CAMP: A Close to Last a Long Time

“Goodnight and Good Whirlies.” -the Dans


 

I cannot begin to describe the experience of our final day, presenting our findings, with any word besides “chaos”. The number of people in the room throughout the presentations was incredible, and it truly got new scientists excited about their work. Not only were they sharing with their peers who had not been to the beach, but they could share with the leaders, and the general public through the news.

Despite the chaos, it was truly an amazing experience. All of the students I worked with for the presentation preparation were shyer then some. Nonetheless, these campers stunned me with how well they presented themselves; each cycle getting better and louder. I have worked with them for only a week, but I have grown fond of them. And the growth I saw gives me pride. For the individuals who divulged to me that they want to be scientists, I have few worries and a lot of hope.

CAMP: Growth through years; growth through moments

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” -Benjamin Franklin


 

Our time out at the beach has been incredible. The wonder of the experience is only surpassed by the exhaustion. But, for now, I’d like to narrow my focus onto the wonder rather than the latter.

Among my group of campers, there is a student who concerned me particularly in the first moments of camp. He was the only one not to participate in the engagement activities, and h seem disinterested in all that we were doing. I wanted to err away from the tendencies of deficit thinking, and as such, I asked myself, “what can I do to better reach this individual?” It only took a small bit of time to realize what I needed to do. This person grew rapidly in engagement with the group, and quickly became an incredible resource to speak with about the beach. In reality, it had always been there. What did I lack but the ability to see it; to truly see him for his own personal way of communicating.

Our campers – all students – have their own unique way of engaging with science, and even more so their own way of expressing that engagement. I must be more open minded to the wonderful nuances of my pupils, and allow them to grow in the way that makes them them.

CAMP: Fun in the Sun

Our first day of camp has been quite beyond anything that I could have expected. The GRS team set up an amazing initial engagement which place each camper into a close-knit team, which were each pulled together with chants and competitions. Today, I want to focus on the engagement of the campers. Yes, I was thrilled at the level of excitement of most of our teammates, but that is nothing compare to the transformation of the others over the day. From very early on, we could tell which individuals were less willing to be there with us. But as we reached out, slowly, the shells were shed and the more timid campers emerged to be scientists.

I am looking forward to the coming days.

A Look Back at Change. A Look Forward to Progress

“I there is no struggle, there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglass


 

When I think back to myself a year ago, before starting this program, before studying social construction and reform-based pedagogy and inquiry, I can barely believe how different I was. My perspective has shifted, and now I see the world through a whole different lense. That said, I feel like the same could be said of many of my past years and those of my friends. Transformation happens. It is inevitable and incredibly important.

This rings out particularly when considering critical pedagogy and reform-minded teaching. In reality, ‘change’ is something which applies to the teacher, the student, AND the society. For the past month, however, it has been that final piece – society and the big picture – which has held my attention. We have witnessed staggering tragedy and stunning victories as a nation in the past few weeks. A man joined a prayer meeting only to gun down those who had welcomed him. SCOTUS ruled that the right to marry could not be limited based on gender. Living in a time of turmoil and social catalyst, I can think of little else in my daily life.

As a future science teacher, I have been guided to consider social relevance and critical impact when planning investigations. This summer, that mindset has fueled deep looks into the local rivers and lakes. What makes water safe? What can we do to make our water more safe? This critical approach has sparked new meaning in the ways I see science. But, still, science seems ill-fitting to discuss the topics which are most visible in our society today. I have gone back and forth over the past year as to whether the social, humanistic, and natural studies should be interconnected or compartmentalized; and there are justifications for each, but what balance do we make. Are issues of reproductive rights, or adoption policy fair game in a biology course? A more extreme question would be, is it ever appropriate to talk about issues of poverty or race or gender in a science setting?

I have spent the last year studying education. When I look back and consider my greatest take-away from this pedagogical quest one word comes to my mind; change. Change is possible. Change is necessary. Change is difficult… Struggle is an extremely important part of change, whether it be environmental or social. Do we have to pick our battles? Or, do we prepare ourselves to adapt to the personal needs of our class?

Learn like a Gamer… Play like a Scientist

“To raise new questions, new possibilities from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” – Albert Einstein


 

One of the central challenges of education is making the presentation of content and the way students process and learn compatible. Squaring that circle, making content fit into the natural learning of students is no easy task, but it is vital to reaching them. Call it meaning-making, call it code-switching, we are charged to make content digestible to students through the compromise of refinement on both sides. If we are to refine how we present content, however, we need to consider successes in learning throughout society. This is something James Gee demonstrates with his analysis of games.

