Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Putting the STE in STEM

I will admit...I've never really done any STEM activities.  Well, except for the M part obviously since I'm a math teacher.  But Space Camp really inspired me.  I want to try STEM activities this year, to help my kids see math and science and exciting and awesome....like I see it!  But I will admit, it seems difficult.  Where does the time come from?  I already can't get through everything.

Here is the plan for how I am going to start doing more STEM this year, without giving up too much time.  I want to plan a STEM activity for each quarter.  I want to do the same activity two times, to bring in the redesign aspect of the engineering process.  I figure if I do the activity once, and my science teacher does it the second time, then that will cut the time needed to implement.  Then I want to use this data as my way of teaching statistics, and percent change.  Maybe over time I will think of more curriculum ties, but that is where I will start.

Anyway, here's to more STEM activities this year....and not just the M!

One of my favorite STEM challenges from Space Camp.  Build a lander and a rover.
     

Happy Landing...not too shabby!
      

Friday, July 15, 2016

5 Best Things from Last Year...as I Start Thinking about Next Year!

Well, it happened today.  My least favorite day of the summer.....the day my letter came.  You know the one that tells me all about reporting back to work.  That reminder that summer is drawing to a close...oh no!

But, now that I've had a little while to take it all in, I've decided the best thing to do is reflect back on the best things from last year to get me excited for next year.  So here is my top 5 discoveries last year.

1.  The "Train Problem" from the MidSchool Math conference.  This was the most amazing conference I've ever been to, and the train problem was my absolute favorite part!  It was your traditional train problem....you remember (perhaps with horror!) the kind....two trains are headed on the track....blech!  Anyway, same math, but presented in the best way.  We signed up as "spy teams", and we had to save the world.  From two trains.  Headed towards each other on the same track.  It was totally  your classic story problem, but if you change up the way it was presented, it was AMAZING!  
      


Unfortunately, my team did not save the world.  But this did help me realize that the key word in "story problem" is STORY.....take the math and put it in an interesting story that the kids can't resist.  

I tried one of my own math stories about a killer vine that was taken over a compound in the post-apocalyptic future, and the kids loved it.  The kids took on the role of groundskeepers that had to use a map with the growth pattern marked to determine how long it would take until the vine would bein to threaten the buildings.  Then they had to figure out the "combination" to the safe, and finally they had to find the right mix of chemicals to kill the vine.  That was definitely the most excited my kids were to figure slope all year long!  When the kids got the "safe" open, the directions told them where to find the next clue.  It also mentioned that they should be "low-key" and not tip off the other groups where to find the next clue.  This was the best part to watch...7th graders are so funny!  This was definitely one of my favorite days last year, and the kids loved it!  You can check out this math story and others that I have created.

2.  I discovered escape rooms....and Breakout EDU!  My family went to an escape room and had such a blast, I was excited to find out about Breakout EDU.    It's basically a box and a bunch of locks, and the students are trying to get in to the box, solving a series of puzzles.  I didn't get my breakout box until the very end of the year, so I only had time to do a couple of breakouts, but they were fun!  It was awesome to see some of my kids that are usually disengaged in class taking a role as leaders.  Looking forward to more of this next year!


3.  Desmos was a great discovery.  I used to absolutely dread having to teach anything with graphing calculators because I would spend the entire lesson running frantically around the room resetting calculators that were working at the beginning of the day!  This year I used Desmos, and it was the most stress free time teaching linear regression I've ever had.   It worked easily, no settings to redo, plus the added bonus of being able to easily use "real" data from the internet instead of the lame data in the book.  My kids would even think of using Desmos as a tool to solve problems without being prompted....that's what technology is supposed to do!

4.  Desmos....again (and that is not a typo!).  At the end of the year, I discovered the capability of creating lessons on Desmos and it was awesome!  Kids work through the lesson screen by screen, but the best part was I could go to one screen and see every single answer given to a certain question.  What a great way to give immediate feedback to students.

5.  And speaking of feedback, my final one is quia.  Trying to give kids useful feedback, not just a checkmark, has been a goal of mine for the last couple of year.  Quia is an excellent way to do this....this online platform allows you to create quizzes....no big deal.  The cool part is you can put in different feedback for if they get it right or wrong, and set it so that they get the feedback while they are working if that is what you want.  I really like this feature, plus it lightened my grading load.  A win-win!
Feedback for incorrect answers....that's the best part.  They learn while they're taking the quiz!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 5 at Space Camp


       Last day of Space Camp.....hard to believe how fast it went by.  We started off the day with a movie in the IMAX theater.  It was really good.  Awesome graphics, and like so much stuff at Space Camp, just awe inspiring.  I know this is going to sound really corny, but I think more than any particular lesson that I will take back to my classroom, what Space Camp really did for me was help me realize that it is not just my job to teach kids math...I need to inspire them to find it interesting, and achievable and worth it.  Maybe I can do that through the wonder of space, at least for some kids!
   Then we had some extra time to do what we wanted, so we spent some more time at the Museum.  They had a lot of cool stuff, plus a flight landing simulator (everyone but Bacon sucked!!!). Kristen and I were excited to find a display from the movie Space Camp (which we both loved) so we got a picture with it...in our flight suits!  Yeah, I'm sure you can hardly tell me apart from Leah Thompson and Kate Capshaw.



