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Monday, March 26, 2012

6th grade Science Loesson #SciencePun #studentcentered #scichat #science #soil

LoESS administering/delivering a curriculum TO kids is MORE....especially when it's a lesson on SOIL. haha #sciencepun

Putting the kids in the driver's seat. WINNING!

After #edcampOmaha I'm stoked. Let's get this day going. Let the kids 'dig in' and have fun while learning.

Today's lesson in my 6th grade classroom:
Objective: What is soil anyway? What makes up soil?
Overarching Objective: Describe the components of soil and other factors that influence soil texture, fertility, and resistance to erosion (e.g., plant roots and debris, bacteria, fungi, worms, rodents)

Traditional teacher-centered 'teacher delivery' education format: Open your books to page bluh-blah. Fill out the answers to the questions worksheet. Read for the answers. Check the worksheet (tchr reads answers). Study tonight. Quiz tomorrow. Something like that, anyway.

Student-centered, 'student-active' education format as it unfolded today...
1. Invited students to come to the board and write their definitions of soil if they wanted to. Just 'what's in your brain' about it. Read over. Let's find out!


2. Kids set up their own lab sheet with the following: PRE-definition of soil, 9 boxes for drawing 'things' they see or observe in the soil, and POST-definition for soil. (Oops, didn't take a picture of this. Document, document, Laura!)

3. Kids get Magiscopes, tweezers, notecards. Share proper use of a  MAGISCOPE, a most wonderful microscope to have in the active classroom.  Let kids look at their own fingernails with it (ewww!), at graphite on paper, etc., to practice focusing.

4. Go outside. Kids collect soil from nature area near our school -- in baggies. Look at birds, of course! (We observed 2 robins flying into Bradford Pear trees; using my binoculars kids found 2 nests in our time outside today.) #birding

5. Back inside, kids get busy placing our very wet soil onto notecards and then placing the notecards under the magiscopes, FINDING THE ANSWER TO TODAY'S QUESTION, "What is soil made of anyway?" THEIR learning and discovery; not mine.







Cool stuff that happened: They found several worms of different sizes and 2 unidentified grub-like organisms. You'd think they'd just found $100!  All kids gathered around these scopes when announcements were made. This inspired one student to look up earthworm info online to settle debate on how many hearts worms have. The kids were excited & relaxed the entire lesson--a look of delight that they got to DO something and find out stuff that wasn't already 'decided' for them. The learning was their own. In addition to insects and worms, they found roots, other plant parts, water, and small rocks/pebbles.  I walked around supporting them and joining in their delight and discovery. It was a fantastic day all around.

Tomorrow we will look at DRY soil under the Magiscopes to discover the particle sizes and names (kids will use text or online resources to identify names). The kids will then determine what TYPE of soil we have here in Clay County, MO using these hands-on FUN and MESSY soil testsThey'll never view soil in the same way again. :-)




Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#EdcampOmaha: Can't Wait!

Stoked to attend my first edcamp this coming weekend in Omaha and then my 2nd one here in my hometown, #EdCampKC, on Nov. 10. #EdcampOmaha is March 24 and I'll be making the 3 hour drive up and back to attend because I WANT TO. I know I won't be sittin' and gittin' and screaming on the inside. I'll be actively participating and asking about anything that will help me become a better teacher/coach/expert. Who knows what I need better than ME?! I can leave a room/topic if it isn't something I need and go to another room of my choice. Thanks to my cousin Anne for letting me stay with her that weekend.

The big movement in education is for teachers to put the learning and inquiry in the hands of the students, rather than their own; to give students ownership in their own learning through real-world problems and projects they must solve and create. The teacher is the coach/expert on the sidelines, focused on setting up opportunities for kids and helping kids find their strengths. Speaking of Rigor and Relevance, that would mean Quadrant D. EDCAMPS do just that for teachers! They put the learning and inquiry in the hands of the teachers. Teachers ARE professionals with Edcamp-style PD.

This video shows the power and promise that EdCamps and the EdCamp philosophy hold for our teachers and kids.

Ed Camp from True Life Media on Vimeo.


Ed Camp from True Life Media on Vimeo.


Check out the EdCamp Foundation homepage for the latest news and the EdCamp Wiki page with links to all upcoming and previous EdCamps!

Finally, here is the EdCampKC wiki and the EdCampKC registration page  EdCampKC is Nov. 10 at Lee's Summit North High School. I will be there with bells on!



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Twitter PLN: The More the Merrier!



AWESOME blogpost by Principal Joe Mazza on getting educators and parents into Twitter, and the power of Twitter for educator professional growth. (@joe_mazza) I like the idea of Twitter 101 and will follow-up with Joe!


GREAT video showing the power of Teachers Using Twitter! Watch it now.
(It's included in Joe's blogpost.) I like it and will recommend it to others.






I started using Twitter late November 2011. I have learned SO much via Twitter posts and it has honestly re-energized me after 17 years of teaching. I still forget to put the hashtags on my posts. LOL  I would have learned the basics faster if I'd had people around to ask. 


My dream is that my fellow teachers in my building and district will use Twitter and we can experience a very close and personal PLN. I've already looked into hashtags we can use at building level. 


I am looking for more ideas on how to work it into building and district culture. I welcome any tips on other buildings and districts that have DONE this already.


QUESTION: Is there a hashtag for beginning teacher-Twitterers? #twittertchrs perhaps?!

Einstein Understood....

