Featured Post

Enter the Group: Making Group Project Easier

What it is: Enter the Group is a fabulous online tool that makes it simple to work with, and organize, groups online.  The tool has similar functionalities to Wiggio. Enter the Group includes shared calendars, site email, file sharing, instant chat and message boards, the ability to create private...

Read More

123D Design: The simplest (FREE) way to get ideas into 3D

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Art, Create, Inquiry, iPod, Maker Space, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Technology, Video Tutorials, web tools, Websites | Posted on 07-04-2015

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!

What it is: 123D Design is a free super powerful, but simple to use, 3D creation and editing tool. As if that wasn’t great enough, it also supports many new 3D printers! The 3D creation tool is available for PC, Mac, and iPad download ensuring that no matter what devices you have at your disposal, you can take advantage of this awesome tool. The 123D app is incredibly intuitive, within just a few minutes, you can be creating like a pro (really!). Not feeling like a pro? There is also a quick start guide and a library of video tutorials that will explain how the different tools within the app work. The app has lots of 3D designs to start with that can be altered, but it also gives students complete creative license to create all on their own. So cool!

123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!

How to integrate 123D Design into your classroom: 123D Design is a fantastic tool that brings the principles of geometry to life while giving students an outlet for creative design and invention. The app is easy enough to use that even young primary students can use it successfully to create.

123D Design Free 3D design for 3D printing!I introduced this app to some of our students who have been learning the basics about coordinate planes. They quickly were able to identify the coordinate planes and were able to understand x, y, and z! This is the type of creation tool that helps students understand the application possibilities of the math they are learning (math in context, what a novel idea!)

At Anastasis, we’ve been playing with the iPad version of 123D Design. In the app version, students begin by choosing a basic shape and then can edit it to be exactly what they want it to be. They can easily connect shapes to make really detailed creations. Example projects help them to play with the tools in the app until they understand and can start from scratch on their own. When students are finished, they save it to “My Projects” which is accessible in the 123D Design web and desktop app. If you are lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer, the kids can even print out their creations!

This is a great addition to any maker space/prototype lab/design thinking routine. Don’t have any of that fanciness at your school? No problem! Adding this app to your classroom gives students an outlet to do some design thinking and work through ideas and inventions right in your classroom. Instant prototype lab!

Our students often engage in design thinking as they engage inquiry. Right now one of our 4th grade students is inquiring into how much water is wasted in our daily activities. One area of waste is when we brush our teeth. This student is designing and creating a toothbrush with the water built-in so that the faucet doesn’t have to be turned on to wet the toothbrush. She’s been experimenting to find out how much waste there is in this activity in our prototype lab. Next, she’ll begin to bring her designs to life with 123D Design and we’re hopeful that she’ll be able to print out a prototype on our Printrbot (still experimenting with how to do that!).

Tips: Sign up to become a member of Autodesk 123D. This gives you access to 3D models, tutorials, 10 free premium models each month, ability to send the 3D model directly to your own 3D printer (or if you don’t have one, to a printing service), unlimited cloud storage of your student designs, and access to the Autodesk forums.

Wait, what just happened?! (Launching a Conference)

Posted by admin | Posted in 5Sigma, Anastasis Academy, collaboration, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 02-03-2015

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

5 Sigma Edu Con- a truly innovative education conference!

As it turns out, putting on a conference is a whole lot like planning for a wedding. Months of preparation, sleepless nights, and dreams (nightmares?) that make you begin to believe that the world revolves around this one event. And then suddenly it is here, the big day. The culmination of all of the hard work.

A strange peace comes over you when you wake the morning of the conference. You’ve done all that you can do. If it hasn’t already been planned for, it will just be what it is.

Blink and it is over.

Wait, what just happened?!

You know it was an AMAZING two days and that the connections were incredible, but going back to sum it up in a few words…that is harder.

The crisis of the imminent creeps in (oh yeah, I still have a school to run!) and before you know it a week has passed and you still haven’t put thoughts down on paper.

I’ve struggled to neatly sum up the 5Sigma Conference. What I can say is, WOW. The 5Sigma Education Conference was one of the best professional experiences I’ve had. It feels a little arrogant to say since I’m the one who planned it, but really, what happened last weekend impacted me enormously. It wasn’t what I did. It was the connections with others who are innovative and amazing in their education space. It was the stories told, the laughter shared, it was the discovery that others are doing the hard thing in education and we share the same struggles and joys. In a way, the 5Sigma conference was like being in a foreign country and finding someone from your hometown. Only everyone at the conference was that person.

