Linked here is the news story referred to in my “Camp Tuesday” post.
Now I can check “being on the news” off my bucket list!
Linked here is the news story referred to in my “Camp Tuesday” post.
Now I can check “being on the news” off my bucket list!
Wow wow wow what a day. I got 10 hours of sleep last night because I was so unbelievably tired from only getting 4 hours of sleep the night before, so I was pumped and ready to go when the kids got off the bus this morning.
Today was hard because there was no way around that today was the most schoolish day of the whole week, which is something that we’ve been working against for the past few days. But, today was also about revisiting the whole week and determining how our campers would present their information. They decided to make their own Charlotte Beach, determining how they would change the beach to make it more clean. The ideas they came up with were so creative and so innovative that I cried at the end of the day because I was so proud of them.
Z, N and K drawing their ideas for what the beach and park should look like in order to make the beach cleaner and safer for swimmers.
Despite all of the roadblocks and all of the stress we’ve had this past week, I think that my group did a fabulous job working through it and making sure that our kids did as much science as possible while having fun. I could not have asked for a better group, nor could I ask for better kids. We had a bunch of personalities, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Today at a glance…
1.) Mine field is the most fantastic game ever. We had the campers pair up and one camper was blindfolded. Their partner had to stand at the edge of the mine field and give them verbal cues and directions to make it through the field without stepping on a mine, crossing over the koozie rope and blowing a whistle to win. The kids had so much fun with it and really wanted to play again, but we had taken up our allowed 15 minutes and had more important things to move on to.
(Our set-up of Mine Field on the academic quad, complete with vests, boots, specimen cups, goggles and diapers.)
(Explaining the game to the campers!)
2.) Stations work. Our theme today was “tying it all together” and we had 4 stations to accomplish this: graphing, Internet research, pictures and interview skills. We split the group into groups of 2 or 3 and had them move from station to station every 10 minutes. We very quickly learned that our campers get it. They understand the science and they understand why they did activities that they did. Not only that, they can articulate their findings and their reasoning extremely well. Stations was definitely the highlight of the day for us teachers.
(Jim’s Internet research station, where campers searched the Internet to find information about bacteria and Lake Ontario.)
(My graphing station, where I had campers input data into an Excel sheet with a pre-made function that puts the numbers they type into a bar graph. No hassle! Plus plenty of time to discuss what the graph means. Many campers no longer wish to be buried in the sand in the swimming area after finding lots of evidence of fecal coliforms in the wet sand.)
(Lisa’s interview skills station. This was a very clear assessment of their knowledge of their investigation and the scientific process. The campers even got to discuss how they would share information on Monday to their parents, their teachers, the 4th-6th graders and the 1st-3rd graders.)
3.) Don’t rush your kids. After stations, we had gotten a little behind on our schedule. We prioritized and cut out the 10 minutes we had set aside to discuss presentation formats and figured we’d get to that tomorrow. We moved to a studio in Gleason to revisit our model and introduce the kids to the Meta-map. The campers did end up revising their model, but this portion of the day was definitely the least effective. They were at a table and I was at a whiteboard writing down their answers to my questions and it felt like school. Worse still, I felt rushed and so I was rushing them because I felt the time constraints. It definitely would’ve been better to get as far as we could with what time we had and then left it until tomorrow. Lesson learned.
(A picture of the Meta-map, a graphic organizer used to show the process of science, including spaces for question, hypothesis, model, data, protocol, claims, implications, limitations. My favorite part of the map is the bottom, with boxes for “what did we do today?” and “how does this relate to the big picture?”)
From a leader perspective, I am much happier with how this day went over the first day I led at the beach. This could’ve been a function of the fact that it was my second time leading, or that this day was really important to really tie all the information together with the campers. Either way, I felt our day went really strong. We took our arrows from yesterday and made them into very positive things today. We still have items to work on tomorrow, but we have a strong way to frame the presentation to our campers tomorrow, so I’m excited to see what they come up with!
Today was tough. It’s hard to articulate, because today was not in any way bad. Our past two days were excellent, and today was good. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t mediocre, it was good!
Jim started off with a fabulous Genesee river activity that we thought would be a strong start to the day. While the campers weren’t as high energy as they’ve been at the beach. They were a lot less interested in yelling and screaming, perhaps because there weren’t other groups around to compete with. Regardless, we got water samples from the water and had a good discussion about observations and differences between the water at the river versus the water at the lake.
The most surprising moment we had was how slow our kids were during the “race” we had them do, in which they had to put on all their lab safety equipment (lab coat, safety glasses and gloves) and then click their counter 25 times. They did not seem motivated at all, and it was almost how slow they could do these tasks! N made sure to say in her reflection that she was sooooooo tired, which is why she was slow during the race.
