The Connection to Relevance

The need to make EE (a.k.a. environmental education) relevant is vital.  Relationships are important to accomplish this mission.  And in discerning (for a very long time) how to make it happen and evaluating many different pathways, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s really no better way than to jump directly in the middle of the community where it all happens… in our schools.  In other words, incorporate environmental literacy standards into school curriculum standards.

Students cry for relevance in their learning, and there’s no better relevance than impacts on their way of life.  Environmental literacy through project-based learning is the ultimate interdisciplinary lesson, truly.  In order to solve problems they face in their communities, students must first know the basics (science and math) of how their world operates.  This helps them to articulate and communicate their ideas so that best solutions can be discussed and found.  It should be noted, though, that this notion of environmental literacy as standard school curriculum (what is known to some as a “green school”) is more than a magnet or charter school… it’s just the way it should be.  It’s a way of life.

The Connection to Relevance

Feel a need to make a difference  –>  Civics/Social Studies

In order to do so, you need to gather knowledge of how the world works  –> Science

Finding a solution, you’ll need to engineer a design plan  –> Math & Measurement

Need to articulate/communicate your plan  –>  ELA: Writing & Speaking

Need to be inspired  –> ELA & NATURE

Human Relationship: An Engineering Design Solution

What makes STEM so great is that it really is how science should be taught.  It is the missing relevance that kids are craving when they say that they hate science or that science is boring.  I just really hate the misunderstood buzz word aspect, but it actually is a great concept.  So let’s let “STEM” die a bloody, horrible death.  Make it go away.  I call for a revolution!  A name change.  My suggestion?  Let’s just call it “the correct way to teach science.”

In an earlier post of mine, I proposed the problem with “STEM” as being a mere word/phrase of jargon that has lost its meaning.  But, through the opportunity of leading the national Project Lead the Way program (PLTW) at my current school, I now propose a solution.  Because that’s just what we scientists and engineers do.  We see a problem and we fix it.

Let’s begin by using PLTW’s engineering design process of (out ru1-design-process-27-638ight) stating the problem and proposing a design brief:

Problem:  People are not listening to and/or embodying environmental conservation messages, and don’t seem to care about the Earth on which they live.  I’ve meditated on this thing for quite some time and I’m left begging the question:  How can we REALLY expect people to care for the environment when they don’t even care for each other?  Thus, the root of the problem.

Design Brief:  In order to get individuals/society to take more pro-active steps in caring for the environment, we must ourselves first take pro-active measures to restore the the bond of human connection by showing true interest in the dignity of each individual human person.  To start off with, in order to build human relationships we can by infiltrate the public education sector.  We must institute a science teaching revolution in order to find the perfect way to teach science, and achieve this much sought out concept of harmony.

Developing a Solution:  As a means to beginning this “science teaching revolution,” I propose we take a look at two main areas:  urban ecology and capacity building.  We must continually seek to find more of the most effective ways to improve human relationships through community partnerships, particularly as it pertains to schools using the land around them to maximum effectiveness in teaching state/national science standards. I’m generating a concept in my head of schools and community partners (both individuals and businesses) that have a truly authentic and fluid relationship with each other, as opposed to a so-called one time field trip.

There are several outstanding models running through my head of in situ work that have such a dynamically fluid, capacity building partnership.  Two of these (Proyecto Titi: Preserving Colombia’s Wildlife and Save the Elephant’s Elephant Beehive Fences) I’ve gotten to know real well during my time as an educator at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and another  (Kibale Wood Fuel Project) I learned about during my time at Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens.  What makes these models so great is the attention to detail in their capacity building efforts within their respective communities.  These programs take a real look at and understand how/why their people live the way they do, and don’t just seek to tell people they have to change their habits (because what they’re currently doing is wrong/bad/immoral).  Instead, they get to know the people, teach them about their local wildlife and their significance/niches, and seek to find real working solutions that seek the needs of their residents.20131025104714-unite-photos

Not too long ago, I stumbled upon another organization who took similar approaches to those mentioned above, except moreso through the viewpoint of formal educational curriculum.  UNITE for the Environment is a program operated by North Carolina Zoo in East Africa that helps local schools form partnerships.  The model for their program isn’t to be a resource that merely “provides” sources for teachers to use, but instead to be a resource that asks what schools need for them to effectively to their job and teach their students what needs to be taught.

UNITE for the Environment is a conservation project of North Carolina Zoo based in Bigodi, Uganda. Bigodi is located adjacent to Kibale National Park, an important site for a number of primate species, including chimpanzees. This program involves working closely with teachers and other community members to enhance knowledge about environmental issues and sustainable practices, improve teaching methods, and encourage adoption of sustainable activities that improve local livelihoods and reduce the impact of the community on the environment and national park. The current program consists of teacher trainings, student field trips, work with teachers on community service projects and with students through wildlife clubs as well as an extensive evaluation protocol.

Watch this video to really see what makes it so great.