     After lunch we got our chance to do the 1/6th gravity chair.....supposed to simulate a moon walk.  That is so much fun!!!!!   You got to do up and back twice.  So the first time you do bunny hop, then sideways hop, then "Baywatch" run, and then free choice.  All of the hopping is super fun...you can hop super high with almost no effort.  The run......hard work.....no Bueno!
       For one of our final challenges we had the x force????? Challenge.  In this challenge, we had to work as teams to build a lander and rover for an egg.  I was on the lander team.  It was set up like the other challenges,with a certain amount of credits,etc....   We were further challenged by the fact that Mandy was in a hurry to get us finished, so we had maybe 20 minutes for the whole challenge.  We built out lander from a folded piece of cardboard and a tissue paper parachute.  We were trying to work out some sort of harness to keep the rover in place, but pretty much ran out of time before we finished that.  The actual challenge consisted of dropping your egg inside the rover inside the lander from the second story.  You got points for survival of your egg and proximity to the landing zone (a hula hoop).  Given the small amount of time we had, we did well!  Our egg was unharmed, and we landed just outside the hula hoop, so we hardly got any penalty.  The rover didn't stay in place, but since the egg survived, who cares??!!
     We had heard at the beginning of the day that we would get to hear Homer Hickam speak.....Emily and Chasity were soooooo excited!  He was a great speaker, telling us about some of his experiences as a kid in a coal mining town in West Virginia. We even got a signed copy of Rocket Boys!  He also talked about his work for NASA and how he had helped build and teach the scuba part at Advanced Space Camp.
     Then it was time for our graduation.  It was a nice ceremony, and as they had throughout the week, Honeywell just made you feel absolutely valued as an educator.  Coming from a state that currently seems to hate teachers, I can't say how wonderful it was to be appreciated.  At graduation, we got our packets, which had our wings and our graduation certificates .  Plus they flipped our name tags.  😀.  The best part of graduation was the awards though.  Needless to say, we did NOT win the award for best shuttle missions.  Going into graduation, that was the only award I had heard about.  Turns out they also give an award for Best Engineering Team.  It is a patch called the Commander's Cup...and guess who won???  That's right.....Team Columbus!! All the stuff that we had done like ablative shields, landers, etc.... All counted,and WE WON!!  Very excited!
     Last thing was a graduation dance sponsored by Honeywell, and it was awesome.  Again, Honeywell really knows how to make you feel appreciated.  The whole party was at the Davidson center, under the Saturn V rocket.  Great food, good band, free drinks, dancing...need I say more?  Great way to end a spectacular week.
      The next day I had a few more hours since I did not leave until mid day.  Luke and Emily and I rode some rides, did some simulators, and goofed off, until it was time to say goodbye to Space Camp.

Day 4 at Space Camp



We started out our day by launching our rockets.  Chasity and Emily were so excited.....the launch site was named Homer Hickam Field.  Homer Hickam is the guy from the movie October Sky, and he was Emily and Chasity's hero.  Rocket launching was fun, and everybody's rocket launched fine.  Unfortunately, my rocket launched directly towards the trees so I had no hope of recovering it.








        Next we had our Orion mission.  OK, I'll start by saying that those missions are so cool, but our Orion mission was kind of a disaster.  We had a terrible time staying with the MET, and we skipped around terribly.  I think there was several issues, but I feel like mostly we hadn't been assigned to jobs that fit our skills and that made it hard for us to succeed.  I also think that our crew trainer wasn't as helpful for us as the one at our shuttle mission.
       After lunch we had the Multi axis trainer.  This was something else I had been so excited to try.  This was right out of the movie Space Camp....except there was no steering mechanism like the one Lea Thompson practiced on.  It is supposed to represent a tumble spin.  Surprisingly, it didn't make you dizzy and it was totally cool.  I lucked out and even got to go twice!!!