One thing that I love about working with Jim and Lisa is that we never question each other if any of us decides to improvise something during an activity, and we all just roll with it. I was going to just go get the plates from the incubator for the kids to count, but then I decided to bring all the kids over to see the incubator. I never saw an incubator until I did my research in high school! I paraded them over to the incubator and showed them the outer door, inner door and the digital thermometer. I also had them put their hands in the incubator to actually feel how warm it was on the inside. Sometimes it’s hard to get an idea of how warm something is when it’s described in Celsius but our whole country talks in Fahrenheit! This wasn’t listed in our lesson plan at all, but Lisa and Jim didn’t question it when I went on my little tangent.
We got some great feedback during the day from the Horizons leaders. Jim had the idea to write a lab safety quiz using all of the campers’ names in different situations, and one of the Horizons teachers made a point to say that he loved that activity and he was amazed at how engaged all of our kids were.
Important lessons learned:
1.) Be true to your kids. We knew that our kids loved to yell and scream and cheer, but for our energizer, we did Yen’s favorite breathing squats. They were disinterested and the energizer failed to accomplish what it needed. We should’ve had them yell and jump up and down, or something similar.
2.) Assessing prior knowledge should not only happen during the first day on concept interviews. When we were starting to think about what we should do tomorrow, we were stressing about teaching our kids Excel. Then we came up with the brilliant idea (or not so brilliant, because it shouldn’t have taken us that long to come up with it) to include a question about their experience with Excel in their end of the day reflection. Bam!
3.) Every day should have a theme and flow. This is something I also bring from running retreats and hockey camps. We could’ve packed so many other things into today, but it would’ve been disconnected from the majority of the objectives and activities that we had planned. So we nixed them. (GRS cohort of 2013, I have a feeling you’ll be reading these blogs in a year, so here’s my advice. Don’t feel the need to cover a million different things. Don’t be afraid to cut some of your ideas or move them to different days. You have a theme for the day for a reason.)
Bring it on, day 4.
Today was another adventure
Jim and I got to the beach early and got all of our stuff together and met our kids at the bus. Lisa had texted me on the way over and mentioned that they were a little sluggish, so after our icebreaker I challenged the kids to race me around one of the pavilions. T beat everyone without any trouble.
Despite being tired, we still got some excellent responses out of our icebreaker game: Is this question investigatable, research, or ask an expert?
After our group nailed down their investigatable question (Is there more bacteria in the sand or in the water?), we moved directly into determining a protocol that would allow them to test this question. At this point, Michael called me on the walkie-talkie and asked me to come speak to the press. When I arrived at the beach, I told myself that I was going to ignore everything about the press and instead try to facilitate them talking to campers if they were following our group around. I didn’t expect to be called over, and I have a hard time saying “no.” While I didn’t mind talking to the reporters, I did have a tough time integrating back into the conversations once I returned to the group after 15 minutes. This is something for me to work on myself. Lisa and Jim were fabulous. They had no problems picking up the protocol planning and running with it. This is why I love my group. We c0-plan so we’re all on the same page, and we prepare for each day together. We have leaders for each day, but that basically means that the leader actually writes the lesson plan for the day and explains the “big stuff” more, while the two other staff members facilitate the smaller activities and check for understanding during the big ideas.
Straight up cheesy grin for the camera!
The energy from our campers was high all day after our yelling and running energizers in the morning. Our kids love to be loud. I didn’t think it was possible for them to be more engaged, but I underestimated the power of hip waders. The kids loved being in the water. They were interacting with the environment in ways that they wanted. N and TA didn’t really want to be in the water, so they volunteered to be scribes and write down observations and other data, like temperature and GPS location. The campers defined what role they wanted to be in for our data collection.
Campers taking water and sand samples on the beach.
Finally, we don’t reflect back on the day and name our pluses (things we acknowledge that we did well) and arrows (things that we notice we didn’t do as well and want to improve on) for nothing. Yesterday, we said that our reflection didn’t quite go as planned. Today, I had the reflection be a series of 4 questions: today I learned…, today I struggled with…, I am still unsure of…, and I am excited for tomorrow because. This allows us to assess what they got out of the day in addition to determining items that we should revisit. As a positive, we didn’t get many responses of campers who were confused on concepts. Instead, they asked questions that will be perfect for them to ask tomorrow in the lab. We made sure to write “Ask this when we’re in the lab!” on their reflections when we gave them feedback. I loved the question that A had, “How are we going to help?” She understands that we’re looking at why the beach is closed, but how is what we’re doing going to help the beach? A brilliant and insightful question!
Campers reflecting in their journals on Day 2 at the end of our activities before lunch.
