Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Seven Things You Don't Need to Know About Me

N2Teaching tagged me for the meme Seven Things You Don't Need to Know About Me. I suspect I have 70 times 7 things you don't need to know about me. Here are 7 random things, if you would like more just ask.

1. I have a very short attention span. I don't know if it is adult ADD, but I don't stay with things too long.

2. My lesson plans are subject to change minute by minute, class by class. I am always changing how I present things. It is also not unusual for me to change when I teach subjects. If you wonder why, see above.

3. I love all things Disney. I try to go to Disney World as often as possible. (Usually about once every year or two.)

4. I don't really hate my wife's dog. You would never know this if you heard me talk to him. I just figure that if I act like I don't like him I won't be asked to take him to the bathroom in the cold.

5. I have an incredible amount of trivial knowledge. No one in my family will play Trivial Pursuit with me because I always win. I think it is funny because I can say about anything random I want and people actually believe me because they think I know what I am talking about.

6. I love art, music, video games, movies, and books.My attention rotates between them randomly for differing periods of time. I may listen to one style of music for six months and then switch to something completely different. I do the same with everything I have an interest in. See number 1.

7. My favorite period in American History is the late colonial period through the American Revolution. The last few years have been awesome with the attention being spent on our founding fathers. I spent a week at the teacher's institute at Colonial Williamsburg a few years ago and had a blast. I highly recommend this program to any teacher, not just history teachers.

8. I seem to have an ingrained dislike for following rules.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Creating an Erosion Model

The model I created for class this year was born of simple desperation. Last year when we ordered new supplies to replenish our STC kits, I forgot to order replacements for this kit. The erosion lessons have been inspired by the STC Land and Water Kit
If I would have had the materials the students would have created their own erosion models, but I didn't so they didn't.

The recipe for creating the soil is as follows:
1 part clay
2 parts gravel
2 parts humus
6 parts sand

You can use these ratios to help come up with a reasonably good soil for testing. You may want to experiment with it to see if it is the right mixture for your needs. I placed the mixture in a large critter cage that I had left over from various animals. Make sure your container is water proof before you start. Remember, when you add water to this mixture, it is going to become incredibly heavy. Think about where you put it before you add water, you may not be able to move it later. Also, make sure that the stand you put it on can handle the weight.

Now there are some things for you to consider. If you only teach one science class, you are ready to go, if you teach two or more classes you may want to think about how you will proceed.

Things to consider if you have more than one science class:
1. Is it absolutely necessary to show the experiment live?
2. Do you have access to a camera and tv/projector that is large enough to be used to view the experiment?
3. Do you know how to record video for playback?

I think there are only two options for doing this experiment with multiple classes: make a model for each class or record the experiment for playback. I have found from past experience the model will be too wet to do back to back experiments. The results for the second (third, etc...) experiment will not be as good as the first.

I used a webcam to stream the experiment using Ustream. I then recorded it using Ustream and put it on my class blog. This allowed me to revisit the assignment almost four weeks later when we actually got to the lesson.

Here is the Scientific Method document my students followed for our first experiment on erosion:

1) Identify the Problem- What will happen to the soil when water runs over it?
2) Background Knowledge- The students identify 3-5 things they know about water and erosion.
3.) Hypothesis- The students write what they think will happen.
4.) Research- We don't usually research our experiments, but we do talk about using research for the science fair projects they will do next year. I leave this here as a place holder.
5.) Experiment- I break this up into two subsections
A. Materials- soil, tank, bucket, water, scraper to level soil, coffee filter
B. Method- This is where I put the step by step instructions.
1. Prepare the soil by pushing it until it covers about 3/4's of the tank bottom. Leave room
for the water to have a place to run to.
2. Pour water onto soil
3. Collect a sample of the runoff.
4. Filter the runoff water and examine what is left in the filter.
6.) Conclusion
1. Identify if your hypothesis is correct.
2. Come up with two extensions to experiment.

An extension you can do with this experiment is to map out the path the water took. You can have your students hand draw the path or you can take a picture and allow the students to open it with paint and they can "paint" the path.

If you have any extensions or ideas, please leave them in the comments below and I will add them (and give you credit).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Experiences and Time

Here are some of my students looking at our erosion model. They are discussing what they see. Here is the link to the post they are working on.

This is my educational philosophy: Students need new experiences to learn from, and they need time to explore the experiences.

What is your philosphy?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Reading for Content

Here is an example of one way we read in class. We also listen to pre-recorded audio, read silently, or I read as they follow along. We always read the material twice when we are having reading class, but almost never when we are in science.

Why do I expect my students to learn content from reading material once when I don't expect them to learn reading content unless we read it multiple times?

Should we be giving our students more opportunities to read the content in content area classes, or am I crazy?