Science, Education, and Science Education

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September 14th, 2015 by Luann

All Means All Part 3: Graphing our Learning Styles

This is the third in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

Disclaimer: I’ve read a good deal of literature and opinion around the validity of learning styles. Nonetheless, at the encouragement of a colleague (this colleague) during some collaborative course design work, I pulled out the learning styles inventory* again this year, in Physical Science classes. The intent was to use the data gathered to introduce graphing, and that was a win.  The colleague suggested we share with students WHY we are interested in their learning styles. We are interested so that we can be sure to make learning available to all students in the modality each student best learns. We discussed this in both classes. The real win, though, was what I learned about my students, and what they learned about themselves.

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September 12th, 2015 by Luann

All Means ALL, Part 2: Engineering Design

This is the second in a series of blog posts summarizing my reflections on what it means to provide learning opportunities for every student, every day. Find the series here, at  #AllMeansAll 

Created during Champions of STEM work with BSCS, who probably

On the first day in Physical Science, we got into teams and built paper towers as an engineering design challenge. Our process followed the outlined by a group of district STEM teachers working together last school year.

The challenge was simple: Build the tallest tower you can with 4 sheets of 8.5 x 11: paper.

First, a little history on this class:

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September 10th, 2014 by Luann

Thirteen years ago today

Thirteen years ago, I was in Ohio, teaching a class of Chemistry students to set up their lab books for our first lab.

NYC Skyline *

(Some of my current FB friends were in that class…) when our principal, Dan Griffin, announced that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers. Then, in disbelief, we listened as he announced that the second tower had been hit. I had only one old, slow computer in my room, but all the news sites were too jammed for us to get any information. As I struggled to find words to calm my frightened, confused students, Mr. Griffin announced that a third plane had hit the Pentagon, and that all three flights had originated in DC. A student, white-faced (you know who you are) stood up and said, “My mom was flying out of DC this morning. I need to go to the counselor’s office.”

Mike was having his hip joint scoped a few blocks away at the local hospital. When I went to see him during lunch/prep, I caught a bit more news. As he awoke and saw the TV in his room, he thought he was watching a horror movie. We kept hearing about terrorist involvement.

Our thoughts then turned to our younger son, Geoff, who was in basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood. Although we didn’t get to speak to him for the next few weeks, somehow, we knew there would be a consequence for him. We were right.

A hundred-plus lab books bear the start date of 9/11/01. Thousands of families, and our entire world, were never the same again.

*I stole this photo from a friend’s Facebook page. If it’s yours and I’m using it wrongly, please let me know and I’ll take it down.

June 24th, 2014 by Luann

Skillz for the Future


Framework for 21st Century Learning, Charles Fadel, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

We are asked to teach 21st Century Skills – Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Citizenship, to name a few. The last two schools in which I’ve worked have advisory classes. The point is career education and the relationship-building that increases chances for student success. We do prescribed career activities. We do grade checks and students reflect on their progress. I’ve been through many iterations of advisory during my tenure in 2 schools in 2 states over the past 10 years; and we are not yet sure what shape  I’ll be getting a brand-new batch of grade 9 lambs this year, and I intend to help them become as successful as possible.

To support these skills, and  state/district/building career-related activities and relationship-building activities, I’d like to suggest we consider the following possibilities for valuable use of advisory time:

Digital Literacy, Part 1

I see two components to Digital literacy. The first, easy component is establishing some accounts and learning to use current tools. At our school and in my classroom, as a minimum, these would currently be

  • Google apps including Blogger,
  • Prezi, and
  • Evernote
  • Disqus


My building has dabbled in Project-Based Learning. A part of our work, an authentic audience is important. It’s amazing how the quality of students’ work becomes a big deal to them when they know it will be seen by others.

