Now, if you read PF on a regular basis, you may have picked up on the fact that the environment is an important issue here.
I try and show it and make connections between our actions and the natural world, without preaching "gloom and doom" ... or the "everything is rosy, let us prance among the wildflowers" viewpoint.
So you are forgiven for thinking that this new class would not be a big deal as it's pretty obvious that FC is a tree-smoochin' greenboy.
The fact is, a new prep is a lot of work and especially so when dropped in your lap midyear. The kids will show up every day whether you are ready or not, so you had better be prepared with real lessons ... not your opinions.
My job is not to spread my views, but to teach the topic according to state standards so my kiddies can form their own views.
For instance, it is not appropriate for me to step up on my soapbox and tell them why we should be "space racing" solar technology and how ridiculous it is for a sun-drenched state like Florida to be dragging it's feet with solar energy, while seriously considering near shore oil drilling.
My job is to ignite some curiosity by sharing information, creating interesting activities, and stimulating lively debate.
So, I've rambled a bit, but if we could just return to the Environmental Science classroom for a moment ...
The kids I inherited in January were a mixed bunch with mostly low level science KSA's (knowledge, skills, and abilities).
The class had about 3 do nothing, cause trouble types who apparently got away with their behavior in the previous class, but instantly ran into the WALL with me.
They are gone now.
In their absence, the class has become this very likable group of science strugglers. One or two have higher skills and really belong in a more challenging setting, but they are a little ... now this is not going to be proper educationalese .... lazy.
When I say I inherited them in January, it was really my student teacher who inherited them with me running as his wingman to keep him out of trouble. He was big on bookwork, as new teachers who don't yet know their way often are.
His term ended back in April, so I really inherited these kids around mid April ... as far as me teaching them goes.
They have adjusted to me, their 3rd teacher of this subject, this year and we are making some progress.
Currently we are discussing alternative energy sources and global warming. It's easy to assume that because they are hip and on the internet all the time, that they know about these things.
Remember that saying, about "Never assume ..."
Only one of them could tell me the general concept behind a hybrid car like the Prius.
The greenhouse effect has something to do with heat, they told me.
No one in the class could tell me anything about how a power plant generates electricity.
So we started from scratch.
Eventually, in our discussion of alternative energy sources, we came to SOLAR ... and I remembered a solar energy kit I had received at a training years ago. For the last couple of years, it had sat quietly on a shelf as my course load was mostly over other topics.
Last week, I dusted it off and took it out to show the kids.
In the box were motors, propellers, wires, light bulbs, buzzers, and "student proof" solar cells.
We had already talked about different types of solar energy devices so they had the general picture of how a photovoltaic cell functioned.
I took them outside, (our class is at mid-day so solar intensity is intensinormous), and for a half hour I let them play and tinker with the stuff.
At first they worked as individuals, then two partnered up, then groups of three and four formed, and finally, everybody joined forces to create their solar masterpiece.
I just stood back and offered commentary and advice.
Mostly, I just stood back.
Watch the video...I wasn't even necessary, they were doing it on their own.
They were pretty stoked by the potential of what a few tiny, weak solar cells can do.
That was Friday.
When they walked in Monday, I told them to work together using whatever was in the room and our solar kit to create a model car that would run on solar power.
That is what they have been doing most of this week.
They can't wait to get here every day and the cars are beginning to take shape. It's a small class so it looks like we are going to have two cars and maybe a boat.
- There's a popsicle stick chassis group that has discovered their model might be a bit heavy ... (I told them to popsicle sticks might cause weight problems, but they decided to learn by doing ... heehee.)
- There's the top secret all girl group who I hope are successful, because I love their cohesiveness and their precautions against industrial espionage by the other group.
- I have one shopclass oriented girl, who I can tell wants to strike out on her own from the popsicle group and make a boat. I'm not sure what she's going to do, but she and I tossed around some ideas today after she showed me a drive shaft and wooden propeller she made in shop.
My goal is to let them all go for it and build what's in their heads.
Failure is an option.
I will share more on this when the big day comes and we step outside into the sun.