Monthly Archives: July 2014

Camp Day 4: Construct-ify-ing the “why”

Day four means time to create our explanations and conclusions from our data collection and analysis on days two and three.  This was a particularly tough day on the campers because we really tried to challenge their thinking to create the strongest, yet most accessible investigable question to present to the Level 1’s and 2’s at the Freedom School.  Another issue that was immediately apparent was attendance in our team, Day 1 we had 4 campers and 2 servant leaders, Day 2 we had six campers and one (brand new) student leader, Day 3 we had five campers (one brand new) and one student leader, and today (Day 4) we only had four campers and one servant leader.  Also, knowing that one camper isn’t going to be around on Monday to help give our team’s presentation because he has football camp is a huge bummer.

As I said before, today was tough.  We pushed our campers our of their comfort zones to lead their investigation on their own, through their own ideas and questions.  We spent a significant chunk of time of improving our question followed by a SmartBoard enabled graphing tutorial and data discussion.  We did exceptionally well in the morning facilitating discussion; and I, personally, think I did well with two of our campers in a small group talk to verbalize their thoughts more clearly (and loudly).  This was a challenge, but necessary, to improve their ownership as well as to make sure their voices were heard over some of the more enthusiastic and engaged members of our team.  However, our discussion to get a better question seemed to really drag on, and I think we pulled everything we could (and more), out of our campers.  I think we, as leaders, could have done a better job sensing this and sidelining the discussion while we moved into a more exciting and fun activity so that we could re-energize and re-engage our campers.

Tomorrow seems like it will be a really packed day, but I think it should elicit the campers’ creative sides more which I’m hoping will help to engage everyone and allow everyone to contribute however they feel most comfortable.  I am a little bit concerned about getting everything done, since we do have so much on our plates and often it takes a little while to get our team’s wheels rolling.  They seemed to really enjoy the whiteboards and SmartBoard so hopefully with that we will be able to start off on a strong note by exploiting the available tools and technology.

Camp Day 3: Taking a Lead with Water kits and Bacteria

Today was day 3 of camp and my first shot at leading Team Orange to success.  In making my lesson plan with Jo Ann the night before I knew that I had a pretty full plate of activities to get through but we’ve been told over and over it’s better to over plan the day and prioritize rather than underplay. Since today was the first day at the U of R I was hoping to give the campers a tour of what was available to them during camp and to undergraduates to give them a taste for all that college has to offer.

We started the say with a science infused version of headbands which pushed the campers to expand their science equipment vocabulary which also helped us leaders to see if the campers knew the names for some of the things we planned on using with them in our data analysis.  From there we moved quickly over to Hutchinson Hall (while giving a mini campus tour) so that we could use some aquarium testing supplies to test our water samples for Nitrates, Nitrites, Ammonia, and pH.  This part was meant to work as four stations that each group of 2-3 campers would move through in 10 min increments but my timing was off (and behind) so we each only got to two stations.  However, while the breadth of analysis wasn’t as I had aimed each camper was fully engaged in the color changed and their meanings all while observing all safety rules closely.

We then walked back to LeChase the long way and gave our group a more thorough tour of campus including some myths (such as the dandelion square clock tower one, which many campers pushed back on).  The tour went exceptionally well and it seemed like everyone asked questions and were genuinely excited and motivated (at least in that moment) to experience college.

Eric very gracefully skipped lunch to help prep for bacteria work to make up for some lost time, which was a huge help for me.  We divided into two groups (boys & girls, surprise surprise) to count three locations’ bacteria plates. After which (with negative time) I demonstrated quickly how we were going to filter the samples for sediment (another way to determine turbidity) using coffee filters and beakers to separate a pre-determined amount of water sample.  This process is going to have to be completed by us leaders to make up some time but we are hoping to get them to look at the collected sediment through the microscopes so make some visual comparisons.

All in all, even though my time management wasn’t ideal the day went exceptionally well.  All campers were engaged during all of the activities (which made the day fly by) and we got a lot of “real” science done.  The most exciting plus of the day (from a leader standpoint) was that the campers’ thinking was starting to come out on its own, without us prompting (or prying) for it.  Our least engaged camper, M, seems to have opened up a little which I’m hoping to continue working to increase his contribution to the group which will be crucial for the Team Presentation.  Time and material management wasn’t set up to the best of my abilities because I underestimated how much needed to be done for data analysis.  Also, I didn’t get as far as I had hoped, which leaves extra work for tomorrow’s leader but as a group we have decided to set up some stuff for the campers just to cut down on some of the more boring, organizational tasks they would need to do in order to reach their conclusions and construct their explanations.  I feel as though today really tested me, my focus, and my resilience but, although the full agenda wasn’t completed, I think we came out on top just from the view that all of our campers were engaged, excited, and left happy.  This experience has left me much more confident in my abilities to lead a group of (not always cooperative) adolescents and to get them excited in science; I’m now even more excited to step into a classroom.

