Sunday, January 31, 2010

Week 20, Day 5: The busiest time of the year!

ODD BLOCK SCHEDULE: 2nd and last day of the Density lab. Students will determine the density of water, saline, and rubbing alcohol. I demonstrate how to do it by finding the density of cooking oil.
Besides the rigors of being a hands-on science teacher trying to get all the standards covered, this time of the year has some other challenges for me. I am a coach for SCIENCE OLYMPIAD and we have our competition in one month and this is now the beginning of the busy training. I already give up half my lunches each week and 2 days a week after school for an hour. I will increase to about 3-4 lunches a week and more days after school. I love working with the kids but what can drive me crazy is the lack of “down time”. Also I lose some prep and grading time and have to take work home. Taking work home stresses me out and I am notorious for reading books like crazy right now. I have read 6 books since Christmas vacation.

This time of the year goes by fast. Once Science Olympiad is over I feel relief, almost as if the end of the year has arrived.
I hope this helps.
Love to Teach, and Teach with Passion!
It’s not Magic, It’s Science!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Week 20, Day 4: A Bouquet of rockets! makes up for Bad Attitude and NOISE!!!!!!!

It's the attitude stupid!

I can take over-achievers and no achievers.  Distracted and lost students. Dorky boys and giggily girls. The apathetic attitude makes me boil over so fast!

My Honors science class turned in their Astronomy project today and one of the 5 tasks they had to choose from was to build a paper model of a spacecraft. 6 of the students chose to build Mercury Redstone Rockets.  I turned them into a boquet!

Week 20, Day 3: Have a student assistant!

If you will plan ahead Student Assistants will save you TIME!
My assistants will:
-Enter grades into my hardcopy grade book (not my electronic grade book that is published to parents). This saves me MUCH time.
-Set up labs.
-Clean up labs.
-Put materials away
-Run off copies
-Prepare lab material
-Straighten up my clutter
-Staple, sort, cut, hole punch
-Score tests
-Grade some simple assignments
-Run errands
-File student assignments in hanging student folders

I recommend you have some standing written instructions for your student assistant for them to do when you are too busy at the beginning of the period to give them their jobs for the day. Here is my list:

Check staplers and fill if necessary
File student work into their folders
Straighten out any messes
Check with my neighboring teachers for a job to do
Look for a job to do and ask teacher (if possible)
Do your homework or read a book while you wait

Make sure you show them appreciation and don’t forget treats once in a while.

I hope this helps.

Love to Teach, and Teach with Passion!
It’s not Magic, It’s Science!

Week 20, Day 2: Labs are easy!

Labs are fun.
A classroom full of kids measuring and massing and calculating is so nice.
Density and Buoyancy may be considered by some to be about the worst unit. It's my favorite. I made it a goal 9 years ago to make it a fun unit. Lab work is basically fun in my opinion. Students are working together doing hands on tasks and that is FUN.
The Density Lab is okay. Measure mass and calculate volume by displacement and L x W x H, then calculate density.

We will do the Buoyancy Boat lab soon.

This year due to being so far behind I will skip the tissue paper hot air balloons, candy density lab (Snickers vs. Three Musketeers), Helium balloon lab, Aluminum boat lab (which will hold more coins) and the Buoyancy Ball Lab to measure weight in water.
My lessons for this unit are both strategically and tactically planned and we are doing labs. I’m so totally lovin’it right now!
Please go to my school website and go to CSTA TEACHERS and visit my website for all of my labs, notes and activities.
I hope this helps.
Love to Teach, and Teach with Passion!
It’s not Magic, It’s Science!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Week 20, Day 1:Happy New Semester

ODD BLOCK SCHEDULE: Reviewed the Benchmark test review for Astronomy then took the test. No time for anything else.

Ah fresh air. A new semester.

My wife helped in my room yesterday for almost 2 hours making hair

My wife helped in my room yesterday for almost 2 hours making hair slides for a forensic lab unit. I was entrusted with this by a friend years ago. I could not find the hair analysis slides. So I spent a lot of time getting a new set ready. At the end of the day I found the missing slides under a bunch of toothpicks and pH paper in the bottom of a box. Months of worry and hours of re-work unnecessary. Oh well I could be majorly mad or just figure I got a new set of slides.
I am looking forward to this forensic unit for the honors class.
I am looking forward to the Density unit for all the classes.
On a personal note my LCD projector bulb burned out a few days ago and I am having to readjust to the overhead projector.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week 19, Day 4: When you walk with purpose, you will meet DENSITY?

