Archive for the ‘9-12 Science Education’ Category

Highlights: Homer Hickam

Several months ago I showed my 9th grade students October Sky. As a quick end-of-class assignment, I had them write Homer Hickam letters expressing their personal reaction to his story.

I expected a few fluffy sentences finished with, “thanks for making your movie” type statement.

I received well-crafted, insightful letters expressing their gratitude for knowing Mr Hickam’s story. They could relate to Hickam’s rocky relationship with his father and feeling trapped by a blue-collar community that tends to discourage higher education.

A few weeks ago I finally mailed them and today I received a reply! The letter was from Mr Hickam’s wife, but it included his photograph signed just for us! I cannot wait to get to school tomorrow and share it with my students – now I need to find a special frame to treasure it always :)

Homer Hickam himself!

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Highlights: Atomic Testing Museum

I have been so busy with end of school chaos that I haven’t blogged in ages. Therefore, to commemorate the end of  my first year, I’ll be writing about some highlights throughout the year.

My first field trip was a success!!!! I took my physics students to the Atomic Testing Museum and (aside from last minute chaperone cancellations, paperwork nightmares, and students missing the bus to the museum) it was amazing. I loved watching my kids learn and experience things outside of the classroom; there was much laughter :)

My kiddos - gonna miss this crazy bunch over the summer!

Electricity & Magnetism, Hoover Dam, and 37 days left!

We just finished the Electricity Unit. I ended up being much simpler than I would usually choose to teach it, but my students had some really intelligent and in depth conversations about the content, so I can chalk it up to success!! Now we’re in the Magnetism Unit and since it is proficiency testing, AP testing, and a-million-and-one other approved school absences, I chose to make it rubric-based. They have a bunch of assignments and labs to complete before their test next week.

I showed my 9th graders the PBS American Experience documentary on the Hoover Dam this week and they were amazingly interested! It may have something to do with our school being 40 miles from the dam, but they had great questions and really interesting reactions to the working conditions, racism, etc. involved in the building of the dam. Can’t wait to show my physics students! Too bad there’s no chance of a field trip this year :(

Only 37 days left of the contract year! Woot! So much to get done, but it is time for the seniors to move on, underclassmen to move up, and teachers have a break from all of the above :)

Success! a.k.a. the day my 9th graders behaved more like high schoolers than middle schoolers!

Wow. I can’t even believe what happened on Friday. After the catastrophe that started the week, I thought Wednesday through Friday would be even worse.

The week actually got better after Tuesday and ended up finishing with one of the best moments I have had with my 9th graders since the beginning of the year.

In both sections of my 9th grade general science class, we finished up a Discovery Channel show about a massive trebuchet, redistributed graded work, and continued reading The Last Book In The Universe. That’s pretty average for a Friday and the kids are always bouncing off the walls for the weekend!

Not this Friday.

This Friday they sat quietly through the entire movie.

This Friday they quickly got their work taped into their notebooks.

This Friday one student volunteered to read out loud.

This Friday they all sat and listened quietly.

This Friday almost all students followed along in their books.

It doesn’t sound for much, but for a group of about 55 9th graders who still aren’t sure why it’s even important to pass their classes, it was nothing short of a miracle!

I know that as we get nearer to the end of the school year, behavior issues will get worse, so I hope this moment will be burned into my memory forever.

End of Quarter Madness & Non-Traditional Physics Tips

The end of the quarter really isn’t the time to write brilliant posts. Therefore, NSTA posts will have to wait for a couple of weeks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about a new series of posts. I find that the way I run a physics curriculum for non-traditional physics students* goes against the grain of the way things are “supposed” to be. I have found this “against the grain” approach very successful with my students.

At a session with Raymond Serway (the writer of the Holt Physics textbook), I was encouraged about my approach when Serway very seriously spoke about the mistake that most teachers make: trying to cover the material in a more collegiate way and ending up spending September through January on kinematics alone.

I figured that there must be other teachers in the same boat, so I’ll start writing about the teaching techniques, lessons, etc. that have been successful.

Please let me know if there are any particular areas that should be addressed.

 

*My non-traditional classes are made of 11th and 12th grade students who are mostly enrolled in Algebra 2, some have Trigonometry, and only one or two have any Calculus. About half of these students will attend college after graduation and few will take physics at the college level.

NSTA 2011 Here and Gone Again

As promised, I will be writing up some of the sessions I attended this past weekend…since this was my first conference as a presenter, I spent less time in sessions as usual, but I did learn quite a few new tricks!

This weekend was also exciting since the conference was held in San Francisco – thousands of science teachers in a city with a tsunami warning; I can bet lots of lesson plans were changed (including my own) to focus on the current events in Japan.

So be on the lookout for:

  • Parent-teacher communication and involvement ideas
  • How to host a physics-themed haunted house
  • Ways to make the most of the Holt Introductory Physics textbook
  • Accessing understanding of ELL students
  • Skills to help ELL students understand science
  • Exhibit hall highlights

Junk Drawer Science

Junk Drawer Science is a new science curriculum company started by teachers with great resources for teachers.

Welcome to Junk Drawer Science: a result of years of frustration with the out-of-touch, and often-out-of date resources that have been available to us as teachers. We believe that it is time for a revolution in science education. The textbook should be relegated to its proper place. It should be a resource and no longer the focal point of our science classes!

Our mission is to provide engaging materials that stimulate learning in your students. We believe that science should not be expensive, and that the simplest lessons are often the most profound.

At the moment, they have three products available for purchase: a book full of great activities for middle and high school life science classes, a guide to using interactive notebooks in science class, and the game they created called “The Game of Evolution”.

I happen to teach with the Junk Drawer Science owners and can guarantee that their products are worth every penny. They have worked hard to develop curriculum and lesson tools that are effective in the classroom as well as easy to implement on a low (to non-existent) budget.

I guess that makes this a shameless plug: all in the name of providing the world with great teaching resources!

Unfortunately, they will not be at the NSTA conference in San Francisco, so for now, you will have to check them out online.