On June 19th, my son and I boarded a plane in Lexington, KY with no idea of what kind of adventure was in front of us. The longest flight either of us had been on was when we flew to Seattle about four years ago. This time we knew there was a 12.5 hour flight from Dallas to Tokyo waiting. Then another 4 hour flight to Hong Kong that night before we could even think of getting into our hotel room.

We walked onto that plane excited about our adventure and settled in for the first flight to Dallas. This one was a simple 2 hour hop and was very easy for both of us. Now we are sitting in Dallas with a 3 hour layover so we go get breakfast. It was then that the nerves hit me. I was thinking to myself, what did I get us into? Oh my goodness, am I really ready for something like this? My brain started to run into the whole “What if….” game and I was getting really anxious. Daniel is sitting across from me with this smile saying how excited he was to go with me. It was at that point I started telling myself, it’s all good. It is all good.

I ran down to hall to grab a drink and some gum for the flight and when I get back, boarding had already started! Ooppsss! We walk up and were able to skip most of the line and get to our seats with no problem. I couldn’t find any overhead bin spots over our seats so we just shoved our bags in front of us. One of the stewardesses for our section walked by noticing our bags and pointed out we could use the bins in the business section right in front of us. I grab our bags, toss up there and mention to her this was our first flight like this and thanked her for the help.

For the rest of the flight, she kept stopping by regularly to check on us and make sure we were ok. She was awesome! The 12.5 hours wasn’t too bad. We ate, napped, watched movies, listened to music, walked and talked. All I know is I was happy I paid for the Premium Economy seats. It was worth every penny.

We end up getting into the Hong Kong Airport around 11:00pm and to our hotel room by around midnight. Of course, this is after I have to go back down to the check in desk because I had no idea you had to put your room card in a slot on the wall to turn the lights on. Dan and I crashed that night with no alarm for the morning. That was perfect.

Sleep wasn’t the easiest that night. Breakfast was interesting for us. Baked beans, ham, rice, noodles and so many other options. It was truly an international breakfast for us. That day we visited the Man Mo Temple where we got some of the history of it, rode the tram up to Victoria’s Peak and have lunch there. We stopped in one of the restaurants and had two different sushi rolls with watermelon juice to drink for Daniel (it was like drinking a watermelon). That afternoon we went on a harbor tour and off to grab some dinner from a little burger joint on the waterfront. The next day we decided to take a bus tour around the city where we visited the Golden Bahini Square and rode the Hong Kong Ferris Wheel. It was a lot but it was so much fun. That night Dan suggested we try this little hole in the wall spot next to the hotel for dinner where I had some sort of noodle soup and he had some good noodle dish as well. All I know is it was good!

On the third day there, we took it easy in the morning and headed to the airport. We were beginning our journey to Kuching, Malaysia. Our first flight was a 4 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur (interesting airport) and then a short 1.5 hour flight into Kuching. Air Asia is really a no frills airline but I have no complaints!

Now that we ended up in Kuching, work started. This was the whole point for the trip for me. I was asked to lead the initial IMKC (International Marine Kids Congress) for the IMCC (International Marine Conservation Congress). I had a plan like any good person in charge would right? I was ready to go with this plan and all would be great. My job was to work with roughly 11 kids from delegates ranging in age from 9-14 and about 11 kids that were from Kuching and the surrounding area. I ended up with about 14 total kids ranging from 6-14 with the majority being 9 and younger. After the first day, I looked at my plan and thought, this isn’t going to work. Like any good teacher, I sat down and started trying to figure it out on the fly, in a foreign country, with only hours to figure it out.

Thanks to the help from the awesome people in charge of IMCC, I was able to make changes and keep things moving along. They helped me fill gaps, organize new speakers, fix technical issues and do whatever I asked for the IMKC. They were fantastic. I also was able to make some new friends in Aazani and Eddie. Aazani was a local coordinator for IMCC and Eddie was a dad of two of the local children who decided to stay and hang out with us. Those two were invaluable to helping me make IMKC a success.

The students were able to listen to Melissa Marquez talk about sharks, Project Seagrass come in and talk about the importance of seagrass in an ecosystem (they also helped the kids make a seagrass mural), Angelo Villagomez talk about the Marianas Trench, Emily Cunningham talk about whale identification and Phil Karp talk about invasive species. We were also able to make a foldscope (a really cool microscope) with the help from Kim of the Big Blue Network. The group went on field trips to the Semnegohh Wildlife Reserve to see orangutans, a city tour of Kuching where we got to stop in the Cat Museum (that is a whole different story), a river dolphin tour and walked through the local textile museum. The last day, Edd Hind-Ozan along with Matt Tietbohl came in and ran a game called the Tragedy of the Commons. All throughout, we also got to play games together, watch some Blue Planet II and Planet Earth II, work on some SciArt project and just have fun. It was an honor to have been a part of this and I sure hope I can get back to do it again. I have a bunch of ideas to make it better!