Anastasis is a very different kind of school. Even the things we do that share common education language (inquiry), look very different here. It can feel a bit isolating, even surrounded by other educators, because we do things that others don’t. 5Sigma was a great reminder that we aren’t alone. That others know the struggles. They also know the deep joy, freedom, and excitement. It was incredible to be able to share that with so many!

I’m still sorting out my thoughts…I suspect they will become several posts. In the mean time, I want to share some words from others who are more eloquent in their reflection of the weekend than I currently am.

This gem is from @yourkidsteacher (who many of you supported through the 5Sigma Pay-it Forward program to get to Colorado for the conference): Edu Conferences, Woodstock & Physicists

Check out this Storify of Tweets from the weekend to get a taste of the fabulous discussions that happened (Thanks to @rsvoigt for making that happen!): 5Sgima Edu Conference Storify

To all who attended the first annual 5Sigma Education Conference: a sincere thank you! Your presence, support, and the conversation your brought was THE highlight.

To our awesome presenters: You all are rock stars. I don’t say that lightly. You are incredible people doing important work every. single. day. Thank you for sharing that.

To our sponsors: You made so much of what we did possible to do. Thank you for supporting us with swag, donated snacks that made us feel at home, and prizes that put some substantial smiles on faces!

To Team Anastasis staff, students, and parents: You are hands down the BEST and my favorite!

 

Metanoia- the journey of changing one’s mind, heart, self, or way of life (basically what #edu is all about!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Classroom Management, Create, education reform, Evaluate, For Teachers, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Reform Symposium Conference, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Technology | Posted on 21-01-2015

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

5-Sigma Education Conference February 20-22, Colorado

The problem with education reform is that we keep attempting to change surface level systems and hoping for deep systemic change as a result. What we actually end up with is new standards, new curricula (usually replacing one one-size-fits-all with another one-size-fits-all), new technology initiatives, more professional development, added “rigorous” expectations, new standardized tests, new assessment systems, and new buzz words. If you’ve been involved in education for any amount of time, you begin to see a pattern emerge. As a society, we seem to be always searching for the next best thing that is going to “fix” education; it quickly begins to feel like a broken record. I’ve often heard education veterans lament about how this is, “just one more new program.” It will get hyped, change the way everything is done, but the end result will be the same: countless professional development dollars will have been spent, there will be additional pressure and stress to get everything changed over to the “new” way of doing things, and lives and schools will be turned upside down and inside out. In the end the “new” push will end up with all the others: shoveled to the side when the next latest and greatest idea comes on the horizon. This has been the case for as long as I’ve been in education (30-year+ veterans tell me that it is nothing new). When this is the education landscape, you really can’t help but to feel jaded and wonder what the point of all of it is.

The trouble is, in all of these initiatives we never really change our minds about what education is and what it needs. We continue thinking about and approaching education in exactly the same ways, put a new cover on it, and act as if it will finally be THE thing that changes everything. If we keep looking at education with the same assumptions, no matter what comes our way, the end result will be the same. Swirl. The circling around solutions that aren’t really solutions. We have to change our minds. We have to identify the assumptions that we make about education and divorce ourselves from them enough to gain a new perspective.

Assumptions that we make in education (this is just a sampling, but you’ll get the idea):

  • Everyone needs to exit the school system with the same skill set and knowledge.
  • Academic success can be measured and assigned a number.
  • Tests show progress in learning.
  • Kids should move through learning at the same pace and, if they aren’t, there is something wrong with them.
  • That classrooms are places with desks, whiteboards, and paper/pencils.
  • That education should be rigorous.
  • That teachers deliver learning.
  • That homework is a necessary part of school.

When the above assumptions are the mind-set that we operate from, no new initiatives layered on top of them are going to make the systemic change we hope for.

We have to change our minds first. We have to begin designing from within.

As people tour through Anastasis, I often get the feeling that they are overwhelmed. What we do looks very different from the school that they operate within. There is this pause generally followed by, “we could never do this! ” There is red tape, naysayers, not enough money, and hurdles of every sort. They realize that what we do would take a fundamental shift in the way things are done at their school and that feels BIG. Unattainable.

When we change our minds, ditch the assumptions, it is truly a starting over.

As educators and decision makers, we often try to make shifts in educations by bring in a new program, adding the newest technology, changing one curriculum for another. But the truth is, to change education, we have to work at it a bit more abstractly…we have to change our minds. The real change has to happen within each of us as educators. We have to identify our assumptions, step back and take a look at education and learning from a new perspective, a new lens. This is a shift in how we think about education and the lens we consider it under.

How do we change our minds? NOT by adding “new” programs (that as it turns out have the same view of education/learning and have just altered the packaging). The more I’ve reflected on the education reform puzzle, the more I’ve come to believe that this has to start with administrators and teachers. We have to begin by identifying assumptions and then taking a fresh look at education apart from those assumptions.

