Saturday, July 9, 2011

Big Picture

In the last year at Progressive Academy, our team has been working on creating an atmosphere and culture where learning is the bottom line. Students are encouraged to find their passions and experiment with them. It has been a journey that has led us to seek out other like minded organizations and people who would like to join us in our evolution. Among these organizations, Big Picture Schools have been the most relevant and successful model (ahem, role model).

Inspiring, resourceful, organized, generous, are at the core of the people in the Big Picture organization. These past two days our team worked with Mari Ruddy to generate ideas and routines that will help organize the program that we all dream of. It was an intense workshop. Initially, we took the time to scrub away all of the possible resistance, and with our new vulnerability we moved into creating a courageous and meaningful team. The small amounts of fear, and hesitance were challenged and transformed into excitement, and determination.

We continue to get more creative and ambitious, and I am look forward to unveiling it to the students, families and staff.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I heart Vi Hart

The challenges to bring relevant and engaging lessons to the classroom are made easier with bloggers and mathematic extremes like ViHart. Today, the students engaged in creating mobius candy button strips.

One student exclaimed "how could anyone have gone this far in life without being introduced to the mobius strip. "

Monday, February 14, 2011


1. Show the first 60 seconds of the filling a water container video.

2. Ask class:
Take bets: How long will it take to fill? (record in Google document)

3. Pictures: Give out Screen shots at any time before 1 minute. Any additional minute after lowers the group's score.

4. Using Google Documents (50minutes): In Google documents or excel, and the board, groups will present how they solved the question. Share your document with

5. Score = (absolute error)*(clock reading of final screen shot – 1 minute). Lowest score wins.

6. Discussion:

Was there something special about the technique? Did the number of data points help in accuracy? Did some groups take lots of data points? Others just 2? Did anyone try it with the single screen shot? What did you assume when you decided to use just 2 or three measurements? Is that always safe to assume? (This goes back to the Daily Show snow video, which is brilliant BTW.) How many data points would you need to be more confident in your assumptions?

If we assumed the fill rate (height vs. time) is constant, then everyone should get the same answer, right? But who had more uncertainty in their measurements? Are there particular techniques which would minimize the uncertainty in measurement?

Leave it to Dan to try to get his readers to turn the most boring video ever into something more exciting! (What’s next, ?)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Information is Beautiful

Among the teaching staff there is hot debate on whether or not Wikipedia is a good source for information.

Information is Beautiful, is not only a statement, but a website. Here is where representing data gets interesting. Among the many visual representations it is reported that 2,927 people weighed in on whether or not we should write "sulfur" or "sulphur".

I trust Wikipedia (which can also read: I trust the human population who have access to computers.)

Lemonade Game

1. Students have 5 minutes to play lemonade game:

2. I am an investor, and I will pay top dollars for information leading up to the perfect recipe and price for a glass of lemonade. Students need to present to me by next class what is the perfect recipe and price point.

3. Together as a class we will generate a list of considerations. If we are going to present the plan to an investor how should we present the data?

4. The group that does the best job at convincing me, the investor, to execute their lemonade plans, will have the opportunity to win a pizza lunch. I will run the lemonade game, and follow the instructions of the students to the letter. If I reach within 1 dollar of the correct price, the winning group will have a pizza party. If I reach within 25 cents of the lemonade earnings, the whole class will get a pizza party.

5. Students have one class and two weeks till presentation.

Gimme Friction

Concepts adressed:
Tangent Lines
Angles of reflection

Lesson Plan based off of Mr.Meyer's Gimme Friction

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Future of Science Education: Here's hoping that it's not too far into the future.

I had the opportunity to attend a talk at the U of A from Francis Amara. The timing couldn't be more perfect, the talk was the week before school started, at a time when ideas are burning holes in teachers heads.

He approached the current science situation from a sincere, but firm place. He was convinced that science dollars are spent unwisely. He suggests instead of spreading out the money and offering classes mediocre science tools, like outdated microscopes and cupboards full of baking soda and pipe cleaners, the money should be localized to one building. Where, a real kick butt lab could exist, and in it, the ability to work with the best technology and equipment. Where all students from any school could access the lab from 9am to 9pm. This isn't just a dream, but a reality for the Winnipeg school system, where Dr. Amara has created just that.

He wants to bring those resources here in Edmonton, he just needs the right person to head up the program. So the seed is sewn.

I couldn't agree more with his approach and his desire to present students with the most accurate science technology and education.

This week, I was offered a small opportunity from the U of A that would steer us in the right direction.

Stefanie Vogt from Let's Talk Science writes:

My name is Stefanie Vogt. I am a PhD student at the University of Alberta, and a local coordinator of the Let's Talk Science program. Our records show that you have previously participated in the Let's Talk Science Partnership Program. We are currently starting up for the 2010/11 school year, and we would like to take this opportunity to invite you to participate in our program once again.

If you would like to participate in Let's Talk Science in 2010/11, please respond to this e-mail with the following information:
1. Grade and number of students you are teaching this year
2. Area(s) of science you would like to explore (Astronomy, Biotechnology, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Health Science, Information Technology/Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, or Psychology)
3. Whether or not you would like to be paired with the same volunteer as in previous year(s)

If you no longer wish to participate in Let's Talk Science, we would appreciate a response so that we can update our records.

Thank you for your interest in our program!

Stefanie Vogt

And I replied,

Stefanie Vogt,

Thanks for touching base with me. I am teaching grades 7-12 science and math. We have a small population of 25 students. Our school is focussing on teaching through hands on activities. Activities where the students are engaged in real science experiments. Our biggest downfall is not having enough access to experts in science fields. We want the students exposed to real science labs, and real experiments. However, this means we need a program that allows the students to visit a lab at least once a week.

I could be making a big request, but I feel the University is our best access to real science equipment and experts, who can show students how to run relevant experiments. Posters, paper resources, and science competitions are good opportunities, but what we really need is time from scientists. If there are grad students that are willing to participate, I can offer them the opportunity to make a real difference in science education and a glowing letter of reference from our school.

I am not naive, I attended Dr. Francis Amara's talk at the U of A, where he talked about the obstacles in science education. One of those obstacles being the University's already busy schedule.

We would love to obtain any access possible. Astronomy, Biotechnology, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Health Science, Information Technology/Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology are all areas that at least one student has shown genuine interest in. Our school's schedule is extremely flexible, and we are a short bus ride away.

I would be grateful if you could send any information, or contacts that could help me execute this plan. It sounds like "Let's Talk Science" could be a great place to start a real connection between learning and seeing.

Thanks for your time,
Jennifer Foster

Progressive Academy
(780) 455-8344

I know that only good things can come from this initiative. Students need the ability to practice science and investigation. This is big, really big, but well worth it.