is up! Which means going to the freedom school is in less than a week, and camp is in two!  That it freaking awesome, but also freaks me out a little. Fine, maybe more than a little. Okay… Deep breaths, deep breaths… Count to ten, okay? Okay. Ready twofoursixeightten.


Much better.

Sorry about that, folks. Now back to the blog.

This week we went to the Freedom School to do our APK’s. All that aside, it was also the first time within the context of Warner that we interacted with the students/campers. Before I say anything else, I have one word: harambee. If you want to see education of young minds and the instillment of positive values in action, then you want to see a harambee. There was so much energy, so much passion that a droopy-eyed Eric was awake and moving (albeit a bit stiffly) to the beat. The djembe was going, students were cheering along, and even the chorus of Nas’ “I Can” were chanted. If you’ve never heard thew whole song, I suggest you do so here

Through the concept interviews I figured out two things for myself that I had once forgotten: First, I re-learned that teaching is my favorite adrenaline rush. It’s energizing and when I’m in my zone, I’m in my zone and I love. The aftermath leaves me feeling like I could run a marathon and sleep for 24 straight hours at the exact same time. But you know what, I love it! Secondly, I re-learned that this is hard work. Four 10-minute groups and I was a bit pooped. But much like the first day back at the gym it’s gonna be hard but once it’s a regular thing you can not only do it well, but continually improve. It was nice to be back in front of the students, it reaffirmed why I do what I do. And the future campers, man they have the desire. They are energetic, active, and ready to engage in discourse. I can’t wait.

We also did a reading this week on social justice. Barton and Yang (2000) discussed how the current model of school shows a narrow vision of what science is and if you do not fit that, then you are excluded, sometimes actively excluded despite having the desire and knowledge base to succeed. This puts into perspective (yet again) why we are learning about science learning the way we are right now. Reform-minded learning not only gives students a better understanding of science and its purpose in life, but it also grants accessibility. As we’ve discussed, new methods and technologies must make the learning accessible; this also applies to new methods of teaching as well. This applies to camp very much so because a large part of it is giving the campers the identity, the means, and the agency to not only become scientists, but also realize that they were scientists all along.

Oh one last thing: below is “Things Eric Finds on the Internet: Part II.” For grant writing or other purposes, here are a few items I found that would be really cool in a science classroom. I am not sure where they might be applied, but take it for what you will. *Drum Roll*

A Mini Arm Computer!

A Make Your Own Wind Power Kit!

An Electric Circuit Playground!

and The MacGyver Toolkit (what, it’s fun and would be a heck of a problem solving type of activity).

Bye for now!

Mini-PL Research: Smartboards!

Eric and I will be presenting today on the Smartboard.  We both have had experience using Smartboards in a classroom setting.  We had some basics down, but often felt stuck when it did not work how we expected. We also were not aware of the capabilities of the Smartboard beyond its use as an interactive screen. This research was a great opportunity for us to better understand how to use a Smartboard.

How to use the Smartboard:

One advantage of presenting only a week after learning how to use a Smartboard myself is that I know how it feels to be new to this device.  The first thing we will show is how to plug in a Smartboard, which, with 3 plugs, could be overwhelming and confusing.

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When using a Smartboard with a Mac, one must purchase a Video to USB adapter.  These can be found on Amazon for as cheap as $5.

Later in our presentation, we provide a link explaining how to get information from an iPad or iPhone onto the Smartboard.

After showing how to connect the Smartboard to a computer, we show the basics of how to write on two different types of Smartboards we have run into with a marker.


An alternate Smartboard (note the 4 markers)

An alternate Smartboard (note the 4 markers)

This is the type of Smartboard I have used when subbing, which differs from the type seen at Warner.

In our presentation we show how a Smartboard is just like a touch screen computer.  We show a number of simple features of the Smartboard, such as how to show a website, how to use video, and how to cover up and then reveal answers or questions so that students do not become overwhelmed by too many words on the screen.  We also show how to use some more complicated features which we thought may be useful.  We attempt to focus on basics, but also on a few tricks that we could think of an immediate use for.

With only one Smartboard in the classroom and only 20 minutes to present, the options for allowing our learners to interact with the Smartboard are limited.  We do allow about half of the students in the class to come up and try writing on the Smartboard during our presentation, two students  doing it one way, and two doing it another way.  The students who do not get a turn will see what the other students are doing, and where they may struggle.

The best way to learn how to use a Smartboard is to try it out.  Our presentation gives the basics, and our classmates have access to Smartboards in their classrooms with which they could give using one a try.  As we will show, there are many videos available on the internet which guide teachers in using a Smartboard.



The Smartboard is more than just a gimmicky touch screen. It is a tool that can truly aid in inquiry and in a constructivist setting. On account of the Smartboard coming with its own software, teachers have posted videos and sample lessons on YouTube, accommodating different levels of familiarity with the Smartboard. Teachers from all over really did model the social constructivist mode of thinking allowing all teachers to build on varying level of expertise in lesson planning and use.

Smartboards also allow for genuine inquiry. Because of its intractability, students can come up to the board and add their ideas in a variety of formats, whether it be adding to a list, solving an equation, or beinging a certain portion of an image into focus. It allows students to immediately tackle a question or create their own, while other students can add on to or challenge that idea. Rather than students trying to scribble down everything that the teacher is saying, the Smartboard centers the focus on the discussion because the Smartboard also allows any edit that is made via writing to be saved. This maximizes the time spent on learning. Students can continue their inquiry and debate from where they left off, building on the ideas from a previous point in time. They can review the day’s progress at home and come back with more questions and ideas to be discussed with their classmates and teacher.

