Sunday, June 26, 2016


As I looked the pile of mail on our kitchen table earlier this week, I stumbled across this little gem:
Yes, I've seen these reports before. (Every year that I've had a mailing address of my own to be exact!) And in Fall 2009, Anna Kinsella and I were co-teaching an Integrated Chemisty/Algebra I/Physics course and even had our students help test the water quality of a local water source. But for some reason, I looked at this particular water quality report a bit differently. As I opened up the pamphlet to find the summary of why and how this report is conducted as well as what data is contained in the report....
...I said to Jared (my husband who is also an educator), "YES! THIS is what Writing like a Scientist looks like. Why aren't more teachers having students investigate or generate this type of data or writing that's specific to a content area."  And my favorite thing.... IT'S AUTHENTIC LEARNING AND DATA AND CRITICAL THINKING (regarding future water quality predictions)!!!! So then I started thinking... If I were using this as inspiration for a PBL unit, what could I do with this?! These were my initial thoughts:

  • I could present this very report to my students AS THE ENTRY EVENT to a project. Maybe students could work in teams of 4, each student investigating a different source stated on the report, to determine how a shift in that particular source's output might also shift the quality of water. As a team, they could generate an addendum to the report (or perhaps information to propose to the city as additional information to link on the website where additional water information is found). So if that's the case... what would my problem statement be such that it made sense to use this document AS the entry event???
    • Then I thought, "I don't even know "who actually does that? what role? job title? responsibility?" So I looked on our IN DNR website under "water" and found all KINDS of good stuff!!! ... I believe this would fall under someone's role in the "resource assessments" department. So, how about something like: How can we as employees of the resource assessment division for the DNR, determine the current and long term impact of the contributions from local sources into the stream of water, so that we can strive to purify our local water source for the community of Greendale, IN. 
  • Or, what if I contacted a representative from DNR, talked to them about what their next steps are after collecting this type of data, and had them introduce THAT to my students so that they were my Entry Event!?!? Students wouldn't just be regurgitating information they could find on Google, but they'd be DOING THE WORK OF SCIENTISTS in assisting with the next steps for this water quality reporting process! Perhaps their individual assessment of knowledge  & thinking (IAKT) could be a document similar to this (or even better... a document that the DNR would actually create next to inform the local community of whatever research and data is collected after this!!!! 
PRETTY EXCITING, RIGHT!?!?  And I have a BA in Secondary Ed Math with a Masters in Integrating Technology K-12, but I have a passion for generating real-world learning experiences for students which are authentic to the discipline! SO I'M READY TO BE SOMEONE'S THOUGHT PARTNER TO MAKE A SWEET PROJECT HAPPEN USING THIS AS INSPIRATION!!!!! 

This also made me think... what's lying on your kitchen table that could easily be inspiration for your own curriculum map (that I hope you're starting to think about a bit as you lounge pool side this summer and begin to put more depth into each project closer to school start)??? And/or What events have you been part of already this summer that could pose a potential learning opportunity for your students?!  Here are some I've come up with from my own experiences... and please...SHARE YOURS WITH ME IN THE COMMENT FEATURE BELOW! 
  • There was a professional bike race in our little Downtown area of Lawrenceburg, IN! These cyclists have to go through an intense training program (health/wellness/PE) but more importantly...they compete all over the country, so don't you think they also have to prepare for the climates and altitudes they will be competing in (geography)!?!?
  • I attended the Crossfit Level 1 Trainer Certificate Course in Cookeville, TN. Clearly we talked about endurance and weight training and proper form (Health/wellness/PE) but also nutrition (ditto) and which foods fuel your system and why they do so (science & health). Then there was a WHOLE conversation about programming workouts for a week so that they build overall strength and not just one targeted area of muscles over the course of a week. Who do you think calculates all the reps, rounds, total times, anticipates performance levels with prediction charts/graphs,etc (math)?!? That's right...YOUR TRAINER!!! 
  • My garden... use it for your project, science people! I have four raised beds, all within a rectangular area of land that's fenced in thanks to the local deer and rabbits, and had to figure out how large the beds could be in the given area of land I had and taking into account the type of vegetables and fruits I wanted to plan (math). But here's my current problem... All four beds are growing VERY WELL on the outside edges, but the inner parts of the beds are either slow growing or not growing. Not kidding. It's the same soil, similar amounts of shade and light throughout the day. Same amount of watering happening. I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING BUT half of my lettuce/onions/peas/beans/tomatoes/spaghetti squash are growing and the other half of the rows are not. What's going on in the soil here, people (science)!? 
  • My in-laws just moved to IN from KS. My father-in-law is an amazing MS Social Studies teacher. Just so happens that Morgan's Raid went right through the area where I grew up and currently reside (the little area in IN to the left of Harrison & Cincinnati, OH). We thought it would be cool to put together a little "scavenger hunt"of sorts for him for his birthday in August using this trail as a guide (history). We're just not sure where to start.