The food in Kuching. Where to start? The breakfasts were amazing. So much fruit! Daniel and I at the opening party asked for an apple juice. Most of us would expect a simple apple juice, maybe something like a Minute Maid Apple Juice right? Not at all what we got. They evidently took Granny Smith apples and pulverized them through a juicer. Two glasses of green juice were set in front of us. I remember looking at Dan thinking what the heck. We tried it and oh boy was it sour. So we tried it again and kept on drinking. Probably the best apple juice I have had. Later that we week went and tried the dish that famous to Kuching, Laksa and it did not disappoint. Whew it was good. Spicy but not so spicy it hurt. The flavor profile was interesting and I am not sure I can adequately describe it so this is what I will tell you…..I wish I could have a second bowl. It was that good.

We finally flew out of Kuching six days after arriving and headed to Singapore. I knew I wanted to go visit the Garden By The Bay and it was spectacular. The dome where they had the flowers was beautiful. So much color everywhere. It was hands down, the best one I have ever seen. Next door was the dome that had the tallest indoor waterfall in the forest dome. We walked through an indoor forest! It was just as fantastic. That afternoon we went on a Duck Tour of Singapore and visited the night safari. The Night Safari is a must if you go there. It was, well, awesome. Seeing the animals like that, in that setting was really, really cool.

The next day we took it easy. We were tired and my knee hurt from where I fell on it the last day in Kuching. We hung around the hotel, walked around nearby and ended up having dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant (orded Pho). On the way back to the hotel, there was a chocolate shop called Awfully Chocolate and it was so good! We grabbed some and it made it all the way home. I have to admit, I was worried Customs would take it.

We flew back to Hong Kong for a less than 24 hour stay. The plan was to take a cable car up the mountain to see the massive Golden Buddha but between the wind and lightning, we decided to skip it. Our last day was simple and easy, a good way to get ready to come home.

Our journey home started July 3rd at 9:15am from Hong Kong International Airport. Boarding the plane and realizing we had a 16 hour flight ahead of us was not exciting. The pilots came on and told us we were going to go directly over the North Pole and that would shorted our flight to about 14.5 hours. I was pumped about both parts because we had a camera on the bottom of the plane! North Pole time. I check the camera, excitedly ready to take a couple pics of the ice and what do I see? Clouds. Clouds. Clouds. Clouds. A full, thick covering of clouds. No freaking ice!

The next two flights went off without any major hiccups and we got into the house July 3rd about 11pm. Our adventure is over but the memories will last a long time. I felt lucky being able to take Daniel with me. To share this experience with him was phenomenal. I know he will be to share stories for a long time. He was a great travel buddy and I couldn’t be more proud of how he acted through the entire trip.

That is all for now. I may come back and add more but I think that kind of wraps up our little adventure.

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Update 5 – Hong Kong Edition
 
Yesterday we got up early after a little of sleep and went to breakfast. We got the hotel buffet which was interesting. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, baked beans, mashed potatoes, fresh fruit, lo mein and some sort of chicken sausage in an interesting sauce. After that we came back up to the room to make a plan for the day. We went and visited a local temple (Man Mo Temple) and then headed off to Victoria Peak. Got to ride the Peak Tram up to the top and enjoy the beautiful views. Daniel and I had lunch there and had some very good sushi as well as a very good skirt steak. After this we headed down to ride the Star Ferry and enjoyed a great harbor tour. At this point, we were both tired and grabbed a burger from a little joint on the pier before heading back to the hotel for the night.
 
Day Two came and we were able to enjoy a nice long sleep so we ended up getting started later than we wanted but still, we got going. Great breakfast again. Headed down to the Star Ferry to catch the bus tour of the city for the day. Stopped at the Golden Bauhinia Statue Square for some great picture opportunities. We arrived a few minutes before a major rainstorm opened up on us. After the rain cleared we headed off on the bus again. We decided to take in the views off the peak one more time before we left so we went back up. After this stop we finished off our bus tour and hopped on the Hong Kong Ferris Wheel! Very nice and cheap! While waiting for a taxi (first one the driver could not understand English) we met a very nice family from California and talked with them for a few minutes. Came back to the hotel for a bit and then walked across the street to a little hole in the wall restaurant for some local cuisine. Not 100% sure what I ate but it was delicious.
 
Tomorrow we continue our journey to Malaysia. Time to go to bed.

On the plane to Tokyo. Goodness. Never would have imagined me doing this let alone me taking my son with me. What an adventure we are on right now. We will have so many memories. Daniel will be keeping a journal of his adventure and I will share mine online.