Our own lesson aligns with constructivist pedagogy by considering who our learners are and by building on their prior knowledge.  Because we know all of our learners, we know that they already know the basics of how to use a computer, so we do not teach these skills.  In the beginning of our presentation, inspired by Loucks-Horsley (2010), we ask our classmates what experience they have with Smartboards so that we know our audience.


Critical Commentary

Throughout our presentation, we show benefits of the Smartboard by showing the potential it has to save time, money, and to do things that a Whiteboard or chalkboard did not allow.  We show a video of secondary school teachers sharing how the Smartboard has changed their classrooms:

We also show some neat tricks that we learned from Youtube videos, and tried out ourselves using Smart Notebook, the software that is useful with the Smartboard.

One of the major disadvantages of a Smartboard is that it has the potential to not work.  We will mention this, but we also know our learners, an important aspect of being an instructor.  The majority of our learners, with the exception of the course instructors, took Integrating Science and Literacy with us last semester.  They have seen a Smartboard not functioning.

Obviously, any piece of instructional material may not work, but the cure for a chalk board or Whiteboard is simpler, such as getting a new marker.   It is important that teachers have a back-up plan in case the Smartboard malfunctions in a way that can not be easily and quickly remedied.

We show two videos of people who we believe are using the Smartboard ineffectively.

We thought that this use was tacky and distracting:

We thought that this one showed an unprepared instructor who was basically using the Smartboard as a chalkboard:


Creative Applications

We show a number of ways a Smartboard could be used, and a number of features, allowing our learners to think up creative ways to use this technology in their classrooms.  Using Smart Notebook, we show how to do some neat tricks that we learned while performing our research.  One such trick allows learners to move words around inside a Metamap template while leaving the template in place. This way, students can work as a group on a single screen to add and move information around. A framing question can be moved to the parking lot and back based on the group’s decisions, or a data table can be created and once the group feels comfortable with it, can be grouped together, locked and moved around. Students can now pool their data and ideas and are free to manipulate them in any way they feel without the fear losing the organizational framework.  Another tool is the magic pen, which allows the user to spotlight or zoom in on a portion of an image. In the context of camp, students can use this to create more meaning out of an image. One can spotlight a pin on a map or zoom in on a specific bacterial colony on a plate. These are just a few of the many capabilities the Smartboard and its software have to offer. We hope our presentation gives the cohort and any other readers/viewers a starting point in exploring the full potential of this technology rather than just using it as a projector screen when it can do much more.


Access to Smartboard/direction provided by Michael Occhino

Advanced Smartboard lesson creation.  (2013). Retrieved from

Class Tools (n.d.)  Retrieved from

Loucks-Horsley, S. (2010).  Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics.  Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Teaching Physics with a SMART board.  (2008). Retrieved from

Oreo (n.d.)  Retrieved from

Writing with Digital Ink on the SMARTboard (2013). Retrieved from

W.T.I.’s impact on Pulaski High School.  Smartboards impacting learning.  (2012).  Retrieved from

It’s late in the night and I’m out of puns.

Summer B is here! That means new courses, new schedule, and the actual summer heat and humidity. I can’t believe I’m saying this but thank the higher powers that be for the Rochester rain. It keeps everything at a reasonable(ish) temperature.

Summer B means it’s time for EDU 486, which is “Integrating Science and Technology.” Summer A’s class was EDU 487 which, you know, makes total sense numerically. But it’s all good. The first activity we did was the “inquiry cube.”


We used the technology of “lift-ems” and “reflect-ems” to get a better idea of what the die face on the bottom looked like. While the cohort’s notion of technology reflected modern technology such as smart devices and the internet, This challenged (among other things) the role technology truly plays, no matter how new or old: it enables us to expand our knowledge base and the means of communicating that information. After all, paper and pencil were at one time modern technologies and helped make knowledge and learning more accessible. In this blogger’s humble opinion, one of the greatest technologies in terms of making knowledge accessible  was the printing press. ( This allowed more people access to texts because they could now be massed produced. Besides the internet, this is perhaps the largest step in bringing education to the masses.

For next Monday’s class we are presenting a certain technology and how it can be integrated into a classroom and in particular, GRS summer camp. I’m with Alanna and we are in charge of smart boards! I sort of know how to use them, but hot damn there is a lot you can do with them. Not all of it is practical and while the tools are there, the tools are only as good as the teacher using them. It has been quite the learning experience for the two of us and we are pumped to share our findings with everyone and learn from everyone as well. Clearly everyone is hard at work because just about everyone showed up to class on the day we didn’t actually meet for class. Yup… GRS 2014 is just that good.

To wrap up this weeks blog post, I end on my thoughts on something Professor Occhino said: “Hands-on learning is not enough.” At first this was perplexing to hear. A lot of the aspects we had learned were all for hands-on and authentic learning. After mulling it over a bit however, I realized what that meant was that hands-on learning is a part of authentic learning, but authentic learning can and should also happen by other means. In both 486 and 487 we did hands-on learning, but it did not take over the course itself. We had discussions and free writes and idea steal from our instructors and peers. As long as we were synthesizing our own information and we were motivated to do so, that was learning! One heck of a lightbulb moment if you ask me!

Since camp will be coming up soon, I figured I would put this webcomic up. It is mildly relevant and it is darn funny. Thanks again to

Lesson2156Bye for now!