All of these models are great and wonderful and encouraging, but there’s just one (semi-) problem… they are all in situ programs in countries that are not the United States.  The problem really being that we cannot neglect such purposeful, meaningful relationships in our own country.  My wish is that these programs continue their work in South America and Africa, and that they inspire other similar programs in other countries… including the U.S.

infiltrationThe solution I propose is an “infiltration” of the public education sector by zoos, aquariums, other conservation organizations, and even local businesses to help build better capacity within our schools and provide teachers the tools they need to do their job.  As it is currently in classrooms around the USA, budgets are tight and teachers are already purchasing classroom supplies with their own money.
As a result, students suffer… they suffer due to lack of supplies, as well potentially not even getting a single field trip.  The current crisis in education is not due to lack of “good” schools or “good” teachers, but moreso a lack of effective teaching supplies/materials.  Through my experience of of #teacherlife, thus far, I can see the improvement that our education system has undergone… teachers and schools are doing their best.  Unfortunately, though, inadequate funding can ruin even the best of plans.  That is where business partners come in; they should be aware of issues like this and help provide the school’s with what is lacking.  The solution I propose calls on conservation organizations to help lead the charge to bring the quality capacity building that is happening overseas to the United States, too.

(Constructing & Testing) Prototypes:  During my interweb musings, I have found of at least two facilities in the U.S. that may be on the road to helping us bring that “quality capacity building” home and begin to heal fractured human relationships and re-connect humans.  The first I know of, though I can not at the moment find anything on the internet to link to) is Jacksonville Zoo in North Florida and the other is Lincoln Park Zoo.

Both have programs (mostly for teens) that are focused on sustainability and urban ecology, however LPZ’s initiative goes into greater detail and forms that relationship between themselves and schools by hosting a yearly science fair at their Zoo.  Further evaluation is required, however their model has the appearance for authentic fluidity as it involves multiple visits of Zoo personnel to the schools as well as multiple visits by students to the Zoo to complete their work.

Either way, the groudwork is already laid, now let’s get to work and start this SCIENCE TEACHING REVOLUTION!

STEM vs. PBL

Science is great! I love science!  Regarding all aspects of the world within which we live, science provides us with the knowledge of the properties that make up objects from the world that we can use to manufacture solutions and design products that make life easier. Hello, cell phones!  Society would agree, this is exciting stuff…

That being said, when students say that science is boring I can’t help but think of the Nature of Science.  What IS that?  What do they mean by “the nature of science”?  Even this description is on the overwhelming side.  Well, in a nutshell, it is the current way that science is expected to be taught.  Many, if not most, textbook publishing companies separate the “how” to do science from the actual knowledge of science in the first chapter or two of their textbooks; this includes tools used “to do” science, as well as abstract notions such as scientific thought processes such as various types of reasoning.  But, contrary to what current textbook publishes would have you believe, the scientific method is really not a study itself… it is it is WHAT we use TO study.  In other words, in reality, the “nature of science” is not a concept that should be treated as independent chapters of a book, but rather should be infused with the throughout the book to help students understand the “knowledge of science.”  Much of the terminology that is used to teach “reasoning” methods are abstract ideas and pose very real challenges understanding, and must be taught within specific context.  They require context clues within the discipline, as well as real-world problems and applications.

Without the meaning of context, the “Nature of Science” comes off as dry and boring material.  And, for that reason alone, I can totally relate to student sentiments and have come to the conclusion that IT is the reason why students must think ‘science is boring.’  “Natures of Science” needs to die a horribly bloody death just as mush as “STEM.”

I think this is why I must highly enjoy project-based learning (also known as “PBL”) so much.  Further, I feel like the reality of what STEM actually is provides the context/structure for PBL, which then also naturally lends itself to cover multiple teaching standards in one lesson.

I recently fell into an opportunity teaching middle school STEM that inspired this mini-piphany of teaching STEM in everyday science.  Maybe it’s just my wishful thinking, but I really do hope that this way of thinking of STEM catches on in the general public.  If so, maybe my dream that all people will understand and respect the earthly place they call home will come true.

Just remember… PBL is STEM.  STEM IS PBL.

The Reason “STEM” Just Needs to Go Away

Yea, that’s right I said it.  Allow me to explain myself, but first let’s take a step back…img_20160923_061446

Can I just say how much I HATE buzz words?!  I don’t mind clichés so much, though.  They can actually be massively entertaining to mess around with (sometimes).  But buzzwords… they just irk me and make my eyes twitch.

I was thinking about the current state of education
when this thought came to mind.  I feel like the field of education has been reduced to nothing but
buzzwords.  I mean when it becomes such an item of jargon, it eventually loses its meaning.  Society uses them to convey a particular thought, but without continual definition and context it becomes used incorrectly.  Accuracy matters… and anything otherwise can deter us from the initial goal.

