Tag: Engage Your Students

CollaborationCurriculumRocky Shore Curriculum

The Beginning Has Arrived: Lesson One

 

It can be difficult to work hard on anything when you can’t visually see the results of your labor.  As much joy as I have had in the pursuit of creating a curriculum for New Hampshire educators and their students, it has been no easy task to work for hours and hours and see little development.  However, the anticipation of the outcome makes tasks worthwhile, no matter how arduous or tedious they can be.

And the first outcome of many was emailed to me this afternoon by Kirsty Walker of Hobblebush Design – the first draft of the first lesson of the curriculum…woo hoo!  Although it is only a draft, and will receive some illustrative upgrades and perhaps more tweaking, it was a beautiful sight.

I am thrilled that the creation of this curriculum is underway, and I am extremely thankful for the time and effort Mark Wiley of UNH, Kate Leavitt of the Seacoast Science Center, and Kirsty Walker of Hobblebush have put into this project.

I am currently working on lesson four of this rocky shore curriculum, and have many more to go, but couldn’t wait to share a sample of what has been made and what is to come with all of you.

Thank YOU for taking the time to read this, and for your support and encouragement.

Enjoy the “sneak peek”:

CollaborationRocky Shore Curriculum

Hobblebush Design: Living Up to Its Name

hobblebushIf you hike or even take brief strolls in New England’s deciduous forest, you have definitely walked by a hobblebush.  This plant is humble and common, yet in May produces beautiful bright white blossoms.  Its leaves also change color throughout the year, from a brilliant green in the spring to a reddish-purple in autumn.  The publishing company Hobblebush Books and Hobblebush Design out of Brookline, New Hampshire identifies well with its name – it is a humble business that could be easily missed, but is accurately recognized as truly amazing when discovered.

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The road to Hobblebush 

When searching for a design company for the creation of the rocky shore curriculum, I was reading Poetry Showcase: an anthology of New Hampshire poets edited by our state poet laureate, Alice B. Fogel.  Admiring the book design at the same time I was enjoying the content, I discovered it was published by Hobblebush Books. A few emails and one meeting in person later, this talented independent press agreed to help me create a rocky shore curriculum that we hope will assist educators and students throughout the state and beyond!

 

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Kirsty Walker, President of Hobblebush Books & Design

 

Today I visited Kirsty Walker, president of Hobblebush Books and Design, to discuss the layout and process of creating the curriculum.  Kirsty is a great and talented individual to work with, and I am extremely happy that she will be in charge of the design of the curriculum.  She asked me my expectations of when I wanted to see the curriculum completed, and I was hesitant to answer as I was not sure if my expectations were unreasonable.  I suggested that it would be great to reflect on Christmas morning that the curriculum part of my sabbatical was completed, and thankfully she was confident that it was a reasonable request!

Here is an outline of what we will be doing over the next few months:

  1. I will be typing up lessons, one at a time, and sending them to Kirsty for editing and design purposes.
  2. I will be sharing my lessons with the New Hampshire Sea Grant program, the Seacoast Science Center, and the New England Aquarium to help with revisions and editing.
  3. I will be gathering images from both Adam Kelley, the main illustrator for this project, as well as from the Seacoast Science Center.
  4. Kirsty will be working on designing all the lessons together along with other complimentary pages, and creating one pdf file with all the content, as well as individual pdf files for each lesson.

I am so thankful for Hobblebush Design, who is “dedicated to publishing books that feature a unique voice and make a difference.”  When all is said and done, I am confident that this curriculum will make a difference, and with Hobblebush’s touch, will be unique, professional, and beautiful.

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Elementary ScienceRocky Shore Curriculum

Why the Rocky Shore?!

Why the rocky shore?  Why learn about the rocky shore?  Why teach about the rocky shore?  Why dedicate an entire year to creating and distributing a curriculum on the rocky shore?  These are questions I have been asked and hope to answer in this succinct article.

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Let me first say this: I chose to invest numerous hours after school, during my kids’ practices, after my kids’ bedtimes, on weekends and during holidays for two years to receive the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical.  I did this because I felt very strongly that elementary school teachers need more 1) science curriculum, 2) science professional development, and 3) science instruction at the collegiate level.  I also did this because I felt very strongly that elementary school students need improved science instruction and curriculum.

One way I felt I could assist elementary science educators in New Hampshire and beyond was by creating a quality curriculum at an excellent price (free).  I initially chose the rocky shore because I am knowledgeable about the rocky shore, I love to teach about the rocky shore, and my students have always loved learning about the rocky shore.  And one more thing: almost every grade in elementary school learns about ecosystems.

