Making Science Creative: The Struggle in a Classroom

“Creativity in science could be described as the act of putting two and two together to make five.”

– Arthur Koestler

Starting tomorrow (December 11th) I will officially be taking over the classroom for 4 whole weeks! As excited as I am, I am starting to feel nervous, anxious, you name it. As confident as I am, I do feel as if there are still aspects of being a teacher that I need to learn. But in order to learn, I need experience. This week, I am planning a fun week for my students. We are doing a scavenger hunt for polyatomic ions, bingo for naming Type I and Type II compounds as well as starting a polyatomic ions project. Sounds fun, right? Well, I do not think all of this would have been thought of if I did not bring out my creativity. But how creative can we let our students be in a science classroom?

How do we let our students be creative, when teachers are told no?

Throughout my time at Warner, the term Inquiry Based Learning has been mentioned throughout many classes I have taken so far. Inquiry based learning is a term used to describe how teachers make a lesson engaging for students. An example of an inquiry based lesson is having a lesson where students are out of their seats and moving, rather than sitting through a lecture. Although I agree that inquiry based lessons will engage our students, there are times where my colleagues and I are stuck in a hard place.

I bet your thinking “What are you talking about? You’re a science teacher, more specifically, a CHEMISTRY teacher, and you’re telling me you can’t be creative?”- unfortunately, science teachers are stuck in a hard place when it comes to doing labs. I find myself stuck when I think about labs because there are certain things students are not allowed to do, or the school does not have the tool to do it. We are told to tell our students that they can do anything that they put their mind to, but when they want to do a “cool” experiment, it is avoided completely. Now don’t get me wrong, safety is EXTREMELY important. But how are we expected to teach science when we cannot do science?

As a science teacher, I have learned that teachers need to start small in order to grow. This can be the same for creativity in the classroom. Below is a video about being creative in the classroom or any subject.

I think this video has great ideas for creativity in the classroom, but for science classrooms specifically, we must enforce how important creativity is in not only the classroom but in the nature of science.

How to encourage our students to do science:

  1. Emphasize safety first. We know that they want to do fun things, especially “blow stuff up”, but we cannot have fun when someone gets hurt. Safety is always important.
  2. Do research! See what labs are safe or listen to what your students want to do. If your students are voicing their wants in lab, then take the initiative to research a lab that could be similar. Do not shut them down immediately.
  3. Give your students experiments that they could do at home and talk to their parents. Student autonomy is extremely important, but is not important without creativity.
  4. Show them that you are listening to their wants and needs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your students wanting to do science, especially when they can’t.

Responsive Talk: Ambitious Science Teaching Style

Responsive Talk: How Students Use Science Vocabulary

Hello everyone! This week, the lovely GR!S cohort had an amazing opportunity to talk to a panel of master teachers who teach science in grades 7-12. These master teachers come from all over Rochester (and Buffalo!) and have different experiences to bring to the table. Although the master teachers came to us pre-service teachers, we had the opportunity to teach them about Ambitious Science Teaching.

What Ambitious Science Teaching (AST) is: Ambitious teaching deliberately aims to support students of all backgrounds to deeply understand science ideas, participate in the activities of the discipline, and solve authentic problems.

This is a new style of teaching that is focused specifically for science teachers. AST features 4 core sets of teaching practices to support the goals. To your right you will see the 4 core goals of AST, in which includes intellectual engagement and attention to equity. (Photo:


Within the 4 core sets of teaching practices are 7 strategies, also known as Foothold Practices. These foothold practices include strategies in scaffolding, responsive talk, using back-pocket questions, modeling, language, “gotta have” checklist and utilizing students ideas. Each pre-service teacher got to focus on one strategy, which for me was responsive talk. Responsive talk in a science classroom is the relationship between students and science vocabulary. Responsive talk introduces a new way of approaching scientific conceptions, misconceptions, and vocabulary into one. The takeaway of this strategy is to understand the way your students think and that it is your job to guide them into the vocabulary, rather than handing it to them and expecting them to know what it means.

