Friday, December 30, 2016


On the Wednesday before Christmas vacation students in my second hour physical science class went online, through Adobe Connect, with teachers and students from the countries of Morocco and Tunisia in the Middle East. This experience brought home the relevance of collaboration in science and it illuminates the benefits of developing international connections in the pursuit of greater knowledge and understanding.

Rachel Manley, our facilitator with the iEARN Network helped to smooth our transition into video conferencing as we began collaborative discussions with peers from the Middle East  regarding similar experimental results  achieved when testing soils.

First experience with online video conferencing seemed magical as Streamwood High School was projected world-wide and our new friends from the Middle East expressed genuine excitement and interest. Teachers were able to share their experiences in doing similar science projects and it aroused feelings of almost giddiness having the opportunity to talk to peers that have been email correspondents before this event!

Students from Streamwood High School had the opportunity to share experiences on the project along with providing some insight into the benefits of doing this scientific endevour. We finished this exchange of ideas by wishing everyone involved a Merry Christmas and our Muslim friends were elated and wished us in kind. Memorable. A moving experience between students at Streamwood and people of Islamic culture. Powerful!

Fundamentally, the Earth Stewardship Project, as part of the iEARN Bridge Program, provides educators with a truly unique opportunity to involve students in investigative and problem solving challenges, while helping them develop their cognitive abilities to effectively communicate and collaborate with peers from across the world. This process involves students conducting inquiry into unknown areas of science and it provides the challenge to critically assess scientific findings while determining the validity of results.

I believe that the creativity and innovation that is the hallmark of scientific investigation and understanding provide students with the essential experiences and challenges to prepare for their positions in the world.  The multidisciplinary nature of these collaborative inquiry and project-based learning experience lay an educational foundation that parallels the needs for global citizenship.  

Citizens living upon our planet, today, are more united than ever before through technological advances like cells phones and with respect to the need to tackle and solve world-wide problems like climate change, providing clean drinking water and in the production of food for a planet of over 7 billion people. We must pass on these learning opportunities to our students so they too can weigh in on solutions to these challenges and show the resilience to bring about real change in the world that they live in.

Friday, November 25, 2016


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:

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


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.


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.  

Friday, March 11, 2016


The Physics Science Classroom

innovation, creativity and inspiration


Since Monday my physics students have begun working on a new engineering design project that will culminate in independent research, new experimental methodologies and group presentations of their results among peers.
This learning opportunity, for physics students, provides the venue by which they can utilize their knowledge and understanding to solve real-world problems.  The open-ended format of this challenge allows students to innovate and be creative in their approach to tackling problems and offering solutions.
The Pitsco Torsion and Trebuchet Catapult kits help to provide the context for this investigative process.  Students apply concepts that they have learned with respect to motion, force and energy and fashion relationships expressed within factors that contribute to the dynamics of motion.  The ultimate challenge for students is to maximize the performance of their catapult with respect to clearly defined parameters.
Students are given a free-hand in what they plan to investigate, how the investigation will be performed, what factor will be tested and how will the data be assessed.  It is a time for students to clearly express deep understanding of the physics that they have learned and to develop the abilities to fully express themselves as competent scientific investigators.
A few other teams of students are researching wind turbine blades that will be attached to Pitsco Wind Turbines that are constructed in class.  Energy conservation in the residential home is another line of research that some teams are pursing.  This is a time for students to put to the test their abilities and to embrace the relevance and rigor of the scientific process.
In this project I am stressing quality over quantity and I have high hopes in witnessing substantial growth in their abilities to produce quality research and to present their findings at a high level of proficiency.  :)

                                          Students determine which independent variable
                                          will be investigated to maximize performance of the catapult.

                                         Students collaborate on different aspects of the construction
                                         and planning process for this scientific investigation.

                                         Students perform pre-lab analysis of the catapult
                                          and document their experimental design methodology
                                          along with writing a hypothesis for this investigation.

                                          The Pitsco Trebuchet and Torsion Catapults
                                           are readied for testing as students finish construction
                                           and begin their investigation into relationships
                                            between independent variables and the resulting
                                            dependent variable outcomes.

                                            The testing has already begun for teams of students 
                                             researching and designing new wind turbine blades.

                                             Blade design is the focus of this investigation
                                              as students attempt to optimize electrical energy
                                              production from the operation of Pitsco Wind Turbines
                                              in the science classroom.

Students begin to test the independent variable
from which they constructed an experimental hypothesis.
The catapult are utilized as an experimental apparatus for the testing of mass and applied tension.

Newly constructed Pitsco catapults made ready for launch!

An electric fan is employed to create a consistent stream of air striking the wind turbine.

Wind turbine blades are fashioned out of balsa wood.

Pitsco Wind Turbines are utilized to test the performance of new wind turbine blade designs

Sunday, February 28, 2016


In Mr.  Reiva’s junior/senior physics classes, students conduct a scientific investigation into the effects of carbon dioxide gas upon the heating of the Earth’s atmosphere.  This investigation is designed to confirm the effect of increased concentration of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere and the ability of this gas to absorb and store radiant energy from the sun.

