Our Meeting With An Archaeologist

In my Social Studies 9 class I have really been trying to focus on engaging my students (sometimes it works, sometimes I learn from it and try again).  We are just beginning a new unit on societies of the past and we thought it would be cool if we could talk to someone who actual studies these societies as a living.  Que the drum roll…….. Enter Doctor Chris Foley from the University of Saskatchewan.

Photo by: Jessica Finson

Okay, well I don’t think he looks the same as Indiana Jones however his job sounded just as exciting as in the movies.  Dr. Foley shared with us what it is that he does, where in the world he has been, and some of the spectacular discoveries his teams have made.  It was an unique experience being able to hear from someone who not only does the stuff we are studying for a living but is immensely passionate about it as well.  Dr.Foley was an amazing storyteller and had so many interesting anecdotes along the way.  I asked some students afterwards what they thought and they all agreed that this was a great experience for us. Meeting with Dr.Foley allowed us to put a face and voice to the content we were studying as well as offering us an unique perspective from someone that we would not normally meet.  I would definitely do this again in the future!

In order to make this meeting possible we used Adobe Connect.   Adobe Connect is the web-conferencing software that our division uses however I think it is very similar to Elluminate, a  (possibly less expensive) program we used to meet in my ECMP 355 class. The program allowed us to set up an online meeting place where both Dr.Foley and I met using a URL we were given when @jeffwalters27 created the space

Our Adobe Connect session with Dr.Chris Foley

Our Adobe Connect session with Dr.Chris Foley

for us. There were some issues that I think extended from our unfamiliarity with the Adobe platform however the overall experience with Adobe was good.  A tool like Adobe or Elluminate give presenters more versatility however I think you do give up some of the intuitiveness you would have with Skype or Hangouts.  I think in the future I would look for a platform that would be more comfortable for our expert to use or I would make sure I knew the capabilities of the networks and hardware that either of us were working with.

This was a great learning experience, not only for my students who got to meet an actual archaeologist, but for me as well.  I think connecting with an expert is such an important step whenever it is possible (something I took away from my visit at the Calgary Science School).  With the technology available to us all it takes is an email to set meetings like this into motion.  Looking back on our meeting with Dr.Foley there is no way that I could compare with both the knowledge and passion that he has for his field.  Meeting Dr.Foley and being able to ask him questions has helped my students and I become more engaged and excited for our new unit.  Yay internet!

My Visit to the Calgary Science School

Today I was able to go and observe a morning at the Calgary Science School.  Calgary Science School is a charter school with a mandate to present education in a way that is new and research based.  Spending the morning at the school really showed me how my philosophy could be applied in a school setting.

Here are some of the things I observed (sorry the video is so long, I tried to shorten it, there were just so many exciting things going on):

There are a lot of great ideas on the Calgary Science School Connect! Blog and because they’re so great…the ideas are free!


My Favorite Unit So Far

So I’ve completed my internship at Estevan Comprehensive High School and man was that a blast!  Internship was such a challenging, rewarding, revealing process and I was able to grow so much in such a short time.  This semester I’m sticking around Estevan and subbing while finishing up my final class for my Education degree.

It was thinking about project ideas for my final class that I started thinking back to the different units I taught in Physics and Chemistry this last semester.  I was trying to think hard about what types of learning opportunities worked the best…did some work better than others?…is there one type of approach that works best?  I came to the conclusion that there is more than one way to teach something however what I found for myself is that when I really focused on student engagement at the beginning of the concept they seemed to have a better handle on it in the end.

The engaging activities I used usually took the form of something that at first looked like it had nothing to do with science (I think that was part of the reason my students seemed so engaged). There was no better example of this seemingly unrelated engagement than our unit on chemical kinetics

The Lesson

We were beginning Chemical Kinetics and I had recently seen a new Ted Ed video, “How to speed up chemical reactions (and get a date).”

