Monthly Archives: August 2014

These are my reflections…

Camp was an incredible learning experience for me. It pushed me to really break out of my shell and step out of my comfort zone like nothing before it has. It definitely pushed me to the brink of my sanity but in the end it was one thousand percent worth it. I feel I was able to really break through to several campers over the course of only five days. I felt as though I really got to know them, like I would have if I were their teacher for a month, or even more! This relationship building, that my team wasn’t particularly focused on while writing our goals and objectives, seemed to be the missing link for our team’s success. By knowing what got a particular camper excited to work or what activities they thrived in I felt more well prepared in lesson planning to include those situations in advance, while also having their biggest dislikes in mind to stay away from while working.

Our team didn’t utilize the technology on the iPad to its fullest extent. While in small groups there was some camera use we unfortunately didn’t get to use the iPad much beyond that. However, we did use SmartBoards with our computers on several days while at the University of Rochester to make maps, graphs, and list ideas. This really got some of our campers excited because it was a step above just writing on the whiteboards, which was also one of their favorite activities. I, personally, felt I got to use some unique technology, specifically on day five when i got to fully explore the technology in the GRS classroom by using the televisions and stereoscopes combined to project some images of a crushed, dead spider we had collected in one of our team’s collected water samples. I think this got some of the campers, in our group and others, excited about the water again and allowed me to make a good tie back to the fact that everything that we were examining came from a beach that many of us have spent time at. Changing settings did make it a little difficult to keep our investigation grounded in the “where” but the stereoscopes helped to strengthen that tie, especially given that the next day we all were involved in planning for our presentations.

All in all, I think I did a good job having my “teacher voice” develop into a friendly, yet leading voice. I also think I did well using all available spaces and technology in my lesson planning. I do think I could have worked on being more involved in the days that I was not leading, I struggled knowing the whole plan and agenda because of differences in work styles within my group. While this sounds like strictly a complaint I realize that this scenario is probably going to happen in the future and it was a great test of my patience and perseverance during such a stressful time; between classes, camp, lesson planning, eating, sleeping, and basic hygiene my schedule was definitely over-packed. Camp definitely shed light on some new aspects of my identity which has made me much more confident in a teaching setting.

This class had absolutely broadened my horizons with regards to technology. This is particularly surprising to me because I like to think of myself as relatively tech-savy. Between the variety of data collection tools, microscopes that hook up to TVs for easier viewing, how to use a SmartBoard to its full abilities, and a plethora of new iPad apps I feel like my head is going to explode with new information. While we did spend so much time learning new technologies and discussing them I still find myself relatively hesitant with some areas of the technology. For one thing, technology is moving SO fast these days and, while we did have a critical commentary discussion on this, I do fear the day where I can no longer keep up for one reason or another. Next, with technology comes many more opportunities for this going not according to plan. Although we did get in the habit of planning for plan a, b, c, and d if necessary it’s intimidating to have to always have so many backup plans and be able to trouble shoot something on the spot, during a lesson even. Anyone who has done any sort of adventure or party with me knows I’m a huge planner, but planning for x, y, AND z to go wrong is hard … and stressful. Ignorance really is bliss for some things. My last main concern with technology is where the line exists between “Let’s try to build this technology into a lesson to help with X” and “I’m using this technology just because it’s cool.” I find that while I try to be innovative in my lesson planning sometime I find myself going overboard with the technology which actually takes away from the main goals of a lesson.

I guess what I’m trying to say is with regards to technology is:

  • It’s hard work to stay on top
  • If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Just breathe.
  • Less isn’t necessarily more, but more also isn’t more

Until next time…. (and next Usher reference #classicthrowbackz)

Camp Age Bar Graph

Camp Day 6 – Presentations

Day Six? Check. First real teaching experience? Check. Best night of sleep I’ve had in a while? Check.  This week was absolutely the top three most stressful, exciting, rewarding, and challenging experiences of my life … all balled up into a single event.  Despite how little sleep and high stress I lived through I’m so glad I had the chance to experience it all.

