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Friday, November 25, 2016



iEARN

The iEARN Environmental Bridge Project is a collaborative scientific investigation into physical aspects of soil that help contribute to the quality of the soil in local school environments.

This collaborative effort, called the Earth Stewardship Project,  lends will to the development of students’ analytical problem solving abilities and to their ability to effectively communicate with peers working on similar research throughout the world. 

This project is an educational initiative that focuses upon the development of students’ cognitive abilities and skills as global citizens in the 21st century.  

World citizens from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon and the USA are sharing scientific data, experience and discussions on  investigations into the quality of local soils.  Students participating in the Earth Stewardship Project forum share outcomes, pictures and comments about their experiences.

The project stems from experimentation of four main factors that influence the quality of soil. The first factor is analysis of the percent composition of soil with respect to sand, silt and clay. These percent are determined through measurements of the thickness of striations of different substances in a soil mixture.  Another factor tested is the rate of water percolation through a mass of soil collected outside the school building. A third test is a determination of the ability of soil to hold water between particles (sand, silt and clay). Finally the density of soil mixtures are determined from analysis of percent composition and corresponding density of each substance layered within the ground.

Soil quality is a key indicator of the ability of an ecosystem to support habitats, crop production and maintain the structural integrity of a supportive environment.  During the project, students collaborate on their findings and discuss the rational for these outcomes including how soil quality might impact the process of growing food crops.

The international aspect of this project provide students with a unique challenge to test hypothesis, diagnosis and render judgement on experimental outcomes and take advantage of multiple perspectives of peers in the Middle East and across Northern Africa. Involvement in this project provide students with a tremendous opportunity to develop three types of cogitative processing abilities: conceptual, analytical and social.


Project-based science, and its proven capability to engage and intrinsically motivate student to perform, provide emphasis for life-long learning.  It strives for the highest realization of human potential. It engages deeper virtues and values such as compassion, courage, long-term commitment, resilience and perseverance. Students become inspired to perform and are more innovative and creative in their thinking.  This learning experience puts students into the “game” of solving real-world problems and they contribute to the success of meaningful outcomes.

The website for the iEARN Network is as follows:
https://iearn.org

Sunday, September 25, 2016



First one through the wall always gets bloodied, always!

There is an analogy between baseball and education in our public schools.  Here it is:
“I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall — it always gets bloody. Always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods. It’s threatening their jobs. It’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people who are holding the reins —  have their hands on the switch — they go batty … crazy.”  — Boston Red Sox owner John Henry in Moneyball.

Education in our public schools, now in the 21st century, needs to transcend into a new paradigm preparing students for challenges associated with new realities of a dynamically changing world.  I cannot stress enough that given how educators approach pedagogically the creation of learning environments for our kids, will eventually determine the economic, political and social viability of our world into this century.

The story of Billy Bean and his commitment to a new way of producing a viable baseball team has parallel analogies to teachers’ commitment to producing a viable educational experience for students in their classes. The inequity in our nations’ education system which now resembles an apartheid system of education, can be seriously upended through the creation of learning environments that produce, inquisitive and evidence-based inquiry experiences for our children.

Education in our public school is not about processing students through the education system to get them to graduate, it is about the learning process taking place for each student EVERYDAY.   Working within conceptual silos and parceling knowledge out in bits and elemental pieces is not addressing the needs of students in this century. Cross disciplinary and engaging real-world activities worth learning are central to the development of students’ cognitive abilities.

As an educator in science with over 20 plus years teaching, physics, chemistry and physical science I am not only an advocate for these new models of learning, but I bring to fruition, in my classrooms, learning experiences that are based upon students becoming deeply involved with project-based learning.

One of my projects called, The Earth Stewardship Project, provides students with opportunities to develop needed skills and abilities that successfully address challenges they face in school and in life.  I believe that an education system tailored toward the development of cognitive abilities would help students make sound judge, predict outcomes and engage in thoughtful experimentation.  Increased cognitive abilities allow students to design rational explanations of causation from observing occurrences and students work effectively in teams share their experiences, knowledge and understanding, while expressing their beliefs to an audience. 

