Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to write MYP science lab reports

Happy Friday!

This week I’ve been working with a 9th grade student to refine a lab report he’s writing on the energy content of different alcohol fuels, and as part of my work with him, I kept returning to some resources I developed over the past few years.

In addition to the above presentation, I provide students with the following guide to developing data tables and graphs using Microsoft Excel (2011) for Mac. Since I originally created this document, I have moved almost entirely to the Google suite of applications, so some of the controls may be a bit out of date, but the end products are still valid for use in MYP science classes.

I hope you find these resources helpful.

Happy learning!

Gorillas in the Ugandan Mist

This past weekend, my wife and I were fortunate to travel to Rwanda and Uganda to spend some time with one of the world’s most endangered animals, the eastern mountain gorilla, Gorilla beringei beringei, in Uganda’s tiny Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

It was awesome.

 

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Mountain gorillas are are a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla and are listed as critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List. Our guides told us there are only 680 individuals left in the wild. They’re found only in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where they live in dense primary, i.e. uncut, rainforest and bamboo forests between 600 and 2,900 meters above sea level.  The IUCN claims that the major threats to mountain gorillas’ survival are poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, civil unrest (especially in the DRC), and climate change.

Unfortunately for the gorillas, growing human populations in the surrounding areas have pushed farms farther and farther up into the mountains, dividing the forest habitat the gorillas depend on into two separate ‘islands’ of montane forest. This human encroachment prevents the remaining gorilla populations from interacting with one another, minimizing gene flow and increasing inbreeding.

Such genetic isolation can contribute to the process of speciation if both populations are large enough and have enough resources to thrive for many generations. However, large mammals with relatively long gestational periods need fairly large populations to ensure sufficient genetic diversity. Mountain gorilla pregnancies last about 8.5 months, and they only have babies about once every 4 years, which is a big part of the reason why the tiny populations found in Rwanda, DRC, and Uganda are critically endangered.

And now for a few words on Rwanda.

During our brief time in Rwanda, we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where about 259,000 people are buried in the middle of town. I was working on my undergraduate degree when the Rwandan genocide happened in 1994, and I have clear memories of watching events unfold on television. But that doesn’t begin to do justice to the horrors of a million people losing their lives in the span of 100 days. During the genocide, roughly 10,000 acts of murder were committed Every. Single. Day. Most of those acts were by hand, with machetes, hammers, clubs, and axes, directed against neighbors, coworkers, teammates, classmates, and family members. It’s astounding. Twenty three years later, Rwanda is basically an entire country suffering from PTSD.

The Kigali Genocide Memorial doesn’t only focus on the events that shaped this small East African country – it also explores the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, German atrocities committed in Namibia at the start of the 20th century, the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, ethnic cleansing during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, and of course the Jewish Holocaust of World War 2. Overall the museum and the memorial are really well done, discussing the attitudes and actions that lead to genocide, as well as detailing the way Rwanda has seemingly successfully recovered from it. If you have the chance, I highly recommend a visit.

A “21st Century Report Card”?

I just finished reading the article, A Plan For Raising Brilliant Kids, According to Science, from the NPR Ed website. It’s a summary of an interview with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist with Temple University and the Bookings Institution, and Professor Roberta Golinkoff from the University of Delaware. The pair have written a book titled Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children.

In the book, Pasek and Holinkoff propose a new model for educational assessment, which they call “the six Cs”: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation and confidence. I don’t think they’re the first to propose these ideas as fundamental to modern education, but I do like the way they link all of them together. Here are the six Cs in the authors’ own words:

Hirsh-Pasek: The first, basic, most core is collaboration. Collaboration is everything from getting along with others to controlling your impulses so you can not kick someone else off the swing. It’s building a community and experiencing diversity and culture. Everything we do, in the classroom or at home, has to be built on that foundation.

Communication comes next, because you can’t communicate if you have no one to communicate with. This includes speaking, writing, reading and that all-but-lost art of listening.

Content is built on communication. You can’t learn anything if you haven’t learned how to understand language, or to read.

Critical thinking relies on content, because you can’t navigate masses of information if you have nothing to navigate to.

Creative innovation requires knowing something. You can’t just be a monkey throwing paint on a canvas. It’s the 10,000-hour rule: You need to know something well enough to make something new.

And finally, confidence: You have to have the confidence to take safe risks.

Just to be clear: I’m not endorsing the book (I haven’t even read it myself). I was simply struck by how different these ideas are from the way most schools, and many of us teachers, measure students’ achievements and progress. In my experience, all Cs but the content have been relegated to secondary status on report cards, lumped together in a general “effort” or “approaches to learning” category.

Happy learning!

Mr K

I’ve been creating HyperDocs for my students, and I didn’t even know it!

The Cult of Pedagogy article “How HyperDocs Can Transform Your Teaching” appeared in my Twitter feed recently. While cooking dinner last night, I listened to the embedded podcast and realized that I’ve been using this great tool for a while without even realizing it has a proper name!

My enthusiasm for the Google for Education universe is based primarily on the following reasons:

  1. GAFE allows for an almost entirely paperless classroom. Documents, presentations, diagrams, drawings, and data sets can be emailed, shared with peers, and/or published online with only a few clicks and keystrokes. This cloud-based connectivity also makes it a lot more challenging to lose work!
  2. Collaboration among teachers as well as students is incredibly easy and intuitive, especially since there’s no downloading required, training others how to “track changes” and return an updated file is no longer necessary, and each user’s favorite operating system is irrelevant because each person can keep using their platform of choice without inconveniencing others.
  3. Personalized, differentiated learning is more achievable through what I’ve always referred to as a “menu” of activity choices provided to students: a selection of relevant YouTube videos, online learning games, animations and simulations, traditional worksheets, and news articles about recent scientific developments in the current topic of study. The menu concept allows each student to engage with a unit of study at his or her own pace and preferences.

