Teacher WebChat March 2

Charlie Lindgren: Well, I did my sunset observation, but didn't see Mercury. There was just a hint of clouds.

Eileen Bendixsen: Hi Charlie, We did "Billions and Billions" today. I think there is salt from one end of my room to the other, but the kids really were actively participating. We have the calculations to do tomorrow.

The sunset activity is the only thing I have not been able to do. I had too many projects the kids had to complete first.

Charlie Lindgren: Maybe we should have the teachers post how many grains they found in a container.

Eileen Bendixsen: Our numbers were so different it was difficult to find a common one to use. Most of them were able to come up with a plan easily, but I don't think my triple beam scales are very accurate. Usually it doesn't matter, but when you are measuring grains of salt it does.

Charlie Lindgren: Next year I'm going to use those IPS balances. They measure out to three places!

Eileen Bendixsen: They are talking about combing our two middle schools into one by Sept. 2001. The town will vote on a referendum in Sept. or Oct. We are supposed to have state of the art labs if this goes through. It should be interesting to see what happens.

Charlie Lindgren: I'll never see that! Marilyn, my favorite person! Did you see Mercury tonight?

Eileen Bendixsen: Hi Marilyn!!! How are things? Have you had a chance to start any of the activities in the Teacher's Guide?

Marilyn Wall: Hello, Charlie and Eileen--Just came online to join the chat.

First of all I want to say I loved the LFSUN Kit. I had not intended to purchase it because the cost of the Kit would be out of the "Wall" funds. Anyway, I got the Kit and I am impressed.

Eileen Bendixsen: It is impressive isn't it. I showed it to the teachers at school and they could not believe what was in it for the money. Hi David.

Marilyn Wall: I too did "Billions and Billions" today. Great minds run in the same direction. Anyway, we too have salt from one end of the room to the other. It made a wonderful point and my kids loved it. I bet they all go home and do the activity with their parents.

Charlie Lindgren: Hi David, Glad to hear from you. You sound like me three years ago!

Marilyn Wall: And students as teachers--this is the real power of hands-on science. They understand the concepts through doing and then can share it with family and often my students go down to the lower grades and act as "experts" in the field doing the "activity" with them.

David Glaser: Hi all, I did the salt activity with four classes and we got data for 6 different grams of salt. The numbers ranged from 5200to 7500 per gram, average was about 6200. Our container of salt was 737 grams, giving about 4-5 million grains per container... meaning that it would take about 50,000 salt containers to make 200 billion, which would fill my classroom with salt up to our shins!

Charlie Lindgren: The guy who designed this lesson came up with a power of ten greater than my answer! That's a different approach. We went the other way, we filled a third of the room from floor to ceiling. I like your method better!

Eileen Bendixsen: Our numbers were between 1000 and 3000. I had a couple of teams with numbers around 500, but then they realized it was for half a gram.

Thanks David! That is a great way to look at it. I'll have to use it tomorrow when we figure out how much of the room would be filled.

Charlie Lindgren: The most important thing with the lesson is the process, the answer is secondary.

Eileen Bendixsen: My kids wanted to know if anyone had actually counted the number of grains in the container.

Charlie Lindgren: Sure, there's some person in Utah who does it.

David Glaser: I agree with Charlie. I believe that my students really understood how we did the estimation, but why don't we talk about how to evaluate their understanding of it?

Charlie Lindgren: I do a histogram. We look at how many fell at each answer. Then we talk about how to decide on which answer to use. A heated debate follows based on most common answer, "my" answer, average answer.

David Glaser: We touched on that briefly. We use averages a lot in my class, so the students naturally went towards that. I did point out that all of the numbers were in the same ballpark.

Marilyn Wall: Our numbers were more like Eileen's and my kids wondered if anyone would have the patience about counting all the grams. It was a perfect teachable moment about averaging. And of course, being 4th graders we had fun making charts and bar graphs.

David Glaser:
I told my students that they should be thankful for math, because otherwise we would be counting grains everyday for two entire school years!

Eileen Bendixsen: David--how do you plan to evaluate what your students learned?

David Glaser: Eileen--I am so immersed in planning for my school's participation on March 16th and teaching the lessons that I have hardly thought about evaluation, but this is as good a time as any.

Marilyn Wall: As an extension of the constellation activity, a couple of my classroom parents are painting the inside of the old toy shed black and students will put up various constellations with those glow in the dark stars. It will be something all the classes can see.

Charlie Lindgren: Marilyn--teaching elementary school must be neat!

Marilyn Wall: We do have fun! Though VA like so many other states has adopted standards and "testing" that does not focus on process but instead focuses on trivia. There is more pressure being put on teachers not to "stray" from the VA Standards of Learning--But so far...

David Glaser: I do hope we get into talking about evaluation later, because that is a weak area in my teaching, but, I have been enjoying the constellation activity because it's something that every single student can do.

