Community Outreach

Greetings, as you may remember from my last post I had learners at my current placement compete in a catapult competition in which they built catapults that utilized their understanding of potential and kinetic energy. One of the things that I did beyond this was I assisted an 8th grade student with writing a newspaper article that highlight the catapult activity. I told my 7th graders that as scientists it is important for us to publish our results and share our findings and this article once it is published will do exactly that. Everyone of them will be published scientists once the article is published, which will hopefully be sometime this week. Once it is published I will be sure to share it.

Science 7 Catapult Competition

Over the past two weeks I have been teaching a unit on energy to my 7th grade science class. Over the course of the lesson I have had learners come up with a classroom definition of what energy is, allowing them to have ownership of the word and construct their own meaning. From there we visited what renewable and non-renewable energy sources are what it means to be “renewable” vs “non-renewable”. From there we spent two days discussing the importance of renewable energy, and local examples of those energy sources. We then ventured into different types of energy and examples rather that means chemical, mechanical, sound, potential, or kinetic. Over the coarse of the next five days I presented these learners with the task of “can your lab team create a catapult that can launch a marshmallow 6 meters?” This required the learners to explore what potential and kinetic energy are, where they are located in their catapult construction, and how to use these forms of energy to construct a catapult to launch a marshmallow 6 meters. This past Friday, March 10th, we had a competition, which featured both of my sections of 7th grade science, with the winning lab team receiving ice cream from the cafeteria. We invited parents, teachers, school administrators, a local paper, and fellow learners to come to the gym and watch our competition. Everyone had a great time, and it was nice to show off the hard work these young scientists have been doing, and it was equally as gratifying to meet their families and to share this moment with them. It is moments like these that I am grateful to be a teacher. Seeing these kids problem solving and experimenting with how to make their catapult launch their marshmallow was a great experience. I believe it was equally as good for these learners, instead of being forced to memorize information to pass a test they are instead putting what they are learning to use, and seeing the value of science and education beyond just “you need to learn this to pass a test”. As my time continues in this classroom I see myself wanting to be a middle school science teacher, as I really like working with this age group.

Gaming in the Classroom

I took a class last semester called literacy and learning, which was one of the best classes I have had thus far at Warner, and I’ve been thinking about ways to incorporate gaming culture into the classroom. One of the ways I have been thinking about is through the use of science notebooks, and using them as a way for learners to chart their progress, which enables them to be reflective, just like in a game. As a gamer myself, I do this all the time, trying to figure out why I have lost a game, match, or round. I keep notes on misplays that allow me to analyze the mistakes I have made, and plays that I have made that were successful. Over break I ordered this text(see to the left), while I haven’t had time to thumb through it yet, I am hoping that it provides me with some techniques and tips that I can use in my future classroom. My CT from my previous placement used notebooks in a similar fashion, and he had great results from them. I really like the idea that learners leave the course with a tangible item that they can refer to, reflect back on, that they created, and is theirs. There is a lot of research out there that supports the use of science notebooks in the classroom, this is one of manyImage result for science notebooks writing about inquiry. Some of the benefits the linked paper includes are: support, enhancing literacy skills, and support for ENL learners (English as a New Language). Science notebook support and include a way to assess not only a learners understanding of material, but also how I am doing as an educator. They also enhance literacy skills by having learners write procedures, write descriptions of experiments or organisms, and ask questions. Learners can also use them to draw pictures, and express their understanding in different ways. The use of pictures is beneficial to learners who are learning English as a new language.

Seating Chart

Where you sit is an important decision that each and every learner makes each and every day. This week, while midterms and Regents exams were being given to learners, another teacher and I were discussing a seating chart for one of the classes that I will teach, starting next month.

We discussed where the strongest students were sitting and how we could strategically place them in the classroom so that they may help other students. Additionally, we talked about learners who struggle in the class and where they might be better placed. For these learner’s we felt that being as close to the front of the classroom as possible would be the best place for them, because they wouldn’t be able to hide in the back. In this particular class, there are at least 6 learners who have either and IEP or a 504 plan, and we discussed where they should sit, and what would be easiest for the co-teacher in the class to be able to assist them. This is still in the works, but is something I am thinking about and will consult the co-teacher on for her advice. While both of us meet to discuss implementing the seating chart, I will suggest that we use the information found in this article to guide our decisions on where each learner should sit.

Beyond just a seating chart I asked the co-teacher on her advice for how to best deliver content, and where I should be located in the classroom. She suggested that I do a PowerPoint with guided notes, which would allow me to move about in the classroom and not just at a white board. How this will look I am not sure, but I am taking in her suggestions and trying to find neat or interesting ways to incorporate them. She suggested that with the notes that I give that I find a way to differentiate them, so that everyone is receiving the content, and in ways that are helpful to them. This is something that I have no idea how to do, as I’ve yet to needed to be able to do it. This is something that I wish that my education classes would have been able to help me with, because I do not know how to do this or where to start.