So first entry – I am nervous. Just because I have never done something like this before and because I have my son with me. The longest flight I was on before this one was four hours. I got great advice from friends Julie Quinn Blyth, Michael Banet and Justin O’Connor and many others on how to best deal with it and for that I am grateful. I have on my compression socks, have a big bottle of water and have mapped out a walking path. Dan is beside me bobbing his head to music right now so we are ready to rock and roll. See you in a while. And for Michael Banet there is the pic of the great socks!

Update 2 – we are well over halfway through the flight. We had an awesome first meal, two good snacks and working on a wrap with sesame noodles. Very good! The ride hasn’t been bad, caught a bit of sleep and watched a couple movies. Going to try and catch another nap in a bit.

Update 3 – So funny story. When we were at the Dallas airport waiting, we had about an hour and fifteen minutes to take off. I decided to make a quick pit stop at the bathroom and to grab a fresh pack of gum. So when I get back to where we had been sitting they had already boarded groups 1-7. Dan and I were in group 4. So, I didn’t get good spots for our luggage in the overhead bins. All ended up ok since we have a long layover.

We are wheels down in Tokyo waiting till close to six until we can board for a 3.5 hr flight to Hong Kong and then on to the hotel to quite hopefully sleep. The crew on the plane was great. Friendly, helpful, attentive and none of the ones we interacted with were grumpy. That definitely helped. We slept, ate, watched movies, listened to music, walked four times and did leg stretches at our seat. We don’t feel that bad yet. I know the jet lag will hit us soon enough. That’s it for now.

Update four – We ended up in our hotel room by 11:45pm last night and laid down a bit after midnight. It wasn’t the best nights sleep but we still got some sleep. I had no idea how to turn on the lights so had to ask the front desk. The room is pretty decent for the size and we can see the bay between the tall buildings out our room. We had a decent breakfast in the hotel and then went out for a quick walk to find some snacks and drinks. Our plan now is to figure what to do today but for now, we are taking it easy.

Six days until my son and I board a plane in Lexington, KY to fly to Malaysia to help take part in the IMCC5 conference. Six days until we fly over the Pacific Ocean to the other side of the world. Six days until we get to meet some amazing people and learn from them. Six days until we get to work with children through the first ever IMKC. Six days until we go on the adventure of a lifetime.

Needless to say, this is a first for myself and my son. My only trip out of the country was to Canada so this is a whole different trip. We are super excited about this opportunity to be a part of the IMKC!

So how do you get ready for a trip like this when you have never traveled overseas before. You ask lots and lots of questions. Lots and lots of questions. You ask the people you know who have been there, done that for advice. All the while doing research for all my stops for food, places to see and ways to see/take part in the local culture.

I can’t think of any other trip that I have asked this many questions, gotten this much advice or done this much research. This is one heck of an adventure. My goal for this trip is to 1) help lead the IMKC and do everthing I can to make it a success and 2) to learn and enjoy all the local cultures. I am super pumped my son gets to come with me as this will be one of those memories he won’t forget. It will also be a great way for him to see the world, to help expand his view.

We are going to journal/blog our way through this trip so you will get to see it from my view and from his view as well. This is going to be a fun way to share this journey.

Part Two coming later – time to get back to the beach vacation today!

As I sit here on Easter morning reflecting on what has transpired recently with the coordinated attack on public education in Kentucky and other states, I get depressed. It saddens me to see such a noble profession being demonized by so many. Teaching really is a noble profession. Teachers give so much of themselves and their own family to their students and classrooms. It truly amazes on a daily basis how giving teachers truly are, I mean truly giving. Being called selfish and a thug by our own governor, being yelled at that we are throwing a temper tantrum, being told that we are ignorant and misinformed, being told to go back to teaching and stay out of politics by other political leaders is depressing. We have been kicked in the teeth and are standing up for what is right. To tell me that teachers are selfish and wanting to get rich is just not true. To tell me that we are in it for ourselves is not true. To tell me that we shut down various school systems so we could have a longer spring break is not true. We do this so that we can keep, retain and attract the best and brightest teachers to Kentucky. We do this so our students can have the best and brightest teachers. We do this to better Kentucky.

Now, why did I become a teacher –

  • It started when I started working for the Boy Scouts on Summer Camp staff.
  • I became a teacher because I enjoyed working with students.
  • I became a teacher because I love science and wanted to help show others how awesome science is in the world.
  • I became a teacher because I knew it needed good people.
  • I became a teacher because it felt right.
  • I became a teacher because it is fun.
  • I became a teacher because it is freaking awesome to watch someone “get it”.
  • I became a teacher because I felt I could make a difference for someone.
  • I became a teacher because I hoped I could help.
  • I became a teacher because I wanted to.
  • I want to stay a teacher because of the above.
  • I hope I can stay a teacher.
  • I want to stay a teacher. I feel it in my bones. This is what I need to be doing.
  • I married a teacher.

