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Showing posts from 2011

Young Astronomers

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Traditionally, I have my 3rd grade students draw pictures of the moon for an entire month.  We usually do this project after learning about the phases of the moon.  This year I had a thought. 

How I plan to FLIP the class

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There has been a lot of information and talk lately about "Flipping" the classroom.  At first I thought this meant using FLIP cameras in your classroom.  I suppose there is plenty of talk about that too, but this kind of Flip is different and it isn't exactly like "Flipping" a house either. So what does it mean to "flip" your classroom?

Mad Science & Monster Math Night

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We knew this would be a fun event but we had no idea what a big hit it was really going to be.
(Keep in mind that our K-5 school has just over 200 students enrolled right now.)  As we began planning for this math/science night we decided it would be a good idea to have families RSVP so we would know how much food to buy.  It was only refreshments, but we wanted to be sure no one was left out.  The very next day, we had about 40 people who had RSVP'ed.  Before we knew it we were over 100 and when it was all said and done 270 people had RSVP'ed (give or take a few).  Suddenly we weren't only nervous about the refreshments but also about the space we'd chosen to use and how many manipulatives we would need for the math activities.  Plus, this event wasn't required for teachers to attend like most PTA type nights would be.

Marble Towers

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I recently challenged my students to consider a probing question based upon a spiral "marble tower".  The probe comes from "Uncovering Student Ideas in Science Volume 3" pg. 71.  Students are asked to evaluate what will happen to the marble as it rolls off the bottom of the tower.  They are given 5 different points of view to consider and must choose 1 to agree with and then defend their reasoning.

The probes are great for determining student understanding and misconceptions.  They are even better when I am able to use them to set the stage for inquiry based learning.  After responding to the probe, I gave students 2 days (40 min/day) to design and build their own marble tower to test their theory.  We used colorful cardstock sentence strips from the dollar tree to form the tower.  Students were given scissors, masking tape, and 5 sentence strips.  Eventually students asked for more sentence strips and they were allowed 2 more per team.  Conversation among "ar…

Education Nation

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The 2nd annual Education Nation Summit was recently held in NYC.  As a teacher screener for DonorsChoose. org I was offered the unique opportunity to attend the Teacher Town Hall live on MSNBC at Rockefellar Plaza.  Teachers gathered from across the nation to join in the discussion with Brian Williams.  The media is all too often filled with the voices of every stakeholder in education EXCEPT the teacher. This was a chance to have our collective teacher voice heard.
 Topics such as incentive and merit based pay, drop out rates, teacher-led school innovations, and much more were the focus of the day.  You can read more about it by checking out these links.
Teachers gather for Education Nation summit

If you want your voice to be heard, join in with the discussion at this link.
Education Nation

You can also share your 60 sec. response to very specific questions at the
Teacher Wall

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I've had numerous experiences with whiteboards, virtual learning, online professional development, and tutoring via chat rooms.  Most tools are either expensive or have limited functionality.  Today I hosted a webinar using Scribblar.  The process couldn't have been easier.  I provided some information about myself and had a free account in minutes.  I was then able to create a virtual learning room with a custom name and generate a password that kept the room private.  Only people with the URL and password could enter.  It allowed me to add pages, upload images, use video and audio, and much more.
I fumbled around a little bit, but it really wasn't difficult to generate 5 pages to share during a 2 hour webinar.  The webinar should have had about 30 people attending, but only 3 actually showed up.  The 4 of us were able to have a really in depth conversation about what is working in our science classes.  We talked about developing a science fair and encouraging students t…

NC Essential Standards

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This year we are beginning the transition to the Common Core and NC Essential Standards.
On my website, you will find a link to the NC Essential Standards titled "Grade by Grade".
It is my goal to provide useful materials for each of the essential standards.  This will be a bit of a long-term process but I have begun. 


Each time I add something, you will find the words UPDATED and a date to the right of the standard.  Currently, I have loaded 3 files.  I hope you will stop by and take a look at them.  If you find them useful or have ideas for ways I can improve on their quality, I'd love to hear from you.  Please leave me a comment here or fill out the contact form on my website.

