Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Life-Changing Opportunity

Hello! It's been awhile since I've posted, but I will be posting much more often because I have some big news! I have accepted a job offer to teach English as an Auxiliare de Conversacion with the Spanish public school system (Ministerio de Educacion) in Madrid, Spain! My school is in the small rural town of Orusco de Tajuna (population 1200), 50 km away from Madrid. I was a little discouraged when I saw the hour and a half bus route to get there. But, I believe there is a reason I have been placed at this school, and it's going to be a fantastic experience.

I look forward to a new perspective on public education and how it is implemented in different countries! Will it be overly political? Is education a priority in Spanish families? Are teachers respected by the students, or do the students rule the classroom?

I will be polishing my Spanish skills and hope to become fluent. New and exciting opportunities may present themselves because of this experience, and I'm ready! Follow along my journey in a Spanish classroom, collaborating with Spanish teachers, and meeting wonderful new students, their families, and teachers!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Apocalypse Project Brochure Products

Here are some pictures of the brochure products the kids made from the Apocalypse Space Project!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Projects in the Making

I have some project ideas to finish off the year that I am so PUMPED about! I got one idea from www.sciencebuddies.org (if you have not visited this site, as well as shared it with your students, you guys are missing out!!!!). I am going to have the kids build CATAPULTS!!!!! I'm so excited!  I will provide straws, spoons, little cups, skewers, paper, popsicle sticks, glue, and tape for the kids to use to build. Unfortunately, this inspiration came a little tardy because it needs to be started next week! So for next year, I may look to see if Lowe's or Home Depot will donate some wood, hammers, nails, etc. so the students can build large scale catapults. For this year, they will only use what I can provide cheaply and quickly! I think they will have so much fun!

I got another STEM project idea from the Baylor Med Center kids STEM workshop. This will be a short mini project, maybe 4 days. I did it with my tutoring group and they loved it! They will be challenged to create an annular ring aircraft. Just in case you don't know what it is (I didn't know beforehand either!), here is a picture.

They will create them out of paper, skewers, straws, string, etc. I'm so excited! Official project posts to come!

Project: Aborted #2

Another project I had to abort was "Amazing Animals: Adaptations." We never even started it because we ran out of time. Next year I hope to get to this one!

Driving Question:
How does an animal's environment affect its features, behaviors, and interactions with living and non-living things?

Project Requirements:
-Create a new animal whose physical features are determined by its environment.
-The animal must have a name.
-Create a poster  that describes the animal.
-Compare new animal to animals with similar features.
-Explain why the new animal has each feature.
-Think of possible inherited traits the animal may have.
-Explain the learned behaviors your new animal has.

I was going to have students pick the ecosystem out of a hat. They would also pick cards from a hat if their animal was nocturnal, insect, reptile, mammal, or fish, etc. This would provide variability amongst the groups. I would show the "Planet Earth" series in the background while the groups were working as well (just to give some inspiration!).

My sugar glider, Fleur, gave me inspiration for this project! She is a nocturnal marsupial from Australia! (Yes, that is an opposable thumb! So cool!)

If interested in project plan, leave me your email in a comment so I can share it with you!

Project: Aborted

Well I had two projects that I really wanted to do with my kiddos, however, time always plays the best antagonist! The 5th 6 Weeks was all about life science (which is always the kids favorite!!!!!).

The first Project I started, but was not able to complete. I dubbed it "Botany" for lack of a better title.

Driving Question:
Why are plants a necessary part of an ecosystem?

Project Requirements:
  • Create a diagram of the Life Cycle
  • Create a diagram of the Carbon Dioxide Cycle
  • Plant, Grow, and tend a vegetable plant

The students learned and tested the water retention for different kinds of soil. Then we planted our radish seeds! While waiting for the sprouts, the students created a diagram of the Plant Life Cycle. For the Carbon Dioxide Cycle, I had the kids create a comic explaining to lower grade the Carbon Dioxide Cycle. These came out great! I showed them the "Carbon Cycle" video on www.studyjams.com and also played the "Photosynthesis" Karaoke song provided on Study Jams. The kids loved it!

It blows my mind how many students have no background knowledge of gardening! But, I am so glad this project provides them the experience to build it! The kids enjoyed getting down and dirty in the soil, and also tending to their plant. I often see students talking and taking care of their plants, like a pet! It is too funny. This project will just last until the end of the year! I did not present the project in the typical fashion I normally do with a Hook, Challenge Brief, and Rubric breakdown. We just did each activity separately. Next time, it will be done in the proper way! Here is a picture of the seedlings (the seed coat is coming off!!!).

Next year I hope to do this project in early February, so the kids will be able to harvest the radishes. I was also planning on doing carrots with the kiddos, but did not have time. Next year!