EVEN BLOCK PERIODS. Finished Astronomy and began the density unit.

We barely started the Density and Buoyancy unit today. I started by having the kids toss around a large piece of Styrofoam.

Next I pass around 2 tubular pieces of metal. One is a large aluminum rod and a slightly smaller iron rod. The smaller iron rod is over 2.5 times heavier than the aluminum rod.

That was fun. Kids get a kick out of this.

Now I pass around 2 iron spheres of equal weight, one has a large volume and the other has a smaller volume. The larger one feels lighter due to more surface area. You can buy these at TEACHERSOURCE.COM. I then place each of the spheres in a water bath and then discuss why one floats and one sinks.

During this we talk about size compared to weight. Things that are bigger than their weight feel light and have low density. Things that are smaller than their weight feel heavy.

Finally we get out a small bowl with a centimeter of water in it. We place a penny in the bowl. It sinks. Then I pass out an aluminum Japanese Yen coin to each student and they carefully place it on the water and it floats. COOL.


The title of today’s blog was a misread quote from an inspirational poster. The poster read: WHEN YOU WALK WITH PURPOSE YOU WILL MEET DESTINY.

I hope this helps.
Love to teach and teach with Passon!
It's not Magic, It's Sceince!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Week 19, Day 3:Go Go Go Go

ODD BLOCK SCHEDULE: End Astronomy with slide show of deep space objects and begin Density/Buoyancy unit.

I usually get to work and go full speed until I leave. It can be pretty tiring. I multitask constantly, my wife would be impressed, she doesn’t see that too often (I think I am too burnt out from work to multitask at home).
We all have our own work ethic. We need to work up to that standard. It can drive you nuts when other people do not have the same standard. Other standards can look higher or better or lower or worse than ours.
I’m noisy and loud in my class, sometimes bigger than life. Is that scary for some kids? I gotta be me. I’ll look at some of colleagues (that I respect) and try to bring some of their best qualities to larger life in me.

Week 19, Day 2: Beauty

EVEN BLOCK PERIOD. Notes on Stars and Galaxies and review HR diagram homework.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever"

We have got to use beauty when ever we can in our classes. Why would you use a chart like the one shown below when you can use the beautiful one on the right.

An HR (Hertzbrung-Russell) diagram is just a graph of all the stars we have data on, plotting their Luminosity vs. their temperature. 95% of the stars fall on that line. THERE IS ORDER IN THE UNIVERSE.  We know that but this chart lets us SEE IT!.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Week 19, Day 1: Units: Winding down and gearing up.

ODD BLOCK SCHEDULE: Stars and Galaxy Notes and Vocabulary Quiz.

Finishing Astronomy today and tomorrow. I have got the next 4 weeks STRATEGICALLY planned. Yes what a relief.

I love Astronomy but my Astronomy unit does not have many activities or labs THAT ARE TIED TO THE STATE CURRICULUM. So it can get a little long for the kids. 

The upcoming Density unit is lab and activity rich, but I have had to cut it to 2 weeks in place of the normal 4.  I will still do the tissue paper hot air balloon build for honors science but not the general science classes.

I am getting long range training from a friend in Washington about crititical thinking in the classroom.  I'm trying to get away from the old standard of "shut and an listen to me" to "what do you know, how can you apply it and how can you add on to it".  I like it but it is not easy.

The photo shows todays foldable notes for STARS, STAR EVOLUTION, GALAXIES.  Also the star chart from the What's your sign can be seen also.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Week 18, Day 5: Starting the Sabotage Unit

EVEN BLOCK SCHEDULE. Periods 2 and 4 did the WHATS YOUR SIGN? lesson from last week (Week 17 day 4).  Period 8 Honors Science finished solar system notes and begun Star notes.

We have shorter periods today due to the Club Schedule. We have 4 club schedules a year. The past 3 years I have had overflowing dorky boys for the Rocket Club, Paper Model building club and the STAR WARS club last year. This year I have the Science Fiction Reading club. Only 1 kid signed up. I have been combined with the quiet reading club, so we now have about 25 students total.