Without opportunities to develop as a whole person and as a cognitive learner through project-based models for learning, the learning experience gets erased in short term memory and productive gains toward showing performance are lost.

Masters of the current conceptual silos (chemistry, physics and biology) continue to advocate for adherence to conventional approaches of learning, which include elemental and piece meal aspects of knowledge and understanding. Students assemble and build upon logical arguments that lead to comprehension, but the idea of usefulness and application to the bigger scheme of things always seem to fall short in these science disciplines.

A baseball metaphor illustration would show a person learning the rules and skills of the game of baseball, but never allowed to fully participate in a real game or even a scrimmage!  Without such an opportunity to play, then how does a person come to fully understand his or her level of competency? These learning experience for students become an uninspiring exercise as students are denied opportunity to perform.


My avocation for these changes in education to help our students meet 21st century challenges is often met with skepticism, consternation and disinterest. Efforts by progressive thinking educators to break the current learning mold and strike out in a manner of delivering learning experiences (project-based models of learning) that more clearly address  21st century skills and abilities continues to becoming a focal point of contention in education today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016






2106 Physical Science and Physics Curricula Design and Implementation

Pedagogy and rational for learning science.

Purpose, Policies Programs and Practices

Translating the standards from policies to school programs (curricula) and classroom practices (instruction).
Purposes: aims, goals, and rationales.
Policies: standards, benchmarks, syllabi and action plans
Programs: curriculum material, resources, differentiation
Practices: classroom instruction, fundamental level of engagement

EXPECTATIONS

Clear, comprehensive and challenging goals for student learning.
Clear and coherent curriculum and instruction that connects standards and assessments.
Implement and coordinate NGSS science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas and principles.

Performance and practice become the measure of assessments of student performance.

EDUCATIONAL FRAMEWORK

NGSS Goals and Perspectives: "Expanding and enriching the teaching and learning of science.
 When students engage in scientific practices, activities become the basis for learning about experiments, data and evidence, social discourse and argumentation, models and tools, and mathematics and for developing the ability to evaluate knowledge claims, conduct empirical investigations, and develop explanations." (Bybee, Translating the NGSS for classroom instruction p. 41)

Cognitive Abilities
The development of logical, rational and critical thinking people originates from the development of a person’s cognitive abilities and their personal attributes as loving and lovable people in society. Learning science lends well to the development of the social, analytical and decision-making cognitive abilities of each individual.

Cognitive abilities are independent of subject-based models of learning.  Cognition is an innate human quality that can be improved upon through experiencing a diversity of learning experiences, while still progressing toward achievable learning outcomes and human development.  Education goals, curriculum and classroom instruction can be tailored outside the constraints of finite subject matter and theories.  Learning outcomes that yield progressive development of cognitive abilities is a true measure of education in our schools.

Curriculum is a guide helping to facilitate learning experiences for students in schools.  Its implementation, as a means for instruction, becomes the fundamental and front line exposure for students.  It inspires and challenges them by utilizing their understanding and critical thinking to solve problems. 

Curriculum based upon subject matter provides a level of coherence in education models, but it is not the defining outcome for our students.  Growth in cognitive abilities is the focus of teachers’ pedagogy put forth in our schools.  This growth is the prime motivation behind the creation of learning experiences for our students.


This cognitive-based model for education parallels with the belief that to know science is to do science. It is not the memorization or regurgitation of fact, figures and theories, but the application of knowledge through experience that captures meaning for students.  Subject-based models for learning miss the essence of why we learn in the first place.  We learn because we believe that it is worth to know.  If an educator commits to learning through experiences then this will provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage and to be inspired.


Monday, June 27, 2016




Cognitive abilities and clear, meaningful and achievable goals.


It is important to remain viable.  What you do as a person, every day, will influence people and change lives.  There is always this moral imperative for teachers that pull at the heartstrings of everything they do and goes straight to the core of their commitment in what they do as professionals. I believe that to proceed into the future and remain viable as an educator I must create experiences, in my classroom, which will enhance students’ own viability as loving and lovable people in our society.  Online collaborative projects, inspired teamwork opportunities and access to experienced mentors are elements that can provide for a more poignant and powerful education model designed and delivered to our youth.  These new models for learning will help develop students’ cognitive abilities that can be strengthened and will endure throughout their lives.

