Tag Archives: science

The Eyes Have It! NPM 2019 Day 4

I’m not in the classroom on Thursday, so no stories of poetry with my students today. But yesterday we did have quite an experience in the science lab.  You might remember that a week ago I wrote a post about grunion, our special little southern California fish.  Well yesterday…sure enough, we had the opportunity to replicate the motion of the ocean and hatch tiny transparent grunion right in front of our eyes!

A spoonful of sand (that we hoped were laden with grunion eggs) in a glass baby food jar, some ocean water til almost full, twist the lid on, and then some gentle swirling or shaking…and voila!  We noticed the eyes first, and then my students’ eyes  opened wide.  The wonder was apparent on their faces…and in their squeals of delight.  Our science teacher promised she would take these babies back to their home at the end of the day.  It was such fun hatching these very special fish, and getting a close-up view of nature in action. I suspect my students will remember this experience for a very long time!

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And for Day 4 of National Poetry Month, a Tanka:

Grunion

Laid in midnight sand

rocking waves hatch fish babies

new eyes view the world

peering through briny water

can the babies hear the squeals?

©Douillard

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I wonder if any of my students wrote grunion poems today.

 

Something Fishy: SOLC 2019 Day 27

Just when we thought the week couldn’t get any fishier, it did!  You already know about the angle fish and the wire fish…today was all about real fish.

Wednesdays are our science lab day and our science teacher always goes to great lengths to make things relevant and hands-on for the kids.  I knew that she’d gone to a grunion run last weekend…and the grunion were running.  If you’re not from coastal southern California, you may not know about grunion.  They are small silver fish, about the length of a dollar bill…and they’re pretty special.  They are the only fish who come onshore to lay their eggs in the sand and they are found only along our coast from northern Baja to southern Santa Barbara.  They spawn from March to June, riding high tides onto the shore to lay their eggs.  A couple weeks later, at the next high tide, the eggs are washed back into the ocean, requiring the wave motion to hatch.

I remember grunion runs from my own teenaged days.  Since grunion only surf onto the beach late at night, it was the perfect opportunity for groups of preteens to head to the beach, hanging out in the moonlight, trying not to scare off the grunion.  (I don’t know who talked the adult drivers into that duty!)  If you’re under 16 you don’t need a fishing license to pick up the fish…not that I can ever remember wanting to pick them up!  Lucky for us, our science teacher was able to collect some grunion (and eggs) on her grunion run last weekend for our students to study.

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Students were able to touch the fish (yeah, they were dead), measure them to determine their age, and gently squeeze them to determine whether they were female (if reddish eggs came out) or male (if a milky liquid came out).

As you can see, they were eager to handle them, some with gloves and some with their bare hands.

We also took the opportunity to present our science teacher with a gift of fish from us. Each student contributed one of their wire fish (Calder inspired) to our collective fish mobile.  The best part was that each student figured out their own fish’s balancing point, tied a piece of fishing line to that point, and then small groups hung their fish together.  We tied each string of fish from a piece of drift wood that I found on one of my beach walks. The result was stunning!  I’m including a photo–although it doesn’t begin to do it justice!

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Next week students will string their own individual fish mobiles…and continue their study of grunion.  If we’re lucky, we will be able to get some of those grunion eggs to hatch…right in front of our eyes!

A Tiny Celebration of Writing

I aspire to a daily writing practice, following my thoughts where they lead, planting seeds of ideas that may produce something more at a later date, documenting life’s everyday events—both ordinary and extraordinary. Many days I fail to write, excusing myself mostly because the practice is not firmly established enough to be a habit that I no longer have to prioritize. But sometimes I get the opportunity to write in the course of my day…a treat that reminds me of my intention.

Last week as part of some work bringing National Writing Project (NWP) teachers and science museums together to consider ways they might partner to support students and teachers, I wrote. On my table a hotel coffee cup contained some small shells and a couple of hand lenses. We were invited to examine a shell, sketch, and write.

Here’s my beginning thinking—the result of taking about five minutes to sketch and write.

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Layers of ridges that wrap the diameter and also extend along the length give the surface a spiky texture that I can feel as I roll the shell between my fingers.

Spiraling up from a tiny sharp tip, an opening is revealed on one side of the widest part. Although I’ve seen a version of this shell many times, I don’t know who lives there or what it is called.

I imagine a tiny snail carrying its home on its back, washed with the tides without a permanent resting place. Perhaps these creatures are the original Tiny House Nation, secure, bringing their homes—intricately assembled for efficiency and functionality—with them wherever they roam.

I’m reminded again of the importance of establishing this daily practice, even if in tiny spurts—one I regularly espouse for my students and teachers I work with. Can I spare five minutes a day for writing? Of course, everyone has five minutes somewhere. Why don’t I write for five minutes every day? There are a million excuses—among them, the fear that I will need not five minutes but an hour once I get started.

