Bee-Bot Collaborative Dance

Coding fun!

 Awhile back I (well, the place where I work) was able to purchase 3 Bee-Bot “Hives.” A hive is 6 Bee-bots, a charger plate and a yellow backpack to carry everything around. Once I had them I quickly put together a class for Pre-K – 2 teachers. The first class met about a month ago and our next class met last night.

Along with the teachers sharing out what their students have been up to (they are so excited!!!) and me sharing a few more resources on our class “Bee-Bot” wiki page, I asked them to try out a collaborative Bee-Bot activity I thought up. Now to be fair I don’t know if others have thought of this before and done this already – so I don’t want to take undue credit. I was thinking about how to make what you do already with Bee-Bots have an even stronger collaborative bent when I came up with this:

Pair 2 pairs of students and their shared Bee-Bots and have them work together to choreograph a “dance.” Start on opposite sides of a table or facing each other on the floor. Start out having the Bee-Bots approach each other until they are face to face. Next keep adding to your program so the Bee-Bots go around each other, back and forth etc. They can keep adding commands to make their dance longer and more intricate.

Here is a video of one of the teachers “coding” her Bee-Bot with the program she and her partner designed:
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Here is a clip of their Bee-Bot dance:
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And here is a dance choreographed by another pair of teachers:
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I’m looking forward to seeing their students taking on this challenge in the weeks ahead.

Learning is messy!

Use Powerful Tools Powerfully

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure to work, via various social networking sites, with Kathy Cassidy, a teacher “of six year olds,” in Saskatchewan, Canada, according to her class blog. We’ve even met face to face at conferences. My class (4th – 6th graders) shared blog posts and comments with her students a few times, and we Skyped at least once. Kathy recently shared a post on the Powerful Learning Practice blog about “Five Ways To Use Skype.” Some of the aspects of the post I want to highlight are that yes, ‘even’ 6 year olds can connect online in ways that provide powerful learning opportunities for them, and Kathy makes the point that, “If we are going to use technology, we need to use it well.” Check out her post, she shares some great ideas on connecting your students.

Reading Kathy’s post had me re-visiting a point that has been made by others (and me) over the years, but a point that needs repeating … repeatedly, because it is such a vital point to make.

There are very powerful learning tools available on the “inter webs,” and many are free to use … video conferencing tools like Skype, Google Hangouts … blogs, wikis, online photo and video archive sites (like Flickr), and many more. As Kathy and others point out there are powerful ways to use these tools that connect students, experts, facilitate collaboration globally, provide the ability to design, produce, edit and share content in any subject, and so much more (and yes, occasionally just to do something fun or cool!).

There are many of us that have been working very hard to spread the word about how these tools facilitate new, innovative and engaging approaches to learning. How they require teaching our students to be active learners instead of teaching them to be taught … sit quietly but attentively, raise your hand if you have a question, then wait for me (as the teacher) to decide this is an OK or appropriate time in my lesson to break from my cadence, my lesson, and answer your question or listen to your comment … now … or not.

So what’s my point already? It’s the point Kathy made: “If we are going to use technology, we need to use it well.

Ever since personal computers and other technologies were introduced, their praises as learning tools have been sung from the highest rafters. Unfortunately, much more often than not, when technology has been purchased with improving education, improving student learning, improving student achievement or (yuck) improving student test scores as the goal … the technology or tool has been the focus with too little thought or professional development or teacher autonomy considered to actually use the technology in ways that empower students and/or their learning. The results therefore have been ugly and have lead to a backlash about the actual value of technology and connectedness as pathways to learning.

In addition, the tunnel-vision of test scores in language arts and math have turned too many computer labs and other technologies into drill and practice, test prep and “what apps can we get that will engage the students” dead ends. That use of technology as learning tool is like buying a Ferrari just to listen to the great stereo while its parked in the garage.

There is nothing wrong, especially as a way to gain experience with the technology, to do a video-conference or two that is mostly about saying hi to a class in another state or country and share some basic information. But if that’s all you do … then that’s probably not “using it well.” Collaboration, sharing and analyzing data, simultaneously performing an experiment or activity to see if location changes the results, read alouds between students, an international poetry festival between classes … that’s more like it. Students tend to be more engaged, spend more time editing, ask more clarifying questions … because these students from somewhere else, and maybe others, are going to see it … I want it to be good.

