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Archive for July, 2008

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Kids and Data

     It definitely helps my energy level when we have a great day of camp.    We made good progress today on graphing, data analysis, and conclusions although the groups worked at very different rates.   Each group gave a presentation to the leaders from their school and seemed confident about their data.   We need to do some more work on the nature of science and models tomorrow to make sure that we have achieved our objectives on those concepts.    There are a few kids in need of an individual assessment and that may come as each mini-group presents their data to each other and we ask that person to present the data.    Most of the kids are brimming with enthusiasm and contributions but there is one student who is very quiet and others who talk a fair amount but don’t appear to be thinking very deeply about the data or the project.

     Our last day on campus is tomorrow and we have a lot to get done.  I’m very impressed by many of my classmates and the way they have made things fun with the technology.   I think we could have done a little better with that but the whole scheduling of computers has been a bit of a problem.   We’re headed over to a computer lab tomorrow and hopefully we can incorporate some of these good ideas – finding their house on Google Earth or viewing the beach or… – because we will finally have enough computers for everybody to use one concurrently.      We are hoping that each of them will do a blog post tomorrow and comment on somebody else’s blog.    We need to renegotiate the blog theme with them because our current theme, picked by the students, does not list the author and we want them to be able to take ownership of their posts.

     I’m becoming quite attached to these kids.   They are a fun group and it has been a great getting to know them.   I will miss them very much when this is over.   We have had some interesting conversations about many things including one this morning about race.    They told me they are not proud of the people on the street corners who make their race look bad;   I told them I was not proud of the people who make my race look bad by assuming that they are like the people on the street corners.    It is hard to listen to some of the stuff that happens in their lives and realize that there are things I can’t help them with.   I CAN focus on what I CAN do which is being open, positive, supportive, and not judging anybody based on anything other than direct interactions and even then, giving them multiple chances because everybody occasionally has a bad day.

     I’m excited about going to Harambe in the morning and riding the bus with them to campus.     I really like the positive energy of the morning gathering and it will be a nice way to end the week.

Pluses and Arrows:

+  Scholars mostly engaged with the project and seem to be having fun.

+  A good day for data analysis and much of it is already in Keynote so we are on our way to finalizing our presentation.

+  Good energy among students, leaders, and the entire group.   Go Team Thunder!

->   More individual hands-on computer time tomorrow including some fun.

->   Individual assessment needed for a few of the kids to ensure they understand the overall project and understand the nature of science.

->   Keep the energy level up.

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      I am so tired – neither of the picture links are working and I’m too tired to try to find out why so that I can post a picture.    Andrea did a great post on her blog and I’m tempted to just write “what she said” and go to bed.    Having another class after camp is exhausting and although I know I am not alone in that – Wow! am I tired.

     We had a pretty good day today.    There were external and extenuating circumstances that had our group a bit down this morning despite the enthusiastic greeting at the bus.    I did get big smiles this morning from most of them but it was a gray, down morning both in the skies and in their moods.   Even having a snack and water right away didn’t seem to cheer anybody up.   A few kids mentioned not having breakfast and being hungry;  I’m not sure what is up with that because I thought that they got breakfast at the Freedom School.   We had a bit of fun – mostly working on Andrea’s cheer capabilities (she was a very good sport) – which helped lighten the mood a bit and then we discussed our questions, our model, made some predictions, and began data analysis.    I hope we can figure out a stronger start for tomorrow because we need to get everybody engaged earlier AND add some fun to our day.

     After lunch, we headed over to Hutchinson Hall – arriving just before a rainstorm – to spend time in the laboratory exploring the samples of the “nasty stuff” that we picked up on the beach and counting bacteria cultures from one of our investigations.   They were done with the lab fairly quickly and we headed back to Warner.     After some confusion over room assignments and three moves, we had a few moments left for blogging.    Some of the kids mentioned looking at the blog and possibly working on their posts tonight; if they don’t get to it, they will definitely have time tomorrow.   It was a bit upsetting to listen to one of the leaders yell at the kids before they got on the bus but they have a long relationship and I have no idea about the backstory so I’m trying to make my peace with it.

