Thursday, September 18, 2014

What's Happening in MakersLab

Here we go again! Our middle school boys are building our second aquaponics system using an IBC (industrial bulk container). Here we're using a reciprocating saw to cut apart the metal frame of which the top will be our plant container and the bottom will hold tilapia. We encourage students to get their hands dirty with hands-on learning. We show them how to safely operate the Maker Space tools like the sawzall they are using above. Our goal is to help these students learn to think more creatively through the engineering design process. We encourage risk taking and failure that can help lead to success. 

In fact, this is the second year for our experiment. Last year we "failed" often with our aquaponics. But we revised and tried again. And again. And again. We learned a tremendous amount last year and are refining our design and methods to improve production this year. Keep watching for updates! 

Question: How many middle school girls does it take to carry a 4x8 sheet of plywood down the hall quietly?

Answer: It's impossible. It can't be done!!!!!!

These girls are working in the MakersLab to construct a scale model of the neighboring town of Richfield, Wis., including buildings, hills, landmarks and a model railroad system.  Keep watching for updates.

P.S. They did get it down the hall, but it wasn't pretty!!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

First Week of School Field Trip | Part 2

Some people might think I'm crazy by going on a field trip the very first week of school, but I've never been a conventional teacher. I aim to make learning hands-on, to foster creativity and curiosity, and to make learning authentic and applicable to real life. And sometimes that means taking a field trip during the first week of school!

During our field trip, the students were challenged to find and identify as many glacial deposits as they could. Here, two intrepid eighth graders are searching for a kame (the kame is right between them in the background - the gumdrop shaped hill!).

Here we're atop of Parnell Tower viewing the kame field in the distance. Our eighth graders were challenged to calculate the height of Parnell Tower in three different ways using only a 25-foot tape measure, a stop watch, and some steel marbles. This led us into a great discussion of Galileo's experiment with falling bodies as to whether a larger body would fall faster than a smaller body. Our calculations determined that the tower was about 46 feet in height (actual height: 60 feet). We then discussed variables and possible errors in our system of measurement. Our field trips are not just field trips! They are learning adventures!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Remembering 9/11

Photo taken October 2011

9/11 was a very solemn day for our middle school. My oldest students are 14 years old so none of them remembers the tragic events of that day. As a firefighter and EMT, I had the privilege of delivering money to the FDNY Widows and Orphans Fund five weeks after the attack.

I showed my students a slideshow that depicted the sad events of that day and the outpouring of support for firefighters and families involved in the rescue efforts and clean up. I was amazed at the reaction of my students. When the powerpoint ended, many of them sat in stunned silence, not knowing what to say. Others were in tears.

After seeing my student's reactions this year, we have decided to offer this powerpoint free of charge on our Teachers Pay Teachers store. We do this in honor of the 343 firefighters who perished on that day.

We will link when the presentation is ready.

Click here to make a contribution to the FDNY Widows and Orphans Fund.

First Week of School Field Trip | Part 1

The earth grade studied the flora and fauna of the ice age. They also studied glacial deposits and how they were formed. We tied this into an in-depth discussion on global climate change. The picture above was taken at the Henry Reuss Ice Age Center in Dundee, Wisconsin. We had an opportunity to climb and esker and kame and view many glacial hill formations. 

Mammoths lived in Wisconsin during the ice age but scientists believe that they died out due to hunting pressure and change of habitat.

This outwash plain was formed by a raging river coming from the glacier carrying fine outwash (fine gravel and sand).

The glacier also deposited many large rocks and large pieces of copper like the one shown above. These are called erratics. This is a large piece of copper weighing over 300 pounds that traveled over 300 miles from copper deposits in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Flash Freebie!

We are moving in all sorts of new directions around here! In honor of school back in session, cooler weather and pumpkin spice lattes, we're offering a FLASH FREEBIE!

I've been doing graphic design for many, many years but have never had the chance to package and sell my art (usually because I'm too busy completing a freelance project to figure out what else I can do with my work!). Now that my niece and nephew are back to school, nap time has become my favorite time of day again! In honor of some regained freedom (and some not-so-great potty training) we are offering you TEN {10} Autumn Backgrounds for FREE for a limited time.

Get to our Teachers Pay Teachers Store RIGHT AWAY! This won't last long!



Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Fun!

Oh, sweet Friday afternoon. I'm sitting down to post this blog and drink some tea. I almost spit out my tea when I read the maybe I laughed harder than a normal person might have, but when the school year begins, we look forward to Fridays even more than the summer! My niece and nephew have gone back to school so it's just me and The Boy (the three year old boy). The days are a little longer.

This week, we started some mini lessons in the morning. Finn and I are beginning to study some sight words. Anyone have any suggestions for teaching a rambunctious three year old?! He is excited to learn, but as a non-educator myself, I am stumbling along with the actual "teaching" portion. We end up doing some reading and follow up with some sort of craft project (because that's what I'm good at and Finn likes to do!).

Jerry has had a busy first week back to school! He took his eighth graders on a field trip to learn about glacial deposits. I'll be posting some photos in the coming days. His kids were really excited to have a field trip during the very first week of school!

In the mean time, for some more Friday Fun, check out this incredible infographic demonstrating the distance from Earth to Mars. It really puts space in perspective! I think I'll use it in "Finn School" next week.

Enjoy your weekend!