So today I’ve written another five minutes or more, moving this small piece from my notebook to my blog and adding a bit of context. I hope this is a catalyst for reestablishing that daily writing habit, even if for only five minutes a day. Today I will celebrate the tiny start and be reminded that small starts are betting than not starting at all.

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!

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: Wonder

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!

As I headed out my front door this morning a dew covered dandelion puff caught my eye.  I was filled with wonder as I noticed the heaviness of the strands of fluff and I couldn’t wait to put my work things in my car so I could head back over to take a photo. Seeing the dew all over my car and windows, I decided to start my car, squeegee the windows and then set up my macro lens to capture that image.  At that moment, as I sat in the driver’s seat and pushed the button to start my ignition, my car let out a short groan and then nothing. I tried to pull the key out to try again…but it wouldn’t release and when I tried the ignition button again…nothing.

Lucky for me, my husband was working from home this morning so I was able to head back in to see if he could help.  And while he was checking out my car, I got the opportunity to attach my macro lens and snap a few shots.  I love the way you can see the dandelion fluff encased in a dew drop in this shot.

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(As I write this, my car is in the shop.  My husband was able to take me to work and hopefully we’ll be picking my car up later today.)

Yesterday, I reveled in the wonder of my students as they took a close look at some fall leaves my teaching partner brought back from her trip to Colorado.  My students had the opportunity to observe, sketch and photograph the leaves…and these will also serve as information and inspiration for some poetry and art.  I found myself taking photos of students taking photos of leaves (and you can see some sketches in progress in the background).

photo of leaf photoOn Monday, we celebrated the National Day on Writing (for details you can see this post) by writing collaborative poetry with the older multiage class at our other school.  My students continually amaze and delight me as they embrace the wonder of words…and of collaboration. It was such fun to watch kids, from six to eleven years old, figure out how to bring their ideas together in a collaborative poem.

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I spent the weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina at the Association for Science and Technology Centers conference.  Unlike a usual educational conference, this conference is mostly attended by museum professionals.  My colleague from the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and I presented as part of our participation in a partnership between writing projects and science centers.  Since we have been exploring ways to transform field trip experiences for students, we included a mini field trip “exhibit” as part of our presentation.  It was such fun to catch the wonder and delight on the face of adults as they explored with a science “toy.”

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I also had the opportunity to explore the North Caroline Museum of Natural Sciences (I wrote more about it here).  This museum is quite unusual and includes many unique features.  I got to watch these veterinarians work with this snake, including using a “trach” tube.  We got to listen to the snake’s respirations and ask the vets questions about the procedure.  You’ll notice that they are also projected onto the screen on the right hand side of the photo.  I can only imagine the wonder children will experience as they watch these animal doctors at work!

vets with a snakeAnd in the more traditional part of the museum I happened to look up with a bit of surprise and wonder as I noticed these pterodactyls above my head.  You can also see the lights of the city through this windowed dome where the pterodactyls flew.

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And sometimes it is the simple things that fill me with wonder.  Raleigh is known for its oak trees.  While they were not experiencing full blown colorful fall leaves, there were leaves and acorns falling here and there.  I love the simplicity of this leaf on the brick walkway.

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What fills you with wonder?  Is it the simplicity and beauty of nature or watching students at work?  Did you catch a scientific wonder (like today’s partial solar eclipse) or revel in the intricacies of man-made structures?

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 #wonder for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Open your eyes and heart and pay attention to what fills you with wonder.  Breathe in and take that photo, not so much to make art, but to capture the moment for further reflection.  I can’t wait to see those wonder-full moments through your lens!

 

 

 

Citizen Scientists: Researchers in the Wild

This morning someone shared an article about kids as citizen scientist researchers–observing and documenting ladybugs in their place, and learning about research and data in the process. I love engaging students in real work as part of the learning process…and teaching them that all of us, as part of our daily lives, can and should continue to learn every day.

On our rain hike in Yellowstone the other day I got to look closely at the environment around me, noticing details and appreciating the beauty.  Our destination was this natural bridge, a work of nature that I’m sure informed the first people who saw it.

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And as we walked away from the bridge back toward the car, I noticed bubbles in the puddles as we passed.  I was sure I was noticing something in the bubbles…and stopped to watch.  It seemed that with the rain drops, a bubble would form with a white insect in it–magnifying the image of the bug–and then pop after it floated a ways.

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I had to look closer…what were these creatures?  And why do they form these bubbles?  Do they only come out in the rain?  Are they native to this forested area in Yellowstone?

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I haven’t yet found out what these insects (I think they are insects) are…but I am curious to know more about them.  I’m hoping that someone will know something more and lead me to some research to answer my questions.  Here is a close up view…

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There are so many interesting things to learn about when you take the time to notice.  As I start to prepare for the beginning of school, I’m thinking about ways to support and encourage my students to pay attention the world around them and then to document and further research the questions that interest them.  I’ll also be on the lookout for citizen scientist projects in my area (and would love any information you might have)…what a great way to engage students as researchers!

And if you happen to know anything about these bugs in the bubbles…I’d love some leads!