An illustration of the change of mindset:

I started a school that is technology rich. We have a 1:1 iPad environment from k-8. We also have Chromebooks, projectors, robots, etc.

Do you know that I have never provided my staff with professional development to learn how to use this technology?

Never.

I didn’t even ask them how proficient they were at using technology when I hired them.

When I gather my staff for professional development, we talk about the kind of learners we want our students to be. We talk about the learning habits we want them to develop, the character qualities that we hope they leave Anastasis with. We talk about philosophy and pedagogy, and how to learn. We design for learning. All of the tools that we have available (technology included) get utilized, not because I’ve spelled it out for my staff, but because we’ve dreamed together. We’ve changed our minds and focused first on the learner and the journey that they will take. We ditch the assumptions and try new angles. The fun happens when we start to discover (together) how technology can enhance that journey. You’ve never heard so much excitement over new apps discovered, or the exclamations of “did you know it could do this?!” Suddenly my staff remembers what it is like to be a learner. They again enjoy engaging that journey and they recognize that I (the administrator) am not the holder of knowledge. They don’t have to wait on me to learn or create something new. There is freedom in that changed mind-set! When teachers realize that they don’t have to wait, they begin to help their students realize that they are on their own learning journey. They no longer feel the need to be the holder of all knowledge, but apprentice students in the art of engaging the learning journey.

What does this change of mind mean for professional development? It means that my job is to create opportunities for my staff to engage in learning together. Sometimes this means that we take a cooking class or go paddle boarding together. Other times it means engaging in meaningful conversations over drinks at the end of the day or breakfast at Snooze. When you help people step away from their assumptions by actually modelling what that looks like, a transformation happens. It is empowering. It can be scary. The end result isn’t always obvious. If you can push past the fear of the unknown, and realize that we are all learners on our own “metanoia,” the results are staggering! This is how we get the BIG sweeping changes in education. This is where culture and community are built and students learn to properly manage freedom in learning.

We would love to share with you how we design learning at Anastasis, but more than that, we want to help you change your mind. February 20-22nd you can join us for a conference unlike any you’ve ever attended. Get fired-up, iterate with world-changing thinkers, and make plans that you can launch with a tour of Anastasis Academy, a series of keynotes and break out sessions from leading visionaries, panel discussions, and adult learning excursions. At the 5-Sigma Education Conference, we will help you change your mind and offer pragmatic, applicable insights that will help you transform your own space in education. Teacher, administrator, superintendent, district leaders-this conference is for all of you!

Tynker: Computer programming for kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, History, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Technology, web tools, Websites | Posted on 22-11-2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9

iLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kidsiLearn Technology Tynker: programming for kids

What it is: Tynker is about the coolest way for kids to learn how to computer program- absolutely NO prior programming experience is needed!  Tynker leads kids through design thinking through interactive courses where kids can learn how to program at their own pace.

Anyone can teach kids how to program (no really!) because with Tynker, you don’t need any prior knowledge or understanding.  Tynker provides teachers with tools, curriculum and project ideas that will have your kids programming in no time!  The Tynker curriculum pack starts with 6 lessons.  Each one is appropriate for a 45 minute work period. Through the teacher dashboard, you can assign lessons to your students.  A built-in tutor provides step-by-step instructions that guides students toward creating a working project.  The teacher dashboard also helps you track student progress as they learn and master concepts.  No data entry is required, students login and the teacher dashboard auto-magically populates.

When students have completed projects, they can publish them to the class showcase and be shared with family and friends through email, Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

Happily, Tynker works entirely in your web browser.  There is nothing to install or setup.  It is good to go right away!  Equally happily, Tynker is FREE for your school!  Woot!

How to integrate Tynker into your classroom: Not only will students learn the basics of programming with Tynker, they can use it to demonstrate their learning through their creations.  Students can compose stories and comics that retell a story, historical event, recent field trip, fiction or non-fiction.  Using the physics features, students can learn some basics about physics and cause the games they create to be more realistic.  They can also demonstrate understanding of physics principles through their creations.

Students can use Tynker to create their own apps to show off their understanding of new math/science/social studies vocabulary, math or science concepts, retell stories, character sketches, games, animations and more. In addition to being able to create stories, games, and  slideshow- students can also program original music and create computer art.

