Over the last few months, maybe a year at this point, I have had the honor of talking and learning from Dr. Samantha Oester. She has been a wonderful mentor to both myself and my daughter, great to talk to and get to know, and willing to help my students out. I have learned so much from following her on Twitter that I can’t thank her enough. She isn’t the only scientist that I can say this about but that would be for another blog story. This story centers around a little observation I made following her. After getting to talk with Dr. Oester for awhile, I was invited to join #hearttheoceans movement, a movement to help bring awareness to the importance of the oceans. I wanted to do something for that but wasn’t sure what I could do, especially being in landlocked Kentucky! Well, I had noticed that Dr. Oester and Dr.Januchowski-Hartley had been writing conservation minded Haikus. I figured, my students could watch a part of a the Life Series episode on Fish from the Discovery Channel and then write their own haiku’s. So I asked both Dr. Oester and Dr. Januchowski-Hartley if I could use a couple of theirs as examples (which they both graciously said yes). Now at this point, if you thought 8th graders would think this was dumb, some did, but others took it as a chance to shine and be creative. I posted the best ones to twitter and if you want to read them (please do and let me know which one you liked) go to #conservationhaiku and mine are by my account name @bmsscienceteach. I am proud of what my students did and will try to get another activity like this in the mix for later. It was a fun and different way to let my kids express themselves. Thanks for listening and as always, I am open to feedback!

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A quick overview of an idea I am working on for an upcoming Ecosystem Unit. A large portion of the PE is to construct an argument that changes in an ecosystem affect the population and to evaluate possible design solutions to maintain biodiversity. To this end, I planning on having the students work in small groups and investigate an ecosystem. I could do the traditional research and present of their findings. I could, but I’m not. The big twist, has been to recruit a number of scientists who are willing to help act as experts in their selected ecosystem. There has been an overwhelming amount of support to help my students which is very humbling. They are willing to communicate with my students through twitter, skype or google hangouts, and through Google Docs. I have had scientists volunteer to help from around the United States, Peru, England, France and even Saudi Arabia! I am super pumped about this project. The big ideas are getting firmed up, now to move on to the little ideas, firm up the useĀ of the Science and Engineering Practices and Cross-Cutting Concepts in an intentional manner.

Over the summer I had an idea on how to upgrade the science fair process for my students. There were many parts that I changed but the biggest, and one of my favorite was to get practicing scientists to help mentor my students. The mentors were there to offer advice, ask questions, prod and challenge my students through their process. I can now say, I know it helped. You may ask how do I know? Well I could say that the projects were of an overall better quality than before. More importantly, I can point to the fact that of the 7 students I sent to the district fair, 5 of them earned a medal and are moving on to the Regional Science Fair.

I want to thank the scientists that took their time to help. That took time from their jobs, family, personal time to help my students. I can not thank you enough for your help. I know it helped my students. I know they appreciated your help.

Thank you.

The mini-task my students have undertaken is centered around the following PE: 08-ESS3-2. Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. Previous to what I am about to describe the students completed an infographic on a particular Natural Hazard of their choosing. Students were looking at data and developed this infographic to help inform people about the likelihood of another occurrence. Part of that was a Google Hangout with an earthquake specialist out of Colorado who helped talk with students about forecasting earthquakes.

In this mini-task (phenomena was damage from natural hazards) the students were asked to look at current technologies (warning plans, prevention, detection, recovery and so on) to help mitigate the effects of the Natural Hazard they had investigated. Once they have done research, they were asked to make an innovation and predict where the technology might be in 20 years. Students are in the process of developing a model (could be a physical model or could be a technical drawing). We are not done with this mini-task yet but some of the ideas are pretty darn interesting they are coming up.

Example: A student is investigating avalanches. She has proposed to develop a wrist band that would be handed out to all skiers by a ski resort. This wrist band would have GPS tech embedded in it with the capability to receive text alerts from the resort. The resort would be able to track all skiers in case of an avalanche, warn the skiers, and if rescue is needed, help pinpoint with better accuracy where the skiers were when the avalanche hit.

Example: A student is investigating hurricanes. He was very interested in the hurricane hunter planes and found out they drop on average 30 sensor packages per storm. He found out they were a one use tool and thought that was wasteful so for his innovation, he is looking to make them recoverable and waterproof.

My question at this point, does this mini-task embrace the 3 Dimensional approach NGSS asks for in the teaching? My thoughts are this: Are the students learning content? Sure. Are they engaging in the Science and Engineering Practices? They are asking questions, developing models, analyzing data, designing solutions, and engaging in arguments from evidence. Are they engaging in the Cross Cutting Concepts? They have to look at Cause and Effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity and Systems and System models.

I really want to make this task work. It has grabbed their attention and I have student buy in on this one. What do you all think? Good, bad, ugly? What could be done to improve it?

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Write something.

I find myself saying a few things quite often to my students so I am trying to compile my little Pealrs of Wisdom into one list. This is what I have so far.

1. Quality over quantity.

2. A good question is worth its weight in gold.

3. Science is about doing.

4. Yes, we need to write in science.

5. Don’t be afraid to take a risk.

6. Always use evidence to backup what you say.

7. When you think you are at the limit of what you think you can do, push a little farther.

8. Science is freaking awesome!

9. Yes the Bengals are welcome to come over and play with the Steelers trophies.

10. Nature is so very fantastic and awe inspiring.

What are your sayings you tell your kids? I would love to hear.