Eileen Bendixsen: I plan to start the constellation activity after we finish our calculations tomorrow. Was there anything you found helped?

Charlie Lindgren: The most important thing is not to give too many samples. If you do, that's all you get back.

David Glaser: Well, I did follow the suggestion in the lesson book and made graph paper with properly labelled axes ahead of time and I think that made things go very smoothly.

I could have been more clear about the instructions for making the constellations. The homework assignment is to color it in and write a story/myth.

Marilyn Wall: My students (4th grade) first had to be exposed to the idea/concept of "myths." My 9 year olds are just beyond fairy tales. I introduced the concept of myth by reading some Indian myths, and then each team was given one myth to retell/act out/dramatize

Charlie Lindgren: Interesting twist on the oral report--punch holes in the "stars" the student used... have them read their myth while the students view the "constellation" on the overhead.

Eileen Bendixsen: Most of my evaluation of my students comes from correcting their lab reports. When I first started teaching science only 10% of their grade was labs. A friend of mine and myself put the lab program into our school and labs now count 50%. Charlie have you done anything with this activity other than graphing and the lab report for evaluation?

Marilyn Wall: Evaluation in a formal sense is not my strong suit either. I tend to use rubrics, teacher observation, listening to their informal conversations as they work,student presentations (students as teachers), and of course their multimedia slideshows/stacks.

Charlie Lindgren: Eileen--I assume you mean the salt lab. We do it as a lab, and I correct it as a lab report. This is a never-ending saga, of how to evaluate data.

Eileen Bendixsen: Charlie--Yes I did mean the salt lab. I occasionally will give them a packet of five labs which I know can be completed in three class periods. They fill out a KWL chart and a self evaluation at the end and then I give them a test grade for the packet and individual lab grades. They like this because they can choose which lab to do and kids who have difficulty with tests can get a good test grade to raise the other scores.

Charlie Lindgren: Eileen--super idea! How long did that take to design?

Eileen Bendixsen: Actually the idea came from a problem I found with the physical science labs. I was so used to life science where the labs take a full period. I knew exactly how long to talk and fit in the lab. The physical science labs were shorter. You could carry over to the next day and you didn't have to worry about keeping dead fish or frogs.

Marilyn Wall: eeks--I see that this "message board" editorializes long messages. Didn't they know that it's teachers talking??!!

Eileen Bendixsen: Marilyn--I mentioned the problem to Rich before everyone got on. He is looking into fixing the problem if it can be fixed.

David Glaser: The typical evaluation, I guess, is to give a quiz at some point, but I would like to explore other possibilities, perhaps oral reports.

I did not present the salt activity as a lab, because I thought that would draw it out for several days and I want to move on to the Sun ASAP. You know, a very short written quiz may be a good idea, just to evaluate these few concepts about the number of salt grains, number of stars in the galaxy, their random arrangement, and the distances that separate them.

Great idea with the overhead projector!

Now, exactly what questions would I ask them on this little quiz?

Eileen Bendixsen: What about giving them a similar problem to the salt estimation and have them explain their method?

Charlie Lindgren: I'd give them data and have them defend how they would arrive at an answer.

Eileen Bendixsen: Charlie--your data idea is a good one. I've used that on tests before. I like them to see the connection between what I'm testing and what they are doing in class.

David Glaser: Well, I could ask them about estimating the number of real stars in the sky and the number of galaxies.

Marilyn Wall: Gee, I hate to say goodnight to you good folks. But right now, I still have some schoolwork to do etc. It has been great chatting and best of all.

Learning from the best. I picked up some great tips! Thanks Good night!!

Eileen Bendixsen: David--what are you working on now? Geoff will be posting something about the first broadcast shortly to give you an idea what to cover before it airs.

David Glaser: OK, I figure that I will finish the constellation activity (including the 3d models) than do the filters activity, then do some of the "Barcode of the Cosmos", and also work on the biographies.

Eileen Bendixsen: I think the filter activity would be a good one for the first broadcast. I'm sure there will be something on that. "Barcode of the Cosmos" is a basic one they should also need.

Charlie Lindgren: The biographies are always the toughest part. There is so much written material that I can't give it to everyone... one or two people in class become responsible for the person and paraphrase (from want of a better term) the biographies. I've also tried reading them aloud.

Eileen Bendixsen: How have you used the biographies before? I thought some of the ones we've seen so far would appeal to the kids and I'd like to use

David Glaser: Funny, there are at least 2 concurrent conversations! I have an idea to jigsaw the bios. Give each group one bio and they have to make a poster of their scientist and then, either by sharing and/or posting, the students will at least have some exposure to the different scientists.