Blogging is awesome! Blogging is writing for sure. But its also posting photos, videos, podcasts, vid-casts … and because blogging is a two way street (because others can leave comments) its a conversation. Students can post any kind of writing you do in class, and yes, I’ve even had them post a written response about their reading. But also creative writing, science experiments, reports on any subject, short stories, long stories, explanations, diagrams and representations of math problems and concepts (that other students from around the world can see, discuss and argue about). But also photo essays, video clips of anything, pieces they write just because they want to (my new puppy, my birthday party, what happened when we got a flat tire, I was so scared when …) … and again, these pieces are published to the world … and the world responds, and that leads to more writing and thinking deeply about the response, and sharing ideas and realizing what is different about living in different parts of our city, state, country, world.

I could go on explaining the power of wikis, photo and video sharing sites and more. But that will just belabor things.

Too often we utilize technology and the web because they seem to be automatically engaging for students .. at least for awhile. If we aren’t learning as educators how and why to use these powerful learning tools and opportunities to enable our students to do important, meaningful work. If we allow ourselves to feel unprepared or stupid or phobic about using technology and perceive that our students know more about it, or worse, see it as a way to keep students busy in the computer lab while we grade papers or do other “teacher stuff.” (yeah I know that you probably don’t get enough prep time). Then we are leaving its promise and capacity as a learning facilitator, connector and collaboration tool on the cutting room floor. We might as well not bother with it.

So as Kathy said, “If we are going to use technology, we need to use it well.

Learning is messy!

Yes, the High Hopes Project will rise again!

Photo taken from near space, June 2015, from the High Hopes Project balloon.

Photo taken from near space (26,200 meters / 86,000 feet), June 2015, from the High Hopes Project balloon.

I’ve been asked a number of times since the new school year started if the High Hopes Project will happen again this year, and the answer is yes! We met yesterday with a group of dedicated local middle school teachers that requested to have major roles in the project for their classrooms this year and discussed their participation as well as how the rest of the world can be involved. There will be some differences this year, but the return of some of the most popular aspects of the project as well. This Edutopia article about last year’s project will give you some notion of the project and the links on the project wiki page will further inform you about how you can be involved as well as links to photos and videos. We have to resurrect / restore the project blog and web pages, but the Flickr, YouTube and Twitter accounts are still up and running.

We will be bringing back, with a bit of a twist, an elementary bio-engineering project where students (yes, your students can  participate!) do a long term experiment to find a type of paper that will biodegrade quickly, or a substance that can be put on paper to induce it to biodegrade as quickly as possible. The paper has to be able to run through a printer or copy machine BTW …. and we will explain more about the project fairly soon. So be looking for updates here and on the project blog.

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. “

AND –

“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!

 

 

 

The “High Hopes Project” Explained

This is cross posted at the “High Hopes Project” blog
Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake from about 29,000 meters (95,000 feet)

The “High Hopes Project” is designed to be a model global STEM learning project. But what is it really and how does it work? Who is involved? How can my students and I be involved?

Last year we dropped GoPro cameras 45 feet deep in Lake Tahoe and pulled them up to almost 30,500 meters (100,000 feet) attached to a high altitude weather balloon to investigate how that would work. No students were involved in that trial.

Well that has changed. We (see below) are planning launches from several Reno and Fernley, Nevada, area schools this spring. Tentative dates are the last week in April, and from crystal clear Lake Tahoe in June. These launches will include payloads designed by local students. At least 2 of the payloads will carry the “High Hopes” of the world to near space and release them. Teachers and their students (that’s you!) can participate by writing and submitting your “High Hopes via a Google Spreadsheet or via Twitter.

We are collecting “High Hopes” for your school, community and the world, from students and others around the globe – we’ve already received hundreds from local students, but also students from as far away as Norway and France.

Here are more specifics about the project including ways for you or anyone to join in:

Sparks High School students are designing and building a water pressure gauge to track water pressure from 45 meters (150 feet) deep in Lake Tahoe to the surface. An air pressure gauge will monitor air pressure to 30,500 meters (100,000 feet) or higher. Students from around the world will be invited to research to determine what will happen to the water and air pressure during flight, and we will share the data we bring back so they can assess their understanding.

