Don’t think better, think different.

General Education, General Science, The Learner, Using Tech No Comments »

At the beginning of each school year, parents pour into my science classroom on curriculum night, eager to hear what their child will be learning in the coming months. About three years ago my message to parents changed. I have begun telling them that I still teach content in my science class, but it is no longer the focus of our curriculum. Content is now everywhere, and in today’s world it is not something that a student must rely on the teacher to provide. Skills, however, still need to be learned. And so I tell parents that my job is to teach the students how to find the content, how to use the content, and when to believe the content.

This does not mean that I do not teach them scientific concepts. Biology, chemistry, and physics are still active parts of my classroom curriculum. However, my focus is on them learning how to carry out a lab and connect their results to the world around them. I teach them how to brainstorm, design, and build various items that will achieve a meaningful purpose. I let them explore various opinions on topics and then explain where they stand on these issues.  I make them think about their every day actions with regard to the sustainability of our world, and I require them to consider the repercussions of their choices. I let them create with technology so that they are prepared to engage with a world that is changing by the moment. And I learn that new technology myself, because I believe that if I don’t attempt to keep up with my students, then they will leave me far behind.

And so for today’s post I thank Thomas Whitby for directing me to this TEDxNYED video of Will Richardson. Hearing his thoughts have validated my own. Despite our own personal ideas of what education should be, sometimes a little validation goes a long way.

Below is Will Richardson’s TEDxNYED speech. Check out his blog at weblogg-ed.

Let the Lights Go Out.

General Science, Using Tech No Comments »

There are several times a year when we are specifically asked to think of the world that we live in and the effect of our actions on our world. Earth Hour is one of those times.

Earth Hour is from 8:30 to 9:30 pm on March 26th. It began in Australia in 2007, when over 2 million individuals and businesses turned off their lights for one hour to “take a stand against climate change”.  Over the next few years it captured global attention, and last year over 126 countries took part.

As it occurs over the weekend, some schools have incorporated it into their curriculum by designating time on the Friday beforehand to turn off as much electricity as possible. They are also teaching lessons on environmental responsibility and sustainability leading up to the event. You could spend hours upon hours searching the web for ideas, and not even make a dent in what is available. Here are but a few resources to help you incorporate Earth Hour into your curriculum:

Earth Hour Main Page

Earth Hour Primary Education Pack 2011 from the Earth Hour website

Earth Hour Secondary Education Pack 2011 from the Earth Hour website

Earth Hour Canada Page

Earth Hour 2011 Official Video

Vote Earth Sand Painting (Even if you don’t use it in the class, watch it – pretty neat.)

The Story of Stuff This is a twenty minute video that highlights the waste in our society.  Go to the original vide0 “The Story of Stuff”, or to the videos on electronics or bottled water.  They are suitable for older grades.

Environmental Jeopardy – Various versions of this game are available, each with a different focus. This is actually a printable game – use it in Jeopardy style or simply as a trivia challenge. It is suitable for older students.

United States Environmental Protection Agency Lesson Plans

Check out the Smart Exchange for Smartboard Notebook Activities with an environmental theme.

It is important to have our students take part in global actions for preserving our environment, and thus I feel that teaching them about Earth Hour is the right way to go. However, we need to ensure that our lessons go beyond them thinking that environmental sustainability can be solved in one hour. For it is only through our day-to-day choices and related actions that any true change will take place.

Teaching about tragedy.

General Education No Comments »

On Friday morning, as my students walked into the building, the Japan earthquake and tsunami was all that was on their minds. We spent the next 30-40 minutes reading news stories and looking at the footage of the devastation across the Pacific Ocean.

As I went through the various events of my weekend, my thoughts were on the tragedy in Japan, and I have been watching CNN rather religiously. I am currently thinking about what sort of discussion to have during homeroom tomorrow morning, and how to best engage my students in meaningful conversations around this topic. There are so many people who have already compiled lists of teaching resources for this event, and so for today’s post I will defer to the expertise of others.

Larry Ferlazzo compiles wonderful lists of teaching resources. Here are the links to his pages on Japan:

The Best Sites For Learning About The Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

Useful Updates on Japan Earthquake – Part Two

Richard Byrne writes a blog about teaching with technology. Here is his post about teaching resources on Japan:

Interactive Maps and Images About Earthquake in Japan

Jerry Blumengarten maintains an internet catalogue for students, teachers, administrators and parents. His Japan information can be found on his Earth Science page.

For up to date reports and a resource of videos, look to the CNN website. Watching on an iPad? Then be sure to install the CNN app which allows you to watch the videos without flash.

I am a full believer of teaching both my students and my children of how the world works, in an age appropriate manner. If they ask a question, I answer. These are important moments in the education of our students. Let’s use them well.

Plant a SEED, watch it grow.

General Science, Grade 8 Science, Using Tech No Comments »

Have you heard about SEED?

SEED stands for ‘Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development’. It is a “non-profit education program that focuses on underserved communities”, in its own words.  The overall goal is to enable educators in all parts of the world to ignite a passion in students for the learning of science. It encourages an understanding of various global issues, and it strives to have students make these issues a focus in their lives.

The online Laboratory is what I like to explore, and more importantly, what I like my students to explore.  Some of the labs are activities for you to carry out with your own students, while others are online explorations that are perfect for at home trials or presentation on an interactive whiteboard.

I have used the Buoyancy Explorer with my students. This online exploration allows the user to test various solids to see how they will float in various fluids. On the same page there are links to Archimedes principle and other teaching facts related to buoyancy. The students have also enjoyed using the Viscosity Explorer. Again, many links are provided for other activities and labs that are related to the topic.

There are many teaching ideas and lessons, with the topic labels being air and space, earth science, electricity and magnetism, properties of liquids, and energy. There are many worthwhile activities to explore in each of these areas.

But don’t stop there. Below the Laboratory links are a series of Math links as well. Click on Math and it opens into the various curriculum strands, each highlighting a series of activities and puzzles to support learning in that area.

And yet one more area in the Science section of the SEED website is the Articles section. These appear to be small fact based articles in various areas of the science curriculum.

These are but a few sections of the SEED website. I was content to stop there, but you may want to explore more.

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