I began by showing the first couple minutes of this video:

We didn’t watch this video all the way through.  We stopped when the narrator pulled out his construction hat and was about to redesign the school.  I wanted my students to understand their purpose (getting students to collide) and how they could accomplish this thinking for themselves.

We branched out into groups, students were contractors for an hour, and they designed floor plans for schools where there would be a high likelihood to get a date to a dance.  It gave me goosebumps seeing the different ideas that groups had…and the things they were coming up with were synonymous with the different ways we could speed chemical reactions.

When we watched the rest of the video at the end, and tied what we did to chemistry, students were already confident with the idea and we had a good place to start for our study of chemical kinetics.  The rest of the unit was never boring as we were constantly making reference, in some form or another, to relationships both in the real world and in chemistry.  We came out of chemical kinetics with a good understanding of the important concepts…and I don’t think anyone in the class ended up going to the next dance without a date.

More Apps for Science Class

Over the last little while I have been exploring more and more apps for the Ipad that I could use with my students.  I have found a couple recently that I think could be quite useful heading into my internship and teaching career.  Here they are sorted by subject:


NASA HD –  This app contains information about the planets and other space related topis.  There is an in-depth discussion each month on a particular subject that is worth a read.

NASA VIZ – This app is similar to NASA HD except with a more visual focus.  Some of the images are truly amazing and there are some great videos too.  One of their videos showing the shifting currents overtime would be great in a weather unit.

GoSkyWatchP – This app is free and gives you a great map of the night sky with location recognition capabilities.

Earthlapse – With space travel becoming more privatized it may be possible to swing a trip into space within this generation. Until then you can enjoy some of the same views you would see if you were on the International Space Station with this app.

coloruncovered – This is a great app and provides an opportunity for students to learn about colours and light while interacting with different illusions, properties, etc.  Exploratorium has done it right with this app doing an excellent job of putting activity and engagement before content.

Airplanes – The different paper airplane designs this app contains could give your students a great chance to inquire more into what type of engineering designs are more or less useful for flight.

Minds of Math – My previous coop said that she found one of the best ways to teach math is to teach it from the perspective of what a certain formula, mathematical method, etc. was originally designed for.  This app does a great job of organizing the people and discoveries that have been influential within mathematics.


Creatures of Light – This app looks great, is free, and does a good job of presenting the diverse range of bio-luminescent organisms.  This app even goes more in-depth in terms of what exactly is going on chemically and the different chemical processes that are involved.

Speaking of Luminescence…  Here is a simple demo that can be done with a class.  The materials are relatively easy to track down and it really produces a bright, blue light when done in a dark room. CHEMOLUMINESCENCE REACTION

Cardiograph – This app turns your Ipad or mobile devise into a cardiograph by using the camera it contains. Pretty neat, and it allows you to keep track of your heart rate over long periods of time.


Labtimer – This app allows you to get rid of all the stopwatches that could clutter up your lab space.  You can have multiple ( 10+) timers going at once with this app.

NOVA Elements – This app contains a series of videos that cannot be viewed outside of the US however has a periodic table and an interactive game type portion that are alright.

K12 Periodic Table – This app is probably one of the more useful periodic table apps available.  It contains all the information a student would need and is very easy to navigate.


Wolfram Alpha – This app costs money however is very useful for students as well as teachers seeking answers to questions they may not know.

e-Science magazine – My Science methods instructor directed me to this one and I really enjoyed it.  Its free and the articles are extremely relevant.  Some of the apps I explored came out of there.  The University of Adelaide did a great job with this one, I’m looking forward to future issues.

Electric Pickle Continued…

The last three days we were doing workshops on the road in Pincher Creek and Magrath.  The Pickl-e-lectric Chair was such a hit that I had to make a couple more.

This demo was very good for engaging the students into topics like circuits, electricity, what makes up an atom, electrolytes, and even safety. The students in our workshops ‘relished’ the chance to see something get electrocuted in a relatively safe way.

