Tag Archives: Field trip

Weekly Photo Challenge: Play

When things get busy…like during this time of the year…I forget to do really important things, like play!  But playing is the very thing I need when I am feeling over-the-top with all the demands of work and responsibility and the holidays (I always forget how much cleaning and organizing comes with decorating).

Maybe that’s why we scheduled a field trip in the first week of December (what were we thinking?) to the Children’s Museum.  We planned our trip around the idea that play and experience would inspire writing for our students.  I brought my camera with me…and I both played with my camera and with my students.  I loved the way that play was physical…like climbing these ropes suspended like a web.

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On hands and knees I crawled around dark corners in tight spaces until it opened up into a room with hundreds and hundreds of spoons suspended from the ceiling, creating a visual and aural experience.  The low light meant the photo images were about play too, as reflected light bounced off the gently swaying metal as my camera attempted to freeze time.

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Writing became part of the play as well.  “Taking 5” meant time to be inspired and play with words.  Our students also found interesting places to perch themselves for this writing, playing with the physical act of writing too.  (I played around with Prisma to disguise my student, but still let you see the writing perch he found!)

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And when the walls are filled with quotes and images, my mind wants to play with those too.  I found myself fascinated with the ways the light was coming in the windows, illuminating bits and pieces.  I love that Ask Great Questions is highlighted here…knowing that curiosity is the key to learning.

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I was still playing later in the week when I noticed the heavy fluff of the dew-laden dandelions in the front yard.  I can only imagine what the neighbors were thinking when they saw me kneeling in the wet grass as I headed out for work trying to capture that heaviness.  I decided to pull this iPhone image in close and make it black and white to emphasize the beauty of the simplicity.

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I feel like the moon has been playing chase and tag with me all week.  I’ve been noticing the waxing moon in the late afternoon all week.  After I got my phone repaired this week (I had one of those defective 6s batteries!), I noticed the moon working hard to be a decoration on the local mall Christmas tree and I played with angles using my newly repaired phone to capture the moment.

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And in spite of that heaviness of exhaustion, after school yesterday I made a spur of the moment decision to find the street entrance of a beach I have only previously seen from the sand level.  I was not disappointed–in fact, I felt energized.  The tide was getting high and as I walked over mounds of rocks I looked back at the cliffs and noticed the moon following me in a playful game of follow the leader–with me leading this time!

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So, let’s focus on play this week.  How will you capture play in your photos…or play with your images?  How will you push pass the demands of each day and discover moments for playfulness in your busy routine?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #play for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Get out and play around!  Be sure to share your play with the rest of us!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vitamin N

Today is Earth Day, a day to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and remember that it is our duty to take care of this place we inhabit.  This week, for me, has been an odd juxtaposition of long days of meetings interspersed with intense periods out in nature.  Earlier this week I came across a blog post about a new book by Richard Louv.  He’s a local author who is known for writing about the need for kids to have experiences in nature (he wrote Last Child in the Woods).  His new book, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life includes 500 ways to connect with nature…and it appeared in our classroom, signed by the author shortly before our field trip to the lagoon on Wednesday.

It is affirming to know that others recognize the powerful learning experiences that occur when kids head outside…and it doesn’t take much in the way of materials to make it happen.  And I am reminded that heading outside wasn’t just good for my students, it was good for me and for the other adults too.

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We watched lizards, found a beehive (a hole in a rock wall), saw an extraordinary display by some great white egrets, spied a fish (at least a foot long), smelled sage, and were treated to a riot of colorful flowers in less than an hour at the lagoon.  Students used binoculars and took field notes…and couldn’t wait to research what they had seen when they got back to the classroom.

To practice, the day before we headed out the garden with the same tools (a notebook and binoculars).  In addition the dead crow (eeewwww!), we saw ladybugs and other insects.

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We uncovered brilliant red strawberries, observed birds perched on fences and wires, and noticed the delicate laces of plants we don’t know the names of.

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And of course tall, stately sunflowers always catch my eye…and in this case directed my attention to the gorgeous clouds in the distance.

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I haven’t spent much time at the beach lately, but today, after school I rushed home so we could head back out for a low-tide beach walk.  Blue skies, gentle breezes, and mid 60’s temperatures created the perfect backdrop for walking and talking and exploring.

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Somehow I managed to forget to bring my camera with me–luckily my phone was in my pocket!  I noticed the wet cliff walls (even though the tide was low) and wanted to capture the abstract art quality of them, with the natural sandstone textures above them..

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In spite of my crazy schedule this week, I managed a substantial dose of Vitamin N!  (And I definitely benefited from the time outdoors and from observing the wonders of the natural world!)  So this week’s challenge is to give yourself a shot of vitamin N, head outside and explore a bit of nature around you.  What captures your attention?