Eileen Bendixsen: David--super idea!!! I've been trying to figure out what to leave with the sub during the two days I'll be out for NSTA. This sounds like it could work. The subs won't do labs and I hate leaving busy work.

Charlie Lindgren: Biographies have always been a weak point with me. We simply discussed the people and what it would be like to do what they do.

I've met Art Poland! I can give a real human description of him, especially on the day when SOHO was recovered.

Eileen Bendixsen: Yes--I remember him running down the hall to tell the scientist who was with us. I knew from the look on his face they had heard from SOHO.

David Glaser: Because of our schedule, I have seven more days of instruction before the broadcast.

Charlie Lindgren: David--it was great "meeting" you. If you have any questions don't hesitate to e-mail me. lindgren@massed.net I've gotta go. Clear Skies!

David Glaser: I'm working with a professor at Berkeley from the HESSI mission, among other things, we were helping her with her NSTA presentation.

Eileen Bendixsen: David--I have a feeling you still have a question that has not been answered, but at one point there were several strings going.

David Glaser: Other questions...I've been working really hard to increase participation among other teachers, but everyone's curriculum is chock full. A couple of social studies teachers may read some myths, but I had to track them down on the Internet.

Eileen Bendixsen: How is your sundial project coming?

David Glaser: Quite well. Our art teacher is having students do the design for the mural, and I hope to have it painted by the equinox. Wait, you were probably asking about the Native American solar calendar...

Eileen Bendixsen: Getting other teachers to participate is tough. We are in teams and discussed trying to do something with the myths. The problem is our language arts teachers have to cover an extensive curriculum with the top students and have only a period and a half a day. They really do not have time to add anything. I have been able to get the science teachers in our building to participate.

We still have a large number of teachers in our building who are not familiar or comfortable using the Internet. We've only been wired with a good number of people connected for a year. Yes, I was asking about the Native American solar calendar.

David Glaser: The organizer of the solar calendar is now trying to get grant money to pay me and the other teachers to write curricula for the project during the summer.

Our fledgling Internet access crashed last week and technical support from the district is poor. I have to be prepared for the possibility of no access before the show.

Eileen Bendixsen: Is it something you would be able to use with the students you teach? How do you plan to use it?

David Glaser: Well, I think the idea would be to take students there on field trips and also have gatherings there as special events, then, combine that with teaching about the Earth-Sun system across the curriculum for many grade levels.

David Glaser: It will be located at a popular waterfront park that many people from the community visit, so I envision a kid growing up in Berkeley being exposed in school and then visiting it with her/his family on occasional weekends.

Eileen Bendixsen: It sounds terrific David! One of the things I've liked about what is planned for LIVE FROM THE SUN is there is so much history involved. Not just how has the way we look at the Sun changed, but looking at the different cultures and myths.

David Glaser: Yes, I'm looking forward to the history part also. From my activities as an amateur astronomer, I have developed great interest and respect for our ancient ancestors.

Eileen Bendixsen: It will be great if we can get the kids to have that same feeling.

David Glaser: Yes, and that could happen, but it's also one of those things that may not have an impact on them until years later.

Eileen Bendixsen: And unfortunately we probably won't know the impact we had on them. I had a former student stop in today. He really didn't have a good family life and it was great to see he is really making something of himself. He moved away right after he was in my class and made a point of stopping in this morning when he was in the area. It makes you realize that we do reach some of these kids.

David Glaser: How do you have time to teach and be an organizer for PTK?

Eileen Bendixsen: First of all the two jobs work together. I've learned so much working for PTK that I use with my students. The week I spent at Goddard last summer was fantastic. Geoff and Erna are very considerate of the time I need for school. My own kids are older. My daughter is away at college and my son is a junior in high school glued to the upstairs computer. I like the work I do for PTK and I think it is the best project out there. I get a chance to talk to some great teachers and they in a way revive me.

David Glaser: I am finding more and more that the creative curriculum projects really compete for my time with the mundane, necessary things. For example, I have about 100 science fair posters to grade and I keep putting it off.

Eileen Bendixsen: We gave up the science fair a couple of years ago. I found too many kids bringing in animals and putting a sign on the cage or others who recycled a project from the lower grades when they were in another school. I had others who would come running in after school with a poster they had thrown together. We tried a consumer fair one year. It was a big success, but again a large portion of kids did not do a project.

David Glaser: The Science Fair at our school was initiated just when I started teaching there, and it has not been easy. I don't know whether it's worth all the work. It's certainly true that, no matter what we have done, the higher achievers benefit the most from it.

Well, I guess it's about time to stop. I have to walk the dog. The Sun just went down here in CA. Isn't that amazing! I think there are too many clouds for me to see Mercury.

Eileen Bendixsen: David--it was great you could join us. Hang in there. I think we will have more of these. I think talking things through helps.

David Glaser: Yes, thank you. I got some good ideas. Bye!