Tag Archives: classroom

😁 😂 Emoji!!! 😁 😂


In a recent post, I spoke about the importance of speaking “kid” and touched upon the idea that our students communicate in ways that can be very different from the ways in which we grew up communicating (depending on your age of course). For me, my 4th-grade teacher didn’t have an answer for me when I asked how to cite Encarta as a resource, cell phones were non-existent until I was deemed old enough to vote, and the internet made a noise when you logged on.

But times changed fast. For my younger sister, she was texting in T-9 speak (yes I’m dating myself) by 10 in her social studies class and was expected to use the internet for research by high school. Fast forward 10 more years and my 8-year-old believes every piece of technology moves by touching the screen while YouTube, Wikipedia, Musical.ly, Instagram has the answer to everything! She also believes that the best way to communicate with me when she sends me a text message is through the use of a series of emoji’s that I am supposed to magically understand. Sometimes she communicates she is 😰 😥 😪 😓 😭 , other times she is  😁 😂 😃 😄, other times, she 😇 ➡️💲🍦 ➡️  😍 ❤️ 💁.  Regardless it’s a series of pictures strung together and when I do not respond correctly to their meaning, I am usually met with a series of 😡 😡 😡 😡 😡 !!!

Continue reading 😁 😂 Emoji!!! 😁 😂

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NPS Junior Ranger – Authentic Learning inside and outside the classroom


National Parks as a classroom

downloadMore often, in my role as a consultant I hear teachers talking about context and I could not agree more.  Recently I was working with a teacher who was using 4 Square writing strategy to help her students write an informational piece of the recent wildfires in Tennessee. She was passionate about the topic but was concerned that her students would not be able to grasp the content because of a lack of context.  I offered to support in the classroom as I have traveled to the area.  It got me thinking about the ways in which we as educators can build a bridge between the classroom and the real world. One such way is our National Parks system (NPS).

The US national park system is extensive, expanding (Stonewall Inn in NYC was just designated part of the NPS) and  can feel very overwhelming.  I myself still struggle sometimes in trying to figure out what is protected under the NPS. I believe that all too often when you hear NPS you think of places like Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, and rightfully so.  The reality is The National Park System touches every state in the US and many territories. Some with vast national parks and others with National monuments, historic sites, preserves, lakeshores, seashores, rivers, trails, wilderness, parkways, and memorials.  The list is as diverse as it is long, each place providing a unique opportunity to learn and absorb something amazing at the United States.

 

And while simply just finding yourself at an NPS site will open anyone up to a world of learning.  But as a lifelong learner when I find myself in a park, I immediately think how can I make this work for kids.  Fortunately, the NPS has already thought of that with their Junior Ranger Program.

What is Junior Ranger

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At many of the places run by NPS is a program called Junior Ranger. While some may see as kitschy at first (even I was skeptical) a world of learning awaits. As an educator, what better way to tackle a learning opportunity than with a guide book that is interactive, engaging, and fun. Better still, for children who meet the requirements for their age, a badge is presented to them as a token to commemorate the learning experience and visit.
Each junior ranger book is unique to its park or park system. Often times parks along the east coast are historical in nature and the authentic learning experiences engage children in a myriad of activities. For example,

  • At Thomas Edison National Historic Park, students are provided the opportunity to talk with rangers inside Edison’s lab and ask questions.  They are able to see first hand the exact place that Edison invented the battery with the actual equipment he used. hqdefault
  • At Hopewell Furnace, students are encouraged to participate in a scavenger hunt (of sorts) that takes them all through the preserved community.  The exploration affords them the opportunity to gain deep insight into life at that time and what it meant working on an “iron plantation.”
  • At African Burial Grounds students will hear stories about the grounds, as well as complete activities that teach them the importance of symbols and artifacts and how they were used with language.

While parks in the western park of the US tend to be more geographical with the vast amount of land protected.  At these parks, the learning is often more focused on  the history of the Native People, animals, and  geography.  For example,

  • In Death Valley, students are encouraged to learn about animals that are native to the desert and how are engaged in activities on their survival in the vast geographical differences of the landscape.
  • At the Grand Canyon,  junior ranger exploration has more focus on how the canyon was formed.  Learning about the history of the canyon, animals that navigate the steep embankments, and the reasons behind the colors is also embedded in the guide books.download-1
  • At Bryce Canyon exploration is on science, nature, and geography. Students are lead through a myriad of activities on how and why the Hoodoo’s are they way they are. Then they are given a great insight into one of the canyon’s residents – Prairie Dogs!