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #vitaminN for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

 

Sometimes we need an excuse to treat ourselves to something wonderful–even when our schedules are feeling compressed and hectic.  A dose of Vitamin N might be just what you need!  Grab your camera and head outdoors…what wonders will you find? Share your discoveries with us and expand nature’s reach through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Something I Learned this Week

I’m lucky.  As a classroom teacher I have opportunities for learning all the time…from my students, out in the community, from my colleagues, with my “colleagues at a distance” (on MOOCs and social media), …and at home, from my family…  I am surrounded by learning.

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to take our students to the local waste water treatment plant.  We’ve been studying water (something we don’t have enough of here in San Diego!) and have a parent in our class who happens to be the deputy mayor in our community.  She was eager to make the connection between the study of the properties of water and the water cycle and the municipal responsibilities of getting water to our taps and then treated as the water heads back out into nature’s cycle.  So when she asked if we’d like to have her arrange a field trip to the water treatment plant just a couple of miles away, we were eager to go.

And even more fun, the water plant manager and the other employees were delighted to have us visit.  They had us break into three groups and then took us on a tour of the plant, carefully explaining and describing all the processes in the treatment cycle.  We started at the huge digester tanks, filled with the solid waste being cleaned by natural occurring microorganisms.  We learned that the temperature of the tanks is about the same as our body temperature when we have a fever…up to about 102 degrees.

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After spending 15 days in the digester, the now activated sludge is sent through a process that separates the water from the solids.  We watched the belts squeeze out the water and send the dry activated sludge into a truck to be hauled off to Arizona where it is used as fertilizer for livestock crops (alfalfa and the sort).

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We saw the big overflow tanks…where waste water collects under these big sheets (the water you can see on top is some accumulation as the result of the rain we got last week).  There is an inflow of 3 million gallons a day!  (And they have a duplicate tank just in case there is a problem with one–they explained the importance of redundancy to keep the operation moving.)

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After than, we got to walk through the lab…and take a peek at all the science equipment in use. We noticed test tubes and vials, everything scientists need to test hypotheses, collect data, and carefully examine what is going on with the water they care for.  We also got to see samples of the different stages of water cleaning.  (They use a three-part process to get water to the recycled stage)  Dale carefully explained each step in the water cleaning process to our young students.

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We learned about the way that air is used to clean water…and watched the water bubble with the air pumped through it.

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And this student was enthralled with all she was learning…she took pages and pages of notes in her little reporters notebook.  (She proudly announced that she filled 17 pages!)

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I hadn’t thought about the technology of keeping odors at a minimum, but this space ship looking thing cleans smells from the air before it goes back into the air.

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Once water goes through the primary, secondary, and tertiary processes, it gets to the recycled water state…for use in landscaping and on golf courses.  This stage flows into the purple pipes that carry this water throughout our community, but at the plant the water flows through these white pipes that will eventually meet up with the purple ones!

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And whatever recycled water is not needed for the purple pipes is piped out into the ocean, joining the salt water and becoming part of our natural water cycle once again.  The ducks have decided that this is a great place to hang out…right across the street from the lagoon!  I think they see this place as their own private spa!

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So…what have you learned this week?  Maybe it’s a longer story of a particular place…or a snippet that caught your fancy and taught you something new.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #learning for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

I’m looking forward to learning from you this week…pinpoint something you learned this week and share that learning with the rest of us through your lens!

Architecture: The Structure of Learning

We have a beautiful urban park here in San Diego.  Open space, trees, a lily pond, fountains, trails, museums and restaurants…including some ornate and historic architecture that dates back to the Panama-California exhibition in 1915.  In these storied surroundings, I’ve been spending time with a group of formal and informal educators investigating ways to improve school field trips through a project we call Intersections.  (I’ve written before about it here and here.)

As I spent the day at the San Diego Natural History Museum today, observing a group of high school students on a field trip, I found myself thinking about architecture.

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As the educator-researchers in our group discussed what we observed watching students during their field trip today, our conversation moved to the carefully planned structures that support students’ independence and dispositions toward learning.  Field trips have traditionally depended on adult-centered structures that keep students “on-task,” ensuring that the trip has documented educational value in the form of completed packets of answered questions rather than trusting students to be interested in what they find in front of them.

Over lunch, our Intersections leadership team chatted with an external evaluator–a part of our larger National Science Foundation grant– about our observations and tentative conclusions. And we found ourselves thinking about and talking about all the learning that happens that we are not able to document.  When we take students outside the classroom, what are we hoping for?  What can they learn that the classroom environment doesn’t offer?  And why then, do we keep trying to make field trips more like school?

As I look at this photo of a young woman using her cell phone to photograph an owl, I wonder how we encourage students to use tools and processes they use outside of school to support their own learning.  How will this student use this photograph?  What was she aiming for as she composed the image?  How can students’ digital lives interact in positive ways with their school lives?