Okay, your turn. What have you done this summer? What content does it connect to? If you dont' share it with other educators here (in the comments section), then how will you share it with those at your school AT LEAST?!?

Peace, love, and inspiration while you vaca,

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hair it is....

 Last Saturday, I was able to stand by my twin sister, Molly, on her wedding day… talk about a great experience! Truthfully, this was the first wedding I’ve ever been in (except for my own) and I forgot just how much “wedding day prep” actually takes place!

We started the morning getting our hair done…. If you’ve ever paid attention, I know the styles of “ponytail” or “combed”. Yes, yes, I AM a fashionista! So I sat down in the chair for the girl who was about to create my style for the big day and the first thing she said was, “do you have a picture of what you want?” I told her I found a few that caught my eye on Pinterest, showed her the photos and then proceeded to tell her that rather than replicating a photo, I knew what I’d preferred in the final hairstyle, but was relying on her creative genius to make that happen. She smiled as she listened to my silly “list” (a half up-do or a low-do…yeah, I guess that’s a thing… and I needed it to visually connect the updo to my shoulders since it was an off-the-shoulder dress, and nothing too puffy, blah blah blah) and said “Okay” as she proceeded to stare blankly at my hair and grab a curler just so she could start somewhere. After 10 minutes of curling, she did some trial and error pinning here & there and would hold pieces of hair up in places to see what it would look like, then she’d get frustrated and look at me like, “please, lady! Just choose a picture for me replicate!” She disapearred for 2-3min, and I then saw her on her smartphone. “Would you just like me to choose one?” I asked hoping to be out of that chair soon. Then I heard a video playing on her phone and she told me that she found a “messy low-do” that she thought she could make work. YES…that’s where I got slightly nervous and wish I would have just told her what to do, BUT…she was the expert here, not me. 25 minutes later, I walked away with a hairstyle that I gave a rating of “meh”! (Front was okay, back was TERRIBLE, but after all…I let her try something out and that’s what I got.) 

Molly asked me how I liked it and all I said to her was, “Well, I thought that a professional would be excited to have the opportunity to let their creative juices fly, but I’m pretty sure I freaked her out!” And it was at that moment that I thought of each and every one of you. The learning and prep for next school year that you will do will certainly allow you to let your professional creativity shine.  That said, I now have a new perspective for how scary that can be too. So I’m going to encourage you to do as my hair dresser did….. Use resources around you to get inspired! 
  • Why fall victim to replicating other projects from a project library or from something you did last year? Instead, ask yourself “what am I trying to get out of this project design that will make it great for my students?” 
  • While you’re out and about this summer, pay attention to what learning opportunities might lie in the activities you’re already doing. (An Example: Gardening = science of growth & nutrients, geography & vegetation in particular areas, math & surface area.) 
  • Don’t hesitate to google “real world connections and   (insert your content area here)   “ or “ What are   (insert a field of study by your content area here)’s researching?” to get inspired for a stellar project idea…or at minimum, maybe you’ll find a messy low-do and think of me. :) 
  • Use community and real world connections referenced in a text book or a Webquest or by friends & family to just begin playing around with ideas…no harm no foul in trying something out! 
Bottom line… you’re an educator. Use your craft. Take this opportunity for summer R&R to also refresh your creative juices and get excited to be ABLE to design authentic projects for your students. Don’t stare blankly at your curriculum map for the upcoming school year waiting for someone to “show you a picture of what you can replicate” from the first curl to the final bobby pin.

Peace, love, and hairspray…lots and lots of hairspray…