Friday, August 29, 2014

Well, here we go again!

Well, here we go again. Another school year begins on Tuesday. Lots of years since 1973, but I'm still having fun!

Kettle Moraine Ice Age Center
I met parents and students last night for our open house. It  was great to see the enthusiasm from 8th graders when told about our field trip to study glacial deposits next Friday.

More to come on this next week!

Parnell Tower

Photos from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Talk Tuesday | Quiet by Susan Cain

This is the first of a few reviews on the book that I am currently devouring, processing, and reflecting upon. I can't get enough of the book, but I can only read short bites at a time because there is so much to process!

As a self-proclaimed "introvert" this book peaked my interest on a whim. I was looking for something new to read from my local e-library (have you tried Overdrive Media App? That's a post for another day.) I stumbled across Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking and decided to give it a go. I thought maybe it would help me "fix" my introverted behavior.

Regardless of where you fall on the introvert-extrovert scale, as a teacher, parent, friend, or sibling, I urge you to read this book. My whole world has been opened. Until I read this book, I thought that there was something wrong with me.

As it turns out, I'm good as an introvert. I don't need fixing. I just need to re-frame my perspective and this book helped me to do just that.

Cain takes studies, interviews and puts them into an easy-to-follow story line where every word packs a punch. She explores the concept of introversion in our very extroverted culture.

I think one of my favorite paragraphs is, "Yet inner behavior was still behavior, thought [Dr.Elaine] Aron, even if it was difficult to catalog. So what is the inner behavior whose most visible feature is that when you take them to a party they aren't very pleased about it? She decided to find out."

I laughed out loud as I read that because I have never been able to explain why I dread (with anxiety attacks) going to a party.

Cain catalogs old and cutting edge research on the topic of introverts, high-reactive personalities, and sensitive personalities. I have already benefited from reading the book in my own personal life, and with the way I talk to my three year old son who I suspect is a sensitive type. Maybe he's introverted like his mama, maybe he's more like his dad. Whatever the case, if you know someone who is an introvert or one yourself, your interactions will benefit from reading this book. Your introverted students will thank you - and if these findings are true, you may propel them into a very bright future by acknowledging and fostering their introversion.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Back to School Link Up | What Friday

Last day of the Back to School link up at Blog Hoppin'. Today's topic is What Friday. What do you like teaching the most?

I like to teach any lesson that's hands-on. So I attempt to craft my lessons following four criteria:
1. The lesson must challenge students.
2. The lesson must be novel.
3. It must be hands-on.
4. Finally, it must be applicable to real life.

To give you some examples, in studying the rain forest, I will actually have my students build a full-sized rain forest in the classroom. Or when studying rockets, we will build and launch rockets.

In this photo, students are solving a challenge with a limited number of supplies and time!

When students have an opportunity to build something with their hands and apply it to real life, the lesson immediately has meaning for them. And a bonus is that the kids love the activity. So they are learning and loving learning at the same time. Can you think of a better way to create passionate learners?

Be sure to check back in the coming days for a brand new FREEBIE at our store! In the meantime, check out our two favorite FREEBIES already available to you right now!

A Maker Space in Every Classroom
Quicksand in Your Classroom

Enjoy your's my last of summer. I head back on Monday!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back To School Link Up | When Thursday

It's When Thursday at Blog Hoppin' linky party!

Part of the benefit of being a middle school teacher is the chance to work with so many students throughout the day. My schedule looks different than many of those that I've read on the linky post as they are primary grades. I taught 4th grade for a large part of my career, and I loved having the same students in my room all day long. But I'm looking forward to the rotations and the ability to focus directly on science all day!

My day begins with homeroom where I'll have{20} 6th grade students. Following homeroom, I'll have those same 6th graders for science class. We're beginning the year studying astronomy. Part of our studies will include reducing the solar system to approximately 1,000 yards and we'll be making Constellation T-Shirts.

After 6th grade science, I'll jump to the first (of two) eighth grade science classes. Eighth graders will begin the year studying glaciers and glacial deposits. We'll take our first field trip on Day #4 of school! After glaciers, we'll breed fruit flies.

After 8th grade science, I head to the Makers Lab to work with various grade levels.

After Makers Lab, I have a planning period that will no doubt be used for working really hard {insert science shenanigans here}.

My planning period will run into lunch which, no doubt, will be one of the best parts of the day {and not because it's lunch!}!

I plan to show science-related movies during the lunch hour and it will be open to students. I with show movies with a science theme including, "Gravity", "The China Syndrome", and "October Sky" (based on the Homer H. Hickam Jr. book, Rocket Boys).