Responsive Talk: Talk, Task, and Tools

Talk: Formative assessments of students use of language is key to responsive talk. When you assess your students use of language and how they interpret a concept, it gives you an insight on how they think a concept works and their way of understanding. Students often use “science vocab” to cover that they are lost and don’t understand. Because of this, we must make sure that we are asking students questions like “What do you mean when you use of the word friction?” and  “What example can you give me?”. This will give you an idea if they understand the vocabulary, and what you need to do in order to change their misconceptions (if they have any, of course). In addition, students often pick up words and conceptions from each other! So if students are not using vocabulary but have the concept down, that is a great start to lead into the vocabulary piece.

Task: Setting up students with clear directions of what to look for (observations) and guiding questions will help them understand the concepts of vocabulary rather than handing them the words to memorize. It is important that we get our students thinking about the concepts and understanding what is actually happening. You will get the vocabulary, but you will not get anywhere if they do not understand the concepts in the first place.

Tools: It is no surprise that tools benefit our responsive talk in the classroom, and it is true with scientific vocabulary as well. When we give our students tools to utilize and understand our scientific concepts, it will only make things easier for you and the students to learn  the literacy.

Lastly, here are tips to think about when you focus on responsive talk in your science classroom (or any classroom, that is!):

  1. Don’t assume students know what a science word means if they use it. Ask them to describe what they mean when they use that word.
  2. When students use a substitute for a science word, again, ask them to describe what they mean and make sure they know it is okay to use that substitute for the time being.
  3. Shared language between students create a new and useful vocabulary terms that the class as a whole might understand- and that’s okay! If it helps the students understand the concepts, then you’ve done your job right.


Relating Music to Science

Hello all! Happy Thanksgiving! This week, I acknowledge all that I am thankful for and the opportunities I have been given this past year. Especially within these past 4 weeks, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with students who are not only bright and intelligent, but have a musical ability that you cannot find at any other school (in my opinion, of course). This week, my students have inspired me to blog about the relationship between music and science and how it is so freakin cool. I got to attend their first school play, Little Shop of Horrors, and will be attending their winter concerts in late December/early January. Not only do I get to watch my students perform and succeed with their skills, it brings me back to the days when I used to play the flute and march with my piccolo in the marching band. Featured below is baby Squid (middle right) performing at her Band Camp demo in 11th(?) grade.

As lame as this is about to sound, being in the marching band/concert band was one of the many amazing memories I had of high school and I do not think I would be the person I am today if I did not play the flute and piccolo. It really does take a certain person to not only play an instrument, but have passion to stick with it through all the practices, demanding schedules and the difficulty of skill! Which is where I begin this blog.

How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain

Above I provided a video by Ted Ed on the recent findings and research of how playing an instrument benefits your brain. The video concluded that playing an instrument is equivalent to an entire full body work out. Crazy right? But it makes sense. See, when you listen to music, it sets off many different areas in your brain (visual cortex, auditory cortex, etc). And when we listen to music, we are interpreting the song, slowly analyzing it without even realizing it. Many people have heard that listening to music can actually improve your health, which is true! Harvard Health has a great article on how music benefits those in pain, undergoing surgeries, etc. Since listening to music has such an impact on our brains, I now want you to think about how much playing an instrument sets off our brains.

It has been found that playing an instrument sets off every area of the brain, just like when you do an entire full body workout. And because of this, those who play a music instrument are known to have strengthen their auditory, visual and motor skills. Now, I want to focus on why playing an instrument strengthens your motor skills and why that distinguishes the difference between listening vs playing an instrument. When you listen to music, you are using your auditory skills and even your visual skills to picture what the song is talking about/how you relate to it. But when you play an instrument, you are reading the music, physically PLAYING the instrument and listening to your instrument to make sure it is in tune, etc. When you are physically playing the instrument, you are usually all of the skills at once to create a beautiful sound. And because of this, your motor skills are enhancing rapidly. But why are your motor skills so important? Well, your motor skills use both sides (hemispheres) of your brain. And because of this, it has been shown that playing a musical instrument increases the activity in the brain’s corpus callosum, which is bridged between both hemispheres! This allows messages and signals between the hemispheres to travel faster, which results in enhancing in problem solving and social skills.