 It eventually comes down to choice.  In education it is students that will make choices in education affecting their lives not the dictates of school officials or state mandated curriculum.  Motivation for learning is based upon interest, experience and personal goals and students will grasp upon these ideals and become makers of their own destiny given sufficient opportunities and choices in our schools to do so.  As a teacher I want to put these resources in place for my students to act. To be challenged and to investigate new outcomes.  It is critical that the focus of my effort in the classroom be directed toward creating a learning environment with enough academic scaffolding that lends sufficient support and guidance, but not so much that it diminishes student effort.  It is a delicate and sophisticated balance to achieve as students learn, but it is what is needed from our teachers in schools today.



Cognitive abilities such as making predictions, detecting causation within sequences of event, or
experimenting and rendering final judgement from the accumulation of new experiences, analysis and
collaborative work with peers are just some of the needed abilities students develop as
they learn in schools.  These skills and abilities are taught in context of
curricula opportunities designed around projects with clear, meaningful and achievable goals. The

 learning experience require the use of skills in reading, writing, performing math calculations, critical thinking about problems and solutions and proceeding in a systematic way.  These skills are instruments that are utilized by students to achieve learning outcomes. Learning is the improvement of one's cognitive processes.  One becomes increasingly apt at the acquisition and analysis of experiences to draw upon when solving problems.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

SUCCESS for both students and their teacher


Teachers work to create opportunities for students to succeed in school, while keeping in mind the needs of their students striving to become happy and productive people in our society.  Immersed in this effort is a yearning for relevancy by students and teachers that transcends subject matter, grades and testing.  Relevancy, in the science curriculum, trumps both the apathy and disengagement that students and teachers fall prey to in our schools.  Useful new knowledge and understanding adds to the cognitive abilities of students marking real progress in their ability to think better.




Providing a breath and depth of experiences for students in solving problems, modeling ideas and working collaboratively is critical as a means to mentally construct processes that achieve results. Teachers who focus upon improving the cognitive abilities of students, with less emphasis on memorizing rote subject-matter, will accelerate the learning process, while supporting a learning environment that holds merit. Emphasizing cognitive processes, analytical processes and social processes as the means by which to learn, is a new education model replacing an antiquated one. The new model fulfills the needs of students by better preparing them to function and be successful in our modern society.



It is not hard to imagine learning institutions presenting academic environments that stress exploration, experimentation and reflective thought as the collective daily practice of all students in the school building.  Students acquiring the ability to make predictions based on research, completing diagnostic interpretation of data and negotiating organized methods to achieve results is the goal in education.  This effort, put forth by teachers and their students, lends well to preparing to take on future challenging tasks with problem solving abilities that are crucial for success in the real-world.


Saturday, May 21, 2016




The Water Bottle Rocket Project

The pursuit of cognitive abilities

Each year students in my physical science classes at Streamwood High School utilize a Pitsco Water Bottle Rocket launcher to culminate a unit in physics on kinematics. Launching water bottle rockets provide great opportunities for students to apply knowledge and understanding in physics and critically assess the motion of moving objects.

Students’ critical thinking skills are tested as they take on the challenge of investigating how chosen fin designs will impact the flight performance of water bottle rockets.  This design challenge allows students to creatively influence the engineering of rockets.  It is a curriculum initiative that is not only engaging with the students both physically and emotionally, but it also positively influences their intrinsic motivation to learn.

This project allows students to develop their own brainstorm ideas, work cooperatively with fellow students to bring to fruition the testing of experimental designs and take pride in efforts put forth to solve problems.  Students are able to evaluate experimental observations, diagnose evidence in support of their hypothesis and eventually make judgement as to the superiority of one fin design over another.

I believe that a project such as the one detailed above is the means by which teachers can introduce to their students a curriculum focused upon cognitive abilities.  Students are given time to think about the process of investigation, critically assess the methodology employed in testing and keeping in mind why they are pursuing these goals that merit their efforts.