I am excited and nervous to begin teaching in this classroom. I like the idea of working with a co-teacher, I am just hoping that we will have time during the school day to plan lessons together. Be sure to stay tuned as I am hoping to share my experiences with you, both went well, and what I would improve on.

Social Justice In The Classroom

Today was my last day in my first placement, and it was hard to say goodbye to students that I have been with since the start of the school year. For many of them this is another adult who has come into their lives, only to leave. These students taught me so much not only about teaching, but also about myself, and what it means to be an educator who is dedicated to social justice.

What social justice is and means has taken on more meaning for me than it did when I first came to Warner. Initially, I felt that social justice was primarily about giving access and support to students who are marginalized in some way. This could be through: race, religion, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc., but it has since taken a deeper meaning. Many of the students that I have had the pleasure of getting to know and work with are students of color, from a different but similar background then my own. Many of these learners view education as their ticket to economic justice, who come from a family of low income, just like I did. Many of these students too have parents who have nothing more than a high school diploma, just like myself, and are tackling  college on their own, like I did. While we may come from different areas, it is our experiences that enable us to share many similarities. Education to me is and will always be a social justice issue, and is why I will continue to fight for public education, because great education shouldn’t be something that is only accessible to only those of a certain social class.

At Warner, and beyond, if we are to fight for social justice it is important to understand the demographics for the school district that we will be working in, and I have found this website to be is this. In addition, it is important to drive through the district that you will be working in; to get to know the community and understand where the learners are coming from. By understanding these things, one can then begin to prepare lessons which may become more relevant to everyone, and increase engagement.

As my time within this school went on, my perception and ideology of what social justice means in the classroom became more concrete. Instead of just focusing on accessibility and on making sure that students felt they had a place in the classroom, there are deeper workings at play. When I was getting to know students I made an unconscious effort, at the time, to be able to pronounce each students name correctly. While this may seem trivial, it is anything but, because many students just expect that an adult (primarily white) will get their name wrong, and they just go along with it. This to me is not acceptable! I told learners right up front, that if I were to mispronounce their name to correct me, because pronouncing their name correctly matters! Additionally, if any student were to come in and ask for help I would always stop whatever it was that I was doing and help them, and I would always thank them for coming in and seeing me, because they were using their resources, and that is an important skill. Sometimes, I would also aide learners in being self-reflective, helping them understand why they missed a question on a quiz, or why it is important to stay organized. Having these skills are very important not only as learner, but also as a person.

When crafting a lesson, I would do whatever I could to make sure that learners within the classroom felt that they had a place. I had several students who were Muslim, Latina, and African-American, and when designing labs or facilitating class discussions I would do what I could to incorporate these learners into lessons. These learners to me needed to feel supported, and have their culture validated, because far too often in our society we do not value these people. School should always feel like a welcoming and inviting place, and it is my job to help facilitate a culture that is built on compassion.

First Cabaret!

Last night I attended my first cabaret performance put on by students at the school that I am currently at. Several students that I have in my classes invited me to attend and I told them that I would be there. The event was held off campus in a small community center, with room for maybe 75 people, with 40 or so people in attendance. There were other teachers, family members, members of the community, past students, and current students in attendance. I was really impressed with how many people showed up to support these students, and I was honored that several students had asked me to go. Thinking back to when I was a student, I wished that I had teachers that were approachable and were invested in me as a student. This was one of many reasons that I had to be there, once I was asked. Having the opportunity to see my students in this light was an incredible experience for me. It was great to see them in this light, being creative and sharing their talents and interests with their community. For many students balancing homework, practice, jobs, and other responsibilities is difficult, and the fact that these students were doing those things was impressive. The students performed songs from Broadway musicals, part of the novel Great Gatsby, and a piece written by a former student. I think those who performed in the cabaret felt like they had a unique bond because of the involvement of past students. As I was leaving many students were preparing and making plans to celebrate either at a dinner or coffee shop, which was great to see that their friendships didn’t just stop and start during the time of the cabaret, but they made a point to be with each other even after the event. When I am a teacher I aim to make it a point to attend events like this, because supporting students outside of the classroom is just as important as supporting them inside the classroom.

Rural Education

Hello again, this week has been a busy but productive week! On Monday we visited a rural school district and observed classrooms, teachers, and interviewed students. We learned how rural districts use the resources they have in order to facilitate change and get learners interested in science and how clubs function as affinity spaces. This particular school is using 3D printers in their intermediate classrooms, which help students begin to think about ways that science and technology can be used to make a difference in people’s lives. One of the ways that learners are doing this in their school is through the printing of prosthetic limbs, with the goal of making them and distributing them for people who need them. Additionally, they are raising trout and exploring if they can create an aquaponics setup to grow lettuce, and once the trout reach a certain size they are released into a local stream. Additionally, this school has many different clubs, which are utilized by learners to expand their interests in either school activities or as in the case with the gaming club to hangout and be around others who have the same interest or career goal.