I am slowly getting the forensic lab unit called SABOTAGE UNIT together. I did it for the last time with a colleague (Jeff Hodges) 6 years ago. He put it together after attending a conference workshop in the late '90's. It is a lot of work even with most of it kit form. I knew this 10 years ago when Jeff was kind enough to share it with me and now after he entrusted me with it after he moved to the dark side and became an administrator (okay that was too much. he is a councilor so he didn't earn the title Darth Hodges).
I am in the middle of getting the slides of hair samples redone and figuring out how to do the pen ink paper-chromatography . The old pens have dried up and I need to find a new set of 6 different soluble black ink pens. I AM A CHARTER MEMBER OF THE PROCRASTINATORS CLUB and I can’t put this off any more. It has to be up in one week.

So I'd better get to it.   Thank you Jeff for this unit.
(photos: Left, the hair analysis station. Right, paper chromatraphy station)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Week 18, Day 4: Plan Ahead Plan Ahead Plan Ahead-then follow your Plan!

ODD BLOCK- Finish Alien Planet and View Spectral lines in glowing gases. See yesterday's post for details.

I am 4 weeks behind.  I should be finishing my 4th unit (Density and Buoyancy) but I am a week away from finishing my 3rd unit(Astronomy).

I am like an explosive gas, more than taking up the volume of space around me.  Give me a semesters worth (19 weeks) of curriculum and I WILL GET IT DONE IN 22!

My problem is not having too many labs/activites to do.  My problem is SUCH A ROOKIE MISTAKE: Lack of proper Lesson Planing.

I am great at TACTICAL LESSON PLANNING, that is planing to make labs, notes, demos, video clips and activites mesh together in totally cool lessons.  I have been BAD at STRATEGIC LESSON PLANNING, this being planning, pacing the start and stop of each unit and deciding which labs/activites to use and which to skip, and then sticking to the start/stop dates.

I started Astronomy the week before Thanksgiving. I should have been done with it before Christmas vacation.
Well heck, I will make it up by cutting back on time in the Chemistry unit and making Density and Buoyancy real short. 
You have to begin your lesson planning STRATEGICALLY and I am doing that this 3 day M.L.K. memorial weekend with my plan book.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Week 18, Day 3: Lab Again-I see the light...or at least spectral bands.

EVEN BLOCK- Finish Alien Planet and View Spectral lines in glowing gases. Cool.

The spectroscope lab allows you to see these spectral bands(shown at top right) in a dark room.  I do this lab to show students how Astronomers can determine what elements or compounds are in a star by putting their light through a spectroscope.

The photo below left shows students looking through the spectroscope tubes at the glowing gas tube (it's like a mini fluorescent light). We actually do this in the dark. I don't use the tubes anymore. We just pull the ends off and hold them up like a fancy monocle (I spent 12 years fighting the long tube and could not see easily and it was fixed by just using the end cap with the specturm film).

This is such a fun activity.  The students love the glowing colors and the dark spectral lines seem really wierd in a cool way (kinda like seeing a Yorkshire Terrier wearing Stormtooper armor).

I hope this helps.

Love to teach and teach with passion.

Remember, It's not magic, It's Science!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Week 18, Day 2: Alien Planet

ODD BLOCK SCHEDULE: Students watched The Discovery Channel's ALIEN PLANET fictional futuristic robotic mission to an ALIEN PLANET.

(the image shows 2 probes, one deflated on the ground and one of the many ALIENs.)

This DVD is so good, even theVHS Tape version would be worth its weight in Gold-Pressed Latinum.

You can buy it at the The Discovery Channel's store. The video covers all areas of science with a most being biological.

While my students watched I updated grades.  We have seen too many videos in the past 2 weeks but we will get back to labs very soon.

Week 18, Day 1: Benchmark update meeting

EVEN BLOCK PERIODS. Students watching video with my subsitute teacher. Details on this Tomorrow.

What a great day we had.  Five teachers, one from each middle school, met at our district office today and updated our unit benchmark tests.

We worked hard all day and before we knew it Lunch and then Quitin' time arrived.

It was fun working with other interesting and dedicated colleagues.  We split into to groups. One worked on Chemistry and the other worked on Physics.  A very productive day and we got to scoot out and have lunch AT A RESTAURANT. It is so nice having lunch with grown ups and out of my class room.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Week 17, Day 4: TGIF! De-stressed and back in the saddle

ODD BLOCK: Reading passage starter "WHATS YOUR SIGN" including star maps and astrology vs astronomy.

It took 4 days but I'm out of the blues and got unstressed.  I have a lot still to do but I have managed to put it in proper perspective.