Benefits of Playing an Instrument in the Real World 

Overall, people who play (or have played) an instrument enhance their skills that can be applied to the real world.

An article from Affective Music Teaching discusses other benefits of playing an instrument which include:

  1. Increasing your memory
  2. Enhancing your coordination skills
  3. Improving your reading and comprehension skills
  4. Enhances your respiratory system
  5. Refines your time management skills

For students especially, it has been found in a study back in 2008 that children who had received instrumental music training for three years or more outperformed their control counterparts in areas closely related to music: fine motor skills. In addition, it has also been found that these children have also tested better on vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills. So if you have every wanted to play an instrument, or you have played an instrument before and do not feel like going to gym, pick up that instrument and get going!!


Wait, Ions Actually Affect our Health?

What do you see here? Three women smiling as they are in the ocean, having fun and soaking in all that Vitamin D. Their serotonin levels are high, their enjoying life, without acknowledging the science behind it all. What these women (aka, Squid and her best friends) also don’t realize is that they are surrounded by negative ions that are elevating their serotonin levels. Thats right- you heard me. Negative Ions.

Recap: Ions

Before I brag about how great these negative ions are, I am sure some of you who are reading might not know (or know, just forgot) what ions are.

An ion is when an atom gains or loses an electron(s). An ion that loses an electron, resulting in a positive charge, is a called a cation. And an ion that gains an electron, resulting in a negative charge, is called an anion.

So… You’re Telling Me That Negative Ions are… Good?

Yes! Negative ions are great for you, despite the fact that the name ‘negative ion’ does not match the adjective. But believe it or not, negative ions are beneficial for your health. Negative ions are typically found in nature, specifically in the woods and places with moving water. Like I stated above, negative ions help elevate your serotonin levels; for those of you who don’t know what serotonin is, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that influences your well-being and happiness. In addition to serotonin levels, negative ions help boost mental health and help those who are suffering from depression or anxiety. During stressful times, being in the outdoors is a great way boost your energy because you are surrounded by negative ions. These ions have also been found to keep blood pressure balanced especially during stressful times. If you would like to know more about negative ions, Organic Soul has a great article about the benefits of these amazing ions. However, I am sure you are wondering… what about the positive ions?

Positive Ions are NOT the Same as Negative Ions

When we think about seasonal depression and pollution, one thing they have in common is their levels of positive ions. Positive ions are typically found indoors, unlike negative ions which are found outdoors. In the long winter months, positive ions are more likely to add up because we keep our windows closed (for the most part) not letting in any of the fresh air. Positive ions are also found in fluorescent light bulbs, plastics, metals and electronics. One of the biggest sources of positive ions is air pollution. Although it is outdoors, the pollution creates an unbalanced level of positive ions which results in health issues. Some of these health issues include fatigue, headaches, allergies, infections and depression.  It has also been found that positive ions could stem from weather conditions such as cold fronts and low pressure system.

Finding a Balance

Finding a balance in the long winter months is extremely important for our health. Although the winter usually means cool temperatures, it could help to take a walk or a run every once in awhile to breathe in all those beautiful negative ions. Other ideas to keep your ions balanced is to take a break from your cell phone or computers which will decrease your levels of positive ions. It has also been found that showering could help elevate negative ions (because it is a moving body of water!).

I hope you all were as amazed as I was about these ions. For those of you in a chemistry classroom, I think this would be a great way to relate ions to the real world- especially since most of us didn’t know about them until now!

Photo credit:

Using Models Within Science Classrooms

This past Sunday, the GR!S cohort took a trip to the STANYS 2017 Conference in the heart of Rochester. STANYS (Science Teachers Association of New York State) is the oldest and most professional organization of science educators. Every year STANYS holds a 4 day conference, Friday-Monday, where teachers from all over the country come to attend workshops, sessions, exhibitions and more. Fortunately, I was able to attend to 3 sessions that I thought would not only be interesting, but would give me great ideas for my future classroom and lesson plans.