Don’t think you have time in your curriculum?  Take a look around Tynker and think about natural ways you could use it to enhance your curriculum.  Instead of asking your students to create a book report, have them program a retell using Tynker.  This will take some additional background knowledge (they will need to go through a Tynker tutorial or two) BUT the outcome is well worth it.  You will have asked your students to learn something new semi-independently, beefed up logical/mathematical thinking skills through programming, and invited students to think critically about what they read to tell the story to others through a program.  Worth the additional 45 min!  Students could demonstrate a math concept, show the steps in a science experiment, retell an event in history, and even compose their own music through program.  When you start thinking like a maker as you play with Tynker, you will realize there are infinite opportunities for including Tynker in your curriculum.  If you are still convinced that you can’t find the time in your heavily scheduled (sometimes scripted-sad) day, why not start a before or after school program, summer camp, lunch club, etc.?

At Anastasis, we have Crave classes every Wednesday.  These classes are offered by our teachers every 5 weeks.  Teachers choose an area of learning that they crave and create a class based on that (we have everything from programming, to cooking, to forensic science, hockey history, junk orchestra, iPad rock band, to chess and da Vinci art).  Students get a list of classes at the beginning of a new block, and get to choose a class that they crave.  The result is a wonderful mixed age (k-8) class of passions colliding.  The kids LOVE Wednesdays for this awesome hour of our day.  I’m excited to offer a Tynker class for our next block of classes (along with playing with our new Romo robot!), I think this is going to be a popular class!

iLearn Technology- Romotive robot

Tips: If your school uses Google apps for education like we do, your students can log in with their Google information.

What do you think of Tynker?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

Apprenticing students in the art of learning

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 31-10-2013

Tags: , , , , , ,

0

I’m of the opinion that the apprenticeship model should be the basis for education.  This is one of the cornerstones of Anastasis philosophy, that we apprentice students in the art of learning.  The goal then, is to teach students how to be learners by modelling what it means to be a learner.  I’m not sure how one can be a teacher and not be a learner.

As a young child, I was apprenticed as a learner.  My parents were masters at encouraging curiosity.  They themselves are inquirers.  They showed me what it meant to passionately pursue understanding of the world around me.  It never felt like school.  As long as I can remember, my parents have owned their own businesses.  When I was growing up, they owned and operated a kitchen remodel business.  I spent summers “playing” at work.  This was my first interaction with using a computer.  I spent hours pretending to talk on the phone to a client and then designing their kitchen using the office Apple IIe.  It was really exciting when I got to use the blue print machine in the insanely scary basement of the office.  Later, my dad started a model rocket company.  He made model rocket kits completely out of wood.  This led to an excitement about physics, making, and entrepreneurship.  My parents involved my brother and I in each part of the process.  I spent many hours sewing bags for the rockets to be packaged in.  When my brother decided that skateboarding was life, my parents started a skateboard company.  This time I learned about screen printing, graphic design, and skate culture.  My families most recent pursuit of passion is at Koostik.  My dad started this company after discovering that he could amplify sound by putting his iPhone in a Styrofoam cup.  He immediately began to tinker in the garage, using his passion for woodworking to create speakers for the iPhone that worked 100% through acoustics.

This was learning at its absolute best.  It gave purpose to all of the things that I learned in school.  My parents taught me how to pursue curiosity, passion and crazy ideas.  They showed me that learning is a life long adventure.

I often get dropped-jaw stares when I tell people that I started a school.  The immediate follow-up questions begin: how did you do it, what classes did you take to prepare you, what professional development on starting a school did you get, where did you find the money?  My answer is always the same, I was raised to do this.  My parents taught me how to do this by demonstrating what it means to be a learner.  They taught me how to do this by showing me how passions and ideas are pursued.  Many that I talk to consider starting a school risky or scary.  For me the scarier thing would be to sit by and watch kids go through an education system that isn’t in their best interest.  The scarier thing is to do what every one else is doing.

I was raised to do this.

My hope for students everywhere: that they would have teachers in their lives who would apprentice them in the art of learning.

Thank you mom and dad for showing me what passionate learning looks like!

 

P.S.  If you haven’t seen the gorgeous work that my dad does, check out Koostik.  Each of the products is made by hand.  My dad is constantly sending me photos of new ideas he is tinkering with.  LOVE that!  Koostik has a contest that ends TONIGHT where you can enter to win product.  I saw the prize pack in person today.  The photos don’t do it justice.  Everything is gorgeous!  My dad is pretty much the master at choosing just the right piece of wood and working with the grain to really make each piece stand out as a masterpiece.  It is truly (functional) art.  Details for how to enter here.

Koostik prize package!

 

 

Chalkstar to Rockstar #2: Risk and Trust with Anastasis Academy

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Grade Level, inspiration, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 12-09-2013

Tags: , , , , , ,

0

Chalkstar to rockstar Anastasis Academy Podcast

The second episode of Chalkstar to Rockstar featuring @michellek107 and yours truly is now live.  In this episode we talk about the freedom that comes with risk and how trust is involved every step of the way.  Thank you @bennettscience for interviewing and @TechSmith for hosting us!  Listen to this quick podcast here.

