Science, Education, and Science Education

classroom applications

Archive for the ‘In Class’ Category

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 14th, 2012 by Luann

Will I “Flip” my Classroom?

Truth is, I already did. Years ago.

About 2 years into my career, I figured out that if students arrived in class already knowing something about the day’s learning, they took away a deeper, more satisfying, understanding. We were able to use class time differently, in ways that helped us learn more authentically.

I did not need standardized tests, value-added evaluations, or clever new names for the method to figure this out, by the way.

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March 11th, 2012 by Luann

Adoption, 2012 style

I’ve worked in 5 districts in 23 years.  Our current adoption will be my 4th experience. The availability of electronic delivery and open source materials have added interesting options to our decision-making. First, I present lists and links to content, including sources for inquiry and engineering design resources. I’ve saved my thoughts on devices until the end.

Please comment including any other resources you’d consider if you were us.  Also, please comment on individual resources if you have experience or thoughts that might help us make a decision.  This list does not include all of the traditional hard-copy textbooks and support materials we’ve been sent.  I don’t want this post to take a year to read.

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December 17th, 2011 by Luann

Crystallization of a Supersaturated Sucrose Solution

Research: Solutions

Recipe:  Supersaturated Sucrose Solution

Response: Documenting the Process


October 10th, 2011 by Luann

Writing and the Lab Report

Oregon requires students to complete an inquiry work sample (here’s the one we will use this year) at some time during high school.  Our classes function on an inquiry basis at some level almost daily.  I’ve played with many strategies to help students write about their work in a manner that facilitates their learning while documenting their work in a manner that survives the scrutiny of a scientific peer review.

Most recently, I’ve incorporated the work began with Linda Christensen (from Lewis and Clark) and the Oregon Writing Project. Freshmen begin keeping all lab and inquiry work in a bound theme book, AKA fondly as “my lab book.” My vision for the appearance of student lab books has morphed over the years.  Some things change very little, though, because good science is good science and good science writing is good science writing. At my current school, I’m blessed with like-minded colleagues who have helped me refine my vision as it is shared in this post. Here’s our current plan…..

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August 23rd, 2011 by Luann

First Day 2011

Beginning my 23rd year in the classroom, I still get a bit nervous that everything will go well. I walk through each class at least 20 times in my head and tweak things until the last minute.  Classes begin on September 6.  Every day except for 2 until them, I have meetings or some random duty, or prep work scheduled.

My goals for the school year are to bring more relevance to our learning, better help each student reach his/her potential, and to do so without working 23 hours a day and all weekend. This partly stems from the stress last year of finishing the dissertation while starting a new job.  I was either teaching, grading, planning, writing, crunching data, moving, or sleeping, in that order. (I ate while working on something. Couldn’t figure out how to work in my sleep.) I’d like my classes and my life to move at a pace that allows time for reflection and revising and laughing at least a little.  And I never, ever want my desk to look like this again:

Here’s my first day so far:

Learning Targets:
1. Science: Remember that? (A little science on the first day never hurt.)
2. Learn roles and protocols for group work (because 9th graders usually don’t know what to do in a group.)
3. Explain what we will learn this year, why and how we will learn it.

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July 15th, 2010 by Luann

Attention Elementary Teachers:

I’m analyzing data from pre-service elementary science teachers who are working on an inquiry learning project.  I’m a bit surprised with the results.  Before I share, I’d like to hear from some elementary teachers about your current teaching of science and your teacher preparation program.  What do you feel you teach really well in science?  Where and how did you learn to do this well?  In what areas do you most want to grow?

I can’t wait for your comments.  In the meantime, I’m back to data analysis.

January 31st, 2009 by Luann

Charlotte molted again

Charlotte's molts 11-26-08 and 1-29-09

Charlotte's molts 11-26-08 and 1-29-09

Charlotte joined our classrom in August as a gift from a school board member.  She is a Red-Rumped Tarantula, Brachypelma  vagans.  Although the species is native to Mexico, we’ve seen them throughout Belize. We were told she was 3.5 years old when she came to us and had just molted. We were told, and read, that she should be fed several crickets about once a week and that she would molt twice a year. I was surprised to come in the day after Thanksgiving to find that she had molted sometime during the past 48 hours.  I retrieved the molt (top) and placed it in a specimen jar.