In physics class, students have learned about the transfer of energy into closed systems and also the process of transforming energy from one form to another within the system.  Students utilize their understanding of the flow of energies and quantitatively assess energy transfer mechanisms that exist with respect to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Students use newly designed and constructed experimental apparatus to help improve the efficiency of the transfer of energy from radiant energy produced by a light bulb into the kinetic energy of gaseous molecules housed in a 2 liter plastic bottles.

Time spent on brainstorming ideas for original experimental apparatus designs eventually leads to the beginning of the construction process.   Students utilize material resources from the physics science classroom and build their experimental apparatus.

The testing begins with students placing a 2 liter bottle housing an atmosphere 1800ml of air and 200 ml of liquid water.  The designed experimental apparatus helps direct radiant energy into the bottle and atmosphere with greater efficiency.

Ideas for original experimental apparatus are brought into use as quantities of air and quantities of carbon dioxide are tested for their heat absorption capability.

Teams of students, work together, will not only create an experimental procedure using their experimental apparatus, but also study the effects that carbon dioxide has upon the absorption of radiant energy.

The rate of the rise in temperature of the atmosphere within the bottle system is recorded as part of the experimental process.  The resulting data collected on temperature with respect to time will be graphed and statistically assessed to determine a relationship.

Students determine the validity of their hypothesis on the effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by critically assessing the relationship between the physical composition of gases and their ability to absorb radiant energy.  This radiant energy is stored within the system as vibrational kinetic energy of gas molecules.

Students, working on project-based scientific research, present their findings to their peers in the physics science classroom.

This team of students produced evidence of the rate of heating of carbon dioxide gas of over 100 percent greater than a similar volume of air.

These students utilized their newly designed and constructed experimental apparatus that helped to increase the efficiency of radiant energy transfer into both the air and carbon dioxide gases.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Model-Based Science Teaching
in the Science Classroom

Personal attributes qualifying me as a science teacher reflect upon my students’ attitudes toward learning science.  It is a natural cause-and-effect that spontaneously develops from my relationship with students in my classroom.  How learning is modeled in the science classroom is critical to the development of students’ perception of the world that they live in and their place in this world.

Purpose and perseverance in the science classroom stem from a teachers’ effort to provide their students with inquiry-driven learning experiences and effective modeling creating an explanatory framework in sync with human thought processes. My goal, as a science educator, is for students to not only care about what they learn, but to also work to better understand their own learning process that they experience every day of their lives.

Purpose is innate to intrinsic motivation.  It is an out crop of constructed models of learning created by teachers and producing engaged classrooms.  An engaged classroom has high attention, high commitment, an intrinsic driving force for learning and a passion to create!  Some of the most important factors that comprise Model-Based Science Teaching (MBST) are imagery to anchor ideas within a mind-set, scientific inquiry relying on rational and logical thought and the creation of products expressing learning outcomes.

Differentiation of science curriculum create models of learning giving students choice in their own learning and this lends to outcomes that are long-lasting and more meaningful.  Also, creating familiar imagery is crucial to student-developed models of the world.  Imagery including pictures, presentations, graphs and videos have a tremendous cognitive effect upon thinking and learning. Applying this with traditional reading assignments, required vocabulary and mathematical equations in science education produce powerful models by which students learn.

Inquiry in the classroom, including engineering design projects, hands-on inquiry-based science labs and virtual interactive computerized models of inquiry, are critical factors that positively contribute to the success of MBST in the science classroom.  Learning in the classroom is tied to imagery in profound ways.  It provides the means by which learning models can deliver relevancy and rigor that our children need in school as they work to become productive members of our society. A learning environment that lends not only to how people learn, but provide choice as a meaningful part of this learning process, is well-suited to the education needed in the 21st century.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Fight Boredom
Stop Random Acts of Excellence
Provide Intellectual Challenges Every day!

Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”  I believe I hear a similar chorus coming from my students in the science classroom.  For them to think and to be curious are not mutually exclusive. They long for opportunities to be able to express academic effort and achievement with some level of creativity and innovative thought.

Intellectual challenges, taxing students’ ability to perform and tied to their understanding, is fundamental to the educational opportunities provided by schools that are committed to delivering acts of excellence and increased motivation in learning.

How do you create learning experiences in the classroom for students who probe for meaning and understanding in a universe that acts upon their lives?  How is this a motivating experience for these young learners?  Get them to build cars! Get them to realize the essence of the physics of electric cars.  Show them existing and future technologies of electric cars, then let their imaginations run wild!

Students realizing and capitalizing upon their skills and abilities as problem solvers and innovators can construct and test radial new electric car designs that help them to emulate the physics impacting their lives.  To be motivated to want to know for knowing sake is what creates value within the curious minds of our students.  Engineering challenges, like the Electric Car Project within the science curriculum, plants seeds of value within creative minds and leads to students’ academic success, while building character, providing long-lasting influence and is considered relevant to their lives. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Optimal Experience

It is by no small measure to say that the most important aspect of teaching is to create a learning environment that is most conducive to students’ interests and abilities.  The goal in education is to create an optimal experience for students in the classroom that includes a sense of autonomy, exhilaration and enjoyment. 

