Underwater and Aerial Vehicles – Pyramid Lake Edition

It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake...

Above: Panorama of Pyramid Lake including the Tufa formations “Stone Mother” and the Pyramid that gives the lake it’s name. Note the people on the beach between the formations for a scale of size.

Between a busy work and holiday schedule, and a bout of aggressive bronchitis, I’m late with some posts – this is one of them … and it’s an experience worth sharing! First I want to thank the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for giving us special permission to visit this special and sacred part of the Pyramid Lake shore to “test drive” our OpenROV 2.8’s and fly Phantom 3 Professional aerial robots as well.

Back in October we were supposed to put the underwater robots the teachers had painstakingly assembled into the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe to further test them and learn piloting skills. However, that day got “weathered out” by rain and high winds. The next time we could schedule a meet-up was December 3rd. It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake. We met at the turn-off from the highway to the dirt road that leads out to the spot in the photo above. Besides the teachers having this opportunity, Trevor Galvin a math teacher at Pyramid Lake Middle and High School is part of our class and he brought along some current and past students and a few others’ students showed up as well.

Here’s how a local TV report explained the day:

The OpenROV’s have a built-in camera and the water was much clearer than we expected: 




Algae covered tufa formations and lake bottom.











In the bright sunlight the computer screens were hard to see, so when one of the students reported that he could see something floating in the water straight ahead we told him to take pictures  so we could see it later. Turns out it was a large sacred Cui-ui fish:















And next another student piloted 2.8 caught a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout:








In the meantime Kirk Ellern was flying the Phantom 3 Professional drones the teachers had been trained in (and so were teachers and students) with the goal of photo/video archiving the experience and the area in aerial video. Kirk produced this video of the day, but more to come:

I’ll be posting more about classroom visits I’m making with the teachers in the grant from their classrooms.

Here’s a link to a Flickr album from the day.

Learning is messy!

EduCon 2.9 – 2017 – Innovate or Die vs. Innovate and Die

Kevin Jarrett and I are teaming up for a robust conversation

Innovate or Die vs. Innovate and Die: How to Cultivate a Classroom Culture of Innovation Despite the Odds and Risks to your Career

Above is the title to the session conversation, and I do mean conversation, NOT presentation, Kevin Jarrett and I will facilitate during EduCon 2.9 in Philadelphia. I’ve only been to one EduCon (2.2) because of my schedule it always seems to elude me. I led a conversation then entitled “Elementary School In The 21st Century, How Does The Pedagogy Change? What Does That School Look Like?”. Doug Taylor, an oft time co-conspirator of mine co-facilitated that day.

Kevin and I both (like so many others) seethe at the slow pace of innovation and change in education. Below is the text from the EduCon 2.9 web site about the session. Come be a participant in the conversation:

Saturday, January 28, 2017 – SESSION 2 – 1:00 – 2:30 – Room 208

Brian Crosby, Kevin Jarrett — Brian Crosby – Pre-K – 12 STEM Learning Facilitator, Nevada’s Northwest Regional Professional Development Program; Kevin Jarrett – STEAM teacher at Northfield Community Middle School

A discussion of the productive tensions facing innovators at all levels of leadership, formal to informal, classroom to central office, as they dare to advance new ideas and transform professional practices, often despite seemingly insurmountable organizational inertia and even hostile political environments. Kevin and Brian will use their personal experiences as the starting point for the group’s exploration of “typical” (and not-so-typical) challenges facing those who willingly disregard the status quo in pursuit of what’s best for kids.

The basic gist is this: great teachers want to innovate; how do they do so, and how far do they go, without potentially angering colleagues, administrators and clients and destroying their careers?

What does / could / should innovation look like?

How and can we make innovation happen?

Who needs permission?

How do we get this message to, “The leaders that will lead us to this?”

What examples do we have that this works?

How do we effectively promote innovative classrooms / schools / districts doing this already?

How do you grow seeds of innovation into more than isolated pockets of innovation, in a world where ‘accountability’ and data are more of a focus than ever before?