Here is one of the new Pickl-e-lectric Chair’s in action:


My Summer Job

This summer has been loads of fun so far.  I got hired on by Minds in Motion, a science camp put on by the University of Calgary.  Minds in Motion has basically been my dream job.  We get to go around to different schools and put on science workshops and once school is out we start with our weekly science camps.

It’s been awesome getting to plan for the summer camps…this basically consists of us playing around with different science projects.  I’ve personally been doing a lot with sciencetoymaker.org ‘s projects; some of the things I’ve really enjoyed have been the big mouth gliders and pop pop boats (Thanks to Mr.Macdonald for hooking me up with that site).  This summer is giving me a chance to try out different activities and I think this is really going to help me get ready for my internship in the fall.

Reflecting on this semester…

During this semester my views regarding my educational philosophy and learning were constantly being challenged to grow and expand.  I don’t feel like I was ever far off track from what was going to work for me however I equate my learning journey to a drive down the highway with slight corrections here and there.  Throughout my experience this semester I feel like I was able to grow and develop into the teacher I want to become.  I realize that my growth is not finished and that I am going to be challenged quite a bit in internship however, I feel comfortable with my abilities entering pre-internship.

One of my greatest areas of growth this semester has been in regards to how students learn.  I entered pre-internship after reaching a point in my understanding that students want activities and engaging opportunities to learn.  In pre-internship I found this view of what students want to be both challenged and supported. I realize this is somewhat of a paradox so let me try to explain a bit.  I found, after being in a high-school, that students were very comfortable with taking notes, memorizing, and then writing an exam.  In contrast I found that many students were originally hesitant when faced with an activity that challenged them to apply the concepts that they were learning.  I found that this hesitation was associated with the challenge that the activity presented.  Students enjoyed learning through activities and although there was some initial frustration, these students were often thoroughly engaged.  It was the challenge and the demand to do more than memorize which presented some difficulty to these high school students. I feel that high school students very quickly saw the benefit and value in being asked to apply what they knew once they began to do more activity and application based lessons.   My belief entering pre-internship was that if I can connect the content to my students in a meaningful way I can teach for a deep understanding.  Reflecting on my pre-internship I believe connecting experience to learning is possible if students are shown how to buy in to the process and led to understand that experiencing frustration is itself a valuable learning opportunity.

Photo by: Piero Sierra

The most important area where I have grown this semester has been how I have come to an understanding of what my most important role as a teacher is going to be.  I have come to understand how I have a legal, ethical, and moral responsibility as a teacher to make my classroom safe for all my students.  I have learned that how I respond to this responsibility begins first with being aware of the different discourses that my students and myself are going to be exposed to on a daily basis.  This idea of making my classroom a ‘safe’ community is a theme that has echoed through all my courses, not only this semester, but this entire year.  I have been challenged throughout this semester as to how I was going to do this within my classroom.  I knew that in order to begin this process I needed to be aware and create a community, but isn’t there more than that?  It was when I was able to attend a WestCAST conference with some of my peers that I realized how I can, and am, going to confront discourses within my classroom.

At WestCAST my opinions on education and inclusion were challenged and forced to grow in a variety of different sessions.  The most impactful experience for me was when I listened to Dr. Darren Lund talk on student activism.  Dr. Lund from the U of C has published over 250 papers or articles and won numerous awards including the Alberta Human Rights Award.  The projects that Dr.Lund and his students have established have gone on to have not only local, but international influence and have been a catalyst for change in many situations.  While listening to Dr.Lund I was forced to take my thinking about discourses and apply it to my students and myself.  I had all the theoretical knowledge but was struggling with how to practically apply it to myself.  After listening to Dr.Lund I realized that what I can do as a teacher is begin the process of discourse analysis in my class and then get out of their way.  My thinking was challenged and grew from an understanding of my responsibility to an understanding of how I would accomplish this within my classroom.  Students are capable of far more than most teachers give them credit for.  Sometimes a teacher can stifle or hinder an idea that a student may have not fully understanding the perspective or intent behind the idea.  As a new teacher I enter with a fresh perspective.  If I can keep an open mind, empower and really listen to my students my classrooms will have the potential to create the same kind of changes that Dr.Lund’s have.