Camp Day 2: Sun, Waves, and Hip Waders

Today was data day! And the weather was much more cooperative than Day 1. Jill and I rode the beach up to Charlotte with the campers after partaking in Harambee again, but with April this time. A few new servant leaders joined each of the groups as well as a few new campers that missed Day 1 due to religious commitments. Today we continued to build our relationships with the campers and grow their identities as scientists. Local news stations came by to take some photos and video of the investigations which got the campers exceptionally excited about being on the news, and being given credit for their work.

We continued to build a meaningful and safe learning environment by including all the campers involved by doing data collection in small groups, so that they got more hands-on experience with the DataHubs, as well as working in small groups before sharing out to the whole team to blend ideas and improve confidence in the campers’ abilities. I, personally, made significant strides with a camper, M, who was very disengaged during day 1 and even more so during day 2. M needed significant prompting to uncover his ideas and thoughts on a topic as well as to build his model. By sharing my ideas between the two of us verbally or textually first M was much more likely to respond to me in a agree/disagree fashion. From this experience I think it’s important to continue one-on-one instruction with M to make sure his voice is heard.

I worked with the two girls in our group to collect data from the six locations pre-selected along the beach (thanks to Eric). Unfortunately our DataHub refused to respond to pressing on its buttons to change the modes for multiple variable collection after one site (for reasons unbeknownst to me) which left my group bagging water samples and getting temperature readings. Here’s to hoping the other groups had better luck than we did.

The day did fly by. Between materials set up, (another huge shout out to Eric), suiting up and down with the waders, vests, gloves, and goggles, model creation, and data collection we were left with barely any time to plate for bacteria but it did get done by the campers before they got their exceptional sandwich lunches and were whisked back to the Freedom School.

As a group we did very well with materials management by prepping in advance the journals, writing materials, and safety equipment for data collection. We also did well staying on time with our activities even after the campers arrived about 20 minutes late, which I guess is a testament to our prep work. As a group we needed more work with accepting different campers participation styles which was evident through M’s work and engagement today.

Individually I am very proud of how I began to break through M’s ‘walls’ (so to speak), I spent a good chunk of time while we were sitting at the picnic tables working with him to get his ideas onto paper. Also, I think I did well helping the girls in my group collect the data while making sure to teach them proper techniques (this was especially evident while plating bacteria at the end of the day). I think I could have worked on my team’s background work today, as well as on my ability to step off the bus and still be up to speed and ready to work with the campers. This I think (/hope) is something that will come with time … and more sleep!

Camp Day 1: Rain and Wind

Today at camp was both a disaster and an incredible experience. Torrential rain, raging winds, and sizable flooding made for a wet and wild day up at Charlotte. Surprisingly, to my team and me, we got through almost all of our lesson plan timeline.

As a team we did really well with fostering relationships with our campers, with staying positive about the weather in front of campers, with picking up where one of our teammates may have stumbled or got pulled into a different, non-leading role, and with our pre-prepared lab journals! As for things we needed to work on, our materials management (although partially contributed to the weather challenges) was not up to snuff, as were our group discussions, and school-y atmosphere. Our campers seemed to do extremely well in small groups (2-3 people) but once we met as a whole (6 campers and 3 leaders) they were surprisingly quiet.

I hate to blame the weather so severely but I believe that without the violent rain and wind we would have had much more fun with the campers rather than end up sitting at a wet picnic table all morning with them, which is what contributed so much to our school-y atmosphere rather than a camp like experience (which is what we aimed to achieve). Additionally our materials management would have improved without the chaos of moving shelters and avoiding incoming rain to the shelter edges. All in all, there are improvements that we as a team need to make.

Our campers are much more thoughtful than I had expected (which I feel bad for, but was pleasantly surprised by). A pair of girl campers that I took on for observations along the flooded beach were very aware of the massive amounts of drift wood and miscellaneous debris along the shore line brought up from the rough seas on Lake Ontario. While a few campers were particularly quiet or disengaged we did our best to ask the probing questions that brought forth their ideas and questions.

We were able to get a very low level model out of several campers which will hopefully lead us into our lesson for tomorrow in investigable questions and data collection. Our team’s campers were at a variety of levels as far as science content goes. This is understandable considering we have kids ranging from 6th to 8th grade, which is usually the timeline for when students are first introduced to science for the first, formal time in schools. Despite the difference I think we have a pretty cohesive group and that the younger students will be able to piggy back on the older students so that everyone can be involved and engaged.
As a team I would say we were very concerned about having enough time for all the things we need to do while up at Charlotte Beach but after how badly today should have gone compared to how well today did go, I think we’re in pretty good shape.