Out of all the sessions I attended, my absolutely favorite was Developing and Using Models within the Science and Engineering Practices. This session incorporated the use of models within K-12 science instruction, so it was opened to all grade level teachers. The session started off by talking about a phenomena of 2017 that sparked the interest of many children (and adults!): the solar eclipse. The presenter explained that when you start off your lessons with a phenomena that connects to a model, you will instantly have students interested and engaged. Many people interpret what a model is differently, and that’s okay! Because there are all different types of models students can work with.

NGSS Definition of a Model: A practice of both science and engineering is to use and construct models as helpful tools for representing ideas and explanations. These tools include diagrams, drawings, physical replicas, mathematics representations, analogies, and computer simulations. Modeling tools are used to develop questions, predictions and explanation; analyze and identify flaws in systems; and communicate ideas. Models are used to build and revise scientific explanations and proposed engineered systems. Measurements and observations are used to revise models and designs.

What Does it Mean to Make a Model? 

Making a model includes helpful tools for representing ideas and explanations. In other words, students use models to represent or show what they have just learned or what they understand about the topic they are discussing. Sometimes words are not enough for students to express their understandings, which is why modeling is an effective tool in the classroom.

Modeling is not: a diorama or jello mold of a cell, a final picture or product, something that has only one right answer or limited to one representation.

Modeling is: used to explain a phenomena, a process- it’s dynamic, a representation of how we think something works or a way to “encourage students to actively process concepts, to unpack and reveal their thinking, and to consider how the available evidence fits or not with their ideas.”

Things that Can be Helpful in a Model

  1. Pictures/Labels: A good start to begin your model!
  2. Arrows: Help show movement or the flow of what they are learning about.
  3. The zoom in bubble: In other words, showing a zoom of a specific area or concept. This allows you to see parts more closely while seeing the whole picture.
  4. Sequence of events/time: allows you to show change
  5. Define vocabulary: Adding literacy into your models is extremely important, because they are working on their literacy and scientific understandings. This helps students connect vocabulary to a visual and make it more scientific.

When you put all 5 of these helpful tips into a model, you are guaranteed to have a successful model that you and the students can be able to understand and explain. But how do teachers play a role during modeling?

Teachers often initiate instruction for students on what a model can be or include. In my classroom specifically, we include specific vocabulary words we want our students to use, so they understand the words and how they work in their model. When observing students making their models, teachers are asking neutral questions and provide time for students to discuss their models, whether with other students or the teacher. What teachers should not do is put their own “correct” model up for students to see. This will create a sense of uncertainty in students models, because their model might not match the “correct” model visually. In addition, teachers need to provide additional time for students to revisit and revise their models as their learning changes. This is extremely important because they can reflect back to their first model and realize all the information they have learned and understand.

In Conclusion: Why Modeling?

Modeling is an effective tool to pre-assess a students background knowledge and develop driving questions for unit. Models make thinking and learning visible, and creates a community for students to share what they know (or don’t know!). Modeling relates learning to real life phenomena, it does not just define a concept. In addition, this is a differentiated way of learning and allows students to create, evaluate, revise or make suggestions for improvements or change.

Photo credit:

Cultural Responsive Teaching In Our Classrooms

“In other words, if children look to role models based on people with whom they identify, then the stereotype of the White male scientist does not serve as a role model for most students.” (Settlage, Southerland, 2012)

Let’s Talk About Incorporating our Learners Identities into our Classrooms 

This week, I have officially started my student teaching placement at the School of the Arts, located in the city of Rochester, NY. The School of the Arts (SOTA) is a very diverse place of talented students who “major” in the arts. Each student has their own identity, which includes their major, their passions or the color of their skin. I think this school in particular sets a great example for other schools about identity because that is what their education is based off of. Yes, they have the required classes for the students to complete the regents diploma, but they have other diplomas that they complete based on their major as well.

I often think about how lucky these learners are for going to a school that encourages them to express themselves, express their identities. But what about those who don’t have that encouragement? Why do they get a certain label when they are not offered to tools and encouragement to pursue a better education? Often, students of low-income families, specifically those of color are the students that are looked down upon, especially when they express their identity or their culture. Below is a Ted Talk about how “vulnerable” students are viewed and the challenges they are facing because of their identity.