Since much of what this looks like defies easy measurement, what measures CAN we use?

Conversational Practice

This will be a conversation that embraces the adage that, “The smartest person in the room is the room itself.” Kevin and Brian will take on the role of facilitators, and while they will add to the conversation, their goal will be to incite the participants in the room to explore the productive tensions in the room. A private wiki will be used to gather thoughts and compile summary observations. In addition, we plan to use the ‘Sucks vs. Rocks’ methodology, described by Darren Kuropatwa here: http://adifference.blogspot.com/2014/10/assessment-rocks-and-sucks.html

Conversation Links



 Learning is messy!

New STEM Lessons / Activities Wiki



Per request I recently set up a new wiki page as a kind of “clearinghouse” of the different STEM lessons and activities I write about on this blog and elsewhere to make them easier to find. I’ll update it regularly and perhaps add support links for the different lessons as well. There is also a link to the wiki on this blog under the link at the top of this page “STEM Lessons/Activities.”

Learning is messy!

Exploring STEAM Education

Through Resilience and Design

When I was approached months ago about being part of this STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math) training at the Nevada Museum of Art this Saturday I jumped at it.STEAM_teacher_training_flyer_winter_2016-3_pdf There are close to 100 teachers registered and a waiting list … apparently there is a an unmet demand – who’da thunk> 🙂

Cheryl Barton will be kicking things off with her keynote, “The Theory of Here.”

To tie-in to Cheryl’s work I’m doing a hands-on lesson with cantilever spans that I’m adding an aesthetics component to that I’m excited about. I’ll be doing it 4 times during the day and have to fit it into 50 minute periods … I’ll let you know how it goes.

Learning will be messy!

One Way To Get More Girls/Women Interested In STEM

(and actually everyone)

This is a subject I see consistently being discussed online and in meetings I’m involved in as part of my job. That is, how do we get more girls/women involved in STEM? I don’t mean for this to be “THE” answer, but part of it for sure, and its not that difficult to implement.

So what is it?

Provide a broad, rich, integrated curriculum that includes science, engineering and inquiry based learning opportunities from an early age. Pre-school is not too early – and it is solid learning, so it should start there – but honestly I got students in 4th grade that came with almost no experience in those areas, and provided lots of STEM and/or project/problem based opportunities for 3 years, and my girls were just as involved, interested and motivated as the boys in STEM (and I know other teachers that have had similar experience).

Perhaps the problem of getting girls/women “involved in STEM” is that too often what we offer in elementary school just doesn’t include much in those areas. And certainly during the “No Child Left Behind” and Race To The Top” eras, the attitude was, and is, to narrow the focus during elementary school to language arts and math, and when students get to middle/junior high school “we’ll catch them up” in science, social studies, art and more (yeah, that’s worked well). AND to introduce students to STEM and “making” and other subjects as late as 7th grade … that’s when gender based biases, because students haven’t become interested before those impressionable, difficult years, become an issue. 7th grade is TOO LATE for students to be just finally introduced to those subjects, pedagogies and experiences.

So again, I’m not saying this one “intervention” would entirely solve the girls/women in STEM careers issue by itself, but I suspect it might be a pretty important piece of it.

What are your thoughts?

Learning is messy!


A Learning Is Messy Idea Gone Awry?

Looking for ideas here ... any thoughts?

Awhile back on a visit to Boston … specifically at the awesome Museum of Science in Boston to be part of a training on their Engineering Is Elementary curriculum …  I spotted this cool looking paper airplane launcher in the museum store. I’ve seen it for sale in other places since then as well.













I immediately envisioned a powerful hands-on STEM inquiry lesson. Students fold paper airplanes and launch them with this launcher. While doing so they can make adjustments to the design with the goal of the longest flight, or perhaps adjust the angle of launch and through multiple trials ascertain the “best” angle of launch to attain the longest flight … lots of possibilities.

