A Tour of the Body Systems

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Now that it has been several weeks after the end of the school year and two weeks of writing curriculum and a trip to Mexico, I am ready to reflect on an end of the year review that I did with my learners.

A colleague came to me before our final weeks of school and asked if I’d like to try using Spheros in my classroom. I am ALWAYS game to introduce new technology in my classroom and grow myself, so I jumped on the idea. After discussing a few logistics, I suggested reviewing the body systems for their final exam. I would have three days, which made us all a little nervous…that is not a lot of time to “play” with the devices, plan the tour of the body system chosen, code the Sphero and then present to classmates for review. But, I was confident in my learners. We are a blended classroom and I had been throwing resources, Apps and digital challenges at them all year. They did not let me down (and impressed everyone.)

Steps in Planning:

  1. My colleague, Monica Champagne, sent me this Google doc to get the ball rolling. I made a few simple tweaks to the terminology and posted it to my LMS for my learners to copy and collaborate in groups.
  2. A week prior, I had learners download the Lightning App and view a couple of tutorial videos on how to use the app.
  3. One day before I had the Spheros available for students to “play” with in class once they had finished the day’s assignment. I also had the outline of the body you see in the photos printed (we have an awesome printer in our library!) and ready.  Thank you to Trisha Goins, my DLC, for trouble-shooting the size of this outline!!
  4. Next, was our planning day in the classroom. Groups were larger than I like, but we only have 8 Spheros and with our connectivity, they don’t all always work at the same time. Eight would have been ideal, but we used 5 so we always had a back up. With the groups being large, I wanted to make sure all students were busy. So, I added PlayDough in the mix for learners to create their body system. So, body systems had to be created, the Google Doc had to be completed, the Sphero had to be coded and the hopes of a practice run-through all in one day! Students will always rise to high expectations and appreciate that you believe in them!!!
  5. Tour Day. I did have to give them about 20-30 minutes to organize and finalize their code, etc. This didn’t go as smoothly as wanted with some devices not connecting, groups accidentally connecting to another group’s Sphero, the code just not working. However, the students loved the challenge and the problem-solving; which is really what it is all about!!!
  6. Added half day (because it was just so awesome!) so learners didn’t feel defeated and could have a chance to show off their tour of the system.

I would like to add that I had never used Spheros myself or in the classroom before this time. Take risks, educators!! In addition, one of my learners found the fix that helped every group in class in their solution to making the Sphero “speak.” For all the groups in the beginning, the Sphero would complete the first movements and speak, but then stop even though code followed. After problem solving over and over, she found out that after the Sphero spoke you needed to have a timed pause that lasted the same amount of time that the Sphero spoke. I was in awe. She had never coded before and confessed to not watching the tutorial videos!! Her group learned together and then showcased their tour to the class. Then, each of those members went to other groups and helped them with their code. OUTSTANDING!!!

This whole process was amazing. And, it wasn’t amazing due to it’s no flaws success. It was amazing to see thinking, collaboration, problem solving, taking on a new challenge, etc. This is how learning should be. I call it “getting your hands dirty.” We learn by experience, and this is one of the best experiences of the year. And, we did some really cool stuff!!

Thank you to Monica Champagne, Victoria Tong and Trisha Goins for your ideas, support and trouble-shooting! Thank you to Bruce Hermans, Emily Froese and Laura Francis for coming and spending time with us as we coded!!

#BreakoutEDU Science

Recently, I and my Digital Learning Coach (DLC), Trisha Goins @heartinlife, discussed #BreakoutEdu. We both were interested, but hadn’t found much in our research. She then texted me and asked if I had time for a breakout activity in my class. I am always game for innovation, and that is how our journey began!

We met several times to design our breakout session for a genetics activity for seventh grade science. We started a little lost as we still couldn’t find a tangible example of a breakout lesson that wasn’t expensive nor broke down the lesson in steps to show the design. We went to Youtube and watched some videos and got some ideas. And, our design started to develop in our planning.

I love the Dollar Tree, a teacher’s best friend. I found two small tool boxes, key locks and combination locks. This does beat the hundred dollar kit you can find online.

The Case of the Missing Chromosome became the breakout activity with four challenges, 1  per group, duplicated for eight groups. Each group of four where challenged to “breakout” their missing chromosome from a normal male karyotype. I set aside two class periods of fifty-two minutes each for completion as I did not know how long it would take the groups. You can see in the photo below, I have a missing chromosome at 6 and 21, one for each of the two large groups. I made these with pipe cleaners.

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I designed four challenges, one for each small group of the two larger teams. My challenges were: DNA Model Challenge, Natural Selection Challenge, and a Punnett Square Challenge.  I used Learn.Genetics for the digital resources. I love, love this site. You should check it out. (My all time favorite is Lick Your Rat Pups! Seriously.) My fourth challenge was a puzzle with the clue below.