Thanks for listening to my short ramble.

Previously I had always ran the science fair like many of my fellow science teachers. The past two years, there have been two major changes with the process which I will detail below. People will ask, well, how do you know if it has worked better than before? Where’s your evidence? Again, I will get to that part below.

First major change – I was able to recruit a few #actuallivingscientist ‘s to help mentor no more than 5 projects over the course of the first semester. Their role was to ask questions, offer advice and be a sounding board for the students but under no circumstance to do the project for them. The communication was done through weekly emails that included the scientist, myself and the students (two reasons: accountability and transparency). There was a teachable moment with how to write a formal email to the scientist.

Over the last two years, the conversations I have watched have been phenomenal. They have well exceeded my wildest expectations. There have been a couple that haven’t taken advantage but, for the most part, the students have enjoyed the conversations and will excitedly tell me they just got a new email or say it has been over a week since they last emailed me. The questions, thoughts, advice that have been shared have been fantastic. I honestly can’t thank the mentors enough for the time and efforts with my students.

Second major change – This change comes at the very beginning. Instead of trying to come up with a question to investigate, the students begin to research a phenomena that interests them. As they research this topic, they begin writing down questions they have about it. From that list, we begin to see which are testable questions and if an experiment can be developed that they can actually conduct. This has been a great change and I feel really helped bring the projects to a higher quality.

How do you know if it has worked? Great question. Here is some of my evidence from the last two years:

  • Of the 30 projects from my school that have gone on to the district fair, 18 have been from my class. The other 12 came from 10 other science teachers in the building.
  • Of those, 4 of mine have ended up at the State Science fair with two of them earning medals (First place in her category and the other Third in her category).
  • Comments from the mentors expressing how well the students are doing and how surprised they have been about it and enjoyed the process
  • Students aren’t complaining as much (not hard data I know but it has been observed)
  • Parents not complaining as much (not hard data  I know but it has been observed)

After all this, I am still looking for volunteer mentors for this school year. What would your role be? Ask questions, give advice, push the students and a time requirement of no more than maybe 30 minutes for the week.

If you would like to be a mentor for a few projects, feel free to email me at patrick.goff@fayette.kyschools.us or DM me on twitter @bmsscienceteach. I would love to hear from you. If you would like to talk to a former mentor, let me know and I am sure one of them would be more than happy to talk about their role with you. This has been a great experience for all involved and I hope you will consider signing up.

 

At the beginning of summer, I was already thinking about next school year and how to make the science I teach more real, more personable, more relateable (I know, not the highest quality word choice) for my students. Through the last two years, I have been able to incorporate a variety of scientists through Skype or similar video conferences which have always been fantastic. These talks allow the students to interact with an #actuallivingscientist so they can see who is doing the science, ask questions and listen to some fascinating science talks. The only issue I have is that I will not ask anyone to do four talks a day as I know the scientists still have work to do and I do not want them to feel put upon or as if they are a babysitter for my class. I want these talks to be helpful, informative and enjoyable for all parties involved. I can honestly say, each year when I do one of the video-conferences at least one student will say they didn’t think a person like them could do science (race, gender, background) which makes me sad. I also have multiple students say after that they thought it was cool and would like to explore that science more in depth.

With that in mind, I was thinking how can I bring more scientists into my classroom to share with my students what they do and why it is awesome. The idea was to ask as many of my scientist friends (cool to think how many friends I have made now in the science community) if they would be willing to make a short video explaining “Why My Science is Awesome”.  I think this would be a cool way to show at the beginning of class 2 or 3 days of school each week. We would be able to show one to each class and have a short discussion about what they saw. It would be a great way to show a variety of science and a variety of scientists.

As for the videos, I am thinking for a length that is anywhere from 1-3 minutes but that is not set in stone (maybe no more than 5 minutes). I would think the videos could be as simple as filming yourself using your iPhone and just talking about “Why My Science is Awesome”maybe showing some of the equipment you use or the area you research to as complicated as using a professional video camera and integrating images.  The videos would be uploaded to a YouTube Channel so multiple classrooms could use them as long as the scientist making the video is good with that idea.

If you have never done a video like this before, I will get a couple examples soon to put up for you to model after. I really think this could be a great way to introduce your science and yourself to many school kids while talking “Why My Science is Awesome.”

Feel free to send your video to patrick.goff@fayette.kyschools.us and I am looking forward to your submission. Also, if you know anyone who would be great for this project, please send this link to them. My motto on this project is, the more the merrier. Any science is welcome so we can showcase as many different disciplines as possible.

Lastly, thank you. Thank you for being willing to participate and help show everyone “Why My Science is Awesome.”

Sincerely,

Patrick Goff