The Apocalypse: Earth and Space Science

Teaching students about Space is tons of fun, however, it is difficult for many to grasp the abstract concepts because they cannot manipulate, see, or touch the planets, asteroids, etc.While brainstorming for this project, a colleague of mine came up with a phenomenal idea. Kids (well I think the general public included) are fascinated by apocalyptic events (of course including Zombies!). She came up with the idea that if some apocalyptic events happen to the Earth, its physical features and living creatures would alter. So, if these events happened, how could our school district and the general public be ready to thrive after such changes? The students were challenged to create a brochure that informs the public about the changes and predict what may happen as a result of the changes. I told the students the following apocalyptic changes happened to the Earth:

  1. The Earth's rotation slowed to cause 36 hour days.
  2. The Earth was pushed back a few light years.
  3. The Earth takes 400 days to make one revolution around the sun.
Here are the Driving Question and Project Requirements:

Driving Question:
How do Earth's characteristics affect our daily lives?

Create a brochure that includes:
  • List that identifies the characteristics of the Earth, Sun, and Moon
  • Create a Double-Bubble or Venn Diagram comparing current characteristics of the Earth and Moon to the Earth after the “change”
  • Survival Checklist
  • Analyze and critique the Magic Treehouse Book "Midnight on the Moon" in an essay

The students needed to have sound knowledge about the Earth's current features before they could compare and predict the apocalyptic changes. I grouped students in pairs to ensure engagement of all students. During the "work" phase, one of the DIY's assigned was to write an essay about the Water Cycle. Most students met or exceeded my expectations! I think after 4 years of learning about the water cycle, the are starting to grasp it!

Another activity I assigned the kids was to create a model of the Earth, Moon, and Sun and the relationship of their movement, but also had to provide the limitations of their model. The kids worked with their table mates (groups of 5) and had to present the model and its limitations to the class. Here are some pics!

Some of the student products met my expectations, but many did not. Still many of them were unsure about vocabulary and features of the Earth, which hindered their ability to compare and predict. For next year, I may do more hands on labs for the students to help the acquisition of the concepts. I did a lab on the moon phases (I put a styrofoam ball on a stick, used a lamp in a dark room as the Sun, and had the kids turn counterclockwise to see the phases of the moon).  Unfortunately we were not able to get enough copies of the Midnight on the Moon novel either, so it had to be nixed from the project :(. 

I may try to fine tune the project for next year, add some more activities to the research/work phase, or maybe just change it altogether. Many students did not meet my expectation on the assessment. 

If you are interested in the project, leave your email in a comment and I will send the project plan and rubric to you!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Forces and Motion: K'Nex Cars Project

Thanks to the wonderful site www.donorschoose.com, I was able to do this project! I requested a Forces, Energy, and Motion K'NEX set to use with my project. Visit my Donor's Choose Page to check it out! This is another project that really motivated ALL of my students! I even had fun listening to their very intelligent conversations during this project! I wish I would have recorded the discussions, you would hardly believe 5th graders could sound like professional engineers talking about forces and motion! Because of a lack of materials (I could only get one Kit funded), there were VERY large groups of 6. I foresaw LOTS of arguments, so I created a "Peace Officer" for each classroom. I let the kids vote on who would be the best candidate. If arguments could not be solved in the group, a peace officer will be asked to mediate the situation and facilitate a meeting to solve the situation. I gave the peace officers a workshop on how to remain objective, how to calm students down, and how to help group members communicate with one another (warm/cool feedback). If you are interested in the Peace Officer protocol and warm/cool feedback Stems, leave me your gmail address and I will share the documents with you.

Here are the Project Requirements and Driving Question:

Driving Question:
How do forces affect our everyday lives?

Project Requirements:
  • design a K'Nex car that travels the farthest distance without a motor
  • create a design of your car
  • include a written explanation of what forces are acting upon your car, what makes it travel the farthest?
The students researched questions I provided them. But this time, I created a page that had all research questions on it, and example STAAR questions to show how the information will be given on the STAAR test. Each student was responsible to know every single question. It was similar to a "jigsaw" where the students are experts on their questions and they teach the other students at their tables. I felt the students had a better grasp on the research questions and the information that all students needed to know for the test. 

After the research portion, I had the students build one of the cars from the K'NEX booklet. The purpose of this was not to give them an idea of how to create the design of their car, but to learn the function of each piece so they could create their own design. Here are some pictures.

Once they built these cars, the students started to discuss the design of their car. They needed to answer questions such as, "What size tires? Why?" or "Long or Short Car? Why?" The students were using the science vocabulary words they learned during their research like friction, inertia, gravity, mass, position, etc. They are so intelligent and the conversation came naturally for the students.

Students were required to use the Engineering Design Process to create the best design. They tested and retested. The students learned that to find the best design, you have to try several different designs and keep improving. Not using a motor was very challenging to the students. Some used rubberbands, others used a ramp, and while a few thought of creating a sail and using a fan. I did not let them look at the other designs in the K'NEX booklet because I didn't want their imagination and creativity to be hindered. They definitely performed to and above expectation! The boys especially loved this project. Many said, "This is the BEST project EVER!" Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside!

90% of students passed the assessment, several students earned a 100! This to me proves student interest and what they have learned!