Genius Hour Project Help

Stirling Engines

1. How they work…

2. How to make your own…

Bottle Rocket


2. How to Build One

Water Filter

1. Three Different Ways to Build a Water Filter


1. The colours in fireworks…

2. Ways to do your own pyrotechnics…

3. Making sparklers and/or glowworms…

4. How to make a small firework…


1. How do wind turbines work?

2. Green Science



Journalling My First Few Months

COLEMANGAFor the first couple of months of my teaching contract I have been keeping a journal.  I have always strongly believed that reflecting on mistakes and experiences is the best way to learn.  I feel like I am a reflective person however I have never been one to sit down and write out my thoughts into a journal or diary.  Creating a journal presented a unique opportunity for me to further engage in the reflective process.   Sharing my journal has challenged me to think about challenges and experiences to a depth that I do not think I would have done otherwise.  I believe that keeping this journal for my first year of teaching has enhanced my experience in the following ways:

1. Increased depth of reflection.

Being asked to share my journal and my reflections has challenged me to go deeper and resulted in a higher quality of reflection.  I believe very strongly that sharing my work created a level of accountability that I would have struggled to have otherwise.  Knowing someone is going to read your reflection challenges you to create something that reflects the passion you have for the profession.

2. Enhanced/increased number of learning experiences with other professionals.

A lot of my journal was focused on various initiatives within the division and education in general.  Focusing on the experience of other professionals challenged me to begin conversations that drew out there opinions around a particular idea or practice.  One of my favorite things to do is to share my philosophy and ideas with other educators.  Having this journal helped to focus my conversations into something that I could potentially journal and share later.  I was able to learn more about different initiatives and different teachers’ successes and failures because this journal challenged me to ask questions that probed deeper into these issues.

3. Increased frequency of reflection.

Ideally teachers reflect on the successes and/or failures of every lesson that they teach however there are times when commitments outside of school or a need for balance takes away from this experience.  Keeping a journal challenged me to continually reflect on all aspects of every lesson even though I did not journal or share on every aspect.  I would reflect on each lesson I did trying to draw out particular ideas that I could reflect on further in my journal.

4. Encouraged to try (or transition to) new things quicker.

As I was continually reflecting on my lessons, experiences, interactions, etc. I was more aware of any successes or failures that I had.  This heightened awareness allowed me to quickly identify things that worked well or not so well with certain classes.  I was able to switch quickly to something new if I needed to because I was very conscious of how successful my current method was.

5. Greater confidence in what I was doing and why I was doing it.

Being able to share ideas and receive feedback on them was such a confidence builder as a first year teacher.  Sharing my journal presented a great opportunity to receive affirmation about the practices and lessons I was attempting from people who were knowledgeable and appreciative of these methods. Having a system of support and affirmation is an important thing for new teachers and without my journal it would have been harder to find.

Everyone’s situation is unique and what may have worked for me may not work as well for somebody else.  Differences aside, reflective practice is at the core of what it means to be a teacher.  A teacher committed to the profession is a teacher committed to developing their skills and practices.  Keeping a journal is one of the simplest (yet probably the most effective) way to continually engage in a process of life long professional development.

As you read this journal I hope that it offers a unique perspective from a first year teacher.  I would recommend a process similar to this for any first year teacher.  Keeping a journal and constantly reflecting on experience can be annoying and time consuming however in the field it can be one of the only forms of accountability you have.  Engaging in authentic reflective practice will help you learn faster, be more effective, and experience more success more often in your first year on the job.

Here is my journal (it has gotten quite long):

Journal of a First Year Teacher

My New Learning Project?

It has been awhile since I have posted anything in regards to my learning project where I have been adventuring to learn Japanese.  Since ECMP 355 my learning project has continued and Christmas helped me out in this regard.  I kind of got spoiled by my parents this year and was lucky enough to get an Ipad 2 for Christmas.  This has changed how my learning project has progressed as well as how I have been keeping track of my learning.