The Pit Crew

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Force and Motion is one of my favorite 5th grade topics.  Some of the goals in the current NC Standard Course of Study will be elimintated as we move to the Essential Standards.  Fortunately, Essential Standard 5.P.1 continues to align with my newest simulation.  The Essential Standards are as follows:
5.P.1.1 Explain how factors such as gravity, friction, and change in mass affect the motion of objects.
5.P.1.2 Infer the motion of objects in terms of how far they travel in a certain amount of time and the direction in which they travel.
5.P.1.3 Illustrate the motion of an object using a graph to show a change in position over a period of time.
5.P.1.4 Predict the effect of a given force or a change in mass on the motion of an object.
My newest simulation isn't available for public viewing yet.  Too much fine tuning is left to be done.  I will give you a snippet as a tease, however.  Race car drivers and their pit crew members are scientists. You may think I'm stretching it a bit …

Green Screen - Take 1

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We're back in school and everyone is very excited to have some new tools to use.  I'm not talking about just the typical back to school supplies.  Thanks to the career award, we have some very unique new tools to use.  One of those is the green screen and flip cams.  I've set up the green screen and we gave it a test run today.  Our topic of study is force and motion. We've been learning about Newton's laws.  After several demonstrations and some note taking, we put together a short production with our green screen technology.  It isn't the greatest quality, but I don't think it's too bad for a 1st try.  We used a free app called VideoPad and a free background to overlay on our raw video.  Here's a link to Newton's 3rd Law

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this video and we can't wait to find new ways to share our learning using this technology.  Perhaps 4th grade will do a report about stalactites and stalagmites from the "Giant C…

IBSO Workshop

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Today was spent with a wonderful group of educators from Bladen County Schools.  We took a good hard look at how teachers can bridge student learning and standardized assessment expectations while managing inquiry based learning experiences.  If you were a part of this experience, I hope you gained some valuable information and would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to comment on this post and share what part of the day was most meaningful to you.
 Come back from time to time.  Teachers helping other teachers is a critical piece to our growth as professionals.  Let's learn from each other so that our students can have the benefit of an abundance of ideas, knowledge, and practice.

Now, go "DO" some science and get those kids engaged!

Join me for the 1st Webinar

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I am hosting my first webinar tomorrow night @ 8 pm EST. Please join in as we talk about the best ways to teach elementary science.



Announcing my 1st Webinar

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I've participated in tweetchats and webinars.  Now I'm branching out as a moderator.  Moderating a tweetchat was easier than I thought it would be.

In my application for the Burroughs Wellcome career award, I mentioned the use of webinars to share knowledge and collaborate with other teachers.  Now that I have won the award, it's time to start utilizing them.  Consider this your formal invitation to join in on the adventure.

I have scheduled a webinar for Aug. 12th @ 8 pm EST.  We'll chat about our best practices for teaching science to students in grades 3-5.  I'm hoping this will become the first of many wonderful collaborative opportunities.  The session will be recorded and placed in an archive if you miss it.

Send me a PM if you have any questions.
To sign up for the webinar you'll need to go to learncentral
I'm pretty impressed that they offer this service for free.

LifeLab - Workshop Day 2

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Another great day today with John Fisher from LifeLab and 9 other teachers from CCS.  We started out by learning the best way to prep a bed for planting.  My thumb is feeling a little bit more green already!  Even though we got an early start, the humidity was tough to take.  What a great group of educators who stuck it out and planted 2 beds of cantaloupe, eggplant, and tomatoes.  Yes, we realize it is a little bit late to put these in the ground.  If I can keep them watered they might just hang in there long enough to bear some fruit.  Thank goodness for the long growing season of NC.
While we were at the community garden, we found that our 2 fig trees were full of fruit that is getting close to being ready to pick.  What a great surprise!
Later on, we dissected the soil and prepared paper pots for seedlings.  Who knew that a V8 can makes a great tool for creating a paper pot?!  Everyone left with ample seed packets to go out and start on their own.  All in all, this was a great 2 d…

LifeLab - Workshop Day 1

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If you've ever considered gardening with students, LifeLab.org is a great resource.  This week about 10 teachers in our district are spending time with one of the trainers from LifeLab and we've been learning lots already.  For example, today we made "the perfect compost pile."  At least I hope it will be.  Thanks to the Food Lion on Skibo Rd. we had about 9 banana boxes full of greens that had just been pulled from their produce selection in the store.  This was a great start. 