After lunch I have an RTI period which is a focused reading group. Then I finish out the afternoon with the second section of 8th grade science, and back-to-back 7th grade science.

Seventh graders first area of study will be to build their own chargeable batteries from lead sheet and magnesium sulfate. They will charge the batteries on a harness and doing experiments and math to measure force and distance.

I'm excited to get started. We're going to do a lot of creative things this year. I'm going to focus on hands-on activities and students evaluating themselves and the work that they do. I have scoped out our field trip destination and you'll hear more about that in future posts!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why Wednesday on the Blog Hoppin' Link Up

I'm linking up with the Back to School 2014 Blog Hoppin' topics...and today we're talking Why Wednesday...Why our organization style works!

I have to laugh at this one. As I sit at my desk typing this post, I my house is cluttered. It's usually a little cluttered. But during the summer, it gets out of control. I watch my niece (10) and nephew (6) along with my son (3) anywhere from three to five days a week during the summer. We are usually on the go. Today we hit the beach with a friend and enjoyed one of the nicest days of the summer. But I leave a trail in my path.

I'm so embarrassed to show this. But this is my desk. Pretzels blocking my screen from my husband tossing them there yesterday. And a Cabela's ad {once again, not mine!}...this is my honest-to-goodness what my desk looks like on a regular basis. I might as well admit it!
It's funny, because I'm pretty sure I take after my dad on this one. My dad has always had his own "organizational system" that has forever driven my mom crazy. As they moved from their big country home to a smaller condo in town this summer, they had to eliminate everything from wheelbarrows and lawn mowers outside, to two sets of living room furniture and scores of other household items they have had for years! My dad has always been able to find what he needs as long as none of the rest of us touched it. Not easy to do with FIVE females floating around his house for so many years. Plus, most of my sisters and my mom are extremely organized and dislike clutter.

For the record, I dislike clutter too. I can't stand it. But I live in a small house and we're always in and out and my desk fits only in our prime living area, so I've learned to look past it...for now. I have more important things to worry about than whether my desk is perfectly organized. I can generally find what I need and that's enough for me! 

My dad organizes his classroom in a different way. Last year, I noticed a sign in his Maker Space that read: Clean up or DIE!!!!!!!! {A nod to Mythbusters.}

Truthfully, I was pretty impressed at how he kept the Maker Space organized because his classroom hasn't always been the shining example of Type A personality. But then again, he's not a Type A personality so why should he be forced to follow what works well for one personality but not as well for someone who is more of a creative? I think we'll let him off the hook on this one.

I'm off to read some others who linked up and pass them on to my dad. We could both use some help in this area!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

One Day Back to School BOOST SALE!

We're offing up a chance for additional savings as we head back to school!

I love a good sale.

Our store is up to 20% off PLUS if you use the promo code: BOOST you can get additional savings from Teachers Pay Teachers. 


What are you waiting for?

Blog Hoppin' - Where Tuesday

More on this fun Blog Hoppin' Week! Join in and read more!

Where are we at? We're in a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Southeastern Wisconsin. More specifically, I'll be in a middle school science lab and our Maker Space.

What is a Maker Space you ask? It's an incredible place for your students to invent and design using STEM/STEAM and engineering design principles. Last year our school received a grant to open a Maker Space for K-8. I eagerly took on the challenge of setting up the Maker Space, facilitating the students and managing the grant money. This year I will be working partially in the Maker Space and also as the middle school science teacher.

I shared a few days ago about what we'll be beginning the school year with in middle school science.

Our Maker Space is also getting up and running. Last year our eighth graders built an aquaponics lab from the ground up. They built the tanks from donated materials, built the plant stand from lumber and one student even created a robotic fish feeder to automatically feed the tilapia!

We grew lettuce, fish, and red worms in this particular set up. My role was to facilitate the project, but I encourage the students to problem solve, to research, to investigate and to invent on their own. I believe in the student-led education in the Maker Space. The students are more excited to learn and often dig in deeper than if they were teacher guided.
Aquaponics lab in our Maker Space
Our students also made a pneumatic tube system to sent items from our Maker Space to another classroom!
Pneumatic Tube from our Maker Space to another classroom!
I'm really looking forward to developing our Maker Space even more than our first year. This is in addition to my already packed middle school science curriculum! I head back to school next week, and the kids follow right after Labor Day. I'm anxious and excited to get back and see what my students come up with this year!