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And as my colleague described her understanding of the development of social capacity, a concept important in her binational work, my understanding of the learning that happens on field trips continued to evolve.  A field trip is not a classroom lesson, it is a social event, a shared learning experience outside the school environment.  And while students certainly learn some content, they are also developing social capacity–as representatives of their school and class in a public arena.  They are navigating unfamiliar spaces, coming in contact with people they don’t usually see, interacting with adults–docents, volunteers, vendors, scientists, researchers–and exploring materials not present in their classrooms and schools.

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And in the best of situations they are figuring out how to interact with the space, people, and information in meaningful ways.  I loved this informal game I observed today…a chaperone and his group spontaneously started counting the animals they spied in this coastal sage environment.  Someone saw 9…and another saw 12, someone else saw 15.  They started pointing them out to each other, looking closely, naming what they saw.

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And another researcher watched a pair of students challenge each other on the native/nonnative quiz in the patio area.  The goal was to win…and the game was calling on prior knowledge and combining it with what they were observing in the exhibit.  And they were having fun…being social, laughing, enjoying themselves…and learning.

So what is the underlying architecture of a successful field trip…that structure that enables students to engage in learning on their own terms?  That takes advantage of the place and the richness of expertise and artifacts that aren’t present in the classroom?  And that honors the beauty and elegance of learning…not for a grade or a test, but because we are inspired and motivated to learn because we are learners–driven to make sense of our world, on our own terms.

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Learning in the Intersections

You all probably remember them, those iconic experiences of heading out on a school day with your classmates and teacher to a local museum or art gallery to extend and enhance what was going on the in classroom…a field trip!  And in the best of times, those field trips are memorable, often motivating learning beyond the school curriculum.  Maybe one of those experiences even fueled your passion for a particular field of study.

But often, field trips are fraught with conflict.  Are you heading out of the classroom to “do school” somewhere else?  Is it a free day of fun with friends where the learning is incidental and accidental…if it happens at all?  What role do teachers and museum personnel play in the field trip experience? What about chaperones?  And what about students and their interests and passions?

Through Intersectionsa project funded by the National Science Foundation through the National Writing Project and the Association of Science and Technology Centersthe San Diego Area Writing Project, in partnership with the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center,has been exploring the conflicts and tensions surrounding field trips.

In our second year of investigating how to support student learning in the context of a field trip, we have learned a lot.  Most significantly, we’ve learned the power of the interaction and co-learning of formal educators (those who work in school settings) and informal educators (those who work in out-of-school spaces like museums).  We discovered that our goals for student learning are mostly the same, and through our interactions, we have reconsidered how we might achieve those goals.  But first we had to let go of all that we have no control over–including exhibit layout and signage, field trip costs and transportation, and the uneven qualifications of chaperones, especially when it comes to facilitating student learning.

We’ve decided this year to focus on ways to support students as agents of their own learning, depending less on the adults who accompany them and trusting that a rich museum experience will result in meaningful learning–even when students do not complete worksheets that ensure they have learned specific facts or answered a series of questions delineated by grade level standards.

So we have asked teachers to prepare students for their trip by asking them to explore the exhibit, noting what interests them, and taking back interesting tidbits and lingering questions for further investigation through the creation of some kind of project back in the classroom following the trip.  And to better understand how this works in action–with a variety of grade levels and school contexts–we are observing students in action through a series of field trip pilots.

Today we observed sixth graders in action.  They came with a charge–to notice adaptations of plants and animals evident in the Coast to Cactus exhibit so they could create a project displaying their learning back at school next week.

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We watched students looking closely, in conversation with each other as they observed live animals in the exhibit.

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Students working alone, taking notes from the exhibit signage.  And others in pairs and triads, some taking photos, others sketching, and some simply flipping buttons and spinning dials.

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This student seems to be under surveillance by both the researcher and the stuffed deer as he takes notes from the informational placard.

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Some students found cozy nooks to meet and write–like inside this Bambi airstream that is a part of the exhibit.  While others took a bit of time away to see how many boys would fit inside the hollow tree trunk while a classmate looked on and snapped their photo!

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And the questions linger.  How much like school should a field trip be?  Do students need to “on task” by completing forms, taking notes, answering questions…  Or can they be talking to each other, turning dials, inventing their own competitions and games related to the exhibits, crawling through tunnels and squeezing into tree trunks…and still be learning?  Do they need to “do” the museum, reading each sign, looking at each artifact from start to finish?  Or is it okay to  focus their time and attention on the areas that most pique their interests?

I’m interested in what these students will create when they head back to school.  How will the visit to the museum influence their project?  What will they remember most about this trip?  Will they come back on their own, with their families?  How would they use the museum if left to their own devices?

