Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Solar Bi-plane

My 6th graders have to learn about different types of energy, and are fascinated by solar energy.  Conveniently, the awesome Hobby Lobby coupon I had awhile back was used to buy a solar bi-plane to paint, construct, and fly using solar energy at a large discount.  I only have 8 6th graders and 7 of them are boys, so both model vehicles and flying airplanes are right up their alley. 

We reviewed solar energy and talked about solar panels.  I pulled out the plane, and they were absolutely thrilled. 

Here's the journey.  Sidenote- they ended up deciding to paint after they finished construction so the pieces would fit together better and then ultimately decided not to paint it because they deduced that they'd be able to spend more time flying it outside if they didn't have to wait for it to dry.

The kit

separating pieces

Construction phase

Adding on the solar panel and motor
The solar panel

Everybody's trying to figure out how to open the impossible paint.

Almost all put together
Missing the wings
Call in the teacher for fine-tuned adjustments

My conclusions: This was a great review.  We all loved it.  This is great for small classes or for enrichment/ homeschooling in a non-public school setting.  If it weren't so expensive, it could be a good small group project as well...maybe throw in some competition for highest flying, longest flying, best trick, etc.  It's actually a little similar to a glider construction kit I was trained in last fall, but those are launched and powered only by rubberbands and are much less standards related.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


So, yesterday was a manic Monday for sure.  We had 17 days left of school this year (but who's counting? :) )  We were starting ELA MAP testing.  No pressure.  No chaos.  Ha!  I was doing morning duty in the gym and the custodian comes flying in to tell me something I'd never heard before......

"Boo, you can't go in your room at all today.  You've got fleas real bad.  When I went in there to empty the trash, they was jumping all over my legs." 

So, immediate panic and crisis management Ms. G. mode kick in.

Step 1: DEFINITELY DON'T let ANY of the kids know. 

Step 2: Beg for permission to at least get my teaching bag and laptop out of my room.

Step 3: Scramble like crazy to find a room to have class in for the day and tell my team members where I'll be so they know where to bring my students/ meet me.

Step 4: Pretend to students we're going on an adventure to the library (which has no board of any sort and some books, but no science materials.)

Step 5: Wing a lesson plan on the spot with no resources.  In my case, this was not too bad because my 3 sections of 8th grade were watching part of a video about bridge design anyway (NOVA's Super Bridge-- awesome video!).  Luckily, this held their interest for the entire period.  So, instead of using my computer and projector, I stole the TV and DVD player from a high school teacher, told them I needed it more and I'd bring them coffee tomorrow, and played it up like a big treat for the kids.  They were oblivious.

Step 6: Praise the gods of blogging that I had recently read about the Mega Disasters videos on Amazon available for about 10 bucks and bought them.  They'd come in over the weekend and I just happened to throw them into my teaching bag to take to school in case of emergency.  Good foresight, eh?

Step 7: Itch like a paranoid freak all day.  Obviously, if they were that big of a problem on Monday, they'd been around since the week before.

Step 8: Send up thankful prayers when the bug man came to spray and that by midnight, my room hopefully wouldn't be 1) flea infested and 2) full of toxic fumes.

Step 9:  Google flea treatment for homes since I've never ever had to deal with this.  Go straight to the store and buy proposed remedies (yes, more than 1! I don't want fleas!!!), then head home to bathe animals and treat house for fleas.

And this is what you get:

I never knew cats shake.  His first bath, but their fur is SO nice and soft and fluffy now.

Sad, patchy little girl.

big, fat Gareth doesn't look so big. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Survival Guide

It's almost the end of the school year! Some districts are ending their years this week....we've still got 4 weeks of school, but regardless, everybody should be into their final month.  Our school district has been trying to make up for starting school 3 weeks late due to construction last fall, so we have had virtually no days off this year and have just been powering through.  That being said, we, and probably teachers everywhere, are getting a little tired.  We know that the light is at the end of the tunnel, but there are still mile-markers to pass before we get there.  MAP testing, EOCs, final exams, field days, final grades, last minute parent-teacher conferences, etc.

I've compiled my survival guide and decided to share it with you all.  Side note: if you have time to read, grab a good book.  I don't.

Step 1: Pray

Step 2: Remember that it's okay to indulge in comfort food in moderation.  In the case of us G.R.I.T.S., that may be a good "meat and 3."

Step 3: Take a little time to yourself and to spend time laughing with friends.

Step 4: Practice stress relief.  This may be exercise, making music, coloring, crafting, etc.

Step 5: Get in a good snuggle (and/or nap!).  This is Artie, my favorite snuggle buddy.

Step 6: Plan ahead.  You probably want to do this in more ways than just what's for dinner this week.
This craft has been the big version of my weekly menu planning.  This helps me :
A) not waste money in the grocery store because I only buy what I need
B) allows me to coupon (I only look for coupons for the pricier things I'm buying that week)
C) spend some time prepping for the meals so that I spend less time during the week cooking, which means when I come home exhausted, it's not such an ordeal to make dinner and removes the temptation of just ordering something.
D) Allows me to be healthier in my food choices and cuts down on junk eating.

Good luck everybody! We can do it!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Middle School Surgeons

We're doing standardized testing this week and in the afternoons when we're having class, I've been trying to do fun, review-ish, not too taxing and not messy activities with my classes.  I don't want to alter the testing environment of my room or end one of our short classes in the middle of something that I have to take down and put away before the morning.