Finally, I’d like to address something I’m still struggling with. When Lisa told me that she’s a huge basketball fan, I used this analogy to describe my feelings. In basketball, you are taught to shoot, pass and dribble. You always want to shoot first. If you can’t shoot, then you look for a teammate to pass to who is in a better position to shoot than you are. If neither of those options are available, you dribble the ball yourself. As a teacher/facilitator of inquiry, I see “shooting” as inquiry, or having the students/campers wrestling with material and figuring out concepts on their own. ”Passing” is like prompting student to student dialogue in which one student teaches another student who may not have as good of a grasp on a concept. ”Dribbling” is like handing the facts over to the students by talking to them, or giving them the answers. In basketball, you dribble and pass in order to give yourself or your team a better opportunity for a shot. Keeping this in mind, does this analogy still hold true or is this where it falls apart? And in inquiry, when do we know to shoot, pass or dribble? How do we keep ourselves from being ball hogs and dribbling too much?
That’s enough analogy for now. All in all, despite my personal shortcomings, our group had a strong day with a lot of progress. Our campers are excited for tomorrow, and so are we!
P.S. – I distinctly remember saying during graduation that “I’m going to be famous!” Today I was on the news. That didn’t take long.
Today was an adventure.
I met our campers at the Harley School and got on the bus with them. At first, many of our kids were quiet and unresponsive. We had decided to dedicate all of the first day’s bus ride to determining a group name. (Lesson learned: sometimes kids want to finish a task as quickly as possible and just give any answer so that they can do something else.) My group quickly decided that they wanted to be called the Yellow School Bus, after being told that our group color was yellow. They first picked Yellow Flowers and nixed that after a few seconds for School Bus. I immediately slumped in my seat. Where were the creative campers that we met at our APK interviews?!
Thank goodness I was wrong. When we were about 7 minutes from the beach, the campers suddenly got more energetic. Until then, I had just had small talk conversations with a few campers at a time. I wanted to smack myself for losing my own energy, but I was glad that the campers were excited when we pulled into the parking lot.
The atmosphere at the beach was electric…and I’m not just talking about the lightning in the distance.
Today was oddly reminiscent of the first day that Hayley, Cyndy and I tried to sample for our investigation. As soon as we wanted to have our campers go out on the beach and complete their Observation/Question charts, it started to rain. But we didn’t let that stop us!
We broke out the umbrellas for the campers who wanted to venture out in the rain. (Plus: our campers were consistently engaged. It was rare for a camper to be staring off into space, and if they were, one of us was always quick to step in and bring them back to the group.) I was really proud of the way our group went with the flow. We improvised a lot today. (Arrow: While we were good at improvising, our directions were sometimes unclear because we were making it up as we went. We had back-up plans, and were really good at checking for understanding, but if our directions were clear in the first place, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time checking for understanding.) When we were on the beach doing our model, the conversation took a turn that lead us to flow into wanting to look at the current of the lake. Duane ran back and got our “observation kits,” which Jim had made. They were small green lunch packs with specimen cups, Whirl-paks, rulers, plastic whiffle balls and thermometers. Two of the campers threw their balls into the lake and made observations. Others took the temperature of the water. Some took samples of the sand and others took water samples. We provided minimal direction and the campers explored. It was really cool to see how that part of the day turned out.
Overall, we think that our first day went awesome. Our campers had fun and their enthusiasm was infectious. My energy level was still high when we sat down together to debrief as a staff group. I can’t wait to carry the energy from today into our protocol planning and sample collecting day tomorrow.
P.S.-If Lisa posts a video about someone dancing to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” 1 – it isn’t me and 2 – it isn’t even that funny and 3 – you definitely shouldn’t watch it.
As we continue to plan for camp, I wanted to quickly share some inspiration. We’re all stressing out, but no worries! We are well prepared. We’ve tackled the beach before. Let’s help our campers tackle the beach, too.
If the kids take off in an entirely different direction than what you had expected…don’t panic. You prepared for this. As my computer science professor once said: “I should not doubt myself…I am smart.” Whichever way we choose to handle a situation will be the right way. And if it’s not the right way, it can be a lesson in damage control. But seriously, we are more than prepared for this job. We’ve been prepared from doing our own projects at the beach, from discussions in class, and also from our own expertise in our lives.
I learned many things in my undergraduate career at Rochester, and more than a few of them came from sources outside of the classroom. Here’s how I’m connecting hockey, my sorority, and a religious retreat to camp.
1.) Do work. This was the theme of a couple of my hockey seasons. It’s pretty self-explanatory.
2.) Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves. This is a quote that one of my coaches said almost every practice. The Warner Lesson Plan (while extremely extensive) makes sure that we plan for every tiny detail. If we take care of the little things, like making sure that our campers have every resource to be able to collect their data, the big things will take care of themselves, and our campers will give an amazing presentation next Monday.