For many learners here clubs are an essential part of the school experience. Clubs are used as a way to increase attendance, participation, and to create a school culture which is supportive of different individuals and their interests. Clubs are a great in general for learners to become accountable, make friends, and to explore different activities. Additionally, they also potentially allow for learners to see teachers in a different light, and not just as a teacher but as someone who may have the same hobbies or interests that they do. These types of interactions are important for learners to see, because far too often many learners associate teachers as authority figures and not as someone who has some enjoys some of their hobbies or interests. Clubs also give learners the opportunity to further explore concepts or ideas outside of the school curriculum, like for example coding. The gaming club that we observed was on the day that we were there was a little unique because we were able to see some of the older students helping mentor and guide 4-6th graders, and getting them thinking about what gaming can do for them, as far as a potential career. To illustrate this point, the advisor of this club showed students a short video on how their hobby or interest could used to not only bring people together but also solve problems. I liked that the club advisor talked about hacking, and how the club embraces the term and doesn’t treat it as something that is negative, because knowing how to hack and code can be used as a powerful tool for social justice. All in all a great day!

Wait a break, what break?!?!?!?!

Greetings! Finally, somewhat of a break! It feels good to have a little time off for family, friends, and to be a person. With the semester winding down it feels like crunch time and every second of every day is carrying the weight of last minute due dates, deadlines, and final drafts of papers yet to be turned in. The pressure of balancing all of these things is a juggling act to put it mildly. In two weeks I begin my 4 weeks of student teaching, I’ll be doing teaching about cells and enzymes and I feel very much unprepared. My co-teacher was out on Monday so I was running the show, it felt weird and reminded me of my days being a substitute. The one thing that I learned quickly as a substitute was classroom management, but unfortunately all of the tricks that I learned with middle school students don’t work with juniors and seniors. With the junior class I administered round two of their quiz for the unit that I taught them on carbs and lipids, and I was a little upset that while those who were eligible for the round two quiz by doing corrections, not a single one of them received a 10/10. For both round one and round two I only had one person score a perfect score.

I reflected pretty hard on this, I wondered if the quiz was too hard or unfair, if I did a good job covering the material, or if no one studied. I told all of the students that I was available periods 4,5, and 6, as well as after school if they wanted help studying. I also gave them two bell work activities to do that would allow them an opportunity to reflect on if they were comfortable with the material. I want these students to do well, I want them to feel empowered, but most of all I want them to see themselves as individuals who can do and understand science. Maybe it’s hard not to take things like this personally, but what other way is there? I had one student who doesn’t do much of anything for my co-teacher, and they managed to take both the round one and round two quizzes, even though I had to motivate them with peanut m&ms, but he took them, he didn’t do well, but he at least tried. I am determined not to let things like this get to me, but it’s tough especially when you care so much, and give so much of yourself each and everyday.

Series of three

Hello all, this past week I gave my series of three lessons to students at my placement. I was teaching on carbs and lipids, something I haven’t touched since taking biology 101 as an undergraduate. While I was creating the lessons working close with my CT I was nervous, and terrified! I spent a great deal amount of time preparing for these lessons, and ways that I could make these topics come to life and have students explore what carbs and lipids look like and decide what was a monosaccharide, disacchardie, and a polysaccharide, and what was a saturated fat, unsaturated fat, and a transfat. With science it’s one thing to be able to read text and form mental pictures what these objects look like and where they can be found not only in nature but at the grocery store. I wanted students to explore each one of these in a lab based setting, where they could explore, touch, and look at what these things actually are. By the second day of teaching the nerves started to where off and I felt more comfortable with the class, but the hardest part and something that I think will come with time is the ability to address questions. While it’s difficult to come into a class and switch up how the class is taught and engaged I felt the students handled this remarkably well, this was one of the things I was most concerned about, because many people do not deal with change very well, and for many of these students this is a huge change! I’m anxious and still nervous to be taking over this class for four weeks, but at least I’ll be teaching students about cells, which is something I feel a lot better about teaching than carbs and lipids.

Science on Seneca

Hi all! On September 10th Heather and I went to Hobart and William Smith college and took part in a professional development training called Science on Seneca (SOS). For this professional development we learned about different aspects of water quality, and how we can get our future students involved with hands on real science.

Here is a quick video talking about Seneca Lake. Some of the equipment that Heather and I used on this training is also showcased.

This program was incredible! We arrived at the Finger Lakes Institute bright and early on the 10th and took part in receiving hands on training on what we could have students due while on Seneca Lake. We took part in recording water clarity, measuring dissolved oxygen and pH, recording inverts, and taking samples of benthic organisms. This was a really cool experience, and a great networking opportunity for us to get students connected with local scientists. While doing this activity I had no idea that I would run into Nadia Harvieux who I worked with while I was at Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC). I was her first intern through FLCC helping out with the Canandaigua Lake Watershed Association, so it was cool and neat to see and work with her again, but in a different capacity. Heather and I had a lot of fun and we learned a lot! Nadia is going to be doing a training on stream ecology in late October and I will definitely be going to that as well!