Catch-up time!

Right-o, the spring semester is absolutely flying by and I just realized that I have a couple of posts to catch up on! This entry is going to be journal style, just for fun.
Thursday March 8 – Today my students are really hyped up, for next week is their spring break! I can certainly empathize with them, I’m ready for a break too, if only to have some more time to work on my dissertation. We are still learning about simple machines. Understanding the various classes of lever seem to be the most difficult to master. To help them out, we watched “Eureka” videos on simple machines. Eureka is a cleverly animated educational series on physics produced in Canada by TVOntario in 1980. The video style was unique enough to keep the attention of the 7th graders, and I was surprised to learn a few things myself! I’ve always thought I’ve had a pretty good handle on physics concepts, but the video allowed me to make some connections that I had never thought of before. Cool! I have mixed feelings about showing videos in class. Pros are engaging media, explanation of difficult concepts that are hard to do sans multiple props, and encouraging a quiet, discipline-free class attitude. Cons can be use of too much screen time, disinterest or an excuse to sleep from the students, and sometimes teachers rely on videos as crutches to avoid active class management and engaging teaching. However, after watching today’s Eureka videos (and recalling fond memories of Bill Nye the Science Guy in my 8th grade physics class), I concur that videos can be effective teaching tools in the classroom if chosen appropriately and used sparingly.
Thursday, March 15 – Spring break for Central Middle! I spend the time locked up in my house writing a manuscript and thinking about my upcoming personal response lesson.
Thursday March 22 – KU spring break! The weather is terrible this week, so I’m spending time with the students. Today Ms. Reno has a special surprise for my two afternoon classes. She has arranged a visit with the AIA (American Institute of Architects)! 10 wonderful architects, working on projects as diverse as local Walmarts to the Kauffman/Arrowhead stadium renovations came to do an inquiry type lesson in architecture. They were armed with marshmallows, lasagna and pasta noodles, and grab-bags of random toy objects. Each student group of 5 was challenged to envision building a bus stop with associated bathroom facilities in their local neighborhood. Each group drew plans of their ideal construction, then proceeded to build it out of solely the provided materials. Each group had to incorporate their assortment of random objects from their grab bag to represent the real-world challenge that architects face of incorporating strange objects, by client request, into the structures they make. The kids learned a ton about planning and construction. Two major concepts learned were, 1) the importance of a solid foundation and 2) the importance of structural strength (e.g. using braces and triangles). I learned that marshmallows can be made into an incredibly strong glue…and that 37 kids can make an incredible mess with these materials! The architects truly seemed to enjoy their afternoon and I thank them for giving the kids another taste of the career options out there that they can work towards. I will post some pictures of the amazing structures the students made as soon as I can get them from my teacher.

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About Sarah Roels

I'm a former Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department. I study mating system evolution in plants, using the model system Mimulus. I now work at Michigan State University as their GK-12 project manager.
This entry was posted in 2011-2012 GK12, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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