Blog Hoppin' Back to School Week! Day 1 - Who Am I?

We're hoppin' in on the Back to School Blog Hoppin' Link Up. We're excited to share with you a little more about who we are here at Brain Brigade! There are two of us working on Brain Brigade - Jerry and Jolene.

Meet Jerry! 
Jerry has been a grade and middle school teacher for almost 40 years. He retired last June...for three whole days! Then his school had a middle school science opening and he jumped at the chance to teach again this school year. 

Sue and Jerry with two grandkids.
Jerry is married to Sue and they have four amazing grown daughters, three almost as amazing sons-in-law, and five grandkids (and four granddogs, if we're counting!). 

Here's Daisy. She likes to drink from a straw. This is Jerry & Sue's dog.
Jerry and Sue have just downsized from the home where they raised their kids and various pets over the years (dogs, horses, goats). Jerry is an avid gardener but he is happy to say "adios" to see his huge yard that needed {almost constant} mowing throughout the summer. Jerry believes wholeheartedly in hands-on learning. He was named the 2003 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year. He loves teaching. The classroom walls don't stop him! Often you'll catch him teaching a math trick to friends at a party or even a waiter or waitress at a restaurant!

Recent grandkid photo with Great Grandma!

Meet Jolene! 
I'm the voice and look behind Brain Brigade. I'm one of Jerry's daughters (the third in line). I'm mainly a stay at home mom, but I love working with my Dad {Jerry}. He is so passionate about teaching. Education is important to our whole family and I think it's safe to say we never stop learning in our family! I have a son and a dog {check out our ridiculous selfie below!}. During the summers I spend time with the older niece and nephew and we often crash Grandpa's house which is now just under a mile from where we live!

Prior to mom-hood, I worked in marketing including graphic design and event planning. My dad and I work together to create our products for the classroom and Teachers Pay Teachers. My dad is the true genius behind Brain Brigade and with my son starting school next year, I've been beefing up my education knowledge hope to be an active and helpful part of his schooling.

It turns out, I also like taking selfies with my nieces and nephews...check them out below. Love these kids!

Odin, Jolene & Finn

Kayla and ZZ
Here's Linc! Yes, seriously I have a problem. 
My bud and fellow animal lover, Kenzie!

Our whole family a few years ago...our two youngest joined our family not long after this photo. Maybe I'll have to photoshop them in haha :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

2015 Makers Lab

This year's Makers Lab has many lofty goals to add hands-on learning to the classroom. Our first activity will be a challenge to our middle schoolers to build a 2-person boat out of cardboard and duct tape. They will be allowed to place one layer of waterproofing on the exterior of the boat. We're calling our contest "The Dolphin Regatta" and our catch phrase this year will be You Gotta Regatta!.

Students hopefully gain an understanding of specific gravity and the volume needed in order for a boat to float.

Last year we had some great examples that were able to paddle through the whole course and we had some sinkers! Everyone had fun and we gave awards for the best dressed crew, the first place boat, the Titanic award {for the best sinking}, and the best decorated boat.

In early October, we'll take the boat out onto a local lake and have a race. This year we hope to have one or two entries from our teaching staff.

We were featured in the local newspaper last year for our cardboard boats.
We're looking forward to this year's Dolphin Regatta!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What's Happening in Middle School Science

The role I have this year is different from in the past, whereas I was in a self-contained fifth grade class for the past six years, I’ll be moving into a departmentalized situation in middle school. I’m looking forward to the challenges that I’ll face with middle schoolers and want to try to create an atmosphere in my classroom where students are passionate about science.

My sixth graders will begin the year with a unit on astronomy which will include making constellation t-shirts and reducing the solar system to approximately 1,000 yards. 

This year, my seventh grade students will be building their own chargeable batteries out of lead sheet and magnesium sulfate, charging those batteries on a harness, and doing experiments and math to measure force and distance. 

My eighth graders will begin the year studying glaciers and glacial deposits with a field trip planned to study ice age deposits on day number 4. After completing the unit on glaciers, the eighth graders will experiment in breeding fruit flies. 

As an innovative way to do a summative assessment, students will be expected to publish their findings in each of these areas.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Accumulated Materials or Hoarding?

For the coming year, I'll be teaching Middle School Science in addition to working in the Makers Lab. I decided that I would try to purge some of the materials from the science lab, in the hopes that I could make the materials and equipment more available to my students for hands-on activities.

