Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Category


     The weather cooperated magnificently for Science Stars this week.   It was sunny and 70 degrees with a light wind.   My partners, Mike and Dylan, already wrote about our astonishment that, even with the nice weather, the students did not want to go outside.    The girls pictured above collected data on eight launches and were adept at using the equipment.   Working with these amazing students – they named their group “Girls with Brains” – is the best thing about the program.

     One of the next best things is working with my colleagues in the science teaching cohort.   We meet as a large group before the time with the girls to talk about our plans and get input from each other.   At the end of the session we review the session and talk about what went well and what could use improvement.   I have learned a great deal from them including things that I will incorporate in my future practice:

– Many of the groups have done a great job using icebreakers – described here on Kristin’s blog and here on Sean’s blog – that I think have led to better group cohesion.   This doesn’t come naturally for me but I will need to work on using classroom cues, which we talked about last week in Seminar, to create a ritual framework and structure.

– All the groups have been using concept maps in one form or another to help the students understand modeling and the reiterative nature of science – one method is described here on Jim’s blog.   A variety of approaches have been tried but it seems like having “preprinted” factor blocks to move around has been the most successful for the groups and we will use that approach next time we meet.   I am thinking about ways to make concept maps a natural part of instruction and reflection in my own classroom.

– Time constraints have been an issue as we try to keep things open-ended but yet keep things moving to meet the objective of wrapping up a complete investigation in early December.   Discovering the quantity of scaffolding necessary to support the students without guiding them excessively is part of this balancing act.   My experiences with Get Real Science Camp this summer, Science Stars, and my field observation have made it clear that I need to get used to feeling time pressured.

      We met on Tuesday which was also election day.   I wore my “I Voted Today” sticker and the girls, who had voted in a mock election at school, all had stickers too.   We talked excitedly about who we hoped would win the presidential election.    I was pleased with that result;  however, the setbacks in California (Proposition 8), Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona make me realize that there is much more work to do to eliminate the -isms that divide us.


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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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Where I\'m spending my summer


the more they stay the same.     It’s great to be back at the U of R.   I am enjoying the learning as I prepare to become a science educator!  

     I never had an undergraduate course in Dewey Hall, pictured above, but did have a student job in the Simon School, which used to be located there.    It’s different being here in the summer – I never knew the Periodical Reading Room had a porch overlooking the academic quad .   Carlson Library, my home away from home, is in a new building with lots of glass, brick, and glass block next to Hutchinson Hall.   A new Optics building next to Carlson completes a complex of science buildings with a beautiful terrace and gardens.   In Wilson Commons, there is a Starbucks where the game room used to be!!!!  –  and the Rathskellar was a casualty of the rise in the drinking age.  Those are some of the changes.

     Other things haven’t changed a bit.    The parking is even worse than I remember as an undergrad and this is in summer when the campus is mostly vacant.   When I had a car, I almost always took a U of R shuttle from Park Avenue so I never dealt with daytime parking.    I now walk from Park Lot which is south of Strong Hospital – it takes longer to walk than to drive to campus.     Suzanne’s post shows that the power structure is still intact in the science departments which reaffirms my decision not to go the PhD route way back when.    I think power struggles and oppression happen anywhere there are people.    I got more comfortable with organized religion after I became active in several environmental groups that demonstrated that holier-than-thou did not require a church.  

     Hopefully, one of the differences that I will make as an educator is in addressing social justice issues.    Our readings for the last class focused on exclusion and the culture of power in science in schools.   I have sampled this as a female chemist and engineer.    I plan to find innovative ways to make sure that in my classroom, and to the extent I can – in my school, science is for everybody.   Chris’ post reminded me that none of it will be easy.

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