Six crickets began to disappear from her habitat within hours of delivery.  I started to worry that perhaps she needed more to eat and began feeding 8 crickets and a few mealworms, then 12 crickets……

I came in Thursday morning to find Charlotte lying flat on her back near her burrow.  Occasionally, she moved a leg but appeared to be dying – exactly as all I had read about molting described. I removed all the crickets I had just given her, no easy task,  and we checked on her from time to time.  By 1:00 she had completely emerged from her old exoskeleton (bottom) and was resting back in her burrow.

I think she’s growing.

August 19th, 2008 by Luann

Arranging a Classroom

It’s something no one ever teaches you in education classes, yet it’s usually the first thing you have to do when you get a job. Even in a science lab, there are always things the former resident did because they worked, but you think these things are stupid. So, you set about rearranging the furniture. Even in my last classroom, a lab that I no longer inhabit for various reasons of my own choosing, I could at least rotate the desk 90° and add a skinny Ikea shelf as a computer stand.

LouAnne Johnson of Dangerous Minds fame advises that you create a little cubby for yourself that keeps your materials inaccessible to students. I don’t have the student issues that she did, but need all the right things around me when I have to sit down and do some serious desk work. I need student files close by, as well as my tickler file. I need my one drawer of frequently-used files at hand so that I can grab last year’s PO for protists and re-order without having to find a catalog and look up order numbers again. I need my faithful supply of post-its. Etc.

This year, because I felt the new chemistry teacher would do better in a lab setting so he could do more labs with the kids, I traded rooms with him. I was embarrassed once we started moving. We’d traded rooms last year when he needed to do a lab, but I never really looked around. We gave him a room with some scavenged cupboards just standing in the room but not fastened down, and computers on a table in a corner that he never used after I plugged them in. He pulled a moveable whiteboard in front of the cupboard mess and never really stored anything there. He had never used a LCD projector or a powerpoint and didn’t want to, so the technology guy checked out a lousy overhead projector for him. The bulb was so dim that the kids could not see whatever he put up, so he had to turn out the lights and pull the blinds. All the time, all day, every day. How dreary. When I went in, the first thing I would do was open the blinds. Geez. How had we left him to fend for himself in this mess?

He found the teacher desk in the front corner by the windows, opposite the door. He left the desk right there. Once I had returned the computers to the CTE department and had the cupboards rightly fastened to the walls, the next thing I did was to move the desk to the back corner. I hate sitting where everyone who walks past can watch me work, and I hate my desk taking up valuable space in the front of the room that can be used for better things (like my 50 gal aquarium). That left the room very open and for the first time in years, I had a classroom in which we could rearrange the desks.

Once I had the desk moved, I sat down in my chair and looked out the window. Here is my view:
Mt. Rainier from my desk
So hint #1 for new tachers is:
#1 You can, and should, rearrange the furniture.

If you respect the classroom as a space and treat it well, students will do the same. I might have chaos going on with students working on various scientific things, but they are always careful to pick up and put away when they are finished for the day. Why? Because I ask them to do so. I never find spitballs on my ceiling, not even after I return from having a sub. I had forgotten that kids do these things until I moved to the current room and had to scrape dessicated spitwads from its ceiling, an accumulation from several years past. Blech. I want a classroom that makes kids feel happy when they come in the door. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going off on a self-esteem tangent here. I just want kids that like to come to science classes and feel welcome to do so when they walk in the door. I want them to look around and think, “Hey!  There’s room for me in this classroom!” Building that feeling is an art worth developing.

So, my initial feelings that this classroom won’t work out as a makeshift lab are waning. It’s large and light and bright and happy. Biology can borrow New Guy’s room when we need microscopes. AP Bio will use his room every Tuesday morning from 6:30 til the end of 1st period. Science skills kids will go there as needed, as will marine biology. And Physics students have their own tables that I scrounged from the computer lab renovation. I’ve gotten over having to be the teacher who runs from classroom to classroom and has 5 preps. It’s okay; I am looking at this as an opportunity to be the one who can make the best of a less than ideal situation, that is, having more students and teachers than out 2 science labs can accommodate. I guess this is what leaders do.

When life gives you lemons, forget the lemonade. Make a margarita.

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