Sparks High Students are also challenged to engineer a way to reel in the 45 meters (150 feet) of line with the cameras and water pressure gauge up to the bottom payload. Leaving the cameras dangling far below could cause instability during the flight, so this is an important engineering problem to solve. The students also designed the actual payloads to carry the “High Hopes” of the world up to 30,500 meters (100,000 feet), and then release the tiny strips of paper they will be printed on to spread in the atmosphere – Now they’ve turned those payloads over to Sparks Middle School students to install the release mechanism they are designing.

Sparks Middle School students will be learning about writing computer code and designing a system utilizing Ardunio micro-computers.  They will conduct low altitude tests using model rocketry to determine an effective way of accurately measuring altitude using the Arduino system and then use the knowledge gained from these tests to design a system to release the high hopes of the world at at least two different altitudes as the balloon is in flight.

Students at Cottonwood Elementary in Fernley (a K-4 school) are designing special high hopes to glide or helicopter to the ground – these high hopes will be launched at a lower altitude, around 6100 meters (20,000 feet) so the atmosphere is thick enough for them to take flight. They will also perform experiments utilizing bio-engineering to find a substance to treat the paper with so it decomposes as fast as possible once the “Hopes” hit the ground. The elementary students will utilize their new blogging skills and other means to encourage everyone to submit their “High Hopes.”

One payload will include colorful party balloons inflated to different sizes. We challenge students everywhere to research to determine what will happen to them as they rise through atmospheric layers to 30,500 meters (100,000 feet). Onboard cameras will record what occurs and we will share the photos/video obtained so students globally can see what transpired. In addition, we will monitor temperature and other data during the flights and share that data as well.

The High Hopes Project is planned as a model global STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) project so teachers, students and the community are better educated in the powerful learning a quality integrated STEM approach provides. There will be creative writing ideas, math and more offered along the way. These lesson ideas and challenges will be linked on our project Wiki page. Check back often to see new information and challenges.

You Can Participate too! Teachers and students (really anyone!) can participate by: 1) Brainstorming, writing and submitting their “High Hopes” for their school, community and the world. 2) Participating in the science, engineering and math challenges we offer. 3) Follow our progress via the various social networks we are utilizing to inform and include the world (see links below).

There are other aspects of this project that are developing and we will share later as well.

Additionally, we have partnered with the University of Nevada, Reno, Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Departments. They are experts in launching high altitude balloons, but are also encouraging undergraduate and graduate level engineering students to work with and mentor students at Sparks High School, Sparks Middle School and Cottonwood Elementary School.

This is a collaborative project between Nevada’s Northwest Regional Professional Development Program, the 21st Century Division of WCSD, the Lyon County School District, the Washoe County School District, the University of Nevada, Reno,   and students from around the world.

Here are links to our online resources – this is how we are modelling the “T” part of STEM – these links will also provide you much more specific information about the project:

Our blog: http://highhopesproject.edublogs.org

Our Web Site: http://highhopesproject.net

Our Twitter page: https://twitter.com

Our Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127331960@N04/sets/

Our YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCM6JGyKhW2OXYiY9gh3J-Lg/videos

Learning is messy!!!

The STEM Missile (really MSTL)

In my job as STEM Learning Facilitator I travel hundreds of miles each month around the 6 counties in my region, but at times all around our state. One of the toughest challenges we face is the technology integration piece.  Many (way too many) educators still possess minimal skills or knowledge in integrating technology, have limited access to technology, are blocked from most online collaboration enabling applications, are unaware of what is available (since it’s blocked) and misinterpret laws protecting students from online dangers. In addition, any use of technology (“We go to the computer lab for 30-45 minutes a week.”) is perceived as implementing the “T” in STEM effectively.

Furthermore, each school district has it’s own network, protected by their own security systems, and they tend to not relinquish access to those networks easily, even for someone coming in to train their educators.

So to enable us to do a much better job of delivering quality professional development (PD) we came up with the idea of a mobile lab to control for many more of the variables of access and hardware that have frustrated us and the participants in the PD sessions we offer.

I’m not going to spend time here explaining fully what led to the choices we made, but know there was thought that went into those choices. Cost was a big factor.