With my Ipad I was able to find an app called WordPower which has allowed me to learn a new word each day and also to compile a word bank of words that I have learned.  It has allowed me to record my voice and compare it to native speakers.  This has allowed me to take my learning project and keep it fun, more like a hobby, while helping me stay committed to it without sacrificing loads of time which I am going to need for quite a bit of ECS work this semester.

Once I started treating my learning project as a hobby it got me thinking of other things that I could possibly learn.  Could learning actually be one of my hobbies?  I figured there must be other things out there that I could benefit from.  By doing my learning project I learned that I received almost as much enjoyment from the process of learning as I did from the activity itself.  I want to understand how learning works in different ways so that I can better reach my students in the future.  I’ve decided that learning can be one of my hobbies and ECMP 355 introduced me to ways in which I can make this happen.

Since the start of December I have begun another learning project which is to teach myself how to swim.  I realize I’ll never be on Michael Phelps’ level but I want to get to the point where I can swim for 15-20 minutes. I have never been in swimming lessons but I can keep my head above water although only to the point where any lifeguards watching had to do so very warily.  I had to first work to make it across the pool and then after I was able to do that I had to work on doing it with my head in the water.  I used Youtube videos like this one to help me develop something that kind of resembles a swimming stroke and helped put the lifeguards relatively at ease.

I have also not been afraid to ask for help (one of the many things I learned in ECMP 355) enlisting some of my classmates to help me along the way.  I am currently continuing to improve and actually swam 12 lengths in a row today (my best yet).  I look forward to swimming everyday now and am constantly on youtube looking at how to get better.  Learning can be one of the most enjoyable things that you do as long as you find something you are interested in and learn in a way that interests you.  I am looking forward to adding to my list of hobbies in the future as I find other things I want to know how to do.

My Learning Project

This semester I’ve begun a learning project in which I am attempting to learn Japanese.  I’ve been documenting my progress via  Voicethread (clicking here you can check it out and see my progress). This originated as an ECMP 355 assignment but I am interested to see where it will go from here.  For the assignment we were required to spend at least 25 hours on our project and I quickly learned that this is not enough to learn a language.  What I have learned though is that within 25 hours while someone may not be able to learn a language they can begin to get more familiar with a language.  I have begun to learn some of the differences between Japanese and English and have learned a bunch of key phrases in Japanese that I can identify and respond too.

I’ve used Youtube videos, other blogs, Twitter, and my smartphone so far in order to learn what I have.

Through this learning project I have learned, on a small scale, what it might feel like to be a ESL student.  I’ve begun to understand how different English can be in regards to sounds and general meanings/ contexts in relation to different languages.  One thing that struck me as very different with Japanese is the differing levels of formality that are difficult for an outsider to understand.  I learned that there are some phrases that I can only use at say this time, or only in this place to only this type of person.  This seemed foreign to me but I could see how a native speaker, immersed in the language, would just understand these intricacies in the same way that some things in English are just ‘common sense’ to me and not others.  I could just imagine how difficult it would be to be in an environment where all this would seem new.  Although my learning curve would be greater, being immersed in the language, there would be so many differences that starting out I could see it being quite overwhelming.

My learning project is by no means done.  I decided on this in the first place because it has long been a pursuit I have been interested in and ECMP provided the push I needed to get started.  In the short time that I have done it so far I have begun to understand the sounds, subtleties, and developed a basic foundation of the language as well as develop an appreciation for different perspectives.  I plan on continuing this project and am excited to see where it may take me and what obstacles I may run into along the way.

My buddy Dan and I in Japan.

The Importance of Feedback

Playing volleyball through the years I came to understand the importance of feedback in order to get better.  Sometimes you are too close to a situation to see what you need to do differently or improve on.  Having someone that can point out what you are doing wrong helps to identify what you can fix to be better.