    Next, we went to the ablative shielding activity.  We knew a little bit about the gist of the activity because Spencer had talked about it at the one actual educator break out session at we had (all of the others were reclassified as "free time" by our crew trainer.  Anyway, I wasn't necessarily that excited about this activity, but I really loved it!  Like many of the activities, you knew your job, and you had a certain amount of credits to spend on supplies to do the job.  In this case, the job was to create a heat shield for an "eggstronaut" (we named him Neil Eggstrong) that would protect him from a propane torch for five minutes.   If your egg exploded, you got no points, and points were deducted for partially cooked eggs.  Any unspent credits were added to your score.  There was a ton of supplies to pick from with different values...I don't remember them all, but some were lasagna noodles, copper, cork, felt, spackle, and foil.   After much debate, my group decided to use layers of cork, spackle, and foil.  Our egg survived, totally uncooked!  As did everyone from team Columbus .....go team!
       That night we decided to go out for drinks as a team.  Although we invited everyone, only the Americans decided to go that night.  We had a blast all night....including trying to fit all eight of us in one taxi.....can you say clown car?  We even got to name our own yummy drink....the ISS Columbus.  It also happened to be game 7 of the NBA finals between the Cavs and the Warriors.  Jennifer was a Warriors fan, and Luke was a Cavs fan, so it was pretty exciting.  The Cavs won, so Luke even talked the bartender into letting him keep the Arrogant Bastard beer glass.
     I can't remember the exact order of things, but at some point during this day we also did the "rides".....the G-Force and the Space Shot.  They were awesome.  The G Force simulated 4 Gs, and let me tell you, that is something else.  Just trying to move your leg is very difficult, and your face pretty much feels like it's going  to fly off.  I am not sure how many Gs there are at takeoff, but holy cow that is intense.  The Space Shot is supposed to simulate weightlessness.  It's pretty much like the detonator at Worlds of Fun....shoots you straight up and then drops you.  The part at the top is the weightless part.  That ride was super fun!

Day 3 at Space Camp



The day started off with this gentle and from Turkey handing out these amazing wooden boxes to everyone.  They were beautiful carved boxes, which had a picture of a famous building from his town on the top.  It was filled with Turkish delight candy.  I have to say.....as a Narnia fan, I was soooo excited to get to try Turkish delight.  I've always wondered what it is like.  But mostly I was overwhelmed by the respect and generosity of the Turkish people, who would come with tokens of appreciation for all of the teachers....wow!
      First thing of the morning was our Space Shuttle Mission!  We were all excited (and maybe a little stressed!). We had devised a complicated (NOT) page numbering system to help us deal with anomalies better, and we were ready to go!  Our page numbering system worked like a charm, and we were a lot better at the anomalies on our mission except when I accidentally gave the wrong page number...grrr.  We did well and had a great time.  The fun stuff happened at landing.  We realized pretty early as we brought the shuttle back that the cargo bay doors were open....oops!!!  But, hands down, my favorite part of our mission was when our mission control trainer said, "Uh, Commander, you need to land the shuttle."  Which Luke did....pretty well.  Which is to say that we hit the runway (yay!), but with our front wheels first....I'm saying we probably ruined the landing gear, but hey, we didn't land in the "Red Zone".  So awesome!

     So next we had time with the Space Camp Ambassdors.  These are teachers that had been to Space Camp in the past, that had been very successful in changing their practice based on the experience.  One of them was from New York, and the other was from Romania.  At this point, the Romanian ambassador described several of her successful projects she had done.  The Dave, the New York ambassdor, presented a lesson.  It started with a Kahoot....which I ended in the top five!  Emily won....nickname Tall.  Luke (allidoiswin) didn't win this time.  This had become a total team joke, as he kept getting coke cans that said "All I do is win".  I think maybe one came after our successful shuttle mission.
      Next we were training for our Orion mission.  This time I was the pilot of the shuttle.  So this is  future mission, supposedly after we have established a base on the moon. So, all I have to say about the lunar shuttle is.....like to push buttons?  SO MANY BUTTONS!!!!  Buttons everywhere......so hard to find the one you're looking for.  The script tells you a general area to look (right panel, aft.....that kind of stuff)....but still, there is probably a hundred buttons on that panel, many with similar labels.   On the upside, I will now have a legitimate reason to say "Houston, we have a problem."  Ok, technically missions control on this mission is supposedly at Shackleton Crater on the moon...but still.  Jennifer and I stay in the lunar shuttle the whole time while other astronauts come and go to do lunar missions.


