Make an Online Course, Not an Obstacle Course: Lessons in Teacher Clarity from Rockstar Teachers

Image from Pixabay Last spring, educators received some feedback from parents: navigating distance learning was too complicated. Way too complicated. So complicated that many parents declared their families “done with distance learning” months before the school year ended. Now it’s July, and the national argument raging over whether to open public schools (which is actually silly – school is opening no matter what; the question is whether schools will provide face-to-face, hybrid, or distance instruction) is drowning out any productive conversations we might be having. Like, for example, how to respond to the aforementioned feedback. Next fall, when my 6th through 12th grade students come to school (and yes, logging in to an online class is still going to school), I want them to know exactly what to do. I want them to be able to come to school without having to stop and ask a parent, sibling, or tutor for directions. I want them to show up, eager to be back with their peers

Social Emotional Distance Learning

If you're a teacher like me, you're already going a little bonkers from kid withdrawal. How can we nurture that connection - that spark - that makes learning and teaching so compelling and rewarding - when we're only communicating within the abstract realm of digital - or analog - correspondence? Here are a few of the prompts my colleagues and I are posting to connect with our Crews at Open World Learning Community (OWL). Reading my kids' responses has been my CPR, my Comedy Central, and my calming breath. To all my colleagues out there, be strong, be brave, and be there for your kids, in silliness and in sweetness. Share a Link : Post a link to a website, online game, or video stream that you’ve been visiting while you’re at home & say why you like it. 20 Questions : Think of an animal, plant, food, household object, job, well-known person, or famous place. Post a discussion reply saying, "I'm thinking of a..." and then say the category. F
If you are stuck at home and want to do science, how about a nature journal? Kids of all ages can record outdoor observations, sharpening their science math, artistic, and literacy skills. I created these printable nature journals for PK-12 students . Kids can write on loose papers, or stick their journals into a notebook where they can write calculations and draw plants and animals. The youngest learners start out by circling the weather they see on their walk. For kindergarteners through second graders, there are spaces to write the temperature and to draw the sky conditions. Kids can also check a box identifying wind conditions. In third grade, students get to practice converting temperature from Fahrenheit to Celsius. The formula might be too advanced for younger kids; an online calculator is linked in the journal, along with sites explaining more scientific terms for describing sky and wind conditions. Third- through fifth-graders also have space for noting signs of life –

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and … Slurp!

My new book, Awesome Kitchen Science Experiments , opens with an investigation in which kids compare two different methods for putting bubbles into lemonade. The experiment helps kids tell the difference between chemical and physical change – and at least one of the methods produces a delicious drink. I had a blast sharing this experiment at a summer teacher meeting. At first, my colleagues looked terrified of the bubbling, smoking brew – but after a few minutes, everyone dug into this delicious drink. If you want to try the experiment but aren’t sure how to find dry ice, do an Internet search for “dry ice near me.” Some CostCo stores carry it, and there’s a dry ice supplier in most metro areas.

Cabin fever? Make a fruit rainbow with your kids.

Cabin fever? Make a fruit rainbow with your kids. A certain number of days into winter, it can be hard to break my kids free of their macaroni-and-cheese/Netflix daze. My family’s magic cure for cabin fever doldrums? Pomegranates. Pomegranates are strange, beautiful, sweet, juicy, complicated fruits that take forever to open up and eat. A perfect provocation for bored kids. Winter time can seem like a barren wasteland when it comes to colorful fruits and vegetables, but it’s not. Try brainstorming a rainbow of foods with your kids, and then eat one a week. You can track the colors you’ve consumed by making a little bit of home-dyed artwork for each food. Keep a small bowl of pomegranate (or orange, or blueberry) juice set aside until after snack time. Your kids can dip a small square of white tissue paper into the juice to dye it. Crumple up the dried tissue paper squares and glue them onto a larger piece of paper or cardstock to make a rainbow. Here are some more

Teachers Need Soup

Teachers, you need soup. Good soup. Immune-system-bolstering soup. Vitamin-rich, high-protein, thick-with-veggies, bounce-back-from-long-days soup. Homemade soup. If you think you’re too busy to make soup during the school year, think again. This over-scheduled, corner-cutting working mom makes a vat of soup every Sunday afternoon (and lives off of it all week long). First, one caveat: quick soup is still slower than boxed pasta or a frozen meal. You soup will be ready about an hour after you start cooking it. Fortunately, you can grade papers for most of the soup’s cooking time. Second, please don’t expect gourmet soup. I’m an over-scheduled, corner-cutting working mom. This is survival soup, people. If you want foodie soup, come see me over winter break. Third, all soup is pretty much the same. Soup recipes follow a similar 3-step template. There are many delicious permutations – this one is really simple and will perk your immune system right up. WINTER ROOT V

The Joy of Giving Back: Citizen Science

If you’re a science teacher, you might find it difficult to cross a crowded room without hearing the words, “Have you heard of this citizen science project, eBird / Be a Martian / Air Quality Treks /etc.?” A science teacher looking for a service learning project is spoiled for choice these days. Our students can dial into global databases on almost any topic, supporting professional scientists brave enough to crowdsource data collection or analysis. I’m all for it. Examples from My Classroom My 7th grade students recently followed the lead of Belwin Conservancy’ s intrepid director by planting 50 Red Emperor tulips for Journey North’s climate tracking Tulip Test Garden program. My biology students removed invasive species and gathered prairie seeds at local parks this fall, in cahoots with an array of local partners. After the seeds complete their “winter” in the staff break room fridge, we’ll grow them in the greenhouse and plant them in park restoration projects this spring