Saturday, September 3, 2016

Where is Space Camp Taking Me?

           Space camp was such an amazing experience....one that I know will never be duplicated.  I can (and have) gone on and on about all of the awesome experiences I had at Space Camp, but as amazing as it was, I have to come back and make changes that my students can see for it to make a difference for anyone but me.  It can't just be a cool experience that I recount for them.  In some way I have to find my own way to bring that excitement to my math classroom.  
     Obviously this is not something that is accomplished overnight.  Almost three weeks into school, I want to pause and take a minute to think...how am I bringing Space Camp back to my classroom?  From day one, I have definitely shared my excitement with kids.....telling them about it, showing them pictures. 

 I wore my flight suit and talked about my newfound passion for space.  I showed them a video clip of Kennedy, talking about the going to the moon, "not because it is easy, but because it is hard".  We talked about setting goals worthy of being hard, and we've talked about where the US space program is now.
      But what else.....because that is not enough. I came away from Space Camp realizing I needed to help my kids see all the cool pathways that math and science could open up for them, rather than just teaching them math and hoping the inspiration comes from somewhere else.  
        So for the first time, I collaborated with the science teacher on my team to do a STEM challenge.  Last week, kids built pipe cleaner towers in science, and recorded the height. This week, kids repeated this activity in my class and recorded their tower height from science versus the second attempt in my class.  It took all of 20 minutes, and next week I have real data that the kids collected and that they care about available to use to talk about measures of center and measures of variability.
Kids hard at work.
Love this pic....shows that big smile while working!
   
We are also going to talk about percent change as we compare their trials.  For just 20 minutes of fun (and problem solving and collaboration), I have a great intro to teach all this stuff I needed to teach anyways.  Plus, I hope that activities like this will help bring in some of my kids that don't love math and don't think they're good at math....maybe things like this will crack the door open for a few students to find some enjoyment in math and science, that didn't have that before.  Because my winning groups weren't necessarily the kids that usually excel in math...but yesterday they did.  And they had fun at the same time!   
This simple design was one of the tallest towers, at 53 cm.  The winning tower was 53.5 cm.

         This  STEM challenge is also a good time to introduce the kids to the new "teams" they will be working with for the rest of the quarter.  Instead of table 1,  table 2, and so on, I now have teams Harmony, Unity, Tranquility, Kibo, Zarya,and Columbus (Space Camp team names, after parts of the International Space Station).  One of the ambassadors at camp gave us this idea....make teams that cross over hours to build up the idea of teamwork.    Teams collected points for how their team placed in our pipe cleaner challenge. Who knows.....maybe there will even be a Commander's Cup to award the winning team (this is the award my team, team Columbus, won at camp).    
    
Team Columbus, with our Commander's Cup patches!

      Another awesome thing is that after doing this STEM challenge together, the science teacher and I already have several more things planned together.....investigating claims on GrowBeasts and Double Stuff Oreos, planning a Martian Day as our team day for the last day before winter break.  Plus more collaborative STEM challenges for us in future quarters!  I can't tell you how excited I am about all of these things, and I just know the kids will love it too!
     So this is where Space Camp has taken me so far, with high hopes for many more changes to come!

FYI:  My fantastic Space Camp adventure was possible because of my new favorite company, Honeywell, as I was part of Honeywell Educators Space Academy.  This amazing program paid my way to Space Camp, and applications are open now for next year!  If you teach middle school math or science, you should apply!!