Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First Day of Summer Sleuth: Excitement and Jitters

The week of summer sleuth contained so much intensity and work, I didn't have time to write a daily log. I am finally back at home! I am able to take apart each day and write a reflection piece. Please accept my apology for all who were anxiously waiting my daily report. I hope I do not disappoint in my reflection. I have video and more pictures if that will make up for it!

The first day of the summer sleuth was a mix of nervousness and excitement. My nervousness stemmed from two different places-lack of science knowledge and working in front of a seasoned educator. My main reason for nervousness was my lack of science background. The problem the students would solve involved knowledge of science, specifically aerodynamics (planes). Most of the investigations the students will complete are science with one math investigation. Since I was responsible for conducing two of them, I was concerned I would not get the students to understand the concept. I barely understood it! Although this drove my nervousness, it also was the basis of my excitement.

The power of PBL is in the lack of knowledge of the educator. Not a lack of knowledge of subject area or learning but a lack of a solution. You are not supposed to know the answer to the problem. There is not even a right or wrong answer. You are only supposed to know how to help the students go through a process and make sure they stay on track to getting a solution. You can be an expert on certain aspects of the problem but it is so much better if you bring in experts. The most wonderful aspect about PBL is that doesn't require you to have the expert knowledge or the answer. The students figure it out and support their solutions as a team.

My second source of nervousness was working in front of a seasoned veteran. Although I have done PBL, this would be my first time to work with someone with years of experience. I also have never done this model for PBL. My main source of concern was creating the task statement at the beginning and formulating the solution at the end. I was so glad my nervousness quickly diminished once I met with my mentor in the morning. I told her my areas of concern with leading the class. I was so relieved when she agreed to lead the creation of the task statement since I was nervous about it.

My nervousness about working with a veteran turned into excitement by the end of the day. She was so helpful and geat to work with that day. She was able to pick up on things with students that I missed and I was able to do the same for her. She helped me to see the value in working with someone else. In the end, I got to work alongside another teacher who can tell me what I could do better and what I am doing well. She had such affirming words for me at the end of the day. I really thought I was going to mess up the Bernoulli's experiments. She assured me that I did really well and didn't have any suggestions for me in the area of improvement. I was glad to know I was doing a lot of things right.

The actual day went faster than I thought it would. The morning consisted of meeting the problem, creating a know/need to know list and gathering information. All 75 students in the summer sleuth program were introduced to the problem in the lecture hall through a video with John Webber, a high level official within Illinois Department of Transportation. The problem is about whether personal air vehicles would be a viable solution to Chicago's every growing traffic problem and their possible selection for the 2016 Olympics.

The students returned to their room to discuss the problem. I explained to them that when you solve a major problem, it is helpful to think about what you know and what you need to know about the problem. The students created a list of things they knew and didn't know about the problem. As expected, the know list was much shorter than the need to know. However, it was surprising that the students did actually know some things about aerodynamics and personal air vehicles. It is important that if the students do know something, to make sure we back it up with sources. After creating the list, I told the students before we can solve the problem, we have to get answers to what we need to know. Fortunately, we have four different information gathering opportunities for them to get answers to some of their pressing questions.

Students moved on to various investigations to fill in answers to their need to know questions. Students broke into four different groups to discover information about personal air vehicles (PAVs), energy in a vehicle, Chicago blue-green games and olympic events. The investigations varied from researching to actual experts. It was interesting how the PAV expert was actually not an expert at all. It was a person who agreed to share the powerpoint of the actual PAV expert. The students believed he was an expert and reminded me that it doesn't always have to be a real expert. The second expert was a mechanic who explained how a car versus a hybrid car worked. The remaining two were research items in the computer lab. I liked this idea of students branching off and coming back together to share what they learned. It creates a co-dependency in the group. The students returend from their session to get instructions for lunch.

The afternoon consisted of sharing information from the morning and investigating Bernoulli's principle. I was so glad that this portion went well. The students really got a kick out of the vacuum and garbage bag demostration. The students had not only fun but gained a lot of insight from the various experiments around the room. It was a total of 8. The only thing that went wrong was my inability to show the video on Bernoulli's on Youtube. The school's internet kept going down so I was not able to show it. I was glad the students were able to articulate the principal and finish the definition when my mentor wrote "as the spee dof a moving fluid liquid or gas increases, the presure within the fluid ____ (decreases)".

The day wrapped up with a reflection in their log. This is something I can't wait to implement in my classroom this upcoming school year. Each day the students had questions to answer in their log about what they learned that day. I know I will have students answer with the remote system but I think I will also have students write periodically as well. The first day of summer sleuth's turned out to be full of items to be implemented in my classroom.

Just as promised. Check out the pictures of the day. Sorry for no pictures with the students. I do not have their permission to publish.

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