Roger Schank, Professor Emeritus and founder of the renowned Institute for the Learning Science at Northwestern University, writes in his book Teaching Minds,Intelligence can be enhanced by practicing the cognitive processes that are the basis of intelligent behavior and intelligent reasoning.”  He continues this descriptive venue by further writing,Intelligence is the ability to diagnose well, to plan well, and to be understand what causes what.  To do this one must be able to reassess one’s belief system when new evidence is presented and one must be able to explain one’s reasoning clearly to those who ask.  And, one must have a knowledge base of relevant information to draw upon.”


Twenty first century learning is about meeting and improving the mindset students bring into the classroom. Students become good at performing these cognitive processes which are life skills. The fundamental cognitive processes such as, diagnoses, causation, planning, prediction and judgement need to be mastered.  Therefore, a teacher’s mission should be to facilitate repeated opportunities in school helping students develop cognitive abilities and skills within each student and increasing their abilities to make evidence-based judgement that are supported by experimentation and validate hypotheses.  These are cognitive abilities that evolve into essential life skills.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016





A 21st Century Spring is here!

Spring is here and the end is near! Yes that is how I feel when it comes to school and getting to the finish line and wrapping this school year up.  With 70 to 80 percent of the curriculum having now been employed in the classroom, I can take a long retrospective view of what has been achieved this year and begin to rationalize the legitimacy of implementing a models-based approach to learning.

For decades, as an educator, my thinking has evolved with respect to “best practice” and the means to produce the most effective learning environment for my students. Since my inaugural day, as a certified high school teacher, I have researched and implemented progressive curricular reforms addressing the urgency to meet diverse educational needs of students.

Since the mid 1990’s, I have developed a legacy of educational initiatives reflecting advocated reform measures in science education.  Each passing decade has brought more strident approaches to learning based upon experiences that students bring with them into the classroom and acknowledging new learning models developed from research-based educational psychology.

As a new science teacher, back in the 1990’s,  my focus was upon getting the tools of learning (labs, scientific probes and conceptually-based models) into the hands of students in the science classroom. Hands-on experiences for students was the battle cry for teachers on the frontlines of science education.  Long hours were put in to the development and orchestration of science labs helping to make concepts more concrete for students. Less textbook memorization, less lecture presentations, and more hands-on experiences for students in science was the progressive way to teach science.

At the end of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st century inquiry-based models for learning science was ushered into the science curriculum.  This new emphasis in science education stressed a pedagogy of getting students more intrinsically involved with the process of doing science, asking questions and exploring outcomes in greater depth.  Inquiry-based learning defined the progressive educational initiatives put forth by science teachers across America.  National Science Foundation’s development of new standards for learning science was held up as a guidepost helping teachers bring forth learning models requiring deeper thinking and increased motivation to understand science as a process and not as merely memorized facts.  Students realized that science is both a dynamic process and an evidence-based endeavor.

Project Based Models of Learning (PBL) began to surface, with vigor, as the first decade of the new century unfolded. Citing the development and establishment of Next Generation Science Standards along with the need to educate students to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers; the focus has turned to increasing students’ ability to learn, gather and analyze information, work cooperatively and present rational evidence-based arguments regarding findings.  This is an education model that is not only cross-disciplinary, but requires the utilization of multiple talents, abilities and skills.  It is a holistic approach to achieving learning outcomes that help learners adapt and be successful when dealing with changing conditions that bring forth new challenges to deal with in their lives.

Science educators are a pragmatic lot.  We recognize the education needs of our students yet we are diligent in the development of “best practices” which are research-based and that lend well to the diversity of learning we find embedded in our classrooms.  Upon reflection, after 7 months of working to increase learning in the science classroom, I am more convinced than ever of the need to transform how students learn into problem solving ventures.  

I find that when doing projects such as optimizing engineering designs or projects related to the improving the quality of soil mediums, or projects related to understanding carbon dioxide’s contribution to the warming of the atmosphere, students show greater motivation for learning and exhibit a deeper understanding of concepts in science.

 PBL models for science education is the progressive venue that science teachers can utilize to develop effective and meaningful learning opportunities for their students, while addressing multiple challenges we now face in the classroom.  This new model for science education gives teachers a great opportunity, as professionals, to remain viable as facilitators and providers of projects for teams of students to succeed within our schools in the 21st century.