Monthly Archives: December 2014

Chemistry Genius Hour – part 1

Good morning!

Adapted from original image at

Adapted from original image at

Today I am super excited to share the first of the Genius Hour projects from students in my grade 10 integrated science class. Traditional research papers, Prezi presentations, new lyrics for old songs, PowToons and other animations, TED-style talks, Tumblr and WordPress blogs, interactive board games – these kids have made some pretty cool products that show their growth and knowledge of topics that are real and relevant to them. Here’s Urwa Veerji’s project on the use of triclosan in personal hygiene products and its social and environmental impacts. Big thanks to Urwa for volunteering to go first!

An Antarctic Lesson for Educators: It’s About the Journey!

I found this TED talk while browsing for some resources for my physics unit this morning (okay, I got a little distracted). In his presentation, explorer Ben Saunders discusses the lessons he learned during his 1,800-mile round-trip walk to and from the South Pole. His public speaking style isn’t great – after all, he just spent months walking essentially alone across the most desolate continent on the planet – but I think he’s got a great message, one that I think more teachers, school administrators, and parents should heed. That message is basically, “It’s not the goal that’s important, but the journey undergone in its pursuit.”

At school we get so wrapped up in test results and scores and grades, that many of us in education forget about the joy of discovery in genuine learning. I’m guilty of it myself, I see it all around me at IST, and I’ve seen it at other schools as well. Learning requires the making of mistakes, and it sometimes means getting distracted along the way by something more interesting. We educators and parents need to remember to let our children explore in many directions, to find out that something they thought was right isn’t, and to discover the connections that make sense of the world to them personally. Education may be what happens to you, but learning is what you do yourself.

Here’s the video:

The Force of a Growth Mindset vs the Dark Side of a Fixed Mindset

I’m an educator, which means I’m naturally drawn to things that encourage and improve student learning. I’m also a child of the late 70’s and 80’s, which means I grew up surrounded by the original Star Wars trilogy – Episodes IV, V, and VI, respectively. I collected hundreds of action figures, I’ve watched all 3 films literally dozens of times, my room was lit by a Darth Vader lamp, I’ve owned at least half a dozen light sabers, and I even had a “Return of the Jedi” bedspread for a few years. (Come to think of it, those films probably had an impact on my subsequent interest in science and astronomy.)

Yoda, the Jedi Master, is undoubtedly one of the most iconic teachers in film history. He challenged his naïve, young apprentice Luke not just to master new skills, but to entirely change the way he thinks and perceives the world.

Today I stumbled across the following images in my Twitter feed, and I plan to print them and hang them on the door to my classroom. They summarize for me the mindset changes that are necessary for any kind of success – not just classroom academics, but in any endeavor – in the 21st century. Despite some Google searches, I still don’t know who published them originally, so I will start with this disclaimer: No copyright violation is intended. I am happy to give credit where credit is due.

Anyway, here they are: Yoda and Vader, representing the Good and Evil of learning.

Learning - Growth Mindset Learning - The Dark Side