     I really enjoy being with these kids and have had some fun conversations with them individually.    I think they know how we feel and trust us enough to reflect some of that back to us.    They are getting more comfortable with making mistakes, then just fixing them and moving on.    They have talked to us about real things in their lives both current and some of their hopes for the future.    I hope we can find some ways to have fun with them tomorrow.   They have been working hard and making good progress on the science, the group skills and dynamics, and learning technology so they need to not be working in a room the entire time tomorrow.

Pluses and Arrows:

+ We completed the initial model and started data analysis including some manual graphing.  

+ Some kids engaged in the lab in a way they didn’t engage in the other activities.

+ We overcame a very rocky start and had a relatively smooth day.

+ Andrea got the cheer right.

->  We need to keep them moving, find some fun, and still get some serious work done plus find a way to avoid the morning doldrums.

->  We need to avoid contact with other groups because that causes a major lack of focus.   This is a bit of a problem because nearly all of the laptops are PCs and we are supposed to be working with them on a Mac based program which is only available in the tech lab and on a few select portable computers.   Even the biology lab was an issue and there were two separate rooms which didn’t seem to be enough for two groups.

->  We need get the creative juices flowing for our final project and find a way to engage Ridge’s artistic ability.

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     Today, Team Thunder had an awesome day at the beach.    Our plan worked really well and the scholars were engaged and enthusiastic.     The above picture is our Turbidity Team who did water current and secchi disk measurements at nearshore and offshore locations along the beach.

     We started the morning by reviewing yesterday including the cultured bacteria from our equipment stations yesterday.    We decided to break up into small groups so that we were sure that everybody understood the concept of a model and testable questions.   Then we got back together as a large group and reviewed the concept map of our model from yesterday, brainstormed our equipment list, and reviewed our questions.    Many questions would have required time travel to go back and record data in the past so we discarded those.  

     Of the questions that were left, we expanded on them to create three testable questions about a) air and water temperature offshore, nearshore, and in the water, b) turbidity levels and current – they noted the waves were much bigger today, and c) bacteria levels at the bottom of the swimming area.   We divided into groups again based on who was interested in what question and each group planned their investigation.   The groups presented their individual plans to the whole group which decided that if we all tested our questions at the same locations, we could combine the results.   The afternoon was spent collecting data and blogging.   The students are excited to review the data tomorrow.

    The best thing about today was that we had a lot of fun together.   The kids were more relaxed with us and vice versa.   The team member who was not there yesterday was integrated easily into our group.    We worked on a team cheer and are trying to teach Andrea the clapping rhythm for the “Good Job” cheer.    

     I feel like I learned something interesting about each of the kids – Ridge is a talented artist, Jalen likes to make predictions, Yasmine really enjoyed science today despite being our most reluctant scholar yesterday, Fallon has a great smile and keeps it light while seriously working, Frank worked well with the rest of the group despite missing yesterday, Gabi likes making connections and was a great sport when a large wave splashed her, Yolanda can be quiet but asks amazing questions about factor interactions, and Lavalle stayed focused today and seemed to enjoy himself without causing trouble today.

    Our group was having a hard time coming up with arrows at the end of the day!

Pluses and Arrows:

+ Our investigative plan came together really well despite the fact that it seemed like we were behind yesterday.

+ It required less scaffolding than I feared but a bit more than I hoped so perhaps it was a good balance.

+ We had fun!!!!

->  Keep working on group dynamics.

->  Make sure we have a good plan for tomorrow.   We’ve got a lot of work to get done in the next three days.

->  Keep everybody busy, moving, and involved in as many of the activities as possible.

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      I am going to try really hard to keep this to a strictly reporting format.    My sense of humor seems to be lost on some people even though I’ve tried hard to leave really big clues like the book being parodied and giving up a girl card sooooo… here goes an attempt at a serious, reporting, assignment-type blog post.  [OK a little humor slipped in there.]

      Today was our first day at camp and, overall, it went really well.   We did not get as much done as we planned but we were close and have high hopes for tomorrow.   At the beginning of the day, the kids were very negative about being at the beach and about science but I feel like that turned around by the middle of the day.   After they grabbed some beach muck and waded into the water to use the equipment, they were much happier about the whole idea of being there and doing science.    Lunch was a nice break after a busy morning although some of the kids were mystified by the raisins in the tuna salad (me too – yuck!) and the “chocolate bread” but everybody found something to eat;   some had mentioned being hungry well before lunch so we’ll modify that for tomorrow and possibly have snacks mid-morning.    We spent the afternoon talking about connections and building a model – either they were tired or it was post-lunch naptime, but this didn’t go quite as well as we hoped.