Last week I posted some more of the progress that I was making in my learning project. I’ve been compiling everything into my Voicethread and slowly felt like I was making progress.  It’s been hard without any feedback so the only person I’ve really had to be accountable to was myself.  Luckily last week Trina from my ECMP 355 class directed her friend Mayo Takeuchi towards my project.  Mayo provided me with so much feedback, something I needed very badly, and also provided me with things that I need to improve and where I can go on the internet to work on those things.

Thanks to Mayo’s feedback I have been focusing on the importance between the different sounds in Japanese, kind of  the basic building blocks of the language.  (There is an awesome post on Mayo’s blog that explains these differences, just click here.) I was also directed to @japanespod101 on Twitter by Mayo, another great resource for learning Japanese words.

It was cool having Mayo take the time to listen to my progress and give me the feedback I needed as well as suggesting resources that could help.  Moving forward this gives me a good indication of what I need to focus on and what I need to do better at.

Thanks again to Trina and Mayo for all the help last week.

Some More Japanese

I added to my Learning Project Voicethread (click that hyperlink to check it out) today.  Its neat to be able to listen to the progress that I am making with my learning project.  Although realistically I am no Japanese prodigy it has been nice having my Voicethread as a sort of tangible way for me to see what I learn.  Its encouraging to see my Voicethread getting longer and longer each week and I think this has been important to me because it shows me that I am progressing in my project. I even find myself having to watch the subtitles less when I’m watching One Piece.

Image by: pppp808

I think that a physical way to keep track of progress is important not just in this project but in learning in general.  I could see something like this being useful for some students that may find a certain subject discouraging.  Physical evidence of their progress would help to prevent them from becoming discouraged as well as helping them set personal goals.

Days of the Week

My learning project is slowly progressing and although it looks like I won’t be fluent anytime soon I am learning more and more useful words every week.  In my ECS 300 class we had a guest speaker in who works with language and she said typically it takes 4 years immersed in a language in order to become fluent.  That kind of put this project into perspective for me.  I realize that within this semester I’m not going to become fluent, which I expected at the beginning.  However I do want to learn the language and am curious as to just how long it will take me.

I’m treating this semester as kind of an experiment, where I find what techniques are going to be useful in my pursuit of this goal.  This project will continue long after December is finished and I’m looking forward to it.

Click the image below for my progress so far.  I added ‘Days of the Week’ and ‘Fruits’ this week.  Mata nei!

Photo by: ntr23


私は最善を尽くします (I’ll do my best!)

This past week I have been focusing on learning larger phrases in Japanese.  After learning who, what, when, where and how last week, this week my focus was on larger sentences containing those words such as “What is your name?” and “Where are we?”.  I’ve found this approach helpful because instead of trying to learn how to pronounce all the words in a phrase I am able to recognize/pronounce a few and find myself only having to learn one or two new words to complete the phrase.

I’ve updated my voice thread, where I’m keeping track of my progress, so check it out by clicking the image below:

Learning Project (Four Shiis)

I’m going to just keep updating the Voicethread that I created as a means of updating my progress with the language of Japanese (thanks to Dean for the suggestion).

This week I added some emotions (the four shiis) as well as who, what, where, when, how.

The way I’ve been learning has been by seeing the word, hearing the word, then repeating the word or phrase an extreme number of times so that I never forget it ever again.  I’ve found recording what I learn has also been extremely useful in solidifying it in my brain.

Here’s the link to my voicethread where all my updates are kept:

Learning Project Update

So I’ve found it hard to dedicate a lot of time to my learning project over the last little while with all the projects I’ve been having come due in some of my classes. Using my cellphone and the Speak Japanese App I have been able to practice and learn some short phrases during any spare moments I may have throughout the day.  Below you will find a link to a Voicethread I have made of my progress over the last little while.
Hopefully I can find more time in the coming future and begin to work up to sentences and short conversations. Until next time, matanei.