Now for specifically Day 6, because I want to save some stuff for my final reflections.  Today was presentations.  Although we did set up for our campers and prepared most of our materials we really did leave so much of the actual presenting up to our campers’ decisions and preferences.  We had some attendance problems (again) today which threw an early wrench into the equation but the four campers we did have show up did exceptionally well given the circumstances.  Some roles were changed and some others were added to but the campers picked up the appropriate notecards and made each section of the presentation their own.    It was really exhilarating to see our campers, who (just a week ago) were soaked to the bone and asking if squirrels could swim, and who now were presenting the different types of bacteria and how the chemicals in runoff can change the health of Lake Ontario, The Genesee River, and the wildlife that lives in those bodies of water.

The presentations, despite our team’s minimal prep work, went as close to flawless as I could have hoped for.  All campers were engaged, presented their data in full, clear voices, and fielded questions from the Level 1 and 2’s with such ease and skill and it really made the past week’s struggles SO worth it.  Hearing the campers define turbidity and pH was mindblowingly gratifying, as was seeing one of our quiet campers thoroughly explain safety and its importance while handling bacteria.

Overall, I’d give today an 11 out of 10.  That being said, there were a few things that could have gone better.  The biggest, and most prominent of these was our under utilization and poor placement of our trifold board.  It eventually got shoved to one edge of the table to make room for the equipment (which turned out to be the more engaging of our presentation elements) and once our board presenter became a model for the equipment the trifold board became obsolete.  However, our campers seemed to pick up on this because they each added some information from the board into their own portions of the presentation which did end up making up for it.  Besides that, we had one camper that was less engaged and quiet than the others but I suspect that was because he was the only boy present in our group today.  Otherwise, everyone spoke loudly, clearly, answered questions well, and best of all we got through our entire presentation in each round of rotations with time for one or two questions.  I have trouble with that in my own presentations that I spend hours rehearsing, and there goes my campers nailing the presentation on their first formal attempt.  It was all just so rewarding; I can’t wait to feel this feeling again in school!

Camp Day 5: Presentations and Spider Leg Hairs

Day 5 was our last day together (working) and thus had a laundry list of things to accomplish in order to be prepared (or close to prepared) for our presentations to the Level 1 and 2 Scholars at the Freedom School. We started the day by revisiting our work from Days 1 through 4 while adding in the data we collected in graphical form. The graphs led to a lot of GREAT discussion on what we found and where it may have come from. Some of our younger and/or more quiet campers really got their voices out there which was really great.

We then broke up into smaller groups so that we could tackle the three main aspects of our presentation. I took two campers to plan out our tri-fold board that we will be using to illustrate the course of our experiment. Luckily, we have some great pictures of collecting data up at Charlotte and then analyzing it in the labs on campus that we have plenty of evidence that our campers were, in fact, full blown scientists for the week. One of our youngest campers, who I was working with really got interested in the safety levels of the bacteria in the lake and river and so I’m really looking forward to him telling the younger scholars about what we found and how the river and lake compare.

After lunch we came back together to roughly script our presentations, again as small groups. During this time I got to show of my microscopy skills by showing a crushed spider we found in our water specimens on the stereoscope while attached to the TV. This was a huge hit with the kids, although it may have been too popular as it became a huge distraction. I think Michael got some pictures using the fancy stereoscope so if they worked I’ll have to post a picture up here as evidence of my skillz. All my work counting epithelial cells at a local toxicology lab really worked out so I’m glad the kids enjoyed seeing the spider as much as I did.

Overall, I think today went really well. It was the first day all week that we got to basically everything on the schedule. We felt a little rushed but I think that worked to our advantage of not having any particular conversation drag on like it did yesterday. I feel like, personally, I had another great day engaging M. I used some sports analogies to keep him focused and “in the game for all four quarters.” I felt less engaged in the afternoon, mostly because my group seemed to know what they wanted to talk about; I began more of a technology guru/resource for the campers to find out some information they needed as background to talk about our investigation and less of a team leader (which I didn’t necessarily have a problem with).

I know today isn’t technically the end of camp but it did feel like it to a certain extent. We know that 2-3 of our 6 campers won’t be there on Monday because of football commitments; and we have (all week) have attendance issues with all but 2 of the remaining campers. Our presentation has the potential to need to be pieced together to make up for missing campers’ voices. The past five days have literally been the most insane and demanding of my life but I also don’t think I’ve ever felt more accomplished and connected to my friends and “mentees” before. The finale (and some significant work) still awaits us but for now I’ve thrilled to not need an alarm tomorrow morning and get some good eating and breathing time.