**Clearly I had a cold going full force while we were recording so the result is this really specially nasal enhanced voice.  Sigh.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Blooms Taxonomy, Grade Level, professional development, Teacher Resources | Posted on 18-07-2013

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6

An article I read this week had me thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy and what learning really is.  It led to me coming up with a new graphic for Bloom’s Taxonomy, this one a Paint Palette.  I like thinking about Bloom’s in the form of an artist paint palette because each color has equal importance.  For an artist, the greatest beauty comes in the mixing of colors.  Using a multitude of shades and blends on a canvas.  I think the same can be said of learning.  Learning that tells you that you can only use one color is rather uninspired.  But learning that encourages you to use all of the colors can create something really meaningful and beautiful.

At Anastasis, we encourage our students to look at learning through a variety of lenses and outcomes.  Bloom’s Taxonomy helps us do that by showing students that there are different ways to approach learning.  Now our biggest problem is that students will find that they really enjoy one way of showing what they know (iMovie) and proceed to use it for EVERYTHING.  I created the Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette with verbs that help describe the different ways of learning.  I created a painting using the same colors from the palette to give students ideas for different outcomes and evidences of learning.  I’m in the midst of working on an app and website catalog organized by the same colors so that students can be introduced to the many options they have for the different types of learning and producing.  I’ll share that when it is finished!  For now, I’ve included screen shots of the Bloom’s Taxonomy Paint Palette, the Bloom’s Taxonomy Painting and a sample page from the catalog.

Bloom's Taxonomy Paint Palette- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology

 

 

Bloom's Taxonomy Painting- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology

 

 

Bloom's Taxonomy apps- Kelly Tenkely iLearn Technology

National Center for Atmospheric Research

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Evaluate, Geography, Inquiry, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Virtual Field Trips, Websites | Posted on 17-12-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

0

What it is: Today Anastasis students were lucky enough to visit the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.  It was a truly fantastic experience (if you ever find yourself in Colorado, it is worth a visit! Open free everyday!).  The center has some fantastic interactive exhibits, much like what you find at Exploratorium in California.  In addition to the physical location, the National Center for Atmospheric Research has some wonderful online games, activities and resources for the classroom.

In the Interactives and Simulations for weather, climate and atmospheric science section you will find:

  • A virtual laboratory for creating a weather balloon.
  • A simple virtual climate model.
  • The build a tree dendrochronology activity where students can explore past climates.
  • Compare IPCC scenarios interactive where students forecast carbon dioxide levels.
  • The climate sensitivity calculator.
  • The Earth’s Energy balance virtual lab.
  • Compare solar eclipse photos activity.
  • Solar eclipse memory
  • Sun-earth connections memory
  •  Clouds memory
  • Atmospheric chemistry memory
 In the classroom activities section, you will find:
  • Paleoclimates and Pollen where students can study pollen.
  • Model a moving glacier where students make a model of a glacier and create an experiment to study movement.
  • Glaciers then and now where students study pictures of glaciers taken in the 1900’s and compare them to pictures of the glaciers today.
  • The systems game where students observe a system.
  • Looking into surface Albedo where students inquire into how color affects the way that the sun interacts with Earth’s surface.
  • Feeling the heat where students investigate which parts of their school yard have a higher temperature.
  • CO2 How much do you spew where students analyze energy consumption.
  • The nitrogen cycle game where students play the role of nitrogen atoms traveling through the nitrogen cycle.
  • The water cycle 0-18 and ice cores where students look at proxy data to determine past climate.
In addition to the fantastic activities on the site, students can learn more about the sun and space weather, weather, atmosphere and climate on the NCAR website.

How to integrate the National Center for Atmospheric Research into the classroom: If you are studying weather, climate or atmospheric research with your students this is a must stop site.  It is FULL of great activities, virtual labs and easy-to read and understand information.  Really, take a few minutes to dig in.  Today, when we visited we got to explore some of these virtual labs and games first hand.  Our students watched a short video introducing them to NCAR and what scientists do there.  Next we entered into a classroom where the fun began!