After I watched this video, I pondered for some time about how these labels could be changed, and our students can feel that their identity is welcomed in a classroom. To create an environment that allows students to feel safe to express themselves, express their culture, their identity, overall themselves!, it is important that we teach in a way that is culturally appropriate. Creating an cultural responsive classroom environment is crucial for our students to feel safe to share their identities. Not sure what cultural responsive classroom (teaching) is? Here are some tips to help you envision what exactly cultural responsive teaching is:

Looks Like: Inquiry driven, collaborative, discursive, active, total participation, eye contact

Sounds Like: Enthusiasm, deep and authentic, multiple perspectives, questions, positive

Feels Like: Growth, accepting, cognitive engagement, rewarding, reflecting, safe

These are some examples of what we could see, feel and hear in a classroom that incorporates cultural responsive teaching. Overall, these examples are viewed as positive, motivating and beneficial for every member of the classroom. There are more benefits than not to having a cultural responsive classroom environment, some of these benefits include:

  1. Making a connection with your students which can result in motivation
  2. Creating meaningful connections between the students and the content
  3. Students feel comfortable and safe to share their thoughts/feelings/struggles
  4. Students learn life lessons that they will carry with them throughout their lives
  5. As an educator, you are prepared to talk about conflicts that may come up in your classroom/between students

Having these benefits in a classroom can create a safe and open learning environment, and have a positive influence on all the students, including the educator. Below are some resources you could look at to understand other ways cultural responsive teaching is used in a classroom, or a teaching environment overall.

Resources: Teaching Tolerance, Foster Cultural Awareness, Identity-Safe Classroom

Citation(s):  Settlage, J., Southerland, S., 2012. Teaching Science to Every Child. Routledge, New York, NY. 1-29.

Getting Learners Involved in Hurricane Reliefs

Since August 25th, we as a country and world have been hit by hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose, and earthquakes that have shown destruction to Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean resulting in the loss of the place where people call home. These continuing hurricane patterns in a short time frame are not only unusual, but exhausting for those being affected by it. Since hurricane Jose (September 26th), we are still finding out how many people in Florida and Puerto Rico are without power, food and transportation. As a science educator, I think it is important to talk about the destruction of hurricanes that have affected people and how our classrooms can help. As someone who has experienced hurricane Sandy back in 2012, I can tell you how thankful not only my town was, but the entire East Coast was for the help that was received from across the country.

Talking About How to Help in Our Classrooms

Although the hurricanes hit at the beginning of the school year, I believe we should talk about the destruction of hurricanes and how we can help those who have lost their homes and loved ones. Being in a science classroom, this gives me the opportunity to teach my students the science behind hurricanes, and why they are so destructive. Below is a clip I found that explains how hurricanes are formed and how they are categorized.

As we talk about hurricanes and their destruction, I can start to show my learners how these specific hurricanes that have hit these past 2 months have affected Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean. Since the hurricanes hit these places at the beginning of the school year, having live streamed videos of these places would be educational in my classroom to keep our learners up to date and keep our thoughts on the people in those areas. Below are videos you can share in your classroom about the personal destruction the hurricanes have had on these places.

As my learners see the destruction of these hurricanes, this is where I would introduce how we can help those in need. Besides donating money to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, etc, I will show my learners different ways to donate food, clothing, and other essentials that we use in our every day lives. Teaching Tolerance has a great article that gives you examples on how you and your students can come up with ways to raise money and make other donations that could help those in need. To collect donations, students can host bake sales, car washes, etc., where they advertise that all their money will go towards all hurricane reliefs.

Donations besides money that students can collect include:

  1. Diapers for families will young children
  2. Food that can be donated to any food banks in your area, or that you know are being shipped to the area affected
  3. Clothing to the Salvation Army or the Red Cross
  4. If you have students who are older than 15 years old, encourage them to donate blood. In addition, talk to your administration about holding a blood drive, where other teachers and staff can also participate.
  5. For teachers (or families that are willing) who are living close to the area that was affected, opening up your home can be an option to help a family that does not have a home to go back to.

