Archive for January, 2010

TAP 11: Introducing the PowerPoints

Nice to be back on the blog. Karen and I got out of step so had to wait a few days so our kids could all start the ppts together (Wth kids being partners across classes, we have to be extra careful to keep schedules, rubrics etc. consistent.)

We assigned it so they would have two weekends to complete it in – they already have the information from their research in the library and on the web. Mostly they need to find great pics, or take them and organize their thoughts a bit.

Their challenge today: Make a short, accurate powerpoint to educate and inspire others to take action on your problem!

Only spent about 20-25 minutes introducing this, resisted the urge to beat it to death!

I wanted to inspire them to get excited and get started. Framed it as “Say you made a powerpoint so great that kids in the class thought Hey, I’m going to be the lights-off nazi at home! , or got kids to donate money to help Haiti, or whatever your problem is.” Reminded how they better be enthusiastic and passionate or choose a different problem!

Asked them “When do people try to persuade you to change your mind, buy something or do something?” Lots of responses like “Ads, friends, parents and teachers. “So what really turns you off?” And the usual litany of too much text, monotone and can’t read the type, with a few, more insightful ideas like “Their graphs and info don’t relate to their title.” and  “Bad facts make me not believe anything they say.”

BTW, polled them for who likes making ppts and it’s overwhelming how many DO. I mean, it’s work but they like it anyway, so, cool.

Then showed the PowerPoint template uploaded on my homework web page (also in the “Teacher Resources” page under “Research” on and went over the boxed requirements only. The rest of the blurb is in the template.

Ended with having them grade a not-great ppt from last year using the rubric.

We went page by page, they held up fingers for points out of 5, then I said what I thought and why. They really like trashing other people’s stuff. Self-righteousness, such a guilty pleasure…  But this time, maybe in a good cause so they truly realize what is expected and feel inspired to do better. Some of the ppts like the Polar Bear one, look slick until you actualy read the content… My personal battle against BS (bad science). Fun to watch them be so dismissive until it’s their powerpoint on the stand.

Noticed that kids were chomping at the bit to get going on this powerpoint when their research had been done. Would be ideal to start it within a day or two. But this will be fine. A few are already stressing about the poster but noooo, this is not the big, scary poster….yet. Poor things, I wonder if they have been scarred by a Sugar-Cube Mission Model project due the day after tomorrow with no instructions. Have to constantly re-assure students, special ed staff and some parents that kids will have lots of support all along the way.

Happy Friday, see you on the due date – Monday 8th of Feb.


January 29, 2010 at 4:28 PM Leave a comment

Day 9: Research day 2

Something happened to day 8…. oh well.

With a day of research under their belts, one girl told me “I’m just so bored of breast cancer. Can I change?” Because they have about 3+ months to live with their issue, I figured it was fair enough to bail at this early stage. You just can’t always tell. So with later classes, I really pushed on them to be sure. To think if they wanted to help in a hands-on way instead of fund raising which means local issues. On the other side, the local issues are harder to resource with scientific information.

Some were bailing from sea turtles toward more global issues such as coral reef preservation and over fishing. Save the SF Bay, lynxes and trash/landfill reduction were on the up tick today.

Overheard kids explaining food webs and interdependence today: “How do turtles affect anything else?” “Well, if sharks eat turtles… like if you had only cereal to eat and then the cereal ran out…” “Oh, THAT makes sense now.” Nearly butted in and messed it up.

Chatted with lots of kids about lots of science stuff  – Food webs and interdependence. What are dioxins and what is bioaccumulation? with interested kids who really wanted to know or were grateful for being pointed to a good resource.

Tiring to stay so engaged all day, but really necessary to avoid “Nah, I didn’t get anything down because I couldn’t find a book/didn’t know what to do/lost my paper/wasn’t here on Friday.” I’m always tempted to think they are just fine but as soon as I try to do something else, the student right in front of me starts working on their desktop picture or cruising around Google to find new snowboard technology or whatever.

Unlike usual, today I made an effort to engage with students who WERE working well too – “How’s it going?” “What’s interesting?” “Wow, that’s a really shocking picture!” etc. Kind of cool to hear their views on what they’re learning.

I’m really glad I’ve kept up with environment and public health issues in the news over the last six months. Knowing the issues at some level makes it easier to direct students to non-frustrating resources. The links on the web site are generally fine but within publications, students need help with exactly how to search for their issue.

Next time, I think I’ll also collect news magazines and news papers and have kids look for issues in the news right now instead of the big ol’ powerpoint shows. Make a bulletin of all the stuff that’s wrong with the world that THEY find and put together.