3.) Never let them see you sweat. I remember making it to the last party of the first round of recruitment this year and being so exhausted that I didn’t know if I could last another half hour. But as soon as I saw the smiles on my sisters’ faces I remembered why recruitment was so important. We were meeting girls that could be our new sisters, and that was ridiculously cool. So when we’re tired, or a lesson isn’t going exactly as planned, let’s remember why we are here. We are providing kids with the opportunity to feel like scientists. We are going on a journey with them as they carry on a scientific investigation. Remember this, and smile. Because it’s really cool.
4.) Comfortable silences. This is mostly a reminder to myself about teacher wait time. During undergrad, I was a big participant in Kairos, a religious retreat through the Catholic Newman Community (yes, that was a shameless plug.) When I was rector, I reminded my leaders that there is a different between an awkward silence and a comfortable silence – it isn’t awkward unless you make it awkward. Be comfortable in your silences after a question is asked, and give the campers an opportunity to think about it before their answer. Silence isn’t scary.
5.) Remember your levels. On Kairos, I would always tell my leaders to remember their levels during small groups. Small groups were a group of 4 or 5 retreatants and 1 leader. On retreat, it’s easy for someone to grab a chair, another to sit on the floor, someone else to be on a couch, etc. This is a poor small group dynamic because not everyone is on the same level. If one person is sitting on a chair, everyone should be sitting on a chair. If there aren’t enough chairs, everyone should be sitting on the floor. If you’re not eye level with everyone, you’re doing it wrong. The same goes for camp. As teachers, it’s easy to want to stand up while the kids are all sitting at a table. Standing is a position of power. But this is not a classroom. Let’s be on level with our campers.
Ready. Set. Go.
Some people will say
That most DNA is “junk”
Would they be correct?
I just wanted to direct everyone over to the blog that one of my high school English teachers is keeping right now. (She’s the one whose class I briefly mentioned in my blog post about Gilmour.) She’s in India right now and took some amazing pictures at the botanical gardens of the Great Banyan tree.
And you know me. I love trees.
Today was so much fun. We spent an hour getting to know our campers and assessing their prior knowledge so we know what they think about science and how they work within inquiry. My group (Lisa, James and Duane) were looking at student thoughts about experimental design and we tackled this by having campers make observations, come up with ideas about plant growth, and then devise a plan to test ideas about plant growth. We wanted to see if our campers would know to change only one variable and have specific controls.
I walked into the school building excited to meet our campers and then stiffened when we found the room we were going to be doing our concept interviews. We had originally planned to work in a cafeteria, but walked into an auditorium type lecture hall. In a “getting to know you” sense, this was definitely not an ideal room. But I cannot express how proud I am of our cohort and how we rolled with the punches. We were there to do work and nothing was going to rain on our parade. Adaptation is key!
Since our first dry run, our APK group made some significant changes to our concept interview. We had the mindset that we were going to try some things out with our first group, and if they worked we would keep them and if they completely bombed, we would quickly re-assess and go from there in the remaining groups. We were just going to do our “teacher thang.” We were as prepared as we needed to be.
The amount of insightfulness and curiosity that filled the room for that one single hour was borderline overwhelming. I thought I knew what the campers would say in response to our questions, but then we got responses like “I want to test what spacing of seeds does to plant growth.” How insightful!
Lisa, James and I fell into a rhythm and worked through the 4 groups of campers with ease. After the first group, we didn’t even need to time ourselves because we found it easier to flow with what the campers were doing rather than keeping them on a strict time schedule. I think this will be an important lesson for camp. If you budget 10 minutes for an activity, but it takes campers 4 minutes, don’t waste 6 minutes of their time sitting around!
For me, I took out some important ideas from this APK. Even though I’m much better at this than I was a week ago, I still need to work on answering questions with another question rather than blurting out an answer, or even saying “good idea!” Something like these responses ends the conversation rather than keeping a camper or student thinking. I also need to think more about how I frame my question. Lisa had an awesome way of framing a question. When a camper said that they wanted to look at how water amounts affect plant growth, Lisa asked the camper, “What would you do if I shone sunlight on only one of your plants?” The camper replied, “Well I would get mad! You can’t change that too!” This shows that this camper really did understand variables within experimental design, even if they had previously not mentioned how sunlight would play a role.
For the campers, I am excited about their enthusiasm and curiosity. While not all campers had a solid understanding of experimental design, many of them are very close. Giving them two plants, a lamp, a paper bag, and a graduated cylinder and water is a much different ball game than bringing them to the beach. This is where we’ll see if they are able to transfer what they know of experimental design onto the larger scale of figuring out why Charlotte Beach closes. I know to have expectations of what they come up with, but I’m also excited to see how they go above and beyond my expectations. I have no doubt that this group of campers will surprise us.