Early versions of my HyperDocs were less open-ended and quite sequential: “First, complete these two activities and email your teacher when you’re ready to share your work. Then complete the following worksheet, and after that….” It was a great way to use the hyperlink feature of Google Docs to keep students organized, but there wasn’t really much choice involved.

As I became more and more competent with the Google platform (I’m now a Google-Certified Educator), I began to use hyperlinking differently: “If you’re curious about X, click here. If you’d rather learn about Y first, follow this link. When you’re ready to develop your final product, make a copy of the document linked here and follow the instructions within it.” My team-teaching colleagues and I started using Docs to develop entire units of study in which we collectively shared and used all the resources we’d found individually, and that was really empowering as an educator.

In the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Kelly Hilton, Lisa Highfill, and Sarah Landis, authors of The HyperDoc Handbook. All 3 women teach outside Silicon Valley, and they summarize the benefits of HyperDocs as:

  • Fewer lectures
  • More face-to-face interactions with students
  • Flexibility
  • Multimodal opportunities
  • Student privacy

Listening to their story, and the way they describe these benefits, I think they’re onto a truly transformative teaching tool. Even though I’d already developed my own approach to this idea, these 3 educators have refined some “best practice” approaches that I’ll be incorporating into my Chili-pepper menus from now on.

Happy learning!

Mr K

Chemistry resources for students: part 2

Hello!

Today I’m sharing a collection of chemistry bookmarks, which I hope students and teachers of science may find useful.  Some of them are specific to a particular unit of study, while others are more general in nature. There are definitely some duplicates here from my previous posts, so I apologize for the extraneous material, but it’s still good stuff. Today’s post focuses on general chemistry. You can find additional bookmarks in my earlier post, “Chemistry resources for students: part 1.

That’s all for now, folks.

Happy learning!

 

Biology resources for students: part 2

Good morning!

It’s time for more science bookmarks! This morning I’ll be sharing a collection of bookmarks, which I think students and teachers of science may find useful.  Some of them are specific to a particular unit of study, while others are more general in nature. There are definitely some duplicates here from my previous posts, but I don’t think there’s much harm in that. I’ve categorized all these resources by subject: astronomy, biology, chemistry, ecology, and physics. Today’s post focuses on general biology. You can find additional bookmarks in my earlier post, “Biology resources for students: part 1.”

I hope these aren’t too repetitive. I just want to pass them along so that my students and colleagues have access to some of the many wonderful biology resources I’ve found over the years.

Happy learning!

Elections get in the way of science news

Good evening!

In addition to the professional presence I have on Twitter (@bradleymkremer) and here on my science blog/website, I have a personal profile on Facebook, which I think doesn’t make me unusual in any way. I usually make a fairly concerted effort to keep my personal and professional lives separate. I’m not Facebook friends with any current students (I’ll accept friend requests upon their graduation from university, though), I never tweet about politics or personal events, and I almost never post science articles or thoughts on my Facebook wall.

However, those personal and professional worlds do overlap sometimes. I have current and former work colleagues who have become friends. My personal interest in science frequently spills over into my professional involvement with science education.

Where is this leading us, you may ask?

Today I am sharing a collection of science news and updates from my Facebook feed. These are a few resources I’ve saved over the past few weeks and months because they’re either of personal interest or they’re directly relevant to units I teach – or both! Sometimes, life gets in the way, with things like visits from your mother, presidential elections, and an almost-one-year-old baby at home. So, without further ado, here are the science news items I’ve been following lately:

Elon Musk and Tesla reveal solar rooftops – Bloomberg News. Musk is one of my heroes because I think he’s a visionary who is unafraid to use his considerable funds to push the envelope of scientific innovation for the betterment of humanity and our planet. (Full disclosure: I own stock in Tesla.)

The “Zero Waste” grocery store – A Berlin shop which has developed a sustainable shopping model with the goal of reducing solid domestic waste. IB ESS topic 8.2: Resource use in society and 8.3: Solid domestic waste.

Zero emissions train unveiled in Germany – Not yet in service, but a step in the right direction to meet growing transportation needs. The train uses hydrogen fuel cells in place of diesel engines, and since it’s a public service, economies of scale may help advance more widespread adaptation of the fuel cell technology.

Climate change is having an impact on infrastructure – A story from Wired detailing how rising temperatures, thawing permafrost, and increased precipitation are having an effect on communities built permafrost. A case study for IB ESS topic 7 and IB Biology topic 4.

Captive breeding case studies from National Geographic – Students evaluate the effectiveness of various captive breeding programs designed to conserve biodiversity in this species-based approach to conservation. A solid link to IB ESS topic 3.

Are the water wars coming? – A look at dwindling freshwater resources in the face of growing human population pressure around the world. A good discussion for IB ESS topic 4.2: Access to fresh water.

How what we eat has changed (and will change again) – A short video from the BBC Future project examining the interplay between human population growth, food production, and ecosystem impacts. Relevant for IB Biology option C: Ecology and conservation, as well as IB ESS topic 5.2: Terrestrial food production systems and food choices.

Looking for good news about climate change? This is about all there is – The Washington Post outlines a scrap of good news regarding the rate of planetary warming in the context of the 2016 US presidential election. Useful for IB Biology topic 4.3: Carbon cycling, topic 4.4: Climate change, and IB ESS topic 7: Climate change and energy production.

That’s all I have time for tonight. I’ll post another set of news links soon-ish. And of course, I’ll have more on Twitter.

Happy learning!

Mr K