Also, I’ll order a few more easy reading level books on topics such as hunger, hunger in America, threats to coral reefs, threats to the bay, water pollution, trash, landfill and reduce/reuse/recycle, vaccination programs, pet overpopulation. And I’d lay the books out and have them make their research choice based somewhat on the books they see, especially special ed students.

Working on patience to re-explain stuff without making a student feel like an idiot for asking. And for not drifting off into my own world while they are working.

Raining, raining all day with thunder rumbling and lightning flickering by the afternoon, kids like birds on a wire, ruffled up by the wild weather in their bright rubber boots, wet boys all bright eyed with rat-tailed, electrified hair.

January 19, 2010 at 9:13 PM Leave a comment

TAP 7: Who’s doing what for TAP?

The big decisions for who to work with and what to study was down to the wire today. A flutter of Post-its at the start of class for us all see who was doing what with whom. Post-its are the bomb. I could quickly group them by big picture stuff like global warming (a few), habitat destruction (deforestation and coral reefs ‘specially popular), extinctions (turtles, polar bears and cats of all kinds, smattering of sea otters), hunger, sanitation, malaria, vaccines and fresh water were pretty popular because they really feel for kids in need. A few chose more Western diseases like cancer and anorexia (an issue in our community). Three or four are doing disaster relief in Haiti.

Trash is always a big one, and confusing because what, exactly is the problem that picking up trash will solve? We push them to land fill issues, the effects on wild life, ocean pollution in general, and the using of resources for packaging and manufacture. But basically, they want to go to creeks and beaches with their friends and pick up a little trash and have a party. Who wouldn’t?

There is huge interest in the oceans and very little realization of the desperate state of our fisheries. One student teased me for suggesting kids go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for research with a friend, and then make their parents take them to lunch at Bubba Gumps. “Like you go there and eat the beautiful creatures you’ve just seen swimming around next door.” Then we considered a trip to the zoo and a steak afterwards. Or maybe a trip to the landfill and McDonald’s after :-). Having a hard time getting my mind off meatloaf for dinner…

Next year, we need to have more books around sanitation, hunger and trash related issues. Should have checked first, doh. So, so helpful for them to start with an elementary reading level book before moving into the high level text they will find on the internet. Makes the whole start to research seem much more fun too. Thanks to Pat Solkowski for making this all happen, so great to have colleagues to share the ride with.

They recognize the research sheet (Act.7) from the disease report last quarter. Helpful to have that lead-in. Less stress, more kids actually doing what they are supposed to. Well, maybe not ALL. Pyjama day after all, and Friday before the long week end.

Glad to be going home, aaah, Friday.


January 15, 2010 at 5:50 PM 1 comment

Project Learning Research and Example from Oracle

How to leverage what Oracle has to offer to project based learning with a TAP approach that can work within a standard school schedule at middle and high schools?

Check out Oracle’s white paper on project learning. What do you think?

You have to sign in but it’s free.

January 14, 2010 at 10:10 AM Leave a comment

TAP Day 6 contd.: Act. 5 – A bit of research, cause-and-effect diagrams, and The Relationship Game.

Inventing the ‘relationship game’ after a dud 1st period activity!

Continue Reading January 12, 2010 at 8:36 PM 1 comment

TAP Day 6: 2Qs Assessment, Journals and Animal Farts

Cool stuff kids said on their mini-quiz, including questions they wrote…

Continue Reading January 11, 2010 at 8:54 PM Leave a comment

TAP Day 5: What’s right with the world?

Posters of the bright spots, a powerpoint of ideas to do about climate change, and more on climate skeptics…

Continue Reading January 8, 2010 at 7:35 PM Leave a comment

TAP Day 4: Inspiration from the United Nations Millennium Development Goals

Fun to hear what issues are exciting the kids, and to get to the hope and action part of the project…

Continue Reading January 7, 2010 at 8:34 PM 2 comments

TAP Day 3 – What is TAP? – Poster session of ’09 projects + skeptics contd.

There is a buzz on campus about the project, from students last year and between periods and our two sets of classes. It’s a lot more fun getting this up and running the second time out. Slide show reflections, how to handle a climate denier…

Continue Reading January 6, 2010 at 7:11 PM 1 comment

TAP Day 2: How’s everyone feeling about the future of the world?

After yesterday’s downer slide show, I wanted to see how everyone was feeling so had them play the “Take A Position” game, from “Worried about the Future” on one side of the room, to “Hopeful/Not Worried about the Future”…

Continue Reading January 5, 2010 at 8:58 PM Leave a comment

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