We chose to go with 21 Acer Chromebooks. The lab also contains 3 Verizon Mobile Hotspots so we have connectivity almost everywhere we take the lab that isn’t filtered, and 21 waterproof digital cameras so we can model integration and archive teachers’ learning to their own free Flickr accounts which we set up during trainings. The wireless hubs also enable showcasing and utilizing applications like blogs, wikis, Twitter and more during trainings and presentations so educators and administrators can perceive their education value. Thankfully, this also tends to foster discussion about safety and other issues that we can then deal with in an open way based on at least this initial experience.

MSTL Chromebooks

 

Right now the lab sits in plastic tubs, but part of our plan is to develop a cheap, light transportation system that will also keep the components of the lab in good shape. We already have some ideas for that that I plan to share later.

 

(Below right) 21 Fuji digital cameras being charged for the first time – we chose these because they have fewer moving parts (the lenses don’t open and shut like most point and shoot cameras do these days), they are waterproof to 10 meters deep and are purported to survive being dropped from 5 feet … so hopefully they will take a bit more rough handling and if the opportunity arises could be used underwater … we’ll see. MSTL Cameras

 

 

We’ve already had some success, even before obtaining the MSTL (Mobile STEM Technology Lab), in persuading one reluctant school district to open up blogs, wikis and Flickr on a trial basis to one school. We had discussions with teachers, administrators and school board members and demonstrated the educational value they were missing and explained that they would not be losing their E-Rate funding (a common misconception) if they allowed access to any social networking applications.

That promising experience actually helped us secure the funding for the MSTL.

We tried out the MSTL in a training last week in a classroom in the center of a high school with a very low, heavy metal ceiling and lots of suspended metal ductwork. We suspected in advance that that would slow connectivity, and it did, but we also know that most of the training sites we utilize don’t have that issue (and we’ve used the hubs in these locations and achieved good connectivity), so we are confident. I’ll keep you apprised of how things go!

Learning is messy!

High Hopes Project 1st Design Meeting

I posted this over on our “High Hopes Project” blog  and decided it fit well here too:

We refer to The High Hopes Project as a “model” STEM project. One aspect of that modeling is that we’ve designed it to include as many ways to participate as possible. To do so we have set up (so far) a project web site, this  blog, a Twitter account, a Flickr account, a YouTube Channel, a Wiki and a Gmail account so we have access to tools like Google Forms for archiving and analyzing data.

In addition, any class or person can participate in the experiments we will send up by researching and theorizing based on what should happen, and then analyzing the data we gather and share about the atmosphere including temperature and pressure and in sending up the world’s “High Hopes” – including yours (more explanation about those aspects will be shared along the way – we don’t launch balloons until April and May) .

However another characteristic of this project is we chose 3 local schools to participate in certain engineering designs for the project to act as surrogates for all of us (an elementary, middle and high school). We contemplated opening up the major engineering design portion of this project to the world, but realized quickly that receiving design ideas from potentially tens if not hundreds of classes from around the world would be beyond our time constraints and abilities to judge and implement.

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Doug Taylor who co-designed this project looks on as a student explains the mock-up of the High Hopes payload and release mechanism the class is engineering and building.

 

The first one of the engineering challenges the students in Mr. Walsh’s physics class at Sparks High School are tackling is how to release the “High Hopes” the world submits so they can be spread around the world – more than likely they will be printed on small strips of paper – the paper we use breaks down in the environment in a matter of weeks BTW, so our High Hopes will become one with the Earth. One batch of the High Hopes will be designed to helicopter or glide in the air (to be designed by the elementary students) and have to be released at a lower altitude, but the bulk of the High Hopes will be released as high as possible (around 100,000 feet or 33,000 meters). So that requires 2 payloads.

The students informed us a week ago that they had done some initial designing and had some mock-ups to show us, but more importantly had questions about requirements and conditions to deal with. We set up a time to meet with them and included Andy Smith who is a mechanical engineering graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno. Andy is close to receiving his doctorate degree in engineering and has launched over 50 balloons himself, as well as designing payloads and the communications devices required to track them so they can be recovered. He has agreed to consult with students throughout the project.

IMG_2800The students showed us 2 designs – one basically a pyramid shape they envision being a bit more aerodynamic and stable, and another shaped more like a rectangular prism. The rectangle design also had a rudimentary release mechanism built in. They had chosen styrofoam sheets,  as the material … oh and the ever ubiquitous duct-tape.

