Science, Education, and Science Education

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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.
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 »

May 24th, 2012 by Luann

Scavenging For Science

Many years ago, I needed something engaging for AP Chemistry students once their exam was over.  I found a scavenger hunt, hard copy as this was the olden days, handed out by the late Dr. Cliff Schrader at a conference.  I’m forever grateful to Cliff for so many things he gave out freely to anyone who asked.  Among so many other things, he taught me to share.

I reworked the list a little to reflect some things my students knew or in which they had shown interest.  The first few years, the kids worked in groups and competed to see which group could collect the most items the most quickly.

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April 10th, 2011 by Luann

Data and Truth: The Story Behind the Scores

Every dataset has a story. We usually look only at the data and ignore the story. For example, according to my original findings, and as approved by committee of esteemed researchers in education and science, I could make this statement:

Pre-service elementary teachers showed a statistically significant gain in their learning about the moon and teaching elementary students about the moon by inquiry.

And this supporting statement:

The study shows that pre-service teachers average gain scores from pre-test to post-test increased by 7 points on a 21-item test.

If this were taken as the only finding from my dissertation, these pre-service teachers obviously demonstrated significant learning. All is well.

But wait.

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October 13th, 2009 by Luann

Books for Kids

A meeting today in our district made me aware of 3 things:

  1. Our K-5 kids need books.  Informational books, storybooks, any books.They have no books to take home to read.
  2. Our K-5 teachers don’t have any science materials.
  3. Our K-5 kids, many of them anyway, are reading way below grade level.
  4. We have nearly no intervention materials.

Here’s my plan:

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August 18th, 2009 by Luann

Quote for the Year

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 – )

Sometimes, a little attitude can go a long way.

April 21st, 2009 by Luann

Poke Sharpened Pencils Through My Eyes

It’s day 2 of the Science WASL.

Most students finished an hour or so early.  I brought Starburst® candy for my group, who stuck through the torture yesterday like troopers.

Today, they quietly and gratefully consumed the candy after completing the test.  It took most of them no more than 1 hour.  Walking around, I noticed that students at one table quietly  made a fleet of tiny boats from the wrappers.  Students at another table appeared to be having a silent-movie version of a candy-wrapper-airplane contest.

I would have taken a photo to share but cell phones weren’t allowed.