So I gladly bought one and brought it back to Reno. It still sits on a shelf above my desk reminding me of the possibilities it seems to promise. I even had specific classrooms in mind to help develop lessons around it (I’m always on the lookout for inquiry pieces).

So why haven’t I posted here about the great lessons students and teachers have experienced?

Soon after I got back from my trip to Boston I started folding planes (I’ve done this a lot from the time I was a kid … and have experience with paper airplanes in my own classroom over many years as well). I installed batteries in the launcher and started launching! This was going to be my newest great inquiry lesson to develop and I was pumped! Then an issue became apparent. Any thoughts here? What might make this not work as well as I’d hoped? What needs to happen to be able to be able to accumulate data that leads to better design? There are lots of ways to fold planes, and although this launcher requires that fold at the bottom it can “grab” … and that might exclude some designs … there are tons of folds that include that fold it could grab … so no worries there. So what did I find to be the issue?

The issue is …….. it doesn’t throw the planes even “kind of” consistently. To really be of value it would have to be REALLY consistent in how it throws or launches each plane … and students could learn a lot … and it could still be a valuable if it in even threw them fairly consistently … but it doesn’t. It doesn’t throw them in anything even remotely approaching consistency … in my experience. Bummer! I was kinda counting on that … my bad.

Now if I’m missing something here (which I would gladly concede I am) and I’m just doing something “wrong” please let me know. And, actually you could easily use the fact that it “apparently” does not throw the planes in a consistent fashion to teach students about inquiry and the fact that you have to be able to rely on consistent results to gather valuable data … then that turns this into an awesome lesson, right there …  and please feel free to “go there and do that” and share how you got this great idea from me on how to teach students about the importance of collecting completely valid data (you’re welcome). :0)

But otherwise, can you or you and your students see how I can make this a valid inquiry piece? If so … share your idea(s) in the comments here. If not … see my idea above on teaching students about the importance or collecting valid, dependable data. TIA 🙂

Did I mention I paid for the launcher out of my own pocket? I did … and I know that is something that too many people don’t understand that teachers do. So help if you think of how to make this valid inquiry piece! Again, TIA!

Learning is messy!

Why STEM Education Is Important – Podcast

A few weeks ago I was asked, along with Lou Loftin, to be interviewed about STEM learning for the 21st Century Mindset Podcast produced by Doug Taylor. We discuss a couple of recent blog posts about STEM and Making, and then share what we are up to lately and how STEM learning is being implemented (and not) in our area. We also deal a bit about what STEM is and isn’t and how it is too often silo-ed into a school’s schedule as opposed to becoming a culture within the school. The link to the podcast is HERE.

Learning is messy!

This Blog Is Getting a Facelift and URL Change

Because Learning is Messy...

I’m not a PHP or WordPress expert in any way … like the old saying goes, “I know just enough to get me in trouble.” That coupled with having less and less time to deal with the messiness of trying to get things “fixed” when an update doesn’t play nice, or some other issue crops up, which seems to happen too often of late at just the wrong time, has prompted the change (yes, sometimes messiness is just an unwanted, unproductive time suck).

With that in mind I’m changing my theme, my URL, which will only change slightly –learningismessy.com will be the new URL – right now that gets you to a very old page that houses videos my students produced … and no those won’t go away, just will be available in a different place. The new theme (still WordPress) is a complete redesign, but will incorporate some recognizable aspects from the current blog … at least for now. I’ll share more after the new theme appears about the mastermind behind the new look and feel (remember, I said I’m not an expert in this stuff, so I got help).

Not sure yet the exact date the change will happen, the old URL will redirect as well. Change happens!

Learning is messy!

Online Presentation: STEM – What Does That Really Look Like In The Classroom

On Saturday, April 25, 2015, I’ll be delivering an online version of one of my most requested presentations: “STEM – What Does That Really Look Like In The Classroom.” I’ll share real STEM projects right from my classroom. The projects will showcase  integrated examples that demonstrate how hands-on STEM provides engaging and motivating opportunities for collaboration and problem solving that when coupled with students communicating and presenting their process and results leads to powerful language arts and math learning. This work isn’t shoehorned into your day, it becomes your day, at least for periods of time.