I began by cleaning out the chemical cabinets. What a shock! Some of the chemicals that were in the cabinet were labeled from 1984. I decided to test the viability of some of these chemicals in simple experiments and have found that generally, the liquids are no longer viable. But, my powdered chemicals are still good. This will save me money in not having to purchase new chemicals on my budget.

I was amazed at the amount of junk that has accumulated in this room in the last 30 years. Glass jars, soda bottles, stacks of paper and files, boxes of test tubes and glassware in unopened packaging. In essence, I probably have enough glassware to supply three science labs!

I have found some gems. Two old 1978 textbooks with hands-on chemistry and physics experiments and the equipment for doing those physics experiments!

So many times teachers are known as hoarders {including myself}, there's a reluctance to throw something away because it might be valuable in the future. This has just happened to me in that I threw a box of small mirrors away that I'd been saving for about 10 years. I've just decided that I would challenge my students to build a parabolic solar collector using an old satellite dish and the mirrors. It's maddening because I can't find the mirrors!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School SALE!

Just over 8 hours left in the Teachers Pay Teachers BACK TO SCHOOL SALE extravaganza! Don't forget to type in the Promo Code: BTS14 when checking out. We have so much on sale in our store...and it's up to 28% off! We also are having fun getting some great products from other stores with steep discounts. It won't last long...better get there while you can!

Book Talk Tuesday | Invent To Learn Book Review

Book Title: Invent to Learn - Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (Click to go to Amazon)
Authors: Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, Ph.D.

This is a wonderful book that addresses the basic needs for anyone wishing to establish a Maker Space in their classroom or school. The authors give a wide variety of projects, materials, media, and resources for establishing your own Maker Space. The authors tend to focus on hands-on materials and projects. A discussion is also put forth on the value of making and the educational theory behind it. Much discussion focuses on robotics and electronics, but also, there is a balance struck in making with low cost materials. Emphasis is also placed on STEM as well as the arts in making. After reading this book, I've realized that Making does not need to be an expensive process and that it can encompass many different things from cooking to electronics to woodworking and even growing plants. I'd recommend this book for anyone wishing to inject more creativity and inventiveness into their classroom or school.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Bloglovin' Claim

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Make Tissue Paper Hot Air Balloons in your Maker Space!

Thanks to Scholaris Gifted Academy for featuring us in their newsletter! Here is an excerpt on our tissue paper hot air balloons. We love this hands on project that requires so few (and inexpensive) materials. It's a perfect project for a Maker Space in your classroom.

Launching our tissue paper hot air balloons at Scholaris Gifted Academy!
That's me next to the torch that heats the air.
"During The Science of Gases students experimented with gases using, among other items, chemicals, liquid nitrogen, ping pong balls, and balloons. It was wonderful to see students discover the excitement of learning through hands on activities. In Imagine, Construct, and FLY!students designed, built, and flew hot air balloons using tissue paper and propane gas. They also constructed and launched bottle rockets and air pressure rockets. Distance was measured so that our scientists could go back to the work room and make any necessary changes to their rocket to increase speed and distance. It was amazing to see the students engage in these projects with overwhelming enthusiasm and creativity."

Maker Faire Detroit 2014 | Part 3

I had a great experience making a paper speaker at the MT.Elliot Maker Space booth. The middle school girls working at the booth taught a mini-class on how to make a mini-speaker using: a magnet, paper, scotch tape, and a wire coil. We hooked up the coil to a cell phone and amplifier and hear sounds coming through the speaker!

MT.Elliot is a Maker Space in Detroit that challenges children to take apart a donated bicycle. If the child is able to reassemble the bike, it then belongs to him and he can take it home!

Teachers Pay Teachers - Back to School SALE!!!

Our Brain Brigade TPT Store is ON SALE!!! We are cutting prices upto 28%! An awesome way to stock up on your favorite products. Don't miss out on this rare TPT opportunity! Simply add the promo code: BTS14 when you are checking out!

While at my store, don't forget to FOLLOW ME! You'll get notice of upcoming sales and discounts and find out when we have new resources for you.

Check out some of these other great resources! Daughters and Kindergarten has a great link up of products on sale!

And even some free resources available at Magischool123!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Maker Faire Detroit 2014 | Part 2

One area of interest to me is model rocketry. Every year my kids make model rockets and we launch them at school. This model rocket group from the Detroit area had a very nice display of large diameter rockets that I may try to incorporate into my middle school science classroom this year.

Making rockets can be either from a specific set of directions or when a child has the basic idea of how to make a rocket, they can create their own using paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, or Pringles containers. I've had some very nice homemade rockets made by students who created their own designs.