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A great day to visit some classes

August 25, 2011

Because of my new duties working on departmental integration, I have a slightly reduced courseload. On Thursdays, I only have two periods of class, so today, I decided to send out an email to the department asking if anyone would be up for a short visit. Just a few minutes later, I was flooded with more responses than I knew what do to with, and in the end, I got to visit 4 different classes today: 6th grade Earth Science, 8th grade Physical Science, 12th grade AP Environmental Science, and 12th grade AP Physics, all in 10-20 minute snapshots.

Here are some of the lessons I learned:

  • Sixth grade students have a crazy amount of energy and enthusiasm. They love everything, and are so excited to try out new tools and technology, like the assignment to create a podcast to introduce themselves to their teacher.
  • Our AP physics students can take on some pretty knotty lab challenges. The teacher gave them a giant graduated cylinder, and an aluminum rod, and a ticker tape time and told them to record the motion of the rod as it moved through the water. With almost no further guidance, students leapt to the challenge and came away with some great data.
  • From 6th to 8th grade students change dramatically. The 8th graders I saw were much more serious and obedient. This isn’t to say that the 6th graders I saw were wild and crazy, they were just so different (it might be that it was also a mixed gender class)—but I’m very curious about the process that turns energetic, enthusiastic and slightly unfocused 6th graders into serious and studious 8th graders.
  • Environmental Science seems like the perfect capstone course for science—it draws together so many threads of science, and even crosses disciplinary boundaries to draw on economics, history and anthropology. This really seems like the perfect course for seniors, and yet probably only 1/3 of our students take this course.

Although I didn’t come to any earth shattering realizations in my visits, I was pretty amazed by just how welcoming my colleagues are even to last minute drop-ins, and how much I need to do this more.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Brian Lamore permalink
    August 25, 2011 11:51 pm

    Interesting, indeed. I’ve also noticed #1 and agree with #4. I think 8th graders can still be wacky and energetic. Heck, adults can too. (I’m sure you’ve been to one of those workshops where teachers turn into kids.)

  2. August 27, 2011 10:29 pm

    I have long believed that Environmental Science should be a high school graduation requirement..we do not even have a course b/c we do not have a “highly qualified” (read that as proper certification with the state). An interest and background in the subject does not allow you to teach it.

    • August 29, 2011 12:36 am

      I think it’s sad that physicists are excluded from teaching environmental science, since when it comes to matters of energy and climate change, physics teachers are likely to be better informed on these topics than your average biology teacher.

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