I have learned so much this semester and the most important thing for me now is to not allow my learning to cease.  I need to stay invested in the professional development process and what this means for me as a teacher.  As I learned this semester, if I continue to invest in my growth I will continue to grow.  If I make mistakes or experience success, as long as I focus on growth, I can take away valuable lessons that will help to shape my practice as an educator.   As I previously mentioned, I realize that my views on learning as well as my educational philosophy will continue to be challenged throughout my entire teaching career.  I also realize that I will probably experience the most growth in my thinking within my first couple years however I also realize that to be effective this growth can never stop.  It is important that I continue to challenge the way I think about learning because, as I have experienced, this is how I grow as a teacher and a professional.  I can’t start to think that I have all the answers.  What I know might work at the time but this could change as my students change.  In order to be an effective teacher I need to critically and continuously evaluate my practice and philosophy.  Focusing on my own personal growth will be the most effective way to help my students grow.

Ipad Apps for the Classroom

When I was doing my three week education pre-internship I found that there was an Ipad within every classroom.  Every teacher was given an Ipad however there was not much guidance as to how to use them within their class.  I think Ipads can be excellent tools if used properly and am hoping that this post could offer some help.  Ever since I got my own Ipad last Christmas (thanks again Mom & Dad) I’ve been looking for ways that I could use it effectively in the classroom.

These are what I have found are probably some of the best apps currently available for teachers and students in the classroom (this is kind of like an Ipad apps essential toolkit for science teachers):

For Students:

Presenting/Creating: NFB Pixstop (Free stop motion movie creator), Comic Life ($2.99)

Student Support/ Help: Khan Academy

Showing/Telling their Understanding: ShowMe, Skitch, VoiceThread

For Teachers: Ted Talks, Science 360, Google, Twitter

Subject Specific Apps


Vernier Video Physics ($2.99) – Take video and instantly turn it into velocity and acceleration graphs.

SPARKvue – Turns Ipad or mobile device into an accelerometer.


The Elements: A Visual Exploration ($13.99) – A beautiful app exploring the different elements in the periodic table.

Periodic Table of the Elements – Shows you the electron configuration, different groups, state at any temperature, etc.


Molecules – Instantly pull up a 3D representation of a molecule from ChemPub or the International Protein Database.

TimeTree – Quickly show how long ago a common ancestor was shared between two taxa.

Those are the best of what I have found so far. I would love to hear what Ipad Apps you have found to be useful in your classroom…

Using POEs to Teach Scientific Concepts

This past weekend a group of my classmates and I attended WestCAST 2012 in Calgary.  The conference was great and Friday afternoon our group lead a breakout session on “Using POEs with K-12 Students to Develop Scientific Content “.

What are POEs?  POEs stand for Predict, Observe and Explain; an important process for developing understanding.  POEs are typically focused around a brief science demo involving a series of questions. Students first develop a prediction of what they think will happen and why then proceed to observe the demonstration of a particular concept.  After making observations students refine and develop their prediction further to incorporate the concept they have just observed.

Why are POEs so great? POEs are extremely versatile and grounded in constructivist theory.  Teachers can develop POEs to be done individually or in groups. POEs can be altered by the questions the teacher asks and the assessment desired to:

  • assess prior knowledge
  • introduce and engage student’s to new content
  • assess what students have learned about a concept/ show a teacher what a student is thinking
  • generate discussion

How can I begin to use POEs? Our group (more particularly @webbkyle ) put together a wiki with all the POEs that we used at WestCAST here:


This is a great place to start if you are looking for ideas and activities to try.

A glimpse into the workshop for anyone not able to make it…