A Different Perspective

An important point that the article mentioned above pointed out was to “Remember to open up space for students to debrief and share their thoughts about this tragedy. Many students may have family members or friends in the affected area. Furthermore, students who have been through similar trauma before may be triggered by the media coverage of Harvey. Many survivors of Hurricane Katrina who relocated to the Houston area are now experiencing similar tragedy again.”. Although talking about the importance of helping families that have been affected is good, it is also important that we keep in mind that some of these students have family in these areas, and they might be embarrassed or not want to talk about it. We must respect our students who are being affected, even if it is not them being affected personally. As we continue to build from these damages, we as educators can transfer our donations and responses from hurricanes to other tragedies that happen across the country and in the world.

Additional resources that include ways you and your students can help people affected by hurricanes:

8 Ways to Help Schools Affected by Hurricane Harvey



When “I” is replaced with “WE”, Even Illness Can Become Wellness

Mental Health Awareness week was celebrated this past week, October 4th-11th, to recognize those who are fighting the battle of mental health (and illness) and who will be stronger than ever because of it. Mental Health Awareness Day, October 10th, was also celebrated, where small organizations and groups held events and fundraisers to bring awareness of mental health. As we take the time to recognize those who are fighting mental illness, I thought hard about how I will talk about mental health in my classroom, and create an environment that is safe for students to talk about and recognize their mental health. But it is important to recognize that I might not know everything about mental health, or how to talk about it. Below I provided a video I found on YouTube, where John Oliver talks about Mental Health, and how it is affecting our country. 

It is a long video, put definitely worth to watch. He covers how mental health is brought up and talked about in our country, and how it seems to be the target of most gun massacres, or is the blame for most violent acts. It is important that we acknowledge how mental illness is viewed, and how we can change how mental illness is negativity.

So How do we Talk About Mental Health in our Classroom?

It is extremely important to create a safe place for our students to express and talk about their mental health, and find a way to cope. Classroom Mental Health: A Teacher’s Toolkit For High School, is an amazing website and resource that scaffolds teachers to talk about mental health in their classrooms. The website contains 6 tabs that can support and educate teachers on how to handle different situations. These tabs include mental health in the classroom, common concerns, how to help a student, self-care, working with families and resources. I find that each tab is extremely valuable, especially when we need to recognize that as educators, we too can have a hard time with mental health! Each tab provides examples on situations, and dialogues that show you how to talk to your students. See below for an example from the website, under tab “how to talk to a student”.

It is important that not only recognize our student might be struggling, but to sit back and listen to them. Sometimes they just need someone to just listen and understand what they are going through. Some important takeaways I got from this website that it is okay to recognize that these conversations might be uncomfortable, but having these conversations can change a students life. It is important to motivate your student for change, but you must keep your commitment with that student. We do not want our students to fall deeper into their struggle because we cannot keep our word to advocating change.

The Personal Journey of Mental Health as a Collegiate Athlete

I am huge on the topic of mental health because I have had personal experiences struggling with mental health, especially in my high school and collegiate years. As a 2 sport collegiate athlete, I was expected to compete for a starting position, attend practices every day (whether it was at 6AM or 10PM), attend games that would sometimes take up my entire weekend, as well as maintain good grades. It was no wonder why I struggled with mental health, but I refused to talk about it. But fortunately (but also, unfortunately) I was not alone on mental health as a student-athlete. Below is a video about a then 19-year old Michigan football player who refused to talk about his depression, until he broke down. He tells his story and talks about why it is so important for students, specially for student athletes to talk about their mental health, and how his athletic trainer recognized and helped him through it.

You can also find the video in this article, by USA College Today that recognizes how few student-athletes with mental illness seek help. It is so important that we recognize that depression and anxiety in student athletes have been hidden under the rug for too long. According to USA College Today, statistics show that a survey of nearly 21,000 Division I, II and III college athletes at nearly 600 schools indicated mental health issues were not uncommon and that approximately 30% of students self-reported feeling overwhelmed a month prior to the survey was conducted. So how do we out our students who are struggling with mental illness? Fortunately, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has started to recognize the high needs of mental health in collegiate (and high school) athletes (and students!) and have created guidelines for mental health best practices, and mental health education resources, which you can access here, to help coaches and athletic trainers to support their athletes in their struggle of mental illness.

