Archive for September, 2013

Friday was closing day for progress report grades and I should be working on my gradebook.  And I have a thousand other things to do. Well, maybe not a thousand, but that is how it feels.  That is how this year has felt every day so far.  With a new problem based course co-taught with a teacher new to the school and the area, my learning curve is pretty high this year.   But I love this class.  Even though we both feel like we are only one step ahead of the kids, it is still fun.

For our opening unit/project, we had students build a cardboard boat.  The boat had to carry one member of a two member team and be strong enough to paddle out to a buoy about 10 feet from shore and then back again.  We asked the students to predict their waterline, but didn’t give them any instruction before the first build.  They were restricted to 3 sheets of 4×8 cardboard and one roll of duct tape. Launch day was awesome.

IMG_0422            IMG_0302           IMG_0262           IMG_0268         IMG_0432           We used two pickups to get the boats to the shore and one of them was damaged pretty badly in transport.  That team pulled it together, borrowed some extra tape and regrouped with what they had.  Even though the resulting boat wasn’t that successful; we feel that the students were successful.  They had a challenge and didn’t let it stop them from moving forward.  There was some great problem solving going on.

The next few days were spent on the science and math behind predicting waterlines.  We looked at net forces and did a lab on buoyancy using coke and diet coke.  And we worked through the calculations for their waterline.  Most of them had a hard time visualizing one cubic foot spread out over the bottom of the boat  Even though the calculations weren’t that complicated, changing from cubic feet to depth in their boat was a huge leap.  But they all kept at it, because the relevance was clear to them.

After the direct instruction, we had them build again to see if they could better predict their waterlines the second time through.  This time, they only got two sheets of cardboard and they had to use all of it, even the little scraps.  Oddly enough, most of them used the same boat design as their first run.  They just built a little more carefully. Again, launch day was great fun.

Next week they will be writing about their successes and failures; I can’t wait to see what they say.  But first, we start the week with a field day to collect data on invasive green crabs, followed by a day of testing (NWEA’s).  Coming soon, we will dig up seed clams that were planted last spring and analyze the survivors.  There’s no time to catch my breath; before we finish one project we’re on to the next, and planning the one after that.


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imageOn day 1, we had freshmen only.  I only have one class with freshman, Marine Studies 101.  It’s the introductory class to our new Marine Studies Pathway and will be primarily a science class with heightened focus on math.  The freshmen account for six of the twenty students.

I am co-teaching this class with Jessica.  She’s new to the area and we haven’t had a lot of time to work out all the details. And neither one of us has experience with co–teaching.   We did spend a week in early August planning the big picture, but we never had time to talk about the nitty gritty that makes a class work.

I’m talking about class routines and expectations, assessment structure, and daily lesson planning.   All we knew was that we both wanted to include foldables.  Thank goodness we had common prep 1st period!

Jessica pulled an activity out of her archives that we could do with just part of our class.  The activity had to do with optical illusions, but our focus was on the importance of measurement.  I didn’t think to ask if I could share, so I only offer a picture here of one of the spinning wheels.  I never knew that you could see colors on a spinning black and white disk!

We winged it, with an ed tech watching the show, then we debriefed afterwards.  It was patently obvious to both of us that we needed to work out those nitty gritty details, preferably before we met with the rest of the class tomorrow.  We agreed that an exit routine that required students to summarize the day/project/whatever was important.   For now, we won’t have a regular entry routine, since we will have a project based learning structure.  We agreed on group size for our first project and decided to use a random group generator that she has in her files.  We also decided on record keeping – binders + comp books for students, spreadsheet for us.

imageBut I just realized we didn’t firm up location!  Ha, ha.  The kids won’t know if they are coming or going.

We also decided to heavily weight the “academic integrity” category (25%) since a large part of what we want students to learn is how to work effectively in a project based learning environment.   Most of these kids have not had any project based learning for academics, only for shop or art.  Also, it is mixed grade levels (9-12), so they need to learn some group skills together.

Most of them are enrolled in the second semester Marine Studies course.  That one counts for a science credit, a math credit, and half an english credit, so they need to have the PBL stuff down pat by next semester.

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Outside my comfort zone

Everyone is posting First Day blogs, but I can’t since our kids don’t start until next week.  I did, however, get to work with the new science teacher on our new class.  That we are co-teaching.

Neither one of us has co-taught a class before.   It is a Marine Studies elective; a new class in our new Marine Studies Pathway.  Firsts for me include co-teaching, project based learning, marine science, and full-time teaching.  Throw in SBG which I have been working on but am still not really there.  Also new this year… peer coaching with teachers visiting teachers and giving feedback.  And next semester I get to teach pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, algebra 2, and  some trig.  In a two block class with a different science teacher.

I have definitely stepped out of my comfort zone; I think I’m entering the twilight zone.

It is my hope to document this strange trip I’m taking this year.  Surely I will learn along the way.  I expect there will be tears and anger and joy and every other emotion a person can feel.  Because the good stuff only happens when you take a chance.

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