I read this tonight and wanted to share it. 



"One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community." ~Albert Einstein






Does our testing culture and teaching to the test promote pleasure and wonder in learning and life?

Let's get kids DOING the thinking and learning in school so they have the chance to enjoy the work, the results, and the impact. PBL.

Let's make the school walls transparent so the kids see out into and then interact in the community and vice versa.

Now, how to change school cultures to achieve this? That's the big task!

I see TWITTER for teachers playing a big role in this.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Could most school kids ID these leaves? (March 14/365)

This is my #365Project #photography selection for today! I picked these up in the backyard and I again wondered why our science curriculum, to my knowledge, never says in any of the years, that kids will explore and learn the basic tree, bird, mammal, insect (etc) species in their area. Kids leave 13 years of schooling and cannot identify this tree or common birds around the school. Will the Common Core Science standards address this real-life nature knowledge?

I'm into birds and I share my knowledge and obsession/passion. Just ask around. :) I see that when people learn just a couple of birds by sight or song, it usually opens doors for them to observe, WONDER, and seek out more knowledge.

My 6th graders will be using cameras to explore trees and birds and more this spring and we'll put their working knowledge to the ID test at our Missouri Dept of Conservation grant field trip to Hartell Lakes Conservation Area, in which the kids fish (learn basic fish and fishing techniques), explore a pond for macroinvertebrates and more, and hike with binoculars to observe/id trees, mammals, and birds (by sight and song)!

365 Project

St. Patrick's Day Brick (March 12/365)Sunset silhouette (March 13/365)

365 Project, a set on Flickr.
Thanks again to Twitter, my daily Personal Learning Network, I'm excited to be trying yet another 'new' thing. Thank you to feedback and encouragement from @rmbyrne and @k_shelton. While browsing my EdTweeps posts I'd see the occasional picture and hashtage #365project. Got curious. Got feedback and jumped in.

I am adding all my future (and past, when I have time) pictures to my pro Flickr account. I can tag every picture and use MY OWN picture for both education and professional uses. No copyright worries.
I'll learn photography along the way, which is already a huge interest of mine! I think I may just meet some new and interesting people along the way, too.

Thanks to Twitter and all the amazing educators I follow for my new 'focus,' if you will. :)

Flickr Photostream

Friday, March 9, 2012

Science Inside and Outside 'the Box': Elementary & Middle School Science Collaboration on Eastern Bluebird nestsboxes!

The setup: You must know this about me. I'm into birds and nature as much as I am into kids and learning. Here is the story of how I got to merge these two worlds. Last summer I did early morning bird surveys at Staley HS and Bell Prairie Elementary while my daughter was at cheer practice, last summer, 2011. No one else was around at 6:30 am. except me and the birds....and peace, quiet, and birdsongs. LIKE!  I reported my data on ebird.org, of course. Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Blue Grosbeaks, Lark Sparrows, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Eastern Bluebirds were some highlight birds. I observed many species on the school grounds and LOTS of Eastern Bluebirds. Mary Nemecek checked out the area and noticed the same thing. 


Fast Forward to Feb 2012:  Here's the 2-school Science project I've been working on thanks to my friends Mary Nemecek (birder and photographer), Linda Williams (Master Naturalist), and Julie Goldsberry (3rd grade teacher at Bell Prairie). Mary Nemecek started this whole 'story' with her idea of placing Eastern Bluebird (EABL) nestboxes at Staley/Bell Prairie. She shared that with me and I thought it was a magnificent idea! Perfect habitat for Eastern Bluebirds exists around Staley HS and Bell Prairie Elementary, here in the North Kansas City School District. In mid-February, I contacted NKC Schools personnel and SHS & Bell Prairie principals as well as Julie Goldsberry. District personnel responded right away; meeting with us and okaying the plan for nestboxes on the property. Julie worked us into her busy 3rd grade school schedule the very next week. Mary contacted Linda who agreed to volunteer her time and expertise. As a result, we were able to get busy teaching the kids about EABL's and helping them build the nestboxes in no time! As of Feb. 29th, here are 6 Eastern Bluebird nestboxes up around Staley and Bell Prairie. Many thanks to Linda and Mary for making the nestbox kits by hand prior to meeting with the kids. My 6th graders will help the 3rd graders observe and monitor the boxes in April and May, recording data and learning about EABL's and nature along the way! Updates and more pictures to come in the future as this story unfolds.


(Photo by Mary Nemecek)


Video of project so far:
Bluebird Nestboxes Project--Bell Prairie Elementary & New Mark Middle School!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."--Maya Angelou

Great convos on #edchat this evening. Time to blog. 


A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.--Maya Angelou (quoted in Mind Your Own Bizniche by Squire)


We want our students to learn and grow and be lifelong learners. To do that, we need to get them THINKING and DOING--and SINGING their SONGS; students in charge of their own learning with coaches (teachers) guiding them.


Problem is: Schools are set up so that the students are not in charge of their own learning--teachers are.


We want our teachers to learn and grow and be lifelong learners. To do that, we need to get them THINKING and DOING--and SINGING their SONGS; teachers in charge of their own learning with coaches (teacher coaches; principals) guiding them.


Problem is: Schools are set up so that teachers are not in charge of their own learning--admin and district leaders are.


Time to realign. Our country is based on DEMOCRACY, where people are in charge of themselves and their country. Cheers to the same freedoms and joys in our classrooms, for both students and teachers.