And as someone who has suffered from mental illness throughout my collegiate experience, I can tell you how hard it was to get through it, but I got through it. I talked about it, I went to counseling, I did everything I needed to do in order to overcome my struggle. I have no regrets being a 2 sport athlete (because I got to play the sports I love!), but I do wish I looked for help sooner. But this is why I want to encourage you to do the same for someone, anyone in your life that is struggling right now. It is possible to overcome, but it takes time and strength. Be patient, be a listener, be a shoulder for them to cry on. Encourage them to get help, and be that help. We as educators, or as people in general, can change our students lives, but it starts by listening. Let’s be the reason for change and support in mental illness.

Credits: Photo: Facebook, Page: Mental Health Awareness and Positive Mental Health. Videos: Youtube


To Safety & Beyond: Staying Safe in our Science Classrooms


This week I had the opportunity to learn about safety precautions in a science laboratory classroom at Brighton High School. Although as educators safety is something that we are naturally aware of, we have to remember our students are not.  So where do we start?

Talking About Safety in a Science Classroom

 Talking about safety in a science classroom, or any classroom for that matter is extremely important which is why the best time to talk about it is the beginning of the school year. As you introduce the syllabus or contract for the year, including lab safety is key to start a routine for your students. For the contract, go through it with your students, make sure they understand it, and have them bring it home to go over with their parents and have both parties sign it. To make sure it gets back to you, telling your students that they cannot participate in lab until the contract is signed and handed in will motivate them to get it done.

A suggestion that was presented during the safety meeting was to make sure you do not lecture the students on lab safety, equipment, etc. Although it is important, especially to you, students will zone out and not take into account the potential danger they could put themselves or others in when they do not listen. Doing fun and engaging activities with lab safety will get the students attention and will help them really understand why lab safety is so important.  An example of a fun and engaging activity is having them watch videos on lab safety. You can find almost any video on lab safety on YouTube. A personal favorite video about lab safety is the video that is presented below, called Lab Techniques & Safety: Crash Course Chemistry #21 from CrashCourse.

This 9 minute video on lab safety is not only funny and engaging, but it is actually very accurate about lab safety and covers every safety procedure. It addition, it shows how you can use the eye wash or shower, which you would usually not show in person. If you have the time, I highly suggest watching it.

In addition to lab safety, introducing lab equipment is just as important as safety. Students need to recognize the tools they are using and how to use them if they have to in any lab experiment. And what they use in these tools are important, too! Safety about chemicals is just as important as lab equipment. As you go over chemical safety, there is an additional resource that is provided for your students called MSDS: Material Safety Data Sheet.  

MSDS gives you information about any chemical that is in your classroom, and the safety you should follow as you dispose of it (whether that means if you can dump it down the sink, not letting it get on your clothes, etc). These data sheets are provided in every classroom, however it is good for you to introduce it your students so they feel comfortable reading it. MSDS has a website you can access easily here.

Performing Safety in a Science Classroom

As you start the school year, implementing safety into your laboratory lessons is essential for a safe environment.  Creating a routine for your students to get into can be helpful for your students, and yourself. As your students enter, having them get into a routine of getting our their notebooks, safety goggles, and putting their backpacks away will make their transition from class to lab much easier on both you and the students. We must be aware of the little things that can get in the way, like backpacks, extra paper, etc so we can avoid any sort of problem or danger that could arise.

As for implementing safety in your lessons, pre-labs are a great way to remind your students of safety. Not only does it remind them about safety, but it can build a trusting relationship between you and the students. In addition, having the students trust each other is just as important. Having the students look out for each other in lab can be a great way for implementing safety, and allowing students to tell each other when something is safe or unsafe.

Additional Safety That We Must Consider In and Out of the Classroom

Now that lab safety has been covered, I feel it is important to talk about other safety precautions we should always have in the back of our minds. With the latest event in Las Vegas, thinking about safety procedures such as lock down and fire drills are extremely important. We must protect our children, no matter what the circumstance. We should talk to our students about these events and listen to what they have to say. We must acknowledge that our students might be frightened by these kinds of situations, so if they need to talk about it, then we talk about it. Science can wait. Our lives shouldn’t.