One question they had was about payload size. They had no idea just how many “High Hopes” they had to transport, but they assumed about a ream of paper worth (500 sheets). In fact they had placed a ream of paper inside their initial designs and dropped them from their school building as an initial test and both survived intact. We explained we really had no firm idea just how many we might receive over the months before we launch, but that their test seemed like a good start.

 

Andy answered their questions about release mechanisms and how to release the High Hopes at the right moment. They discussed the possibility of using arduinos they could build and program, perhaps based on altitude readings. Andy also made them aware of some of the other design issues they would have to overcome including temperature, high and very low humidity, and high winds …  and that some glues and other materials don’t do well under certain conditions.

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Andy answering questions about engineering design.

We’ll keep you updated as designs progress. PLEASE SIGN-UP TO BE PART OF THIS PROJECT!

Learning is Messy!!

Nevada Tahoe Teacher STEM Institute

3 weeks ago we participated in the Nevada Tahoe Teacher STEM Institute. Over 50 K – 9 teachers from all over Nevada came to the Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, Lake Tahoe, for a week of STEM learning. The funding was based on a Math/ Science Partnership Grant we wrote and received through the Nevada Department of Education. The event was put on by the Nevada’s Northwest Regional Professional Development Program, Washoe County School District, TERC, along with help and support from others mentioned in this post. BELOW: We started off with a group photo.

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Sunday evening we started them off learning the science of tie-dye (covalent bonds and all) and made the case for STEM learning. We also set up a STEM notebook for each teacher as well as a digital notebook (blog).

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The next day started at 6:30 am for breakfast and a day of Project WET, GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science), background in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a trip on the TERC research vessel on Lake Tahoe, stream studies and training on and set-up of blogs, wikis and a Flickr photo account – all of which we added to all week.

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GEMS – Great Explorations in Math and Science

 

 

Out on the TERC research vessel

 

 

 

ABOVE: Field Lab Director Brant Allen explains the use of a Secchi disk in reporting out the clarity of the water in Lake Tahoe. The clarity has degraded from over 100 feet to about 70 feet since the 1960’s. BELOW: Secchi disk being lowered into the lake.

 

A couple of past visitors to the TERC research vessel you might recognize: DSC02702

 

 

 

 

BELOW: Stream monitoring and benthics.

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During following days all teachers learned geology, aquatic habitats, space science, ocean science, food webs, the ethics of teaching outdoors – and the middle and high school teachers also worked in the Soluble Reactive Phosphorous Lab solving a mystery about pollution sources ala CSI. The grant provided experts from GEMS, TERC the USGS and others to teach classes and lead labs.DSC02753 DSC02758

 

 

 

 

 

In the Soluble Reactive Phosphorous Lab

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BELOW:Food webs

 

 

 

 

Ladybugs!

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Participants loved the “Digital Sandbox”

DSC02766 Geoff Schladow – Director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center explains the “State of the Lake.”

 

 

 

 

 

We also got to visit the lake at sunset:

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Besides the more than 40 hours of training, participating teachers each received lessons, supplies and other resources to take back to their classrooms and students so they can use what they learned right away. In addition teachers will have monthly follow-up sessions to share their progress, ask questions, share resources they have developed and make connections through the classroom blogs, wikis and Flickr accounts they set-up. It was an intense and rewarding week of learning and sharing in one of the most beautiful locations on Earth!

FLICKR Set from the institute

NTTSI Wiki

Learning is messy!

Update: Rethinking School District Social Media Policies for Teachers / Students

One of the challenges of my job as STEM Learning facilitator for 6 counties, has been that some of those counties (school districts here are by county, so every county is it’s own school district) have very restrictive online access policies … meaning they block almost anything even remotely social – blogs, wikis, photo archiving sites like Flickr and more. In one school district I was working with a group of teachers and pointed out that I’d found one of the above “not-blocked” – my mere mention of the fact was met with “SHHHH!” and,  “Don’t tell anyone! If they know its open they’ll block it!” But when I asked if that meant someone was using it they admitted that no they weren’t – for various reasons … none of them about educating children.

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I just want to point out that the “T” in STEM stands for technology, and the real power of that technology is learning to learn, sharing learning, collaboration and more. The standards even demand that students collaborate globally, and as I point out often, I don’t think they mean by sending letters back and forth.