We are paying attention to the intersections of formal and informal learning, of writing and science…and of student interest driven inquiry and teacher/adult directed learning.  And with each pilot field trip, I have more questions about supporting student learning as we work to help students initiate and shape their own learning using field trips as a tool.

How do you view the iconic field trip?  How do you prepare your students/your own children for out-of-school learning experiences?  What outcomes do you hope for when you think field trip?  We’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Doing

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

Tomorrow is my last day of school with my students, so they’ve been thinking a lot about summer and what they will be doing.  And we’ve been doing a lot in the classroom this last week, taking advantage of our mild sunny weather and the incredible independence the students have developed over the course of the school year.  Monday was a field trip to the NAT–the San Diego Natural History Museum–where students were busy doing a lot of inquiring and thinking about all the science learning they have done this year.

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Here’s one of my students using his hands to pedal to create the energy to cause water to run in a sink.  And then I couldn’t resist snapping this picture of a group of students busily writing in the pirate ship at the NAT.

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Yesterday we had our second annual rock climbing event with third graders.  It’s bittersweet to get to June when you’ve taught students for three years and know that they will be leaving and moving on to 4th grade and a new school too.  So we spent yesterday afternoon rock climbing at a climbing gym.  I got many shots of kids doing climbing.  I love watching them gain confidence as they try again and again.  This little girl had no fear…she climbed to the very top again and again!

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This one isn’t my student, but I love when students take the initiative to make a difference in the world.  I found these informational signs around our school, attached to fences with pipe cleaners.  I did manage to track down the authors so I could congratulate them for their earnest efforts to improve the world.

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And I’ve been doing some doing too.  Just recently we put on an Advanced Institute at our writing project (SDAWP) focused on paper circuitry.  It’s such fun to play around with writing and science and all the connections between the two.  Here’s a fairly rudimentary parallel circuit I made playing with conductive thread instead of the copper tape I’ve used before.

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And over the weekend I was exploring our local botanical gardens when I came face to face with this little guy.  A lot of my doing is related to photography…and it takes me to interesting places and seeing (and photographing( interesting things.

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And all this thinking about doing has me thinking about the CLMOOC (which begins tomorrow) and the making and doing I will be involved in there.  I hope all of you will join in the fun as well!

So this week’s challenge is to focus on doing…your own or the doing you see around you. You can be watching doing in action, capture things you are doing, or any combination that works for you. As always, you are the one who gets to decide what counts as doing…so have fun, and start doing, especially if you are having fun!

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #doing for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So get going and get doing!  Can’t wait to see what you are doing this week.

 

Field Trippin’ Through the Intersections

The bus pulled up in front of the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center as the much-needed rain pelted down.  Excited fifth graders poured from the bus into the rain, ready to explore.

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And waiting just inside were a group of classroom teachers and museum educators ready to watch closely and think carefully about how these students’ teachers and chaperones support student learning and promote student inquiry during the field trip.

This was the pilot of the materials developed by the participants of the Intersections project–a collaboration between the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP), the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Natural History Museum funded by a National Science Foundation Grant to the National Writing Project and the Association of Science and Technology Centers.  This group of educators has been meeting and learning together–with a focus on inquiry, science, writing, and field trips since the fall.  And just a week ago they designed “tools” for use to prepare for and facilitate the field trip to the two museums.

And the field trip was an opportunity to examine the tools in use, with the aim of improving them in a next iteration.  We watched the kids in action, noting their conversation, their body language, their interaction with the exhibits…taking pictures, detailed field notes, video and audiotape…all with the goal of understanding their experience in order to improve students’ opportunities for learning and engagement.  And…we were under strict orders to only observe–something very difficult for this group of hands-on educators dedicated to facilitating engaging learning experiences for students!

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After lunch, students moved across the park plaza to the NAT and we repeated the process.

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Students sketched and wrote, questioned and connected what they were seeing and learning to things they already knew.

And one of my favorite moments was at the end of the trip, just before the students headed back to board their bus for the ride back home.  They had discovered the pendulum at the NAT and were curious about the little blocks set up inside the circle where the pendulum swung.  Would the ball of the pendulum knock the blocks over?  They started watching by learning on the rail…and then got lower…until they were laying on their bellies on the floor, feet bent up behind them, noses pushed up against the railing.  And they watched, almost holding their breath as the ball closely avoided the tiny blocks.  And then it happened.  The block fell…and the cheer broke the quiet!

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After the students left we took some time to reflect on our experience…and also hear the experience of the teachers in our group who brought these students to the museums.  There were lots of things that went well…and plenty that we still want to improve.  And plans are already being made for improved tools and new tools for our next field trip pilot…sometime in April.

There is something amazing about the opportunity for educators to collaborate, to design and then to test, to take time for careful, considered observation and data collection, and then time to reflect on their learning.  If only there were more opportunities like this one, for educators to come together to make sure that students have optimal learning experiences…how would that change our world?