      Pluses and Arrows:

+  Some kids who were negative about the beach and/or science were more positive relatively early in the process.

+  The kids did great with the muck and the boots and getting in and out of the water.

+  I really liked being with the kids and tuning into their insights and wonderings.

->  We need to make this more fun for them.    The one girl who was actually positive about science seemed very bored by the end of the day.  The others were more positive about it.

->  Our group needs to work better as a team, see Thomas’ blog post for details.    We also need to get the group dynamics for all of – scholars and Warner students – on track.

->  We need to have a question and a plan early tomorrow morning because it’s our last day at the beach.    This may require more scaffolding than I had hoped.

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      I’m so excited that camp is almost here – at last. I have to go load some boxes of hip waders back into my car and I’ll be just about ready to go.   I’m looking forward to meeting our group of scholars and starting the inquiry process with them.

::: waving hello to Andrea :::    Happy almost birthday!   We’ll celebrate tomorrow.

 

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I Loathe Shopping

     OK I realize that this means I have to give up a girl card or something like that.   Perhaps, it’s the reason I became a scientist but….    I loathe shopping.

 

     On Friday, we were told that we had to wear specific color shirts to camp on Monday.     No matter that they actually have camp t-shirts locked in a closet somewhere, we have to come up with matching shirts for Monday and Tuesday.    I have gone through the basement, the dressers, the attics, and called my friends.    Nothing.   My 11yo has a plethora of red Red Sox shirts but I look like a sausage in them because he is smaller than me.

 

     So today, I went shopping.    I loathe shopping.   I would rather have a root canal than go shopping.   In the third store, I finally found a royal blue shirt that fit and wasn’t hideous – think spaghetti straps and you don’t want me going there.    I was excited because I thought I was set for Monday, but noooooooooooo Monday is red shirt day.  I will be back in the stores tomorrow.   Some of my classmates offered to bring me a shirt which was generous but how do I know it will fit?   why would I want to have somebody else pick my clothes?

 

      I get the concept.   I’ve always had to wear a shirt for camps I’ve done to be identified as a person to talk to about problems.  I’ve done a camp for kids and usually something like outdoor education every year.      BUT….   the camps have always provided the shirt.    I know it’s a tight budget.   I know there were grant problems.   The kids will be eating Lorraine’s Lunch Basket food and I’ll be having PB&J but the shirt thing drives me nuts!!    If I had had notice, yeah fancy that — something before the last minute, the UPS man could have brought me something …. but tomorrow, I get to go shopping again.   

 

     Have I mentioned that I loathe shopping?

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+ →

In case anybody who is reading this is not in my class this session, pluses and arrows are what we do at the end of some of our educational experiences to review the positive things that happened and take a look at what could have gone better. My last post was a bit of a rant and most of it wouldn’t have qualified as either a plus or an arrow because those are either positive or neutral (think about the geometry really). I’m better now but still treading water – I have a huge amount of school work to do over the weekend and I need to get the aforementioned children off to sleepaway camp so I can focus on the other kids at science camp.

+ I did find a grant topic and I’m really excited about it. I worked nonstop since I figured it out Wednesday evening pulling together the plan and the details but it was a much rougher draft than I would have preferred to turn in; it needs a lot more work on the lesson plan but I saved that to last and ran out of time. I’m going to be targeting the apparent lack of relevance of Chemistry by tying two unit plans into environmental issues specific to this area – showing that the molecular level reactions have huge impacts on macroscopic biosystems. It really is starting to come together but I ran out of time. Do I continue working on it now or wait for the feedback? Probably the latter.

+ I’m really excited about camp next week. I hope that the time with the scholars will help me remember why I am doing this.

-> Note to self: consider your audience more when you are blogging. Most of my classmates did not get the reference to the very funny children’s book that I based my last post on. Alexander is a funny, unlucky kid who comes to recognize that even when you have a really, really bad day, things will generally turn out OK and moving to Australia probably wouldn’t help. Most of my past blogging has been to other parents and they totally would have understood the backstory.

Happy Friday everybody!

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