Saturday, October 9, 2010

Science and Literacy Workshop

Friday was a state-wide inservice day for the kiddos got a day off and we learned how to be better teachers. Three of us from my school signed up for a workshop called BLAST--Bringing Literacy and Science Together. Truthfully, we choose it because it, a.) looked interesting, b.) was free, and c.) included lunch. Haha!

Dr. O'Leary (left) and one of the teachers practicing the mirrored movement homework assignment.

By far, it was the most interesting inservice. The lady who taught it had her PhD, and was still teaching. This year was her 50th year teaching elementary school. She was a riot! I don't think that I have laughed quite so hard at an educational experience. The workshop was held at a private school in Delaware, and it was in their "Lower School Library". Coolest library. Look at the picture of their reading area, with a built in arena. I wanted to go curl up there and listen to story time!!

Basically, the premise of the program (which she developed as a part of her PhD program) was to take children's stories and look for two things in theme.
1. a life lesson or moral to share with the children
2. a science lesson

She took 15 stories, including "The Fisherman and His Wife", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Snow White", "Stone Soup", and more, and turned them into hands on science lessons. Each science lesson involves a kit for the students. The kits were super easy. They were in a large ziploc bag with all the contents inside. The science plate was a paper plate and all the activities were designed to be cheap, simple, and easy to teach.

The science kits--look how simple and easy they were!

I loved the overall premise of her program that students can and are scientists and that science should be fun. She talked about how each child's reward is to take their kit home and to use it at school. She said that never once has she had major problems in her classroom because the students want to do their science experiments. If a student chooses not to behave appropriate, she simply asks them if they want to retire.
The whole retirement premise was such a cool approach to classroom discipline. At the beginning of the year, she discusses with her students what good workers do, and how good workers don't fall down on their job. If they do, they then get retired from their job and go home with a pink slip. She gives each student the opportunity to decide if they want to retire, and if they do, she removes their hands on kit, and they learn the material by observing the rest of the class. She then sends home a 'pink slip' to the parents telling them that their child had chosen not to be a good worker in science class and would not be receiving their science kit for that week. Simple, easy, effective.

The master box of kits.... doesn't take up much space.
Anyways, these kits are super super easy. I love that she had the students assembly line fill them the day before they are passed out. She said that this often piques their interest, and they can't wait for the next science class to open up their kits. She does one kit a week. The kits are leveled and build upon the previous years skills but still utilize the same stories, so that way the kids learn and look deeper at each area, rather than having such a large focus area. Some schools (she said) order a master set of the kits and the teachers can then look at them for inspiration.

Some of the lessons were completely cool. We did one lesson with a spoon and looking at your image. Did you know that the image is backwards if the spoon is facing one way and just distorted if you're looking at the spoon a different way...because of the concave and convex properties? My first graders would think that that is the coolest thing! We also did another thing with a mirror, holding it up to the edge of your lined paper, and looking only into the mirror, trying to write your name. Man, that was really really challenging.

I'm really excited about the things that I learned from Dr. O'Leary. We hadn't started our first science unit yet so I think I'm going to try to incorporate some things from the workshop. Since we alternate a science unit with a social studies unit, the kids won't know that there's anything new. Personally, I think that works well for my little guys because that way they can focus on that subject, rather than stretching them through both science and social studies. I can't wait to try this but I know that it's initally going to take a lot of work. I think it's really going to be a lot of fun for the kids (and, ok, yes, for me too!!!).

Oh, on a completely unrelated educational note, my birthday's coming up in a couple of weeks. Time for my yearly reflection. Also, wedding planning is also in full mode. Lots to do in 5 and a half months!! Yippee!!Hope yall are having a great weekend! :-D

1 comment:

  1. YAY! Our fall break is week after this one. THANK THE LORD above. :-)


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