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To be honest, there are a plethora (wanted to fit that word in somewhere) of reasons why I chose the rocky shore, and even more reasons as to why the rocky shore should be taught to all New Hampshire schoolchildren.  But for sake of time, I have compartmentalized all of these reasons into three large categories:

    1. Significance – the rocky shore is an extremely important ecosystem.  The rocky shore is rich with animal life and plant life that impacts mankind in major ways.  Since this is supposed to be a succinct article I’ll be brief: we eat lots of mollusks, crustaceans and fish.  We also consume a lot of seaweed (i.e. ice cream), and use it in many ways, too (i.e. lotion).  Oh, and are you concerned about the rainforest?  Just remember that phytoplankton produces at least 50% of our oxygen!
    2. Relevance – the rocky shore is an ecosystem in New Hampshire.  It is a part of our state, which means we are responsible for it.  The rocky shore is where the land meets the sea, which means it is where the people meet the sea.  It is an ecosystem that is highly susceptible to human contact, and since it is so important to us (above) we should definitely be treating it right.  And out-of-sight may mean out-of-mind, but it certainly doesn’t mean out-of-contact when it comes to the watershed.  Know of a river near you, New Hampshirite?  Yep, that eventually drains into the rocky shore!
    3. Abundance – the rocky shore is an educational paradise.  Here is an incomplete list of a vast quantity of valuable learning topics the rocky shore ecosystem holds: interdependence, competition, adaptation, community, conservation, short term & long term changes, invasive species, photosynthesis, predator-prey relationships and more.  On top of that, the rocky shore is an engaging environment that is accessible to many, so many students not only have the opportunity to learn facts, but to observe facts as well.  And if not, programs like the UNH Marine Docent Program can help.

That is why I chose the rocky shore in a nutshell (seashell).

CollaborationServing the Community

Feeling Like a Scapegoat? Serve.

Let’s face it: if public school was given a mascot, it would probably be the scapegoat.  Why are students from other countries performing better in academics?  It’s the public school teachers’ fault.  Why are the morals of our country declining?  It’s the public school teachers’ fault.  Why is there more bullying, violence, and drug use?  Yep – public school teachers’ fault.

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And let me get this straight – public school teachers should be held responsible for their actions and duties.  If a school is struggling as a whole in any category, or the majority of youth in a particular community are dealing with a certain problem, it should be on the educators of that neighborhood to work on resolving the issue.

But there are a whole lot of problems and influences that occur outside of the classroom walls – and are brought into the school building – that impact the direction of the local and national community.   It is often not the public school teachers’ fault that there is a local or national crisis, even if it is a youth crisis.  But since we are with many of our nation’s children for seven hours a day…scapegoat.

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How can public school educators go about obtaining a different mascot?  I think the first and very crucial step to dismissing myths and building confidence in our public school system is by doing one of the things I enjoy most about teaching – serving the community.

Why should teachers serve the community outside classroom walls?  For the following reasons:

  1. Modeling Citizenship – serving the community outside of the classroom walls is a great example of modeling citizenship to students.  Oftentimes teachers can involve students in community service projects.
  2. Building Relationships – serving the community enables me to build healthy relationships with great individuals and local businesses and organizations.  These relationships can often lead to amazing collaborative efforts, too.
  3. Creating Transparency – unless someone is a parent of a student, rumors and media are what build many people’s perceptions of the local school.  Serving the community allows those who may not see you in any other circumstance observe who you really are and what you are all about.  It enables an educator to tear down negative misconceptions and build up positive community impressions.

I recently held a workshop this summer on exploring the rocky shore at a fantastic local bookstore called MainStreet BookEnds of Warner.  I was able to model good citizenship, build stronger relationships with both the store and those who attended (thanks Live Wire Daycare and Preschool!), and play a small part in giving the public a look at what our school district is all about.

If you’re wondering how you and your school can serve the local community, below are some examples from the school I am proud to a part of…but the most important thing is to serve your community in the unique ways you are equipped to do so, and in ways your community could use some assistance.

Consider…

  • saving items like apple cores from school lunches and giving them to local farms for their animals.
  • having annual food and clothing drives around the holidays to feed and clothe those in need.
  • collaborating with a local farm stand and have students learn how to grow a garden while helping out the business.
  • holding an annual snack shop and have students choose a charity to donate all the proceeds.
  • conducting poetry readings or art shows at the local library and open it to the public.
  • teaching workshops on specific content you are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about.
  •  reading to students and other youth at the local bookstore or library.
Collaboration

Dear Teacher (on the first day of school)

School starts today for students in the Kearsarge Regional School District in New Hampshire.  For many around the country school has either begun or will begin soon.  The following is a letter that could have been written by millions across the country to their educators:

Dear Teacher,

My feelings are all mixed up inside.
I’m somewhat excited yet want to hide
From what might happen at school today –
How can you scare my fears away?

The clothes I paid for this summer are good
And the backpack I purchased does what it should.
I bought extra supplies if there is a need –
Hopefully these will help to succeed.