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Taking a Knee during the Pledge of Allegiance- What If?

What if one of my students took a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance?

It’s second period and the students are writing the learning target in their notebooks when the bell rings for morning announcements. The first thing that is announced is to stand up for the pledge of allegiance. I immediately put my right hand over my heart to prepare myself to recite the pledge. And then all of a sudden it clicked, and I started to watch my students. As I watch the students, who are from all different backgrounds, I observe them stand up and recite the pledge like robots. As this is happening, I picture myself in my own classroom and imagine students sitting or taking a knee during the pledge. What if one of my students took a knee during the pledge of allegiance? How do I talk about it? Will my reaction of being okay with it make my students feel uncomfortable? or even worse.. their parents? All of these questions start running through my head. But then I realize, when students, who are people of color or different backgrounds grow up, no matter how many times they stand for the pledge, or stand for the national anthem, they will continue to be discriminated against. How is that fair? How can people in our country, or more importantly, our president, not see that these children are no different from the “true American?”.

Because of the hate and discrimination of Charlottesville and continued racism in America, I cannot help but to think we need to discuss the First Amendment with our students, no matter what content area we teach. But before we talk to our students about the protests and discrimination going on, we must understand why professional athletes are taking a knee.

Why are people #TakingAKnee and how is it affecting America?

If you are not aware as to why people are taking a knee, teaching tolerance, a website that focuses on discussing tolerance in classrooms has a great and educated article about why people are taking a knee and how to talk about it in classrooms. You can access the article here if you would like read it. To start off, teaching tolerance talks about how taking a knee started in the NFLs 2016-2017 season with Colin Kaepernick, the past SF 49ers starting quarterback. Kaepernick decided to kneel during the Nation Anthem to bring awareness of discrimination and police brutality against people of color. Although his protest did become widespread, he has been both applauded and criticized for his action, and is currently without a team for the 2017-2018 NFL season. However, his protest has continued in the NFL with current teams in the 2017-2018 season taking a knee during the national Anthem. This widespread protest has not only grown throughout the NFL, it is spreading throughout collegiate and high school sports, showing us that this is more than media. However, POTUS, Donald J Trump, continues to tweet about these players and discriminating against them, rather than talking to them and understanding why they are protest in the first place.

Now that I know the background knowledge of #TakeAKnee, how can I talk to my students and what can they take from it?

Talking about the protest to our students is something that is not only important, but its something they can learn from. Education Week, a website that is based on current events within education, has an article that you can access here, that discusses how students have the right to protest, and what students can take from it. According to the article, students cannot be forced to stand for the national anthem during athletic events or in the classroom. However, educators are not always clear about this, and that schools need to keep their educators informed on these “policies”. This is extremely important for educators to know, so we can move on and start talking about it with our students.

As we begin to talk to them about the protests, we can think of ways that the protests can be incorporated into lessons. These protests can be a great way to talk about the First Amendment, or having them discuss and free write about race and policing in America. In addition, bringing social media can also be beneficial because we can relate to our students more, and have them realize this is actual happening in their world.

What I take from #TakeAKnee and how I learned to talk about racism in America

I think taking a knee during the National Anthem is the perfect way to protest. Taking a knee does not promote violence, and respects those who fought for our country. There should be absolutely no criticism towards #TakeAKnee, although there are critics who say “there are better ways to protest”, but do not give suggestions. I find this frustrating, and I can feel for those who are protesting and why they are frustrated. But even though I understand the frustration, I will never know what it is like to be discriminated against, which is why I believe it is important that I speak out for those who are not listened to.  At Warner, I took a class called Race, Class, Gender and Disability, which educated students how to talk about issues in these categories and how we can help.  I learned that it is okay to see color, but to discriminate against someone because of it is just wrong. And this is why people are #TakingAKnee. No one in America should be discriminated against because of the color of the skin or their origin. No one should be chanting for white supremacy. Our president should NOT be tweeting about how awful the football players are for taking a knee, but the white supremacists of Charlottesville are “fine people”. This kind of thinking needs to end, which is why we need to start talking about it in our classrooms. Lets make the change America wants, the change America needs.

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