All the time I hear….”Aren’t you so glad you have the summers off?”

Most teachers I know cringe at the question. True, there is not school in the summer, so we are not in the classroom teaching over the summer.  But show me one teacher who leaves the very last day of school and doesn’t think about  school again until the day school starts and I will show you a teacher who is not improving.

Teachers are lifelong learners. We are constantly trying to be better at our profession. The world around us is constantly changing and we have to prepare those students for the world and the jobs that they will have in 5, 10, 15 years.  In fact according to Forbes Jobs of the Future article, states that  “In two decades, your job probably won’t exist, at least not in the same form.

So where does this leave us as teachers?  We can’t just teach students what we were taught when we were in school. Doing that would only prepare our students for work in the past. And since time travel technology does not exist, at least not yet, we have to prepare these students for the future.  What will those jobs of the future look like?  We don’t really know because a large percentage of the jobs that these students will have don’t even exist yet.

Wow….how’s that for heavy?  As a teacher I have to prepare my students for jobs that don’t even exist.

So we learn and we pay attention to how the world around use. We are constantly thinking about how this applies to our content.  This summer I took at one week vacation and went to Panama City, Florida. My family and I headed to WonderWorks, a museum of sorts.  Instead of playing like everyone else, I was intrigued by how I could use the different activities, paintings, rides, in my classroom. Laying on a bed of nails?  A 360 degree bike?  Water falling up?  I spent the first half-hour documenting  and taking pictures of things that I thought were interesting so that I could remember these and find a way to bring them into my classroom.

Some I immediately shared through twitter. Others I thought about how I could recreate the activity in my classroom or use the pictures and videos that I took to use as part of my teaching.

Even on my vacation, I was constantly thinking about how everything around relates to my class and how I can incorporate this as demonstrations, lessons, even extra credit into my classroom.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the time the standard professional development time that I spend each summer taking classes and being at conferences. Many times it’s not in my city and I am traveling and spending days and weeks at a time away from my family . Other times its following people on twitter to see what is happening in the world of education, physics, and engineering.

Here is a list of some of the people I follow on twitter, which I’ve found to be a great way to get inspiration and learn more.



Other Science and Education

The first few days and weeks of school are here to lay the groundwork for the rest of the school year. By focusing the first few weeks on on that groundwork perspective, digital footprints, legacy, ownership of curriculum, student voice, and motivation and inspiration (from the professional development days by

A large die is presented to the students. The goal is that the students are to try to figure out what is on the bottom of the die.  One example of this activity is here.  I have 3 classes that I am doing this with and I will probably  change out the die used for each class.

What is the purpose of the lesson?  

The big purpose of this lesson is the change the culture of my classroom.  The students will be taking ownership of everything that we do in the classroom.

The first day (or two) students will come in and their seats will be chosen using this activity.  I imagine that this will take some time for students to figure out how to group themselves and where they will actually sit.

The die will be left at the front of the room. The students will use the iPads and whatever app they choose to write/draw what they think is on the bottom of the cube.  The goal is for the students to get up and move around the room, move the object, and learn that my classroom is going to be different than probably any classroom they’ve had in the past.

Improving on their work

After finding that this activity goes by very fast, I added another component to this.  Students give each other suggestions for improvement on their work. I do this a couple of times so that they have a variety of different types of students giving suggestions.


Think about what you did today. Yes, that’s it!

In the Following Weeks

Students will reflect on how this activity applies to science and their life.   This reflection will be created on a site that they will create for themselves, their “playground” as Garth and Mike of  Teachers for Tomorrow put it.   There is no right or wrong answer for this activity, but an exercise in learning about how the class will run.  These reflections will not be graded, as this is their first try at blogging, hence their “playground”.

Note that I never show the students the bottom of the die.  This is very typical of the scientific process, that the results are not straight forward and we have to use the data we have to predict what will happen or what is going on in something (like atoms) that we can’t possibly see.

I’ve met many great teachers and we all seem to have one area that makes us exceptional. Last year I had the opportunity to meet a great teacher, Heidi, who was really adept at working with those students who are not always so easy to work with. She had a knack for making sure that students took responsibility in her class, even if they needed a little push from her.

She shared this with me last year, and I’m now using  it for the second year and I thought I’d share it with you.

Here are the questions that the student has to fill out.

  • What is the issue?
  • What is my primary responsibility in solving this issue?
  • Do I need help from anyone else to solve this issue?  If yes, who and how can this person help me solve the issue?
  • What would be a logical consequence if this issue is not resolved?

I used google docs to create this form as it automatically recorded the students email address and date and puts all of this information in a nice spreadsheet for me and I don’t have to keep track of paper.

One of the reasons that I am so excited about being a physics and engineering teacher is that I get to be part of the introduction of science to girls.  So when I see videos like this, my first thought is “This is so f*&%#d up.”  There are so many times that as females, society tells us that we are expected to act/look/feel a certain way and this video only plays into those stereotypes. Yes…makeup and hair companies need chemists…but really? Is that the only way you think that you are going to get girls into science?

Link to video Science, It’s a Girl Thing

One of the things that I try to do in my class is to showcase all different types of scientists in the different fields that we study. This is why this past year I incorporated a physicists board in my room where I put up current scientists related to the field that we are studying, incorporating men and women and a variety of ethnic/racial backgrounds.

Here’s a great article about it. Hey Girls, You Can Make Lipstick With Science!

Related articles

It’s Friday and my classes are unusually squirmy. They know it’s one week before spring break and they are already off of school in their minds. So I decided to try something a little different based on the new common core standards that include literacy in every content area.

I gave them three articles about Lise Meitner (a nuclear physicist).

All of these articles are clearly biased about Meitner’s loss of credit for nuclear fission.

I asked the students to write a response to the article for 10 minutes. I did not give them any topic, they just needed to write their response. They were told that they would not lose points based on their opinion, but the point was to get their opinion.

Then I asked students to respond to one of the following two statements. One statement was given each class.

Women today do not have any obstacles in becoming physicists.


Women becoming physicists today have many obstacles to overcome, which is why there is such a small number of women physicists.

I received some really interesting comments on this assignment, which I will grade for completion and the six traits of writing.

I had some very interesting comments and I’ve taken some quotes from their papers and added them here.

There is still signs of sexism in the workplace, but none too drastic to prevent a woman who is capable to participate in science classes, jobs, laboratories, and research facilities.

I think that maybe some women don’t pursue the sciences because there haven’t been many famous female scientists in the past compared to men (Einstein, etc).

It will most likely be harder for them [women] to be “higher ups” in their fields, but they can still pursue a career in science

…in many parts of the world women aren’t given the same opportunity as men.

Historically more men are credited and culturally men are more commonly seen as inventors.

….culturally science isn’t seen as a female pursuit.

….but society’s look on the average scientist being male is a discouragement.

I thought that this was an interesting way to learn more about my students (50/50  male/female ration in my regular class, 10/1 in my honors class, 8/1 in my AP class)

Years and years of teaching give you lots and lots of different lesson plans and activities for your students.  Some years you may continue to use the same activities and other years, you may find a new activity to substitute, but you want to make sure you don’t lose the original activity.

So how do you make sure you don’t have to keep researching and finding information for the same activity year after year?

There’s not a lot of information out there on this. But after talking to a few teachers, I got some different ideas.

  • Three hole punch and binder
  • File organization on a network drive/harddrive/ USB key
  • A blog (like this one)

I am trying to figure out the best way that I like to organize things.  I am still many times doing double work because I am not organized like I would like to be and so I need to figure this out.