You go, Carly Rae Jepsen.
You go, Carly Rae Jepsen.
Admit it…you’ve always wondered about the physics of “My Little Pony.”
It’s cool. I have too.
That’s why I’m sharing this video.
But seriously…how cool is that? The student presents a situation, provides assumptions and calculations, and then provides how the situation could be fixed. Granted, a lot of the solutions are humorous, but students should be able to laugh in our classrooms. School is a part of life, so let’s have students bring their lives into school.
I found this inspiring video the other day while perusing through all of my favorites on the Twitter machine and it got me thinking.
Twitter is a great resource for teachers. I’ve lurked on #edchat #scichat and #ntchat (education chat, science education chat, and new teacher chat, respectively). I follow other teachers for support, inspiration, and great teaching ideas. A while ago, one of the science teachers tweeted this video that included one of his tweets with the hashtag #IAmScience.
Everyone has their story when it comes to science. I’ve posted a similar blog before about falling in love with science but it’s just such a great story to tell. So here’s mine – in 140 characters or less.
Wanted to be a vet – didn’t keep the As. Fell in love with teaching science and never looked back #scied
“Mr. Whitson taught sixth-grade science. On the first day of class, he gave us a lecture about a creature called the cattywampus, an ill-adapted nocturnal animal that was wiped out during the Ice Age. He passed around a skull as he talked. We all took notes and later had a quiz.
When he returned my paper, I was shocked. There was a big red X through each of my answers. I had failed. There had to be some mistake! I had written down exactly what Mr. Whitson said. Then I realized that everyone in the class had failed. What had happened?
Very simple, Mr. Whitson explained. He had made up all the stuff about the cattywampus. There had never been any such animal. The information in our notes was, therefore, incorrect. Did we expect credit for incorrect answers?
Needless to say, we were outraged. What kind of test was this? And what kind of teacher?
We should have figured it out, Mr. Whitson said. After all, at the every moment he was passing around the cattywampus skull (in truth, a cat’s), hadn’t he been telling us that no trace of the animal remained? He had described its amazing night vision, the color of its fur and any number of other facts he couldn’t have known. He had given the animal a ridiculous name, and we still hadn’t been suspicious. The zeroes on our papers would be recorded in his grade book, he said. And they were.
Mr. Whitson said he hoped we would learn something from this experience. Teachers and textbooks are not infallable. In fact, no one is. He told us not to let our minds go to sleep, and to speak up if we ever thought he or the textbook was wrong.
Every class was an adventure with Mr. Whitson. I can still remember some science periods almost from beginning to end. On day he told us that his Volkswagon was a living organism. It took us two full days to put together a refutation he would accept. He didn’t let us off the hook until we had proved not only that we knew what an organism was but also that we had the fortitude to stand up for the truth.
We carried our brand-new skepticism into all our classes. This caused problems for the other teachers, who weren’t used to being challenged. Our history teacher would be lecturing about something, and then there would be clearings of the throat and someone would say ‘cattywampus.’
If I’m ever asked to propose a solution to the problems in our schools, it will be Mr. Whitson. I haven’t made any great scientific discoveries, but Mr. Whitson’s class gave me and my classmates something just as important: the courage to look people in the eye and tell them they are wrong. He also showed us that you can fun doing it.
Not everyone sees the value in this. I once told an elementary school teacher about Mr. Whitson. The teacher was appalled. “He shouldn’t have tricked you like that,” he said. I looked that teacher right in the eye and told him that he was wrong.”
*Miss S says: Well, that’s one way to foster critical thinking in the classroom! While I do not like that this teacher tricked his students, I do like how he encouraged students to use evidence to back up their claims. Hello, Common Core! Despite tricking his students, this teacher was able to establish amazing rapport with his students. This student states something very powerful when he says that he remembers some science classes from beginning to end. I applaud this teacher for giving his students the courage to challenge authority and think for themselves. I hope that I may also do the same for my students.
I really like posting a “Fact of the Day” on the board, but sometimes I struggle with making sure that it connects to what we’re talking about in class. Mostly they end up being ‘random’ facts that have served as tangents and distractions rather than adding to our class discussion.
Never fear! I’ve found a book (in pdf format!) of cool science facts that could serve as a jumping-off point for class discussion for many of our innovative units.