I learned that in NC we say straw and many of us think pine straw, but when you are composting you want straw that is the stem of hay producers like wheat.  So much for the 2 bags of pine straw I had gathered for our pile.  Luckily we have Southern Gin and Seed Co. about 2 blocks away from the school and they had plenty of straw bales available.

After lunch, Shauna Haslem (from the NC Coop. Ext.) shared with us some advice for fall and winter planting in NC.  This is great because that is the…

Beaker Bash Science Camp - Week 3 in Review

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It's hard to believe that 3 weeks of science camp have come and gone.  What a great time we've had!  This week we wrapped up our learning with some investigations of force and motion, UV light and properties that make things glow or change color, bubbles, and density.
Here are the highlights:
We used nature paper to create shadow art and made bracelets with beads that change color in the sun. We experimented with glow powder and atomic glow under a black light and compared the results to placing those materials in the sun light.We had a potato gun fight and learned about Newton's 3rd law of motion - "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."We simulated an oil spill in an "ocean" and students tested a variety of materials to be used for clean up.  Student suggestions were dish soap, baking soda, and the dehydrated gel powder that we had experimented with last week.  Then we tried out the oil absorbing polymer and sea sweep.  If you don&#…

Beaker Bash Science Camp – Week 2 in Review

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It took us 2 days to get around to making our shoebox guitars but it was a great 2 days!  We built up our background knowledge about sound instead of jumping into the build.  To do this we made all kinds of sounds using balloons, palm pipes, and glass jars.  We got so good at it, we were even able to create some great music videos.  Finally, we understood enough about the effect of air traveling and sound waves bouncing that we were able to make predictions about how to best set up our shoebox guitars and everyone got busy.  Of course they had to purchase their supplies from Mrs. Kaiser first so they all made a trip to Beaker Bank.  After making our guitars, we experimented with the variables a bit.  In the end, we realized that the same exact rubberband positioned differently on the shoebox could produce a different pitch.  I think the kids were a bit surprised at the science behind the music.
Of course we spent time in the garden again this week.  We’re not getting much rain, so i…

Beaker Bash Science Camp – Week 1 in Review

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The turnout for camp is small in number but we had a great 1st week.  In our absence, the poor student garden had been overrun with weeds.  The campers and my adult helpers took care of that with determination.  Each person claimed a section for themselves, pulled weeds, fed them to the pig to make compost, watered existing plants, transplanted cabbages, and planted some seeds.  We were rewarded with a few cherry tomatoes and when we visited the school/community garden we collected enough blueberries to make muffins from scratch!  On top of that, we found a robin’s nest with an egg.  We’re watching it and wondering if the egg is one that didn’t hatch in the spring or some late bloomer.  As if that isn’t enough life science, we hit the jackpot when we discovered that our young apple trees are getting along nicely.  A golden delicious apple was hanging gingerly from a branch.  We agreed the best thing to do for the tree was to pick the apple so that the tree could focus its’ energy on …

Day 3 Science in the Rockies

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All good things must come to an end… and so it is that the end of Science in the Rockies 2011 has arrived.  This morning was magnetic, electrifying, and a real shot in the arm! I mean all of that very literally.  We took the Total challenge and found the iron.  Steve made us all Money Smoothies rich in iron  (ok – so we didn’t all get to have one but we watched him do it). 
I learned that electric pickles are awesome; so I’ll be stopping by the grocery store before going to science camp this week.  All graffiti isn’t bad.  LED graffiti is cool. Having a game of tug-o-war at the family reunion will never be as entertaining as the potato gun fight at SITR11!!
If you don’t believe me, then you’ll just have to see it for yourself.  Given the opportunity, spending time at a Steve Spangler event will exceed your every expectation.  You walk away with knowledge, experience, and “the stuff” you need to “do science” with your students.  I’ve never seen a more professional, organized, capable grou…

Day 2 Science in the Rockies

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Just another day in the life of the average science teacher... You know what it looks like... start by getting some caffeine in your system.  If you're my roomie for the conference that is your pre-coffee coffee.  Then proceed directly to the pile of broken glass and walk across it in your bare feet!