Today we learned about the North and South Poles.  The fine people at NCAR had made globe paddles that had the north pole on one side and the south pole on the other (glued to giant tongue depressors).  They gave the students different facts about the north and south pole and students had to hold up their paddles with the correct answers.  Next, students learned about how polar bears were equipped for the COLD temperatures.  There were tubs of ice water on the table.  Students were asked to place their hands inside the ice water.  We timed how long they lasted in the cold water.  Next, students put their hands in a “blubber” paw and tried the experiment again.  The hand inside the layer of blubber could stay in the cold for a long time with no discomfort.  These blubber paws were actually made with 2 ziplock baggies with Crisco in between the layers and duct-tape at the top of the baggies so that they were sealed together around openings where the two baggies came together.  This left a Crisco pocket that formed the paw.  Students also learned about penguins and how they find their mate in hundreds and hundreds of penguins.  Penguins have particular sounds that help alert their mate.  The penguins can distinguish between the particular sounds that each penguin makes to find their mate.  Students simulated this by each taking a film canister with an object/objects in it.  The students had to shake their canister and find their match using the sound alone.  They had a ball with this!  They also practiced transferring a styrofoam egg from one pair of feet to another without using their hands the way that the penguin does.  Our students also did the glacier matching project (listed above) where they worked in teams to match the original pictures to the new pictures.  Some of these were really challenging as the second picture had NO glacier to be seen!  The kids learned that every glacier in the world is shrinking with the exception of two glaciers in Norway.  Fascinating!

Our classroom today…can’t beat the view!

 

Touching clouds!

 

Our students got to follow the activities above with an exploration of weather, climate, and atmosphere science exhibits.  You could easily recreate the activities above and follow up with virtual simulations, videos and games.  These could be set up as centers for students to explore (the virtual centers on classroom computers).  There is SO much here that exploration of all that the NCAR site has to offer could take days.  The simulations and games would also be appropriate on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer where students can explore and interact as a whole class.  Allow students to take turns playing scientist.

Tips: While we were at NCAR, our guide, Tim, told us that NCAR was originally established in the 1960s to learn how to control the weather.  This brought up a great discussion about what could happen if humans could control the weather, and what unintended consequences might come along with that.  This would make for a great creative writing exercise or comic strip.  Our students came up with some insightful thoughts on this topic!

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  NCAR in your classroom.

I might be too old for conferences: #Educon reflection

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, inspiration | Posted on 31-01-2012

Tags: , , ,

10

Over the weekend, all of Team Anastasis took a little trip to Philly for Educon.  The experience was incredible, but not for the reasons you may be thinking.  In the past, education conferences have been a place to go and collect ideas to bring back to the classroom.  Educon offered this, but it isn’t what we came back talking about.  Educon is a wonderful conference put on by the great educators at Science Leadership Academy.  The conference started with a tour of SLA led by students.  I appreciated that the tour was student led…it gave us an inside look at what the culture of the school looks like and let us see the school through the eyes of a student.   It is always interesting to listen to the way that kids talk about their school, their experiences, their plans post graduation.  The school is really wonderful.  It is a one-to-one Macbook school, but the technology isn’t really what you notice when you walk through the classroom.  The technology really blends into the background just the way books, pencil and paper do.  The classes we walked through felt pretty typical of my own public high school experience.  Students were engaged in experiments, filling out rubrics for themselves on their performance in Spanish classes, exercising in health class, and putting the finishing touches on projects.

I feel blasphemous even saying this but I was a little bit…underwhelmed.  It isn’t that what we saw wasn’t “innovative” (the buzzword of the weekend), but it just wasn’t earth SHATTERING.  I guess that my take away has more to do with my expectations of what I was going to see than with what SLA is doing. Hang with me here.

In the past, I would go to education conferences and was absolutely inspired by what other schools around the world were doing.  I came back to my own classroom on fire to try some of the new ideas and thinking.  I continued conversations about what I had seen and experienced at the conference. I pushed myself to do better for the students that I teach.  Maybe I’m getting too old for conferences.  You know that point of growing up when playing make-believe doesn’t hold the same magic as it used to because you have new interests and understandings about the world?  That is kind of how I am feeling about conferences.  They used to reveal things to me that I hadn’t been challenged with in the past.  They used to inspire new ways of thinking about learning.  Lately conferences leave me feeling frustrated.  We are having the same conversations, listening to the same excuses about why something won’t work in the classroom or school that someone is in because it is ruled by Nazis.  I grow really weary of hearing the excuses. I grow really weary of educators defending practices that aren’t best for kids because they have discovered a technicality of this one time in history when the practice was useful.

I want to be inspired.  I want to be surrounded by people who will say, “I’m doing it, regardless of what policies my school will or will not change.”

