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Amazing Race Staff Meeting

Staff meetings are generally very dry affairs. Often they become reiterations of the email memos that have been sent out.  In an effort to make our staff meetings more worthwhile experiences, I suggested that we use our March staff meeting to show teachers a different way of learning.  I didn’t just want to tell teachers about the benefits of constructivist learning, I wanted them to experience the benefits first hand.  I proposed holding an Amazing Race competition with our staff.  We would split the staff into teams, give them tasks, clues, detours, and road blocks.  The first team to complete the tasks would receive a “sweet million” (a King sized Hershey bar with a Starbucks gift card attached). Tasks: These were things that the team had to do together.  For example one of our tasks was to count all of the biographies in the library, and subtract the sum of biographies that were less than 100 pages.  (Our 3rd grade students are required to read biographies that are more than 100 pages, the idea was to get teachers looking through the biographies, realizing the small number of appropriate biographies that meet their requirements).  Some of our other tasks included, stopping somewhere in the building and taking a silly team picture with a camera stationed there, searching United Streaming for an Animal Cracker (idioms) video, filling out a Google Form that asked questions about previous tasks, and using search tricks in Google. Clues: These pointed the teams to the next task. We had route markers throughout the rooms and halls to point the way. Detour Clue: These are random tasks.  Example: Find a maintenance form, substitute form, and reimbursement form and write who should receive each at the top of the form. Road Block: These are completed by only one member of the team. For example: jump rope and have a teammate take a picture. We started our Amazing Race Staff Meeting by giving each team colored bandannas, a school map, a bottle of water, pen, and notebook.  Before the race began, we watched a CHC Amazing Race video.  Our teams were off, teachers were running down the hallway and shouting directions to each other.  They were working, learning, and having fun together. You can see our Amazing Race video and Google form here. The meeting was a huge success.  Morale was boosted, staff bonds were strengthened, and teachers participated in a different kind of learning.  It was fun! I had NO idea how competitive our staff is. What creative staff meetings have you been a part of?  What kinds of staff meetings do you find most useful?

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NASA’s 50th Anniversary Flash Feature-best website ever!

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Evaluate, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 19-04-2011

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Have I mentioned lately that I have the most AWESOME readers?  No?  Well it is true, you all are awesome and you keep me going even when I am running on low.  Thank you for that!  I’m currently working on starting a school (actually 3) in the next 2 years.  This is proving to be an exciting and, oh yeah, exhausting task.  Then I get encouraging emails and site suggestions from you all and it puts some major pep back in my step.  Thank you!  This website is one such recommendation.  You know you are a true geek when getting a cool website in your inbox revives you :)  Thank you Ryan!

What it is: NASA’s 50th Anniversary Flash feature is a website that is absolutely not to be missed.  Seriously, it won’t even hurt my feelings if you skip reading my post and just head right on over to dig in and check it out yourselves!  This interactive timeline highlights each decade in our space program from 1950 to 2000.  Until we get time travel sorted out, this is a pretty good substitute! The site encourages exploration and discovery as students move decade by decade through the site.  I love that this site goes so far beyond just space exploration.  While students explore, they will hear music representing each decade, see animations, listen to virtual radio broadcasts of actual news headlines (including NASA news and other news from the decade), original video, listen to speeches of the decade and even launch rockets.  I can’t tell you how happy it made me to hear Johnny Cash mixed in as I was playing on this site (in the upper left corner of the site you will be able to change songs on the jukebox, record, tape, CD or mp3 player).  First thing I heard when I clicked on the 80’s “Tonight on Dallas find out who shot J.R.”. *LOVE THIS SITE!*  This blog post took me about 2 hours because I got sucked right into exploring and playing.  The site reminds me of Epcot’s Tomorrow Land, complete with robot guide.  This is what online learning should look like, when I close my eyes and dream, this is the experience I imagine for kids.  Can you imagine if there was a site like this for history? How cool would that be?!

How to integrate NASA’s 50th Anniversary Flash Feature into the classroom: This is one of those sites that you could let kids loose on just for exploration.  Without any guidance from you they will learn plenty!  Ideally kids would explore this site in partners or on their own in a one to one computer lab setting.  If each student has a computer, headphones will be a necessity.  If individual exploration just isn’t in the cards, visit the site as a class with an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computers.  Invite students up to the computer (whiteboard) to take turns guiding the class.  The site has plenty of interactive content to give each student a chance at the computer (whiteboard).  Unless you have a good chunk of time dedicated to the site, this is one that I would stretch out over a week.  Each day students can explore a new decade.

The space exploration component of this site is amazing and could keep everyone plenty busy with learning.  With older students, discuss what the music of the decade reveals about that time in history.  What does the music tell them about people, community, values, events of the day?  Take it one step further and ask students to dig into other historical events in each decade, discussing their impact on space exploration, culture and where we are today.  One thing that I missed out on in history was all of the stories that make it so rich.  For me, history was reduced to names, dates and places.  Give your students the opportunity to put themselves into history and learn about how the events influenced each other.

NASA’s 50th Anniversary Flash Feature would be a great one to use in connection with We Choose the Moon.  If your students are like mine, they can’t get enough of this stuff!  Obviously I can’t get enough of it either.  Full disclosure, I have always loved space exploration.  When I was a kid I spent many summers at Black Rock Desert at LDRS (Large Dangerous Rockets) with my dad.  My dad built wooden model rockets- first wooden rocket on record to break sound barrier!  In answer to your next question: yes, I have always been a complete and total nerd. 😛

Tips: What? Your still here? Go on, visit the site! (channeling my inner Ferris Bueller today).

Please leave a comment and share how you are using NASA’s 50th Anniversary Flash Feature thesauruses in your classroom!

Comments (3)

[…] site is a great one to use in connection with the NASA 50th Anniversary site I shared […]

[…] launch.  Using a projector-connected computer or an interactive whiteboard, launch one of the shuttles here.  When you “land” on the moon, let students explore the surface together by […]

[…] 8. NASA’s 50th Anniversary Flash Feature- Best. Website. Ever. An incredible interactive timeline that highlights each decade in the United States space program from 1950 to 2000. […]

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