Friendships are forming and they may last.
Last year’s bumps are a thing of the past.
But can you assure me you will do your best
To turn mistakes into success?

When small or big triumphs come into view
Will you celebrate what I needed you to?
When struggles or victories come about
Will you withhold it from me or share it out?

So much is in the news these days –
Bullying, shootings, testing for grades…
I need you to keep the school safe from harm
And know what to do if there is alarm.

School used to be listening, sitting, and such
And memorization (but not speaking so much).
Discovery, creations, and sharing worldviews –
Can you make this a part of learning, too?

Dear teacher…my son starts school today.
I need you to treat him in a special way
Because he’s the world – everything to me –
And you are responsible for him, you see.

You are his mentor and he is my heart.
Your job is to help him understand he is smart.
Please help him to know how to grow and grow others –
We can help him the most if we help one another.

Rocky Shore CurriculumSabbatical

Time to Create and Illustrate

BPI_Hyperion_PS_Crab

If you’re going to make a book, you need a talented illustrator to make great pictures to go with it.  The PERFECT illustrator for the free rocky shore ecosystem curriculum I am creating for educators is on the job – Adam Kelley.

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The sea stars really aligned when I found out about Adam.  I contacted a publishing company in New Hampshire a couple of years ago to see if they would be willing to help me make the curriculum.  They quickly recommended Adam as an illustrator who would be a good fit for the project, and is he ever!  Despite my choice to go with a different publisher (Hobblebush Design), Adam readily agreed to continue to collaborate on this project.

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Adam describes his three passions on his website as being “science, art and education.”  He has taken his passions and talent and worked with SEVERAL incredible institutions – the Georgia Aquarium, the Connecticut Science Center, the Smithsonian, the Perot Museum, the Franklin Institute, McGraw-Hill and more!

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The best thing about Adam, however, is his character.  I’ll be honest with you – I was quite nervous meeting him for the first time.  I figured an accomplished illustrator like Adam might have an air about him which suggested my project and I were beneath him.  Was I ever wrong!  Adam is not only enthusiastic about this project, he is one incredibly kind and down-to-earth guy who loves his family, his work, and nature.

As you may have guessed, I am extremely thankful for Adam, his abilities, and his willingness to work on this project.  He is going to be creating an amazing cover page and spot illustrations for the rocky shore curriculum.  Stay tuned as I will be providing more updates on our collaboration in the near future.

Adam’s Website: http://adamjamescp.com/

 

all illustrations above by Adam Kelley

Elementary Science

My Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical Project: Advocating for Improved Elementary Science Education

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There are Band-Aid wrappers EVERYWHERE.  Why?  I have seven children, and most obtain minor scrapes on a regular basis and do not have the patience to wait for their parents to assist their needs.  So when a scraped knee or rug-burned elbow occurs most of my children get their own adhesive bandages, but unfortunately leave those pairs of silky white wrappers behind.  So what’s the problem besides a little mess?  Being independent and resolving problems on your own is a good thing, right?

The reason I applied for the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical is because I am concerned that as educators trying to improve science instruction, we are leaving behind Band-Aid wrappers all over the place.  You see, a Band-Aid alone does not heal a wound – or solve a problem.  If my wife and I want to ensure that our child’s boo-boo is completely taken care of, the cut needs to be washed, treated with antibacterial ointment, and then covered with a bandage.

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Do not get me wrong – public education in New Hampshire is often rated as one of the top ten in our country.  Still, when looking closely at our New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) data, our students’ performance in fourth, eighth and eleventh grade in the last eight years has been stagnant.  And if you look even closer, the area of science our students are performing the lowest in is inquiry.  So, in a profession that uses data to make the appropriate adjustments to ensure academic success, we must act on these frozen stats, particularly at the elementary level.

Just as there are three steps I need to take to help my children’s cuts heal, I believe there are also three crucial steps that need to occur for New Hampshire’s stagnant science performance to be remedied:

  • Increased science training at the collegiate level
  • Increased professional development opportunities for current teachers
  • Increased science curriculum made available to teachers

More training at the collegiate level is needed so our student teachers are better prepared to teach science when they begin their career.  Educators and school administrators need to find more ways to weave science into their professional development opportunities for the sake of improving science instruction for their students.  Educators and administrators need to be creative in finding quality yet affordable curriculum for their classrooms, or diligent and productive in creating their own.

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My goal with this incredible opportunity of receiving the Christa McAuliffe Sabbatical is to help colleges and public schools focus even more on the connection they have with each other in providing quality science education to New Hampshire students.  By providing seminars and mentoring for college students, various collaborative opportunities for elementary schools, and creating a free, quality ecosystem curriculum, my hope is that this project will be a small yet effective step toward increasing our elementary students’ experiences and successes with science.