NSTA Virtual Conference STEM Today For a Better Tomorrow

My presentation is just one of many. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is producing an entire day virtual conference on STEM they are calling, “STEM Today For A Better Tomorrow.” 

From their web page:

“The future is bright for careers in STEM. However, too many students do not have a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to pursue careers in these fields. In the STEM Today For a Better Tomorrow virtual conference we make the case for the role that STEM education plays for students interested in following a STEM career.”

The conference begins at 10 am Eastern Time and offers a wide range of speakers and presentations. The agenda for the day with descriptions of the sessions is posted on the site as well. One I am looking forward to is offered by Captain Barrington Irving. I recently  co-taught a model hands-on STEM inquiry lesson to teachers demonstrating the power of integrating language arts, math and art. As part of that lesson teachers in the class read an article about the exploits of Captain Irving:

Barrington Irving“In 2007, Captain Barrington Irving became the youngest person to fly solo around the globe. On his 97-day journey, he flew 30,000 miles in a single-engine plane called Inspiration. “


“Barrington Irving Will set the stage for the conference making the case for STEM education as a path for students’ pursuit of STEM careers.” 

Note that attendance to the all day virtual conference costs $99 to non-NSTA members and $79 dollars for members. You can read a description of the conference and see the agenda for the day that begins at 10 am Eastern Time and continues until 6 pm Eastern Time.

Learning is messy!




Sometimes You Feel Like You Have Not Even A Remote Idea Of What’s Going On!

Several folks from my department were asked to present on various topics during a school district’s Professional Development day today. Literacy, math, assessment, science, STEM,  … the gamut of what we all do. The day took place at one of the school district’s high schools.

I arrived early and got set-up … used my department’s projector and speaker system – which I was glad I brought since none was really available in the classroom. So no sweat, done this a million times it seems.

Soon the room filled up and I jumped into my presentation a bit early since the room was full and I had lots to get through (I hate feeling that way at the beginning of a presentation or lesson … but that’s what they wanted me to cover … so???). Things were going very smoothly. I seemed to be getting a smattering of chuckles when I was expecting them and not when I wasn’t. My poignant points were having the desired effect … serious, thoughtful faces followed my lead. I was experiencing what many refer to as “Presenter’s Bliss.”

Then it started. I was describing a student project and a video clip was showing when my presentation just skipped to the next slide … and then the next. I sensed that I was squeezing the remote a bit too hard …. maybe …. so I went back and started the clip again and it got done and stopped …. and then it started over on it’s own while I was introducing the next slide. I figured maybe I had switched on the timer feature on my presentation that   automatically switches to the next slide after 15 seconds or so … but I never use that, not sure how to set that up in Keynote. So I plunged ahead after apologizing to my now less-than-enraptured participants.

When it happened again, and again, I switched off the remote and decided to just use the arrow keys on my keyboard. That seemed to work, and after about 5 minutes we were a group in synch once more. Ahhh.

Yes, you got it. The next thing I knew my presentation went back 3 slides while I fought back with the arrow keys, at times wishing that they could really shoot arrows, to only some avail. I even considered restarting my computer while everyone waited and watched to hopefully rid it of whatever demons had taken up residence. But plowing ahead seemed a better choice, so plow I did. Things settled down a bit for the rest of our time and I only wrestled a bit with the randomness …. and I did my best to appear unaffected.

After the room cleared and I’d packed things up I ran into most of the presenters from the classrooms around me and we all commented on our presentations. How many attendees they’d had … reactions and feedback received … the usual stuff. When someone mentioned (have you already figured this out?) how their presentation had gone wonkers on them …  there was a good 5 seconds of silence … then that knowing look flashed on everyones’ faces … our remotes had been changing slides on each others presentations … it had happened to all of us!

Ugh. Lesson learned.

Presentations can be messy!