As digital portfolios become important, students could maintain their portfolios easily in Google sites, and later transfer them to a personally owned account. The advantage to Evernote is its portability and flexibility with media. Evernote could be used for quickly storing info from recordings, links, photos and clipped images such as those students take of their lab work and whiteboarding adventures (see Plagiarism, below) and drafts of projects and work. Many teachers ask students to use Prezi, and class/project time is used just setting up an account and learning the app. Prezi could also be a platform for the digital portfolio. Many classes, particularly art, also use Blogger for photoblogs.

Digital Literacy, Part 2

Safety and etiquette.  That is all. No student may publish anything in my class to a public account with his/her name on it without parent permission, signed, and in my file.

Plagiarism: It’s not just for English class anymore.

Students must learn to vet every source they use for licensing. Creative Commons wasn’t around when most of us were in college, so we first need to learn the ropes.  Wikimedia Commons is a great starting place for images. Google Search now offers the capability to find usage rights (in search, select images > search tools > usage rights and then follow the rights granted for your intended use.)

Financial literacy:

As 9th graders, perhaps a look at the cost of a cell phone contract, fast food, and driving a car, including a look at the good driver discount they get on auto insurance for keeping a B average. By 10th grade, looking at how to budget money from a part-time job, including savings, and the cost of college. By 11th grade, a look at taxes and more college costs. As seniors, they need to be looking at their actual expenses vs income after graduation. And then, there’s my personal beef that we’re teaching kids there’s actually such a thing as “good debt.”  Hello.

There are others, of course.  What are yours?


January 2nd, 2014 by Luann

Organization (in the Lab): 20 Day Blogging Challenge, Day 2 #bc20

For years, I struggled with organizing student lab cupboards.  Way back when, we had enough basic lab equipment for each student pair to have their own stocked, locked drawer.  At my most recent school, we do not. Two pairs of students are assigned to work at 1 table. Each pair has their own cupboard. Each cupboard is, however, shared with 5 other classes, both biology and AP Chemistry.

Lab Cupboards

Table 1 nailed it!

Putting things away is not my strength. It’s a challenge to get students to do so, particularly when they are not solely responsible for their equipment.  I’m not particularly disturbed by clutter from student work. It is frustrating for students to have to search the lab to find a needed beaker that someone forgot to put away.  The goal is for students to have what they need so their work goes smoothly.

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January 1st, 2014 by Luann

A book: 20 Day Blogging Challenge, Day 1

I can’t choose  just one favorite book.  I decided to share 2 books, one for each major content area I currently teach. while I don’t have a unique way of using either book in class, I can say that these books are clear student favorites.  Students tell me they’re interesting and informative and help with understanding of important topics.  We use each book differently.

The Disappearing Spoon

The Disappearing Spoon

Chemistry students devour Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon, and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table.   So often, we forget that the “old dead guys” had lives, loves, families.  We forget the historical context of their work – the politics, social norms,   It  is assigned to incoming Advanced Placement Chemistry students as summer reading. Students report the book helps them make friends with elements; to use element names and properties in everyday thinking, and to build a framework for the descriptive chemistry we do throughout the course.  There is great appeal for kids who think of themselves more as historians than scientists. There are several study guides available for use with the book.



Blueprints for Evolution

 Blueprints: Solving the Mystery of Evolution presents the history of our understanding of biological evolution;  If you’re a biologist, you know Thomas Dobzhansky (“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”)  If you’re not a biologist and think you understand the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, you owe it to yourself and your inner educator self’s commitment to lifelong learning to read this book.  Helping students understand how natural selection drives biological evolution can be challenging.  I choose to let Maitland Edey and Donald Johanson help.  Donald Johanson was one of the paleoanthropologists who discovered Lucy.  Maitland Edey is a journalist who brings together all the lines of evidence explained by biological evolution in a way that a non-scientist can enjoy and understand. This book unpeels the layers of understanding needed to employ scientific thinking in the understanding of the natural world.  When working with students as young as 9th grade,  the opening chapters that describe pre-Darwin thoughts on change and fixity in geology and in living things. help us  We read later chapters together as we construct our model of the Modern Synthesis. Just read it.  

