So what was DENsi for me? 1400 miles, 150 educators, 10 days, revisiting old friends making new ones, singing the “Sound of Music” soundtrack at the Von Trapp Family Lodge, 3 cones of Ben & Jerry, Shelburne Museum, a Lake Monster baseball game, grant-writing sessions, 3-hour cruise on Lake Champlain, visit to Urgent Care, 14 unconferences attended, 9 professional sessions, 4 keynotes, a costume party, the Harlem Shake, the DENmazing Race, 2 overnight airport stays, and the most amazing, mind-blowing professional development that I have ever experienced.
In a nutshell- I spent the last 10 days with some of the greatest educational minds in North America. We collaborated and decided it’s not about what we teach- it’s about how we deliver and how they (the students) respond. Real-world connections=real-world application!
I want to teach in an environment where the only politics we hear about are taught in our social studies classes. They surely do not need to be driving our classrooms. I’ve been on the mountain-top and would rather just stay up there if everyone is okay with that. #missingdensi2013 As I unpack the memories and learning in my mind- I will share as I teach it!
It has been made extremely clear to me that we must WALK our TALK when it comes to education. So far at the Discovery Education Summer Institute- I have observed many educators living up to what they believe in. I have also noticed that passion is abundant here and there are NO political lines drawn in the sand. We are here because we have our eye on the prize- and that prize is making a difference in the lives of our students. We heard today that the jobs that our students will have in 10 years have not been invented yet. What a huge responsibility that has put on all of our shoulders. If we are not walking our talk and working towards that end- our students will fail miserably. I have been convicted and inspired in Vermont. I am determined to continue walking my talk. It is so important for all of us to bring our beliefs to life…of moving beyond words to practice what you preach. More to come in Vermont!
What does Discovery Streaming, Science Techbook, 35 Science Stations, 24 preserved frogs, 90 owl pellets, 12 educators, and a Skype Visit with Yellowstone have in common? CONTROLLED CHAOS! It took 12 hours to plan and make stations, 4 hours to set-up and 5 hours to deliver. Every group had a map, a journal, and a positive attitude. They learned about electricity, magnetism, space, weather, matter, animals, landforms, force, rocks, and ecosystems. Each station also contained a laptop/iPad with a DE video locked and loaded. Students were able to front-load with DE information, make predictions, work collaborative on a hands-on science activity, debrief, and then journal. I was pretty amazed that there were no fusses, quarrels, mishaps, accidents, or explosions. I dare to say that I had one of the best days EVER. Who else can have that much fun at work? Thanks DE for complimenting our science studies in Catawba County. You put the CONTROL in my CHAOS!!
Well today was a first. Since both of my schools are being vetted as true STEM schools, I am making sure that all 1000 students have an opportunity to experience a hands-on lab each week. Today was my first experience with our Pre-K students. I set up the lab with microscopes, rocks and minerals, animal tracks and adaptations, life cycle games, and a metamorphic rock-making station. I expected that they would visit the stations, draw a few pictures, and laugh a lot. Oh my! They were the most engaged, talkative, creative, inquisitive, hypothesizing kids I have ever had in my labs. They asked questions, made predictions,and drew amazing diagrams. They smiled, laughed, and clapped when they saw videos on Discovery Streaming. They were quiet and attentive when I blew up some rocks with a simple chemical reaction and they didn’t ask for a break, nap, or snack. These seventeen 3 and 4 year olds proved that you are never too young to be a scientist.
Next week we are going to observe and tear apart Owl Pellets. I, for one, can’t wait!
Today 90 sixth graders traveled over 6000 miles without ever leaving their classroom. Using Edmodo and Twitter, I was able to find many willing classrooms to SKYPE with them on World Read Aloud Day.
The students’ practiced reading several selections from their Reader’s Notebooks and were able to share them with students from Newton, Massachussetts; Jemison, Michigan; Coral Gables, Florida; Winston-Salem, NC; Ottawa, Canada; and Fremont, California. They also kept their Twitter feed scrolling on the television screen and received shout-outs from Discovery Education, Yung Soo from Bejing International School, and Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”-just to name a few. They plotted their travels on Google Maps and kept track of temperatures in each city. A great day of reading, networking, and new friendships was had by all. It was truly a “Global Day of Learning”
Today I was mesmerized by 40 students who came to science academy with a determination to learn everything they could in one hour. They collaborated, discussed, debated, experimented, tested, designed, and LEARNED! I watched 7 year olds go toe-to-toe with 12 year olds and prove why they were right in their predictions. I am so thankful that I teach in schools that allow me to hold afterschool science academies for students. We were STEM before STEM was cool!
A Captive Audience: Today John Wendel, a WCNC Meteorologist, came to speak to our 2nd graders about weather. I was able to do a little front-loading with them to get them excited about the event. Every time John would say something like “Light travels at 186,000 miles per second or lightning is only about 1/2 inch wide- the students would ooh and ahh. Right as he finished up with them- I whispered in his ear if he would entertain 90 Kinders for about 15 minutes…he immediately said yes! When the Kinders sat down, he said “It sure is raining outside” and the kids oohed and ahhed! I had to giggle- We have a captive audience at our fingertips every day. They listen to everything we say. This upcoming generation has a lot going for it and I, for one, am glad to be their teacher.
In the next 7 days I will teach second graders about microscopes, create fraction clotheslines with 3rd and 4th graders, facilitate a MATTER science lab with 3rd grade, lead a science academy with over 100 students, plan with teachers, attend a math training at DPI, ride with over 100 students and parents to Raleigh for a 4th grade field trip, quilt with fourth graders, skype for Dr. Seuss day with sixth graders from 4 states and 2 countries, and play in math stations with Kindergartners…….I LOVE MY JOB!
Allowing students the opportunity to DO math first and THEN teach it, is probably one of the most powerful “ah-ha’s” there is in teaching. For the past 3 weeks our 3rd-5th graders have been installing fractional clotheslines in their classrooms and sorting out their laundry of fractions onto the line. They have discovered that only proper fractions live in the neighborhood of 0 to 1. They also have acquired the skills of equivalent fractions without their teachers ever having to teach it first. Given the opportunity, our students can learn more about math through inquiry! Teachers can provide the opportunities and students will construct their own learning. To re-create in your classroom, just attach a clothesline in your room. Write the numbers 0-3 onto index cards and attach to the clothesline with clothespins or paperclips. Give each student a fraction to write on their own index card and then let the magic begin. Ask them to hang their fraction laundry on the line with a clothespin. Listen in to their discussions…let them make mistakes and correct each other’s work.
Now for the technology connection….have students re-create their classroom clotheslines on Glogster.Edu. They can upload photos, videos, interviews, and more! Several of my classrooms created their Glogsters and then shared on skyped with their new buddies in Thailand.
In one week I was able to take 700 students through the STARLAB portable planetarium at Maiden and Claremont Elementary. Watching elementary students ooh and ahh over science is one of the many reasons that I teach. Today a first grader told me that this was quite possibly the most wonderful day in his life. Low pay! Long hours! Politics! Doesn’t matter- I teach! What is your SuperPower?