          
      So next we got to go to the water area.....so exciting!!!!  I had totally been looking forward to this!  We got to do the zip line first...yay!!!  This was supposed to simulate a parachute landing in the ocean.....I'm not really sure if that is the right description, but let's face it who cares?????  I get to zip line into a lake.....sweet!!!!!  Even though I don't love heights, I didn't have any trouble climbing the tower.  Once you get to the top, you have to stand backwards on a platform that you start from, and then step backwards to the very edge.  This wasn't my favorite part, but I was already strapped in, so it wasn't terrible.  Now while I'm talking about being strapped in.....can you say atomic wedgie.  Wow was I strapped in tight...no fear!  Anyway, then you just pick up your feet and go.  They have you go backwards as that is what you would really do.  It was awesome!!
     The other two water things we did were a simulated helicopter that crashed in the water and then a simulated water rescue in the basket.  These were cool too, although not as awesome as the zip line.  It was pretty scary how fast the water filled the helicopter.  The water basket rescue.....brrrr, that water is cold.
       That evening we got together in Chasity and Emily's room to work on our mission patch.  It was fun way to relax and hang out together after THE MOST EXCITING DAY!  I mean seriously, do days get any more exciting than this one??!!  And if haven't mentioned it, I totally hit the jackpot at Space Camp...Team Columbus was the best.  We had so much fun together!!!

Day 2 at Space Camp



We started off day 2 by working on our Mission Patch.  now, this might not sound that exciting, but it was really pretty cool.  Every shuttle mission has a mission patch to represent it, so at Space Camp, every team gets a Mission Patch.  now I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but Team Columbus was AMAZING!  I really love our patch.  We threw around lots of ideas, but I love what we settled on...something that really represents each of us, but also our group as a whole.  We just got started on it this morning, and it took us several days to finish.
         The three sections around the edge represent the three countries on Team Columbus: USA, Turkey and China.  The US is represented by the eagle in the bottom section.  The eight stars above the eagle's wings represent the eight US teachers, and our names are listed around the edge.  The lotus flower represents out our Chinese team members.  The Turkish section has an "evil eye" in the middle.  Our Turkish friends explained to us that this represents protection from evil in their culture.  The two astronauts represent Elveda and Figen.  The middle section of our patch represents the entire group, and what we saw as the mission that connects us all together.  I think this was the hardest part for us to decide on....we had much debate about gears vs. rockets.  We decided on a rocket going from earth to Mars with the letters STEM inside, since this is what will get us to Mars.  I'm glad we decided on this design....Bill Buckbee's words stick with me.  Why haven't we gone to Mars?  Because no one has challenged us to.  I want to challenge my students to dream of going to Mars.

    Probably the hardest part was figuring out who could draw, because it turns out that none of us think of ourselves as very good artists.  Mostly Emily was the artist....I did get to help color (don't earth and Mars look nice???😊).
     We also got to go spend time at the NASA educational office and look at all of the cool lesson plans that NASA has available.
     Next up was one of the things that I was most excited about at Space Camp.....shuttle simulation practice.  The shuttle missions are now considered "historic missions",  since the shuttles have been retired.  But to me, I've known the shuttles all my life.  I remember where I was when Challenger exploded; I loved watching Space Camp as a kid, so this was it for me.  I had been assigned to be part of mission control, which was my last choice of jobs...but I ended up loving it!  I was basically in charge of monitoring the weather for launch and landing, as well as something else that I can't remember.  My role was called GNC! But I have no idea what that stands for.  I got to sit next to Kristen, who was flight director.  We were all pretty stressed out at practice....at least those of us on mission control were.  I think Luke and Bacon in the shuttle were pretty chill.  The notebooks you have to work off of are pretty confusing at first,and we were just getting that down when they started throwing "anomalies" at us.....you know,problems!  Let me tell you, we kind of sucked at the problems that first day.  It was cool, but kind of overwhelming too. Oh, and as weather girl, let me just tell you that it is 78 degrees with 25% visibility at Kennedy...I was very good at that forecast! Oh, and Luke was keeping it fun by showing us pictures of space monkeys!


     Leaving there we got to see some of the museum, including sitting on a space toilet.
     We also split up for other lessons this day.  I, of course, had signed up for the math lesson, and it was pretty cool.  Our task was to create a structure that could withstand Martian boulders being thrown at us.  In reality this entailed designing a Lego building that could stand in a gutter of dirt while balls rolled at it: baseballs, large bouncy balls, and basketballs.  Bacon's group was done quickly.  My group really struggled to find a way to withstand the basketball, but we kept at it until we figured it out.  I totally think this would be cool
to do at school with some modifications.....either varying the type of soil, or the slope of the gutter.
      Another part of day two was low ropes course.  This was mostly about teamwork, problem solving and collaboration.  The two main games we got to do were toxic waste and traffic jam.  We did ok at those....it was interesting to get to see everyone chiming in to solve the puzzles.  Oh but the hula hoop...it sounds so simple...just set it on your fingers and set it on the ground.  I mostly remember Deb yelling at us, "Down!" and "Why am I moving towards the woods?"
     Last stop of the day....building rockets.  Just another day at Space Camp!!!
      Ok, not sure exactly when we did this, but at some point our team also decided to film a team video....trying to win the HESA team challenge.  We had fun filming this (even Luke, who had to take the fall), and it still makes me giggle every time I watch it.