A site about our home, doing it yourself, science in schools, and the ramblings of a girl who appreciates a joy in her life.

Wednesday, October 29

Chillin in Kansas with Pitsco Education

This summer has been crazy for the science department! I have traveled all through the southwest, to Milwaukee Wisconsin, Kansas, and Washington DC. It's important that we can make the best  science class possible! If you think that Pitsco is amazing like I do and you are a science teacher, you can sign up to be on the Teacher Advisory Council too. Its amazing to feel like you are apart of something and make a difference in education. 
Some of the cute transformer cookies we got to eat!
Wow! What a great experience! So I got to spend three days in July at the Pitsco Headquarters getting a first-hand view  of their manufacturing, great products, and some of my new favorite people. Ashely I adore you!

On our tour of on-site manufacturing

 It was three days packed full of amazing science experiences, good food, and great community. I was so impressed by the fact that Pitsco tries to get almost everything done in house. The manufacturing process was impressive and really I was geeking out over the laser cutters, 3-D printers, and other tools in the shops. Did you know that they use a 1960's(I think) machine to plate the chrome on the wheels? They keep that machine ticking and now I covet one for my room. There are so many thing to chrome plate!!!  I was also really excited about the cool cutting edge work going on in product development. They are building fantastic catapults, using 3-D printing for prototyping, and quite honestly having a blast. I would tell you more, but you have to go see it for yourself to really appreciate it!
Goofing around
Some of the amazing teachers I got to work with!

            One of the big highlights for me on the trip was working with the Pitsco Tetrix Prime Robots. If you have ever gone to a NSTA conference I am sure you got to meet and hang out with Mr. Robot, who is made from Tetrix, but the robotics system can do so much more. Not to knock on Mr. Robot, we hung out, it was cool. It was only at the conference that I even realized that I had see Tetrix being used before at the not only Science Olympiad, but also at MATE(Marine Advanced Technology Education). I really liked that in the new Prime system the pieces could snap together. I would love to try this out with Elementary students to really get them working on the engineering design principles that are so important with the new NGSS. Students need to see that technology is accessible, fun, and just exciting.

Tuesday, October 28

Bio Nerd Alert! Center for Biological Modeling Genes Genomes and Personalized Medicine Trip!!!

Agghghgh this was such a cool trip! I was super excited about going to Milwaukee Wisconsin to learn about bio modeling and doing more hands-on work with my students.We had the opportunity to head to the Milwaukee School of Engineer to work at the Center for Biomolecular Modeling. I highly recommend this for any high school science teacher. The training involved hard core science but in such a way as to make it accessible for rusty minds.  :)

So Erik and I went to the Genes, Genomes, and Personalized Medicine Training. We "got" to stay in dorms and relive the old college days. :) The CBM is a a type of science teacher paradise with every bio model that you could every need.
Bio Nerd Paradise

The family that bonds together sticks together

Have you unwound your helix lately?

Super cool Tim H!

Working on Replication

Learning about Genomics work on children

The awesome Gina

The fantastic Tim working with Erik
The CMB has a spin-off group that makes and produces all of the model for teachers. They are so amazing and full of great people. My favorite part though was the color coordinated rolls of tubing. Follow the rainbow!

3D Molecular Design is so pretty
All right, so no trip to Milwaukee Wisconsin would be complete with out some food pictures of cheese. I was pretty spoiled. I have to say our favorite restaurant of the whole trip was Aj Bombers. They were so nice. they also introduced us to fried cheese curd and custard. So maybe that was not so nice since we had to fly home! :O)

So much cheese

Can you say fried cheese curd!!!

Monday, October 27

Some thoughts about Science Education

Last week I had a friend on Twitter ask how we deal with this idea that class should be fun all the time. There are lots of times when life is not fun, so how do we teach them perseverance and grit for these times? My first gut thought was that science in the classroom should be fun, but still rigorous. I had this idea that we should teach them to learn with joy. It was quick, and not quite saying what I wanted to say, but in response she summed it up  that it's about teaching them joy in the journey not fun in the moment. I had that Ah-hah moment! That fits so well into how I want my science classroom to work. I want the kids to  have a problem so that they can go and look for the answer.

Science is not always fun, there are so many vocabulary words, complicated processes, and sometimes educational gaps that keep kids from enjoying it. In my classroom I try to tie big concepts with hands on learning, lecture, open ended labs, and inquiry based learning. For example, I teach and 8th grade physical science class where we work with getting kids ready for high school science classes. I work with them to learn how to study, make note-cards, and also great ready for a test. I also try to teach them how to ask for help, work with others, and how to find an answer when no one is around to help you. By looking at my classroom with this idea of helping to prepare them, while also teaching them the desire to want to know the information, I can tie together science and also the learning journey.
It is definitely easier to want them to love learning than putting it into practice, but I do have a few great examples where kids love the learning process. In that 8th grade class, students spend 8 weeks learning about motions, forces, and buoyancy. During this unit we create student organizations that are tasked with creating a boat that can carry a student made only of cardboard and duct tape. They have to create websites, budget their time and money, and also come up with a theme. The students have to make several weekly blog posts over the design process. We have two in-class labs that we do to prepare for the boats; an online simulation, and clay boats demonstrating hull shape. Students them have to draft and create a working scale model. After this small prototype they then can create the actual sized boats. The rules are simple, and each year I am thrilled with the level of engagement of the students. They do the work, they ask the questions, and they work through the problems. Students are in charge of their projects and they want to learn more so that they have the best boats.

In my environmental science class, we had a unit where the 11th and 12th graders were in charge of teaching 4th and 5th graders about water quality in both oceans and freshwater. By putting the older students as the teachers, they were highly invested in making sure they understood the concepts well, and could explain them to other students. To cap the unit, we tool all of the classes to the Oregon Coast where they high school students walked the elementary students through water quality sampling and learning about the ocean. The students were highly invested in the project and I thought that they learned the concepts better. I also got a much higher percentage of my students involved and turning in class work.



The science class is often thought of as hard and complicated. Students check out before they even start a class. However, if we can get students to change from this idea that a class should just be fun, but should be about learning about our world, we change the dynamic. The learning can be rigorous, intensive, and hard. If you can make a concept excite the students, they will want to learn about it and then it becomes fun no matter the work. The key lies in reaching the students and letting them ask the hard questions.