Part of the “problem” is that I am surrounded by 6 of the greatest teachers on the planet every single week.  Honestly. These people are incredible.  They are willing to walk into the unknown.  They are willing to rethink everything they know about education and learning.  They are willing to change every plan they have carefully laid out because they know it is what is best for their students at that moment.  They look at their students every day with such love in their eyes, that you know they would do anything for them.  It makes going to conferences, even the “innovative” ones, feel like a step back in time.  I know that what we do is revolutionary, but sometimes I forget how revolutionary it is because I live in it every day.

After the tour of the school, we were free to wander the streets of Philly until the opening Keynote panel to really kick things off.  We bought some subway tokens from student, and transportation genius, Jeff and headed off to see the Liberty Bell.  Traveling the streets of Philly with my staff was epic.  These people make me laugh until no sound comes out.  We did touristy things together, like take pictures in the subway (because @bestmscott was a subway virgin).  We listened to Lance ooh and ahh over Independence Hall.  That guy can throw down when it comes to American history.  I’m kind of jealous that Anastasis students are the only recipients of that passion.  We exclaimed over how much smaller the Liberty Bell is in person than we had anticipated.  We made a lip sync video to Crazy Train while we waited for our tour.  We argued over the kind of trees that surrounded Independence Hall (I stand by rubber tree- that is what they look like they are made of).  We booked it to Sonny’s for a genuine Philly cheese-steak complete with cheese whiz.

This is what conferences and professional development should be.  Opportunities to build culture and community for a school body.  Opportunities to learn together and see each other’s passions.  My new goal is not to take my staff to a conference. My new goal is to start a travel agency for educators that makes it possible to travel for learning and meet with other educators who are doing the same.  It is wonderful to see all of the other amazing, passionate educators that I learn from online every day in person.  It is wonderful to sit over a glass of whiskey and talk about what we saw, what we learned and education philosophy.  I learned that the real reason I go to conferences is not for the sessions that I sit and participate in.  It is for the human contact. It is so that I can remember there are others in this fight for children.  It is so that I can rub elbows with others who care as much as I do.

Team Anastasis led one of the first sessions on Saturday.  We were humbled by the turnout we had for our “Searching for daVinci” conversation.  This conversation took the shape of a: What, So What, Now What discussion.  The point of this format is to get smaller groups discussing and then sharing out with the larger group. I enjoyed this format, it gave us the chance to do what we do with students every day at Anastasis.  Our topic came from a blog post I wrote about daVinci and some other conferences I have presented at.  You can see the website we used to guide discussion at http://searching4davinci.weebly.com.  In addition to an overview, it has my Bloom’s Taxonomy images and pictures from inside Anastasis.  I truly did enjoy the conversations that were had, and the bunny trails that they led to.  One of my favorite share outs was from a teacher who said “we need to start hiring renaissance, daVinci teachers.”  Our main focus was on creating classrooms that would foster the daVinci in students.  I really liked the teacher angle.  He was right, it is hard to create this type of learning atmosphere without teachers who are multidisciplinary and passionate about a variety of disciplines.  That is what makes our rock star teachers at Anastasis such rock stars.  They are that kind of teacher.

We enjoyed engaging in conversation in the panels and other sessions.  Sometimes we wanted to fight, and sometimes we couldn’t agree more.  The whole conference was kicked off with the panel about how to sustain innovation.  Some time was dedicated to defining what innovation was (vs just a trend) and panelist offered ideas about how innovation could be sustained in schools.  I’m not sure an answer was ever landed on and I think that part of the problem was that innovation can’t be sustained when your focus is on innovation.  Innovation is not something that you can plan out.  Often it is the result of happy accidents and hunches colliding and a willingness to do something scary.  I asked (rather uneloquently) if maybe we weren’t asking the right question.  I’m not sure there is an answer to sustaining innovation.  Maybe the real question should be, how can we make education look more like life?  How can we bring more of what it means to be human into the classroom?  How can we encourage life to happen in education?  Innovation is a natural byproduct of life.  Innovation happens where their is opportunities for failures that lead to new thinking.  Failure is also a natural byproduct of life. After the panel discussion @matthewquigley commented on how uncomfortable educators were with open ended questions.  “Did you notice that EVERY teacher in there felt the need to give a conclusive answer?”  It was true, most were not willing to leave the panel without a clear cut “this is how you do it” answer.  How sad.  Questions and inquiry make way for innovation.  When you already have the answer there is no longer a reason to innovate.