Slip Steve a note (like a middle schooler) and pray he'll honor your request to bring your friend up on stage as one of his "special little helpers" for her birthday
Then get ready to play with some dry ice and make a bubble you can hold and bounce. Happy Birthday Angela!
As if we weren't having enough fun, then we got to make music and alter our voices using Sulfur Hexafluoride.
Like I said, just an average day in the life of a science teacher.  IF you are at Science in the Rockies with Steve Spangler that is.  Want to see more pics and some video?  Check out my gallery.

Day 1 Science in the Rockies

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Yesterday was our travel day and all went well. Three of my colleagues and I have arrived in the Denver, CO area for 3 days chock full of exciting science adventure.  Steve Spangler is every bit the master scientist that he appears to be on YouTube folks!  We already have filled a large teacher tote bag (you know the ones I mean) TWICE and it is absolutely overflowing with materials.  The evaluation for today asked which of the demonstrations we would be most likely to use and which one we would not.  I can honestly say there isn't a single thing he showed us today that cannot be applied in K-5 science.  The current challenge will be aligning it with the NC Essential Standards.  That is totally do-able though.
What do I really like about Steve?  Let me name a few things:
1. High energy level.
2. Half comedian/half scientist.
3. He makes real-world STEM career connections to the activities.  (This should really be the #1 on the list of things I like about Steve.)

Of course we did a…

The End and The Beginning

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The school year is over and summer is here.  So that means the rush, rush of cleaning a classroom so the custodians can get in and do their thing.  I never seem to be able to do that as well as I'd like or as quickly as they'd like.  Alas, today I finished up even if it did mean just getting some stuff out of their way without really taking time to sort through it and get organized the way I wanted to. Now it's on to the beginning of summer and planning for our 1st science camp.  I've had 3 students register so far.  Some of my colleagues have volunteered to help out and it's time to start making definitive plans for how we will spend our time.
On a side note, I had a visit from our district "Green Schools" intern along with some ladies from Ft. Bragg today.  One of them was a parent of a former student which was a delightful surprise!   Even better was the offer from our intern to come back by and drop off 2 watermelon plants for our student garden.  The…

Summer Camp Anyone?

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One of the first things I have planned for students is a summer camp.  This is a free opportunity for students entering 4th and 5th grade. I'll be running it from July 11th - 29th on Mon.-Thurs mornings.  I'm planning to connect science, math, and technology with STEM careers in a role-play environment. 

The students seem really excited and I've had a number of colleagues express interest  in helping out for a day or two, perhaps even a week at a time.

In other exciting news...
The '10-'11 school year has come to a close and we are now officially a school of math and natural sciences.  This calls for a face lift on our school website.  So here is the unveiling of Pauline Jones Elementary School of Math and Natural Science.  Stop by, take a look around, and don't miss the student blogs on the science classroom web page.

And so it begins...

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I began a journey long ago and every once in awhile it comes to a twist or turn.  Sometimes it is an uphill climb and sometimes it's like a sweet breeze on a summer day. One thing is for sure, I'm on this journey for life!


The latest twist came back in December of 2010 when our district curriculum specialist  passed on some information to my principal about the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award for Outstanding Math and Science Teachers.  If I had come across this myself, I don't think I would have given it a 2nd glance.  The application process was quite involved and I was already in the middle of working on my Profile of Professional Growth (PPG) to renew my National Board Certification.  With the prompting and support of my principal and the curriculum specialist, I decided to complete the application process.  After all, it was due well before my PPG so I should be able to complete it and have plenty of time left over.

And so it began... a slight bend in the road that wou…