Yesterday, my 7th graders got to become surgeons.  We used EdHeads, which is a website I adore for "fun days" in the classroom.  My kids LOVE talking about the human body and everything associated with how it works.  I decided since we'd briefly talked about diseases in our testing review that we'd talk a little about heart disease.  So we did.  And then, they got to be talked through a virtual aortic aneurism surgery.  They LOVED it.  We can't do dissection because they are too dangerous with the dissecting tools, so this was their version of a really cool dissection -- because it was saving a human's life!

The program is really neat- a day in the life of a new surgical resident.  One of the boys "scrubbed in" as they're told to do and most definitely modeled something he's probably seen on Grey's Anatomy.  They consulted with an attending physician, examined the patient's test results, and ultimately performed surgery.  They also got to see pictures of what the surgery would look like on an actual person.  Here are some pictures of the excitement and enjoyment of the world's future surgeons.  Yikes!! :)

Watching the surgery from the viewing room (aka my computer)

Monday, May 7, 2012


My birthday was last week.  Since my birthday has, for all my years of memory, either been during standardized testing in K12, final exams in college, and now final exams in grad school, celebrating the advent of another year of life on the actual day of my birth is not particularly relevant to me.  I spent some time this year having girls' nights right around my birthday, worked the day of, and then spent the afternoon in the park with my dog, both at the dog park and then walking a wonderful trail we have called the Swamp Rabbit.  It was an easy day of homebound instruction with a sweet kid and was followed by a wonderful and relaxing afternoon, and a good movie night at home.  This week, I got to have girls' night with some pretty fabulous cancer survivors and their siblings that are former campers of my dear friend Jen.  Dinner and a super cheap movie plus some great company makes for a pretty fablous night.  My roommate's boyfriend talked me into going to the midnight premiere of Avengers with them yesterday, and it was definitely worth the lack of sleep.  We had a blast just wandering around in the evening at Target and other such high quality places as the grocery store.  I think it really just had to do with the company.

I've gotten some pretty awesome presents- visit, dinner from parents and grandparents, etc.

The best present by far, however, was my present from my roommate's boyfriend.
In preparation for the Avengers movie (which he dragged me to at midnight opening night), he gave me a Thor gift to use in my classroom.

Birthday present from the roomie-- a new, fabulous bag.  It is just perfect for a light day of work at school AND it has a sailboat on it, which was a symbol for my sorority in college, which I am now an advisor for.

Birthday present from the clearance section-who doesn't want a four foot unicorn to put together?

My Thor hammer and's been absolutely wonderful and SO MUCH fun to have with the kids.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Life as a Math Teacher

Eighth grade here is a combination of Earth Science and pre-physics.  The first half of the year is spent teaching the dull and unexciting (at least to most of my students) minutae of rocks and the rock cycle and geologic time.  There are highlights- we get to talk about natural disasters and I have an earthquake simulator in my classroom, which is pretty neat.  We get to talk about outer space- see my Mission Impossible Unit. :)  The last portion of the year is physical.  We talk about speed, acceleration, Newton's 3 laws, and waves.  Some of it seems pretty abstract to them, but these are some of my favorite labs of the year.  I mean, we arm wrestled to demonstrate Newton's 3 Laws, and I know that my kids will never forget that (I hope). 

 I always thought that my math teachers were a bit of a nag as far as units and showing my work went.  I generally showed my work so that I could get partial credit even if I got the answer wrong, but I just didn't see the big deal about any of it.  Why were they constantly harping on us to show our work and write in the units?

I get it now.  Having to teach these latter part of the year standards, I'm having to teach and apply a lot of math.  For a couple of weeks, the kids kept trying to tell me that it was science and not math class.  They stopped doing that pretty quickly when I kept telling them that science is all subjects.  It probably annoyed them.  The kids that are low in math really struggle, but I've been working closely with my math teacher on strategies, trying to figure out how he taught various concepts that I might approach differently, etc., and they DO seem to be catching on.  Unfortunately, karma has come back around and given me a classroom full of students like me.  Even when I model and then we do problems together, the kids don't write down the units and rarely show their work.  Regardless of whether I say "Make sure you write down your units with your answer" 1,000 times, 9 out of 10 of them aren't going to do it because they don't think it's important.  I've gotten a lot of them to show their work because I explained that I can't tell how to help them improve if they don't show their work because I won't be able to see what exactly is confusing them or where they're going wrong.  Most of them want to improve because we're in the 4th 9 weeks and they need to recover from their 3rd 9 weeks slump and finish the year with a good average.  Units, units, units.  I do the broken record thing where I repeat the same word, phrase, or sentence numerous times, generally until the kids are screaming at me that they've got it. :)  I figure hey, I'll stop when they all write it down, and the more they hear it, the more likely they are to remember it. 

Anyway- thanks to all my math teachers out there for tolerating me, being patient with me, reteaching me, and just generally helping me get to this point in my life.  Thank you to all the math teachers who are so collaborative with their teammates, and thank you to anyone that teaches cross-curricula.  It helps me out a TON.  I love cross-curricular lessons, but that's probably because science uses so many stems and so much math, and honestly, I can relate a fair bit of it to social studies through practice problems and science history.  I really appreciate it, and I get it now.  I'll always write my units.  It's ingrained in me now, especially after teaching and stressing the importance of units to my students.  We're getting there!