What bummed me out about this conference was the number of excuses I heard about why something would/could never work in their situation.  What I really saw: fear.  I refuse to believe there is nothing to be done.  I refuse to believe that we can’t do better for kids now.  I refuse to believe that there is no wiggle room around all of the constraints we think we have.  I refuse to accept it.  I know it can be different.  And if it can’t, my next question is: why would you accept that?  If you truly want what is best for kids (and I know you do), why would you continue down the path of can’t?  Stand up. Fight. Start over. Do something.  The excuses will get us all nowhere.  The excuses hurt the kids who don’t have time to sit and wait for us to get it right.  I know some will say that it is different for us because we decide what our school looks like. We started the school.  It wasn’t hard. Everyone could do it if they were willing to be a little bit afraid.  @matthewquigley and I started a school with zero dollars.  No joke.  We didn’t get some wonderful grant, government money, etc.  We figured out how to be uncomfortable for a little while so that we could do something amazing.  We surrounded ourselves with families who supported us emotionally and acted as our cheerleaders and challenged us.  We found other teachers who were crazy and passionate enough to journey this path with us.  We built a community.  That is what it takes, a community who is ready to change the path because it is the right thing to do.  Don’t wait for your admin to wake up and do it, or for the teacher next door to get on board, or the government to change.  Be the change you want to see and do it.

What I loved about Educon: encouraging and fostering the community and culture of our school by going on this grand adventure together.  Meeting up with friends and fellow change makers from around the world.  Making jokes, challenging each other, sharing a meal, sight seeing and singing together.  Sharing laughter, ideas, and stories.  Seeing students take ownership over their school and pride in showing it off.

As it turns out, this post is a lot longer than I had anticipated…sorry about that.  I am too old for conferences.  Sometimes we have to play make-believe with others until they too outgrow conferences.  I’m okay with that. Baby steps.  What I would like to hear less of is the excuses.  I would like to see more opportunities for those of us who have outgrown conferences to have a different kind of learning experience.  One where we travel to a common destination where we can explore, and geek out, and share.  One where we can debate over a good Philly cheese steak, sing karaoke together, and challenge each other.  Maybe what we really need are host schools around the world that can be our gathering place for grand adventures of this sort.  Any takers?

Yesterday @matthewquigley stopped me and said “You know we can’t call our teachers ‘teachers’ any more right?  They are change makers.”  He is so right!  Lance (soon to be on Twitter), @nancybabbitt, @leadingwlove, @michellek107, @bestmscott, @matthewquigley: you are my heroes.  I had the BEST time with you all and I couldn’t be more excited about what we are doing to change our corner of the world.  Onward.

A Plethora of habitat websites and activities

Posted by admin | Posted in Create, Knowledge (remember), Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 19-01-2012

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

5

This post is going to be formatted a little differently than most are-so fair warning. :)  I do a lot of digging for resources and tools for our inquiry block at Anastasis Academy.  I thought it might be about time I shared the love here!  If you find it useful, I may include some more of these kinds of posts periodically.

Right now our students are learning about how the world works.  They are inquiring into animal habitats and needs.

Websites:

  1. Draw a habitat- my favorite from PBS!
  2. Plant and Animal Habitats from BBC has students working with the Sarah Jane Adventures team to complete a habitat interactive activity where students match aliens with the best habitat based on clues about both creature and habitat.
  3. Learn about habitats with this virtual text from BBC.
  4. Create a butterfly habitat by adding and removing plants.
  5. Explore the Deep Sea habitat with this interactive from National Geographic.
  6. Explore the Antarctica habitat with National Geographic’s Critter Cam.
  7. Build an online habitat with Switch Zoo.
  8. Design a Habitat with ARKive education.
  9. The Great Habitat Match with the Magic School Bus Gang.
  10. Walk in the Forest helps students learn about layers of habitats in the forest.
  11. Animal Homes (this is a good one for kindergarten or younger).
  12. Frog habitats- students help a frog find a new home.
  13. e-Learning for kids habitat interactive.

Activities:

  • Remember cootie catchers? Or fortune tellers?  They are easily folded out of a regular 8.5×11″ piece of paper.  Students can use cootie catchers to show their knowledge, and quiz each other, about habitats.  Ask students to each choose a different habitat to create their cootie catcher about.  Each flap can have a different word that describes the habitat (for example: desert might say “dry”, “barren”, “extreme temperatures”, “low vegetation”).  The next flap can have a type of animal that lives in that type of habitat.  The last flap can include a fact about why that habitat is perfect for the animal.  To play with the cootie catcher, one student chooses a word and the other spells the word out while opening and closing the cootie catcher.  The first student chooses a new word and the second student spells the word out while manipulating the cootie catcher.  On the final turn, the student chooses a flap to be opened to reveal the fact.
  • Create a complete ecosystem: photosynthesis, rain, decomposition, life cycles  http://cranberrycorner.blogspot.com/2010/07/summer-fun-ecosystem-edition.html 

There are SO many fun ways to explore habitats and animals…if you have outdoor space at your school, send students outside to explore the habitats they walk right by every day.