Back in November I wrote a post about this issue and asked for feedback on:  “What would be the most useful thing we could do to encourage district leaders to rethink their social media policies for teachers/students?” I received some great feedback in the comments section from some really smart people – check them out in the comments on that post. During a Twitter chat I even got a response from Arne Duncan, the US Secretary of Education asking for the names of the districts that blocked these sites. Although I did collaborate with folks from the USDOE after that, it was agreed that having Secretary Duncan contact these school districts directly was probably not the best course of action.

Instead we ramped up our campaign of information – both gathering information about what led the opposition to access, and disseminating information about safety and the reality of the various laws on internet and information use and access that many were misinterpreting to mean if they gave access to anything social on the internet they’d lose their e-rate funding.

In December I was invited to present to one district’s EdTech committee. I used a 2-pronged approach. I showed them numerous examples of the powerful use of these technologies and applications as learning places. Collaborative projects, how blogging can be used to motivate writing, editing, communicating, collaborating and more – wikis, video-conferencing, Google Docs and more – I have many examples right from my own classroom, but also with the many teachers and students my classes collaborated with over the years.

Next I pointed out the realities from laws designed to keep students safe online (the ones that lead folks to believe they’ll lose their e-rate funding and be sued). I was able to use numerous sources to point out that the law, in a nutshell, states that you must basically show that you are trying hard to keep students safe, if something then goes wrong you are OK (slightly more complicated than that).

The good news is, that that school district has “green lighted” a pilot program of blogging in one of their elementary schools with 4th graders. Tomorrow I meet with the teachers at the school to get their blogs set up and a bit of training … then Tuesday I’m back all day to get each class started to blog and post a few times to get the process down as a first step. I noted last week while visiting the school that wikis are now unblocked and even Flickr (but almost no one uses them yet or even realizes that they are unblocked), so we have a foot in the door!

I’m not nervous at all to work with the teachers tomorrow, but I don’t get to work with students more than a handful of times a year anymore, and so I can tell I have that combination of being both excited and nervous about being in a classroom … like the first day of school feeling. I’ll keep you updated.

Learning is messy!

 

 

 

 

On The Road – Project Wet Training

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One of the valuable STEM learning opportunities I’m part of right now is training teachers across our state in Project Wet. Think of it as Project Wet with a STEM focus.

We wrote and received a rather large grant sponsored by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP). Its enough money that we will be conducting these trainings for about 2 years with the goal of training hundreds of educators statewide in water and other science content.

Myself (I’m the STEM Learning Facilitator for northwest Nevada), Lou Loftin who is the Science Learning Facilitator, and Mary Kay Wagner an Environmental Scientist in the Bureau of Water Quality Planning with NDEP, are a team that travels around providing 16 hour trainings statewide. Nevada is a huge state (from here in Reno to Las Vegas is over 400 miles one way) so we put many miles on Lou’s truck which we cram full of equipment and supplies when we go on the road.

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Currently we are in the middle of a 4 session class that convenes just south of here at River Fork Ranch in Genoa, Nevada.

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We combine lessons right out of the Project Wet Guide 2.0 (which you cannot buy – you must participate in a least 6 hours of training in Project Wet to receive a guide) with hikes through the parks where our classes usually take place, some training in online photo archiving (Flickr), wikis and the online Project Wet Educator’s Portal.

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Besides receiving a copy of the Project Wet guide, participants in our trainings also take supplies and resources provided by the grant back to their classrooms – beakers, pipettes, graduated cylinders, measuring tapes, Earth globes, maps and more. They also take back the links and online resources we help them register for (see above) and the network of teachers they meet and link to as part of the class. Several participating teachers have already brought their own students to the sites on field trips.

If you follow me on Twitter I often Tweet out photos and reports of where we are and what we’re up to. We have several more “Wet” classes coming up before June in eastern Nevada, and come fall we’ll continue our treks around the state. One of the “perks” of a project like this is getting to visit the beautiful places that abound in Nevada.

BELOW: Photos from our training in Las Vegas at the Clark County Wetlands where they pump 3 million gallons of water from the water treatment facility through the park daily to help provide habitat for a surprising amount of flora and fauna in the desert.

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Learning is messy!