As for myself I think that I did do a good job with my small group work and helping to make campers feel safe and comfortable given the horrendous conditions. I think I need some work with maintaining my position as a leader (which is a fine line to walk in this case, given that we’re in camp and it’s supposed to be fun and friendly); several times during the day I found myself getting off topic and then struggling to get the group back on task and cooperative.

While all of this reflection on the team is helpful and significant, I think it is overshadowed (and slightly watered down) due to the fact that our group was missing more than half (5 out of 9) campers due to religious commitments. Tomorrow will be an interesting dynamic of integrating three different groups of people; the campers from today, the new campers of tomorrow, and the leaders. While unique to our camp experience, we are not the only team going through this, and I don’t think it’s something that is so significant that it will severely impact our plans for tomorrow. Nothing a great icebreaker won’t fix!

Ramblings of a Stressed Mind

Stressed doesn’t even begin to describe my state of mind right now, which surprises me a little because I’ve definitely been more stressed in the past. In my gap year between Warner and my undergrad graduation I worked at an IT company down the street from the New York Stock Exchange. The four hour round trip commute combined with a regular nine hour work day turned an okay workday into a 13 hour mess. And on top of that, because I am a person who loves my sleep, I found myself going to bed about 45 minutes after I would get home each night just so I wouldn’t be miserable the next day. Add on overseeing a project that was doomed from the get-go and applying to graduate school and you can understand how I unintentionally ended up forced into a year of permanent stress. Thank goodness that I was living at home and had my mom to take care of me otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it out alive.

So, maybe she’s the missing link that why I’m feeling so unbelievably stressed right now (how else am I going to make sure I have clean clothes to wear!), or maybe it’s that all I have left to eat for lunch is peanut butter, bread, and American cheese (which is borderline inexcusable because I live within about 100 yards of a giant Wegmans). But, to be honest, it’s probably all because being in front of kids for more than 10 or 15 minutes for the first time is surprisingly terrifying to me. I usually do pretty well in front of crowds, last year at work I was leading meetings and giving presentations to groups of adults twice my age without a second thought. But kids, adolescents, middle schoolers! Goodness, for some reason they’re making me very nervous (in a good way).

We’ve done so many readings and talked so much about being engaging and making learning not school-y; I think I’m struggling with it a little because, looking back, my high school experience was 100% the anti-Warner-way. I took notes off of overhead projector slides, filled in the blank notes, read textbooks and took my own notes, and did dozens of labs that were strictly demonstrating concepts without letting me explore them at all. One of our past readings said that a lot of your future teaching style stems from what you’re familiar with, and it’s disappointing to me that what I am most familiar with at this point is the antithesis of what Warner is teaching me about. So maybe that’s the root of my stress, knowing that my comfort zone isn’t where I want to/should be leading my campers from; so, most things we do and plan aren’t going to be gut instincts for me. That point is becoming fairly evident during lesson planning, I have found myself once or twice planning something very school-y and having to go back to square one to inject some “Warner” into my plans.

Anyway, I’m definitely rambling at this point. I have a lot of stress right now but thankfully my cohort is there with me. We’re all in this boat together and I’m sure we’ll be able to weather this storm …. because I’m pretty sure there’s worse coming our way!!

Harambee and Purple Stained Fingers

This week in my latest series of teacher events I found myself at the Freedom School experiencing Harambee for the first, but hopefully not last, time.  Harambee was incredible, and for those of you that know how intensely I feel emotions, it almost choked me up.  After hearing for the past two months how disadvantaged urban students tend to be and how they are often disengaged as well, getting to see (my estimate of over a hundred) urban youth dancing, singing, cheering, supporting each other, and getting excited for another fun, educational, and friendly day at the Freedom School was really overwhelming.

Jill and I then went to battle the gusts of wind to set up our APK station which Jo Ann aptly named “Can you picture this?”

APK Station Sign

The experience felt like mayhem, in a good way.  Ten minutes FLY by when you have campers in front of you, so we were constantly collecting papers, erasing whiteboards, taking pictures, moving Warner paper, etc. just to keep our heads above the water that was APK stations.