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This puzzle was a challenge to me! I wanted to cry at times when I made it. Really, I did. I persevered and did like my product. Well, at least one of them. I’ll share that news in a minutes. So, I don’t know why it was so hard to keep blocks straight, facing the same direction, not flip them, etc. BUT, IT WAS?!! Oh my goodness! I questioned my intelligence and if I should really be teaching young people. Again, I persevered. My husband’s comment after two episodes of Big Little Lies and Shield, “You’ve worked on that for a really long time.” Yep. Be quiet now. Cry a little on the inside.

It took me several hours, but I do like the product. The idea is, that they should know from class, that a flower reproduces sexually. They should put the puzzle of a picture of a flower together and then find the code to the combination lock when they flip it over. The other pictures are of a hydra and a bacterium; which would give them the wrong code. Mrs. Goins used Google Drawings to create the photos that I Mod Podged on the block. I purchased the 1X1 blocks from Amazon. In hindsight, I would not use so much white on the blocks. Three sides all have white corners and  even though I did it to be challenging, that lead to some confusion.

However, I mentioned I share some other news? Well, one puzzle wasn’t so successful. My students put the flower together and flipped it over to find a bit of a mess. Mrs. Goins, my DLC partner in crime, tried to help. Then I looked. Hmmm. I gave them the code; which you could kind of see in the mess on the back. Here is their reflection video App Smashing Pic Collage and ChatterPix. (Don’t you love their honesty?!) We were stumped. Mrs. Goins stayed in class trying to make the puzzle work. Our brains were tired. I tried the next day as well and still got my learners’ results. I swear every time I finished a side I flipped it to check the code! Cry a little on the inside. Resist the urge to throw the puzzle across my office.

That was really the only hiccup in our #BreakoutEdu challenge other than my students finished it in about twenty-five minutes! They were intently focused. So, in the future, I will add challenges or make them harder. This was also my learners’ requests. Check out their feedback on this Padlet. They loved the pressure of the challenge, the competitiveness and that it reviewed what they already new, but also challenged in some new ways.

Finally, I wanted learners to summarize their process and reflect on this breakout session for their learning and for my learning. Here is the the reflection assignment to close the breakout activity. On the first day, I had them end with capturing their process and taking the  photos listed in the reflection and any others they wanted. On the second day, we completed the Pic Collage and ChatterPix App Smashing sharing them on our discussion board in our LMS (Learning Management System), Schoology. I liked using ChatterPix suggested by Mrs. Goins. It had been a while since I used it and it worked well for this activity.

Hopefully, this helps any of you that may be wondering what is the #BreakoutEDU thing! Let me know if you have questions or comments! Try it! Your kids will love it!

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Good Stuff

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Today I facilitated my 7th grade science class in constructing a social contract. I always love hearing what they have to say and it is very eye-opening at times. If you’ll let them, students will remind you of what is really important. They should have a stake in their classroom from lesson design to classroom environment. Above are the common themes share by each table. We discussed that these were probably more for me to know as their teacher and they agreed. But, don’t you just love them! I would want to be in that class! As educators we need to constantly reflect and ask ourselves, “Would we want to be in our class?”

Check out this video of their products from group collaboration. This is what they came up with in small groups as what they wanted to their class to be like. There is a lot of good stuff here! 

Our final product:

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If we honor this contract, the learning will take place! I hope that you too allow your students voice and choice in the classroom and honor their needs and wants as best as you can this year! I’d love to hear your great activities. Share in the comments section. 

On the Floor with the Rabbit

One of my favorite learning moments came many years into my teaching. I had a class pet, Captain Jack, a California Angora short-haired rabbit. He was litter boxed trained thanks to my niece who raised rabbits. I had read that training rabbits was possible and a rabbit fit my “clean,” not stinky animal requirements. I wanted a class pet for the longest time, but didn’t want a stinky hamster, guinea pig, etc. So, a rabbit it was. He was named Capt. Jack, as all of her rabbits were named after the Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Capt. Jack joined us and became a beloved member of our classroom (and school.) Once he acclimated to the many predators- Ha! –  and felt safe, he hopped around the room checking out everyone and their backpacks! As I taught Biology, he was a great addition to class; which brought some great questions and discussion.

I had a few students bond with Capt. Jack more than others. In particular, I had one boy who in my class was very quiet and meek. He loved Capt. Jack and Capt. Jack loved him. He was the only one that could dress Capt. Jack in his festive outfits.