The chief item of current fashion to blame for my musing, as well as volition to vomit, is STEM.  For those folks who have been living under a rock, STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  I suppose the reason it frustrates me so much is because of how widely misunderstood it is.stem-kid-be-like  So many people that I know, so many parents, and even many educators see it as a discipline where kids learn about computers, electronic devices, and code all day.  As if all there is to technology  is computers and such. From my observations, it’s almost like they have no clue that STEM is even an acronym at all, and that it’s something that their child MUST be involved in to be anything remotely successful.  This idea of success is totally not true.  Or, at least, not true in the way these parents perceive it to be.

Really, technology is anything that seeks to make life better.  Fire is technology.  Band aids, file folders, pens and pencils, and even the Crayola pack with the attached sharpener are all examples of technology.  People take for granted many of these little things because they have become such useful tools that they couldn’t imagine better solutions.  And that’s fine.  Because technology doesn’t have to seek to solve just large-scale problems; it’s all about solving ANY problem to advance our lifestyles.  However, it is also only a SINGLE component of STEM.  Science (and Math) are really what are at the heart of engineering new technologies.  I mean, let’s take a look at the etymology of the word ‘science.’  It is derived from the Latin word ‘sciri’ (hmmm… I wonder if this is where the idea for a certain Apple product’s name came from) which means ‘knowledge.’  There is so incredibly much to ‘know’ about in this world besides the natural things that give the textbook definition of the word.

That having been said, referring to the academic discipline of science, it is what provides us with the knowledge of the characteristic properties that make up Earthly objects that are used to design solutions and manufacture products that make our lives more enjoyable.  At  the heart of solving problems, we have to know about where to get the materials that will best suit those solutions we seek to find.  Science guides us as to which resources to use to best suit our design goals.  And THIS is what I wish more people would know about that buzz word.  Because you know what?  It really is GREAT!

What makes STEM so great is that it really is how science should be taught.  It is the missing practical relevance that kids are craving when they say that they hate science or that science is boring.  I just really hate the misunderstood ‘buzz word’ aspect, but it actually is a great concept.  So let’s let “STEM” die a bloody, horrible death.  Make it go away.  I call for a revolution!  A new way of teachin? Perhaps, simply a name change?  My suggestion?  Let’s just call it “the correct way to teach science.”  Okay, lets’ go!

logo-final-final
An approach to STEM I actually don’t mind… #butforrealthough

Pure Science Goodness!

img_20160914_211928Hey there, Science Teachers!  I finally did it.  I finally made some really awesome and
useful Learning Objective posters!  If you’re anything like me, then the vast number of standards we have to teach in for Middle School SCIENCE is entirely overwhelming.  I am the type of teacher who needs a complete road map for the year, so that I can properly plan WHAT I’m going to teach and in WHAT order I am going to teach it.  There must be a chronological, scaffolding flow.

To help me do that, I’ve created “I CAN…” statement poster/wall hangings.  First, I lay all the posters which are standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper to see them at once in order to figure out how I will group them for various projects.  Once that part of the planning is done, I can then simply take the appropriate poster(s) I need, and display them in the front of the room on the board for students to see out learning objective.  No more flipping back and forth between pages of a state document to see what you still need to cover.  No more wasting time writing long objectives on the board.

These posters also provide a quick, easy and effective way to show administrators, fellow teachers, and students what Florida Science Standards are being taught. The illustrations do more than just make the posters cute, they actually further enhance comprehension and effectiveness through detailed and unique visual examples. This resource is formatted to print 1 standard per page of standard sized printing paper.

Save a ton of time by buying our FULL PAGE SIZE pre-made Illustrated “I Can” Statements for the Florida Science Standards.  Check out my TpT store here and let the one more “middle school stress” melt away!  Also, if you know any K-5 teachers that could use an instructional aid like this, one of MY favorite sellers is Jason’s Online Classroom.  You can get “I CAN…” posters for science, as well as other disciplines, here.  I hope you enjoy all these products as much as I have and DO!

Once purchased, these Florida Standards Posters can be printed, laminated and used for years and years!! Buy once, use every single year

 

FREE Inspirational Quotes!

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Hi, everybody! Welcome to my page. As a way to celebrate my “initiation” into this new involvement with Teacher’s Pay Teachers, I want to inspire you to bring the humanities back to the classroom. In an age where “teaching to the test” is the considered the an acceptable mode of teaching, our students our losing or missing out completely on critical thinking skills. We CAN NOT allow this, and that is why I call on teachers to bring the humanities back to education… all disciplines and ESPECIALLY in science. When students see the relevancy of why they need to know what we teach, lights go and excitement abounds!

For  that reason, I am HUGE proponent of project-based learning.  Whether you plan a project on a large or small scale, this method of pedagogy easily allows you to group multiple teaching standards (whether your own core discipline or other disciplines, as well) into one lesson.  It’s a great way to collaborate cross-curriculum with your planned learning community, too.  For more information on how to start planning higher quality, engaging learning experiences for your students, go to the Buck Institutes web page here.

Also, don’t forget to check my TpT store and get a FREE download of some of my favorite inspirational quotes.

My first product contains some of my favorite quotes from my philosophers, including Socrates’ “I can not teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” So check out the quality of my work, and feel free to print and hang around your classroom.  I hope you enjoy!