Posts filed under ‘Creativity’

Earth in Verse

I heard a snippet of Maria Popova’s “The Universe in Verse” and was inspired to do something for Earth Day this year.

Students were challenged to find a photograph of nature that made them feel happy and one that made them feel sad, and then to write a poem about one or other photo: Nature Light and Dark. I suggested they start with a descriptive phrase and go from there. Here’s the example I shared.

Why something so art-y and subjective/imaginative in science class? Because what you feel is what you remember and what you care about. And the world desperately needs young people who care about the state of the planet, who care to learn about it and do something, and know how to get others to do so too. It’s a lead-in to a unit on environmental science coming up.

They were free to use photos from their phones. They could also do a Google image search from a growing list of science terms that have something to do with nature. For the happy photos, they looked up images of places that they love. They picked an issue that they were especially concerned about as a search term to find a photo that made them sad. Here is the slide template I shared with them via Google Classroom.

It was lovely to watch them so completely absorbed, showing each other pictures on their phones, had to set a few boundaries – no selfies, or pics primarily of their pets. Resort pictures are not really wild ‘nature’ and that’s an important consideration these days where the wealthy get this manicured view of nature inside giant resort enclosures where the surroundings are often seriously impacted – Cancun springs to mind.

A bit of counseling to avoid the first image that pops up so we don’t see the same thing over and over. But also a lovely opportunity to roll the chair around to each group and listen in, encourage, help and coach. What IS a ‘good’ photo? – one that makes you feel something. In sharp focus, with ONE main thing that it’s about. But other than that, you sort of know when you see it. Some students are so schooled in ‘the right answer’ that it’s hard for them to know and trust their gut when it’s appropriate. And what is ‘good’ poetry? Another huge question but for the purposes of today, I suggested the following: It’s what is true for you. Write first whatever comes up from the photo that you feel most strongly about. THEN edit. Don’t worry about rhyme unless it comes easily. Consider the sound and rhythm, the meter of the words and the punctuation. Read it aloud. Does it sound right? Edit.

Students wrote their poem on the third slide and then copied and pasted their work onto a slide set for the class so it automatically made a slide show. Today, they read out their poems with the picture that inspired it behind them.

Here are the best poems and pictures in a Google Slideshow.  Kids would love it if you commented and said where you are writing from!

 

May 15, 2019 at 8:22 PM 2 comments

Kid 2 Kid Puerto Rico Solar Oven Project

With the power taking so long to be restored in Puerto Rico, solar ovens could be really helpful.  So we tweaked the solar oven project to challenge students to engineer a solar oven out of household items that 7th graders could easily find and assemble.

  1. We started with a do-anything, make-any-old solar oven with no guidance. They got the hang of it, and some experiences to link the physics of solar ovens to. The challenge was to heat 60ml of water the most in 2 minutes. I provided boxes, pizza boxes, mylar survival blankets, masking tape, magnifiers, scissors, cling film and other office supplies I had lying around as they asked. This playing around piece might sound like a waste of valuable academic time but it really does make the rest of the learning and the engineering go MUCH more smoothly. It’s also straight up more fun for me – I hate having to over explain stuff and boss around kids who don’t quite get the instructions. Obviously, I keep an eye on safety and circulate all the time to answer questions and give encouragement/re direct. The level of engagement is so high that there are very few discipline issues – the chaos that seems to be implied is way less than you’d think.

2. Then we studied some physics on a need-to-know basis:

 

a. Energy transformations in appliances, toys, pets and cars to review concepts they learned in earlier grades.

 

b. We had to review the definitions of energy and matter with a card sort, this time on a continuum, rather than one or the other. Much easier this way.IMG_1624

c. Light and optics lab to learn about reflection and refraction using light boxes.

 

c. Students researched ideas from other solar ovens being used in the world – in developing countries, by off-the-grid homesteaders, by campers and even by The Chef in his solar oven episode.

3. They put together their knowledge of physics and already-invented solar ovens and designed new solar ovens to fit the challenge with a second build day.

4. All the ovens were tested for effectiveness (temperature change of 60ml of water in a bean can).  Good to repeat the test to iron out data collection issues. I have kids put the ovens by temperature rise rank on the black top so we can easily compare and contrast them.IMG_7364IMG_1727IMG_2179IMG_2961IMG_1731

5. We evaluated the ovens on the use of easily available materials, and on ease of assembly and use. Then we combined the best ideas – what do you think? Think, pair, share. Each class came up with a design that was based on one of the top two or three

6. Apply for a job in the How-2K2K Video Production Company. Here’s the list of jobs. The application was a half page for them to say why they wanted the job and why they would be good at it. IMG_5485

7. Review and test on the science concepts we have been applying – optics, spectrum green house effect, energy transformations. Students see the test and use it to guide their review – I’ll use different solar ovens and energy transformers for the real thing.

Here’s the test and answer sheets.

8. Make the How-To video.

This was harder than saying ‘Hey kids, now you know your jobs, make a video.’ Who knew? After some false starts (chaos 🙂 I grouped kids by their jobs and briefed each group on what I expected. The director(s) were only in charge of the filming.

It’s a good idea to let the ‘how to’ group re-assembling the solar oven rehearse first with the camera people. Maybe one to record a time-lapse, one to videotape and one to take stills.

Props was the hardest job in the end. Students had a really hard time getting past ‘we don’t have a steel bowl at home.’ end of story. Went over how to solve a problem like that and one mom did go out in the evening to actually buy something. Ugh, not what I intended. I used the props people as floaters to fill in for other jobs that arose.

We talked about ‘finding something useful to do’ if they had spaces of time when their job was not immediately needed. What a great life skill.

It was really hard for the directors to assert themselves with their peers, as it is for most of us.

I allowed a catch-up day for editors, script writers and any other crews to finish off their jobs. Much better than a rubbish end product.

9. The Kid 2 Kid Solar Oven How-To Movie Premiere!

Here’s one of our best videos from Period 7

Here is the link to our other videos. And from Marshall Sachs’ classes too.

 

 

 

 

October 31, 2017 at 2:44 PM Leave a comment

Cool the School Project: Launch Day

Let’s do launch… of the first proper PBL project this school year. Lots of ‘failing forward’ going on as we attempt to get kids to ‘Cool the School’.

Continue Reading August 31, 2016 at 2:36 PM Leave a comment

The Re-Wilding Project Begins!

Re-wilding… a more inspiring challenge that ‘conservation’ or ‘restoration’. This is the lead in to this exciting project we are developing at Orinda Intermediate School

Continue Reading February 8, 2016 at 4:14 PM 2 comments

The scariest part of PBL: Build Days (with the Solar Oven example)

28 middle kids with box cutters and cans of spray paint… The scariest part of PBL was not as bad as I feared. Actually, it was really fun, friendly and even educational. Here’s how…

Continue Reading September 16, 2015 at 1:45 PM Leave a comment

Getting started with notebooks in science

The Common Core hits science, aaarrrrggghhhh…. or is it (shhh) not so bad? 

Continue Reading August 30, 2014 at 10:31 AM Leave a comment

Improv All Kinds of Classrooms

Improv ideas for all kinds of classrooms, especially science. Have fun yourself, relax a little and enjoy a smorgasbord of improv games to add to the start of your year.

Continue Reading August 13, 2014 at 7:21 AM Leave a comment

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