APK Station Group Talk

APK Station JandJ

APK Station Graph APK Station Making Graph








Overall, seeing the excitement in the Freedom School was actually a little intimidating, especially knowing we’re all going to have to get ourselves up to that level for camp.  I can already feel the exhaustion!!!  Unfortunately I never played any sport that had cheers of any sort so I’m hoping someone else has or that we’re all willing to get creative and a tiny bit weird.  On the other hand, I am SO pumped for ice breakers and team building.  I have to admit, I HATED this stuff when I was a freshman at college but now that I’ve come out of my shell I can’t wait to do them again from a more outgoing perspective.  I think the fun we have at camp will easily make all the work of Warner Lesson Plans and Unit Planning worth it; although I can already see my sleep calendar getting severely diminished.


To end on a purely fun note; last night the cohort all met at Jo Ann’s house for the most fun tie dye session I’ve ever been a part of. (And just so you all realize how big of a deal that is I have tie dyed at least once or twice a year since high school).  Everyone brought some food or drink and we took out to tie dye a grand total of 34 shirts! My biggest tie dye task yet, so I’m glad I had so much help!  Spirals and accordion style rubber banding dominated Jo Ann’s patio table (and then basement floor) which all came out looking incredible.  Ryan turned out to be our resident spiral-pro and was quickly recruited to spiral at least one of everyones shirts,  Jill quickly realized she could be successful at tie dying, Eric and Angie became our professional wring-out-the-t-shirt-ers, Tiarra and Alanna were nature rubber-band-taker-outers which made easy work out of retying 34 shirts.  I actually found myself being pretty useless! But, I guess that means I instructed well, since several of our instructors have said that when you feel useless you’ve scaffolded and planned the “activity” well.  I just think I have very helpful and clever friends.  We missed Kaitlin and Ceb (following a earlier visit) but I’m sure both of you will be happy with the shirts we’ve made for you; but, on a positive note you guys are probably the only two people who don’t have purple stained fingers today (despite my make-shift plastic bag gloves)!

Overall, a great night with great friends.  Looking forward to camp with everyone, but specifically with (temporarily) named Team Jerica.

11pm and still smiling!

11pm and still smiling!

One of our best spirals

One of our best spirals



Professional Learning: iPads

Check out Kaitlin’s blog for all the information from our Mini Professional Learning Seminar!

The Science of Freedom

Summer B is here!! It’s astonishing to me that we’ve only been here for six weeks … seven if you count orientation because I already feel so comfortable and connected with our cohort.  I’m sad to see 487 go, but also really excited to see where 486 takes us.  The first project seems like it’s going to be very beneficial, especially for camp and for all of our future classrooms, which is a scary but exhilarating thought considering how fast time is going.  I guess everything is falling in line with a quote another professor of mine recently said to our class, “Don’t save time, lose it.”

Anyway, today’s the fourth of July and a day that I always look forward to in the summer because it means my boat, a beach barbecue, the ocean, and fireworks … usually.  This year, despite my trip home, Hurricane Arthur has laid down the meteorological law and said “no beach, no boats, and no fireworks; I’m going to rain and thunder all day instead.”  So, instead of getting a little sunburnt and watching Long Island’s finest fireworks from the beach I will have to downgrade to some thunder and lightning as my entertainment.


Ever since I can remember I’ve been pretty obsessed trying to figure out how fireworks work and how you make them bigger and cooler than the ones we have right now.  I guess I assumed it was a process rooted in some unattainable science that I would never really understand.  However, I recently found this video explaining the chemistry of fireworks.  It seems surprisingly basic, compared to what I thought it would be like, and relatively straight forward to anyone with an understanding of simple chemistry.

Here’s the video:

Some things I could especially interesting was that the video says the blue is the hardest color to create and requires the perfect chemistry to produce it.  I never really realized but looking back a majority of fireworks are white, yellow, red, or green. I’ve rarely seen blue or purple ones and when I have they always feel more special … but maybe that’s just me.

Some more information I found really interesting, which was when my initial interest in fireworks really started was with regard to their shape.  From what I’ve read, the shape of a firework has everything to do with the arrangement of the pellets within the outer shell; and often has some involvement of multi-break shells.  Simply, the pellets need to be arranged in the shape within the firework shell but then surrounded on the outside with a break charge and on the inside with explosive charges.  These pellets need to be ignited all at the same time to create the intended shape, otherwise it will just look like a big mess.

Some interactive (but basic) firework shapes:

I wanted to leave you all with the best firework video I could find but there are just way too many to choose from, and I’m biased towards New York or Disney World displays. Besides, I’m sure seeing them live will outdo any video I can supply you.




The Chemistry of Fireworks – Reactions. [Video File]. Retrieved from

HowStuffWorks Field Guide to Aerial Fireworks. (2000). Retrieved from

Brain, Marshall.  (30 June 2000). .How Fireworks Work. Retrieved from