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One day I had five guests walk in my room to observe my class with my curriculum director. At this point in my career, this didn’t bother me at all. I had/have observers all the time. Well, in the moment I saw them come in I thought, “Oh, people.” The next moment, as I had a discussion on the characteristics of life with my learners, I had an uh-oh pass through my thoughts, “G is on the floor with the rabbit.” I wondered what my guests would think. I wondered if I cared. A few more moments into the discussion, I posed a question and guess who’s hand flew up from the floor. That’s right, G’s hand went up. I called on him and he added his viewpoint. I also noticed in that moment that two of the onlookers didn’t even know he was down there and started looking around the table to see where that voice had come from! Win!

Even if he hadn’t participated in that very moment, I knew then that learning doesn’t only take place in a desk while you are sitting upright. I think as educators anytime a guest comes into your room, you do a once-over and check to see “how things look.” What’s more important is the learner. I found out later that G had an emotional disorder. (I had not been privy to that info.) Least to say, I was shocked to find out that he had outbursts in other classes in which he cursed his teacher and classmates. I had a totally different kid in my class; which was thanks to Capt. Jack and G being allowed the freedom to move about the room and learn in the way that best fits him. In the next couple of years, G would return often to visit Capt. Jack. He quietly came in and left the same way. I believe he needed a moment or a “time out” in his day.

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Possibilities with Technology i.e. Notability

    

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            Today in class I noticed a student had the pictures from the case study in class, Man’s Best Friend from Buffalo Case Studies, on his iPad. I had hard copies on lab tables for their use. I asked if he took pictures of the pictures because that was really unnecessary, but he said no. He had downloaded the case study to his iPad and then opened it in the App, Notability. Notability is a note-taking app that will annotate documents, record lectures, sketch illustrations, etc. We use it in class daily for note-taking and digital note-booking in my science class. The student had then used the pictures to complete the comparative analysis of wild and domestic canine skulls in class. He measured and took data within the iPad. “Cool!”, I told him. He was excited of the feet that he accomplished I could tell. I then passed by again and he was trying to “cut” the molar out of the skull via the tool in Notability, but could not as you cannot cut from imported pictures. He wanted to move the molar to the ruler for easier measuring. I suggested for him to trace the molar and then cut his trace out and move it to the ruler. That is the screen shot above! I had him send the picture to me to use as an example.

I am amazed daily at my students! I love that they are not scared to take risks. I had not thought of this way to complete this activity! Whoa! Don’t think I won’t do it like this next time! 🙂

I hope to model taking risks in learning daily for my students and will definitely share what this student showed me!

Encourage, Encourage, Encourage!

Blog Challenge (Day 4-yes, out of order) HeLa Cell Topic & Debate


 I’m jumping ahead in the sequence of days in the 20 Day Blogging Challenge because I am so HAPPY with today’s and yesterday’s activity in class. I like to bring in current events linked to possible historical events in class to have debates in ethics. This past August a seed was planted in my head that came to fruition this week. In August I attended a teacher workshop at The Perot Museum and was introduced to the lab from CellServ, Preparation of Human Chromosome Spreads; or commonly known as HeLa cells. The day of this workshop was actually the day that the National Institute of Health and the Lacks family came to an agreement as to the future use of HeLa cells. I am in the process of ordering the kits for class as it is taking longer than expected I went ahead with the activity below.

Activity:

Henrietta Lacks Radiolab
Debate Ethics in Science
Day 1: We listened to the Radiolab session above on Totally Tumors (just the section over Henrietta Lacks) and then had small group discussions about the impact the information had on students individually and then shared as a large group these ideas and posed questions.
Day 2: I set up four corners: The Progress of Science, Ethics, John Hopkins University/Hospital and the Lacks Family. Students were given colored paper as they entered the room that coordinated with the four corners. We reviewed what we had learned the day before to get focused and then I challenged the students to look at the viewpoint of each of the stakeholders listed above. The students had 15 minutes to collaborate and research if wanted their viewpoint. Then we shared large group each side and then moved to rebuttals. In several classes I had to stop the debate due to time restraints. Students were so interested and invested it made for some great discussion/debate. I finished with the summary video, Video 2013, from PBS that summarizes the current agreement between the Lacks family and National Institute of Health or NIH. Students also had their questions answered on how the cells grow so rapidly outside of the body and the true wants of the family. In the closing of the class, I showed students my sample slide of HeLa cells obtained in the workshop previously described. Here is a picture:

I took this picture with an iPad through the lens of a microscope. (It takes a steady hand and practice!) The students were in awe that they were looking at the chromosomes from Henrietta Lacks. They were in the room 60 years later! Very cool! Definitely will repeat this lesson in future, hopefully with the lab itself allowing students to obtain and observe the cells as I did.