What are your favorite books?  Why are they your favorites?  How do you use them with students?


December 12th, 2013 by Luann

Candy 2013: A First Adventure into PBL

For years, my chemistry classes have made candy right before winter break. In years past, we spent a day investigating solutions, then I handed out a recipe and we made the candy. This year, with the blessings of  grant from NBPTS to investigate project based learning, I began to learn how to integrate content into a project. I’m working on using more true PBL instead of simply asking students to do projects. In addition to the integration of academic content into making candy, students blogged about their learning and their work. Some students worked in Evernote and when they finished, posted their work using is now a paid app, and the features available for free may change before we use it again. Commenting must be done through Disqus, yet another sign-up and sign-in, so most students opted not to use it. I’m not going to lie – getting kids set up on Blogger through their school Google apps accounts was a challenge, and I’m on the hunt for something better. Next year, I will consider WordPress unless I find something better in the meantime.

Sophia C.
Shawna D.
Marcus D.
Hap F.
Makayla G.
Robert H.
Kearsten H.
Isabel K.
Tallan K.
Victor L.
Alex P-C.
Charlette Q.
Annika R.
Devin R.
Joscelynne S.
Emily T.
Sierra Y.
Ryanne B.
Jacob B.
Bronwyn B.
Donovan B.
Grace B.
Calliope B.
Dylan C.
Micheal E.
Klarissa E.
Marcus G
Alexis G.
Luke H.
Cuyler H.
Morgan J.
Jade L.
Kyle L.
Jason M.
Andrew M.
Ivette M.
Camile R.
Alisha S.
Jessica S.
Benjamin U.
Matthew W.
Maria E.
Devon E.
Lindsay G.
Gage H.
Sandra V-J.
Robert M.
Sasha P.
Shane R.
Martha G.
Luis S.
Makenna S.
Chantel S.
Esmerelda T-C.
Madison Z.
Jessica M.
Haley W.
Brad A.
Kayla B.
Skyler C.
Rachel C.
McKenna C.
Kylee D.
Ashyton F.
Colin G.
Jessica J.
Taylor L.
Rosa N.
Tori W.
Tyler P.
Jose P.
Chase P.
Deanna R.
Eduardo R.
Owen S.
Paige S.
Colin S.
Kylie T.
Keeghan V.
Joseph Watson!!!
Eugene W.
June 18th, 2013 by Luann

Creativity and Science, Part 4

It’s been almost 2 years since we attended Learning and the Brain.

The first 3 posts are linked below.  I’ve had a while to implement some new ideas and process this topic. Anecdotal evidence from my own classroom began to show me that creativity in the secondary science classroom is different; in science, one must know something in order to create something new. I began to pay more attention to the push for creativity on social media. Here’s what I’m learning.

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February 15th, 2013 by Luann

Creativity and Science, Part 2


I’m starting to form a more clear picture of how I see creativity as a part of science.

I don’t care if it’s considered to be right or wrong by brain scientists or by educators.  It’s my synthesis at this time in my learning. If you’d like to help me with it, please do.

I’m still having issues with those who are of the school that creativity must be done in collaboration.  I have the same issue with those who state that true creativity takes place in total solitude. Maybe this is because I’m a Libra.  Maybe it’s because each learner processes, synthesizes, and constructs knowledge in his own way.

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October 7th, 2012 by Luann

DIY Pumpkin Spice Latte

To quote Diane Ravitch, this is my blog and I’ll post what I want.

That said, making a good latte is chemistry. I’ve been watching the local box store/grocery (hey, I live in a small town) for pumpkin spice creamer. I am still in disbelief that it wasn’t me who thought of dumping a slice of pumpkin pie in a blender with a cup of good coffee and them topping it with shipped cream. Instead, I’ve come up with a pretty palatable substitute. Read the rest of this entry »