When a park is not an option

WWhile I believe every teacher wants to get their students out of the classroom to learn, sometimes that is not always an option.  Often times, we as educators, spend hours looking for ways to engage our students but again NPS has found ways to bring the parks to the classrooms through Junior Ranger programs that can be done remotely.  Topics for these programs include;

  • The Underground Railroad – a guidebook has been designed to help students understand the history and significance of the both those who were seeking freedom from slavery and those who were helping “passengers” on their journey to freedom.
  • Archaeology –  with two different books that focus on the science of archaeology and what it has taught us about the past.
  • Paleontology – a fossil lovers dream, this book touches on everything from the smallest to the largest fossils and the science around finding and preserving them.
  • Astronomy – a guidebook which has a myriad of activities around the stars, sky and the dark sky, movement.  The guidebook helps students understand light pollution and the importance of using light responsibly.
  • Speleology (cave exploration) – a detailed dive (no pun intended!) into caves and their importance of protecting them.  The learning activities provide real insight into the what lies inside the darkness and why they are so important to ecosystems.
  • Wilderness exploration – a great way for students with no context of the wilderness to gain some.  With so many kids in cities being able to learn about the wilderness
  • Oceanography – a closer look at the oceans, the ecosystems and why they are so important to protect.
  • Traveling Clara Barton – this opportunity is great for a class to learn about the Civil War, Clara Barton, letter writing and the US postal system with just a few stamps and patience!

Junior Ranger Resources

There are a number of websites that chronicle their experiences with Junior Ranger. Below are a few that I have visited to learn about their junior ranger experiences.

Additionally, many National Parks have their programs online so you can front load before going to a site.

Web Rangers

If all that is still not enough learning to be done, the NPS has gone one step further creating WEB RANGERS!

This interactive site breaks down activities by level and interest. Web rangers is an extension of the Junior RangerImage result for web rangers program, allowing students to reach learning experiences that may not otherwise be accessible for them. Broken down into categories, web rangers is highly interactive and packed with learning.   It does require the students to have a username and password so it can remember their progress towards earning rewards but it is worth the setup.

Essentially, as educators, an entire learning experience is already created for us at a location which exists, in part to educate.

All we have to do is find our park!

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Are we targeting the “right” gender


Recently Verizon kicked off a widely publicized media campaign “targeting” girls and STEM education.  The purpose of the campaign is to encourage more girls to pursue careers in the STEM industries.

While I do believe in the importance of encouraging more girls and young women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math I can’t help wonder if the Verizon campaign’s message is doing harm as well as good.  Historically, girls do better in school than boys and while the data for career choices that Verizon puts forth is correct and there is a disconnect shouldn’t we as society be focusing on the real problem now – boys and their continually struggles with education.

Take a look at this video which highlights some of the statistics from a 2010 Newsweek article on the statistics of the current trends of boys in Education

Many argue that we as a society are focusing our education on the wrong gender.  That we are continuing to promote a myth about education and STEM while ignoring the real problem.

Shortly after Verizon released their marketing campaign NPR published this article –  The Modern American Man, Charted.

One graph in particular,

chart on education

really points out the differences in the success among girls in education over boys. And while the article does point out that girls are less likely to pursue higher degrees in STEM they are far more likely to pursue higher degrees to support their career goals. (Thank you @ronishayne for the link!)

There are two sides to every story and in this instance, and Verizon makes a compelling case in their campaign which in part is encouraging America to support young girls and be mindful of what you say to them to avoid gender biases as you can see from the  two PSA’s below;

As a woman, I would have rather seen Verizon promote education and push a campaign that would support learning  on both ends of the gender spectrum.  I think it is important girls be encouraged to play in the dirt or pick up a power drill (I have owned one since I was a teenager and my parents never told me not to get my dress dirty or put down a starfish.)  However, I think a commercial with boys being encouraged to design fashion, cook, tend to people’s needs a nurse,  or even teach would support a campaign that is working on counter-acting gender bias but in many ways creating it by only targeting one gender.