Having read sections of Gee’s book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, I found his connections to ways of learning outside of academic settings fascinating. Throughout his works, Gee’s description of how new information is constructed into existing schema of playstyles in gaming resonated with me both for my past experience with video games and through my connections to science. Multimodality, as used by gaming, is an excellent model for applications to science education.

During class a couple points came up which caught my attention, concerning Gee’s gaming insights. After praising the potential of the learning practices found in video games, one of our instructors pushed back making a valuable insight. He noted that when it comes down to it, video games will alway be activities students choose for themselves, while schooling is something they must do. And he’s right. Video games hold their own appeal which is not replicable in schools entirely. However, this got me thinking. Gee talks extensively about the learning practices of affinity spaces, but what about the affinity of affinity spaces. Is it worth looking at gaming and beyond, not just for examples of learning processes, but for elements of appeal? Based on what medias are most successful with each generation, what level and form of social contact is most comfortable? As a simple example, does the shift from localized console multiplayer gaming to internet-based interactions tell us something about how we should be using New Literacies in our classrooms?

This perspective could be thought of as still in the realm of what Gee talks about; learning practices. Knowing learning is multifaceted and complex, inspiration should be as panoramic as we can manage.

The Freedom to Fail: The Dance of the Science Teacher

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison


 

 

In the past two weeks, our cohort has explored the Genesee River, visiting many places. Going place to place, we have seen the diversity of this natural wonder, from rushing falls to still contemplative waters to the beaches of Lake Ontario where it empties; twelve hours of observation, so we might consider what we would study. How would we help students find questions and reach closure? My team was caught by the beach and the pier extending out into the lake, channeling our river into the depths before releasing it. At the end of the dock, we saw river water reach its end and gradually transition into lake water. The current brought the water west, wrapping around the pier toward the beach. This observation sparked questions, becoming ideas, solidifying into plans. Little did we know we were not seeing the typical nature of the area, but the uniqueness of that day. You see, the wind doesn’t blow west on our shore. Any typical day we would have seen the waters moving East, away from the beaches. Left to continue our study, we likely would have found little to no river contribution on any part of the west pier. When realizing this, instead of thinking about this investigation, my mind went to my future of guiding investigations.

In my past year of theoretical educational study, the value of failure has often been discussed. During a discussion about Classism, it was noted that the meritocracy which drives our conversations away from key systemic biases is fueled by the binary of right and wrong produced by high-stakes testing. Beyond the trivializing of difference, our obsessing over the ‘right’ answer removes the tentativeness of knowledge from the conversation. It has become clear to me that how we reason is vastly more important and telling than how we answer.

That said, what would I do what will I do when one of my students comes to me with a plan like the one my team pulled together? The student-centered nature of the community of learners I prescribe to gives stock to the teacher role of facilitating learning. I am not entering this profession to pour knowledge into the brains of my students – you cannot memorize “being a scientist.” However, because my instructors redirected my team, we will likely get more insight, more experience in the little time we have. We are able to direct our thoughts and data collection to a new, related question. In intervening like this, our instructors managed to validate our thought process by supporting our overarching questions, while redirecting us to a more useful way to gain closure on those questions. I never had any plans to put my future students through entirely prescriptive studies of my choosing, but I must guide them as well. I have seen what active, affirming, non-invasive guidance looks like several times now. It is a balancing act, but it is worth the mental effort.

The Divide: Classroom Mentality, Worldly Relevance

“No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” -Albert Einstein


 

I have always loved science investigation, though I may not have realized it in my early years. You see, the term science investigation did not form in my mind until high school years. This term was kept from my mind by a need to separate my ideas of science and my ideas of investigation. Science was a thing of school and investigation was a thing of nature. In my early mind, natural world and school were not concepts that could go together.

Now this starts my opportunity to critique the way science was done in my schools; too much out of textbooks, too focused on tests, always emphasizing the ‘right answer’. But in reality, I loved science in the classroom; and outside of the classroom. In the elementary classes, we learned about ecosystems (rainforests, deserts, wetlands, temperate forests), and the things that make up those systems. Lessons would cover basic anatomy, energy, geology, and the list goes on. Outside of school, I discovered how to build my own models, how to measure the height of a tree with the help of a friend, how to construct stronger bridges, and so much more. I suppose you could guess which part was more enjoyable and engaging, but really, I loved them both. I loved them both. This frames a difficult balance in my mind.