Kids enjoyed the reading passage (go to my web site, look in Notes and Assignments and Reading Passages. 

The passage is how you can take peoples Astrology interests and build on it to show them some really cool Astronomy facts.  I use star charts to let them find their birth-sign constellations, then teach them celestial navagation (right ascension an declination) and then show a video clip from the movie contact (the scene of makeing Contact to the Presidential Press Conference). 

I hope this helps,
Love to Teach and Teach with Passion
Remember...It's not Magic, It's Science

Week 17, Day 3: Stressing and coaching Science Olympiad and lack of time.

Even Block: Same lesson as yesterday( astronomy notes and video clips).
I am feeling some stress.  I should be finishing a unit that I have not even started yet (density and buoyancy). I need to get some small items(paper work for science olympiad fees and team shirt fees) taken care of to relieve some stress.  I need to get a forensic lab unit set up for Honors Science, I need to be a better coach for two of the Science Olympiad teams. 

I thnks a lot of my stress is Science Olympiad.  It takes about 50% of my prep time and services only 7% of my kids.  Often I have no down-time for grading or prep because I have the Science Olympiad students in my class much of the time getting ready for compitition. When they leave I need to get away from school and go home.  I love working woth the team but it is a time it is for any coach.The older I get the harder it gets to bring work home.

My #1 priority for my Science Olympiad teams are to HAVE FUN.  I think they are.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Week 17, Day 2 Stop looking at the big picture, and stop freaking out!


Today's lesson is finishing the solar system notes.  Slide show notes and clips from SAVAGE PLANET: DEADLY SKIES showing meteorites, comets, and craters.

I have a ton of work to do.  I need to focus on small parts and not the whole. Don't you kjust hate it when you get overwhelmed!

My after school Honors Science Kids working on Science Olympiad made me smile and relax for an hour.

I have got to FIND MY HAPPY FEET!

Week 17, Day 1: Getting back in the saddle

Even Block Schedule

Monday was a staff development day.  This one was okay.  We began work on updating our benchmark tests. It was nice to not have to be "up" and "on-stage" today.

I recommend that you give yourself an easy lesson plan for the day your return from a holiday break. For me it was watching a video, FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON Part 6 MARE TRANQUILITATIS (Apollo 11).

I have the blaaz. It is hard this time to get back into school mode. I envy our sister school district right now, they have 3 weeks off for vacation, that is the only thing I envy about that district.

Buzz Aldrin, the 2nd man to walk on the moon really wanted to be first.  I think it is neat that most of the Aloppo 11 pictures on the moon walk are of him. Neal had the camera.  Buzz's Revenge!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Week 16, Day 5-Magic in the air the Friday before vacation.

Watched FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON: Episode 6 "Mare Teanquilitatis". Getting room cleaned for floor re-waking over vacation. I Delivered name gifts, used my lunch to make gift ornaments.

Busy for me me.  Good-bye until next year.

Week 16, Day 4

Same lesson as yesterday, Finish Tuesday's movie and take some notes and for Honors Science, go over some homework questions.

Lots of prep time but I busy getting honors science gifts set up, making key for the Astronomical unit/Light-year calculation page, and getting my part (taco bell ) taken care of for our luncheon. I gave students the option of coming in at lunch today and Acid etching a glass for the gifts. 

One girl came in and did the acid etch.

The photo shows the laminated periodic table from Sargent-Welsh (a very nice table), a Candy cane pen with peppermint spelling ink, and the "Dam" picture from our September field trip up to Courtright Lake and the photo from the top of the dam.

The other picture is the "Dam Picture" from 10 years ago.

Week 16, Day 3: Making notes about the planets.

A catch up day. Finished FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON: Part 5-SPIDER video than we began on Monday.

We had about 30 minutes left in the period so I give students some Planet note taking guidlines:
Record Temperatures, Atmosphere composition, how many Natural satellites (moons), and Most Notable Features of each.

I will give more notes on the planets after vacation but this way they have some already done.

Week 16, Day 2: How can they be watching a movie and I am so busy.

What a nice day. Easy but busy. Same lesson as Monday, making borax crystals while watching a video. Kids real excited about the crystals and vacation is almost here.

Actually video time is when I can call kids up and go over any missing work or make plans with them.

I am trying to squeeze in planning for a luncheon for my kids and making gifts for them.

Crazy fun Busy.