Here’s the link: Click me!
Many of these facts use upper level language, so they may need to be modified, but they are very cool and thought provoking nonetheless!
Current favorite: You eat around 150,000 km of DNA in an average meal. WHOA.
Today I had an interview for a fellowship. It’s the first time that I’ve ever really been grilled about my grades in my content in my undergraduate work. College was hard for me, which is a struggle that I can use to relate to kids that may feel challeneged in my classes, but I’ve never felt uncertain with my content knowledge. I know a lot of weird facts about random biology things, and I’m sure that story-telling repertoire will continue to grow as I continue to teach.
In undergrad, one of my big interests focused around Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in honeybees. We first started talking about CCD in my Ecology & Evolutionary Biology lab, and then again in Animal Behavior. This was about the time when CCD was in the news and getting a lot of publicity. On my own farm back home, we had lost 3 out of our 5 colonies to CCD. The agricultural industry was taking a huge hit after losing a vast majority of its pollinators. For quite some time, scientists, farmers, and beekeepers alike were stumped.
On January 19th, an article was published in Farm and Dairy stating, “Researchers say honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure.” My father, a farmer and a beekeeper, has used my study of bees and CCD in attempts to uncover our own losses of honeybee colonies over the past few years. Not only has it been a bonding experience for us, but it has also allowed me to use my content knowledge in real-life situations.
Isn’t this what we’re searching for when we teach students?! Aren’t we constantly looking for ways to make learning relevant to students’ lives? I suppose this is innovation — taking a new topic in science and bringing it into the classroom. Bam.
*because I was grilled…get it?
After today’s seminar, it’s clear that this semester is going to be tough. We all know that I am the queen of finding things on the Internet machine, so I wanted to share this with the members of my most fabulous cohort.
This website is called “Emotional Bag Check”. It lets you unload your own baggage or carry someone else’s while sending them a song and a personal message of encouragement. I just spent 15 minutes sending songs to others that have checked their baggage, and let me tell you that it feels really awesome to just send someone a personal anonymous note of encouragement. So when we’re all super stressed during our 8-week placements, check your baggage and let someone else carry it for you.
Today I was absentmindedly flipping through last month’s issue of “The Science Teacher” while I was supposedly cleaning my apartment after being gone all weekend at a hockey tournament in Lake George. I came across an ad for Vernier LabQuests (OHEMGEE MY FAVORITE), but what caught my eye was this little question…
I remember falling in love with science in 7th grade. My teacher, Dr. Sister Grace Mary Holy Water (not her real name) was so strict that I was terrified to even breathe in her classroom, but she loved science and sparked a love of science within many of her students. For me, I fell in love with science during a discussion on animal behavior. At that point in my life, I was convinced that I was going to be a vet, and so I was fascinated by anything and everything related to animals. Whether it was an earthworm dissection or a competition to see who could extract the longest xylem from the root of a carrot, Dr. Sister Grace Mary Holy Water always had something up her sleeve.
But here’s the kicker – one does not only fall in love with science once. In 8th grade, I fell in love with science when Mrs. A listened to our concerns about global warming and sustainability and then brought in a guest speaker to talk to us about solar cookers. And then we made our own solar cookers, all while learning about insulation, measurement and how the Earth orbits around the Sun. In 9th grade, I cursed science while struggling through physics and never quite understanding how many significant figures to use in my lab reports. In 10th grade, I balanced equations and blew stuff up in chemistry (with a purpose, of course), and marveled at how one tiny mistake in DNA structure can cause a whole mess of problems on an organismal level. In 11th grade, I identified trees on campus and read my biology textbook for fun while on bus trips for hockey. By senior year, I was a full-on geek and had studied fibril formation of the protein synuclein at Case Western Reserve University, attended a talk about new technologies in genetic engineering with my AP Biology class, and learned enough about logic and reasoning to play Devil’s Advocate to anyone’s argument about a controversial issue in science.
Science can be found in very tiny things and in very large, over-arching topics. For me, science was fascinating when teachers started small and laid the foundation and then built up around that foundation so that new concepts were discovered along the way. It’s like the Aufbau principle of teaching.*
*Disclaimer: science jokes on this blog are not always funny.