As teachers, we build classrooms to be unique sorts of places; a space of safety, curiosity, learning, and growth. How exactly I do this will be a topic for discussion starting in September, but for now I think about the implications of a designed classroom on the divide I experienced in my upbringing. If we do make this space of ours customized to serve specific purposes, the classroom becomes specifically different from the rest of our student’s known world. This can be a comfort or a concern depending on how the atmosphere is molded, but regardless it will be different. In either case, the Divide between what can be experienced in school and what can be experienced outside of school has already been marked.

This week has been our first week out in the field. We have been priming our investigative thought process by touring sites along the Genesee River.  This was an incredible experience of natural phenomena and the impacts of civilization on them. But, it didn’t feel like school. Though this excursion was an extension of our class, and something I hope to lead with my future students, this did not feel like school. And so the Divide is revealed; what is recognizable as education and what is free exploration. For me, this is rooted in what I discussed earlier about my childhood science experiences, in which in-school and afterschool science were compartmentalized.

When I design my classroom atmosphere, the intent will be to make something unique, for the betterment of discovery and learning. But the more different that environment becomes from the rest of my students’ lives, the more difficult it will be to bring a mentality of discovery across that academic border into daily life. For this reason, we as teachers must bring students outside of the classroom, often. In order to bridge that gap, we must make the world our classroom, and the classroom more a part of the world.

Hello World! System.out.print(Blog)

“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.” – Ken Robinson


 

Greetings reader! Here begin the records of a journey. In some ways this is really just to be one part of a journey which has already begun. I have found my love for teaching progressively since when I was the age of my students; that has been quite a journey already. This part of my journey is what will bring me, soon enough into the system, the schools, the classrooms in which deep thinkers and problem solvers are cultivated. Now starts my year with Get Real! Science.

While this begins my time of preparation as a student teacher, I have been studying education theory for a year. For this reason, our discussions have felt both familiar and excitingly new. My year of courses has investigated inclusion, socially just pedagogy, critical literacy, new literacies, policy, and so much more, but now for the first time I am applying these concepts specifically to science. This realization makes me value the past year just as much as it makes me excited for the coming one. Which brings us to this coming year which will be reflected upon on this – My Blog.

This is my first time writing a blog, and for that matter, the first time writing any form of serial personal reflection. Science always came naturally to me, in part, because it allowed me to be immersively observant of my surroundings – the world around me. This was a natural love of mine. Looking inward was not. The outward world was the world of five senses, of green trees, of rippling waters, of radiant stained glass windows. Inward was just… well… me. Not nearly as interesting as science, right! Right? So this blog starts my attempt to get deep; for how am I supposed to truly appreciate and understand science and inquiry growing in the minds of my students if I don’t look into my own thoughts, my own passion and dissonance.

With that goal set, here we go!

System.out.print(Blog)

As someone who never appreciated expressing myself in the written word (though I tried a couple times) this blogging stuff is pretty fascinating. When it first became popular I honestly didn’t see the appeal. Some of us (myself included) are more comfortable with speaking. Some are more comfortable writing an email. But when comparing speaking and writing, nothing beats the permanence of writing. Especially in this new era. I can return to this page, and here my thoughts will be; siphoned off to be played with later. Beyond that, the scope of reach online is beyond what I can really comprehend. This will be here, accessible for my friends in Japan and Germany, and complete strangers from Armenia to Zambia. It is clear why blogging survived; what is not clear is how I ever saw it as anything but fascinating.

We read an article by Alison Sawmiller this week about blogging and science education. (momentary step back to note how blatantly meta blogging about blogging is…) She put into perspective the value of this sort of communication. Not only is this platform good for recording, sharing, and discussing ideas; it has the potential to inject relevance into student’s work. Through the internet, critical literacy has a whole new dimension, in which students have access, AND their own content is accessible. Selective use of the internet makes collaboration easier (and more realistic), and “expands the walls of the classroom”. This idea particularly caught my attention. I have often thought it as a goal of education in the long run to remove those walls entirely, making the classroom less distinct from the outside world. But, I feel Sawmiller makes a good point. Use of the internet as a network to spread learning to other environments will accomplish the ultimate goal in my mind. For that goal is to make every place a place of potential learning for my students. Access will get us there, for where new knowledge and discourse are possibilities, learning is at our fingertips.

Sawmiller, W. (2010). Classroom blogging: What is the role in science learning? The Clearing House, 83(2), 44-48.