A measure of the competency of a teacher’s pedagogy is evident by the ability to create an engaging and enjoyable balance between boredom on one hand and anxiety on the other. Performance-based engineering challenges help develop innovative learning experiences that stretch the minds of students instilling a sense of mastery, happiness and satisfaction, while delivering goal-oriented problems to solve. The challenge for teachers is to utilize their own personal talents along with classroom resources and go forth and capitalize upon the conviction that engaged students are learned students!

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “We are always getting to live, but never living.”   Education without the possibility to use what we know to solve problems and help people becomes an unfulfilled gesture. In a coordinated and systematic manner students, engaged in engineering-based projects, can unleash their skills and abilities using their knowledge and understanding to achieve performance-based results. This experience helps define a person’s character, ambition, and capability.

Engineering prototypes like a Hovercrafts, Elastic Energy Prop Racers or Catapults among a list of many similar designs, will open the doors of innovation and creativity for students.  Students develop a more personal and deeper sense of control over the outcome of their involvement in science.  Working on these prototype designs require a high level of task orientation and concentration.  The significant investment in classroom time for these projects and the benefits, realized through increased student commitment, greater sense of self-efficacy and increased academic performance, all contribute to huge dividends in learning.

Investigations into the concepts of speed, acceleration, force and energy of Hovercrafts in motion can lead to significant comprehension of scientific principles and applications into the dynamics of motion.  These scientific inquiries are the fodder for further questions and experimentation.  To apply concepts in science to real-world experience is to truly exhibit learning.  To be successful in school it is important that students have access to these types of exciting challenges and experiences.  The feedback between peers and between the teacher and students is immediate as these projects support deep personal involvement fueled by a sense of achievement of clearly stated goals and expectations.

Students made comments on their efforts to complete the project. Jessica says, “The best part was when the hovercraft actually moved!”  She also said, “Communications was built when we had to figure out how to hold everything while the glue dried and also when we figured out how to make the propeller spin.” Jordan commented on his involvement on the prototype design.  He said, “The most rewarding aspect is the improvement of force on the model.” In both cases these students reflect upon some of the challenging aspects of the project and the need to solve problems and work on solutions.  Overcomes her frustrations Bella says, “Assembling the Hovercraft was pretty interesting, though it was aggravating.”

An optimal experience in science education always provide a challenging situation for students to surmount, but at the same time it dictates the course of events. Students utilize resources and knowledge in a focused effort to solve a problem.  This is the essence of learning in the 21st century science classroom.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

                                                       HELL HAS NO FURY

The economic, political and social foundation of our country is being challenged in debates now raging across our country.  The discourse is rooted within the economic architect that defines our society. The course of change will ultimately be dictated, not by ideology, but by the laws of science, planetary boundaries and the evolution of an economic system defined more by resilience and sustainability and less by material wealth.

The simultaneous increase in world population beyond 7 billion and the rise of middle class standards of living world-wide by tens of millions of people in China and India and other third world nations have pushed demand for ecological services and resources provided by our planet Earth, each year, to nearly 1.6 Earths.  This means that to sustain our current standard of existence on this planet, human beings must have access to the regenerative ability of nearly 1.6 planets. Unfortunately we do not have 1.6 Earths to access regenerative resources from so we are destroying the future capacity of our one planet to make ends meet.  This is equivalent to accessing personal saving account money to pay current bills because income is, to say the least, lacking!  The clock is running on this deal.

The anonymous quote,” Hell has no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle” is a great characterization of the rich and corporate interests in our country and their rational for an influx of over 40 percent of all campaign dollars into the current US political process; even though this group of people represent only one-hundredth of one percent of the US population.  It is a fact that most of the economic gains achieved over the past few decades have gone to the top 1 percent of the wealthiest people in our country and only residual financial resources going into reducing poverty and supporting important middle class social programs like education, health care and infrastructure projects.

Humans are now treading upon crossing the thresholds of planetary boundaries that help to ensure our existence. Climate change, stratospheric ozone, land use change, freshwater use, biological diversity, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorous inputs to the biosphere and oceans, aerosol loading and chemical pollution all contribute to and dictate the limits of human life on our planet. Our current economic model, promoting continued economic growth and accompanying accumulation of material wealth for a more prosperous world has played out its effectiveness on a planet that can no longer sustain this mode of existence. Vested interests in the status quo contribute to current efforts to remain on this unsustainable course until an eventual and devastating collapse.

 The common economic denominator of continued growth does not square up with the reality of life on a finite planet.  To truly address the immovable physical reality of a finite planet we need to subscribe to the idea of creating a steady-state economy, one that is marked with stability, sustainability and not beholden to continual growth and expansion.

The reality we need to create is a quality of life that emanates from a living environment that produces increasing prosperity but not at the detriment of our planet.  Shared concern and shared resources become the norm as citizens devote more time to community and to taking more responsibility for the well-being of fellow citizens. If these motivations can become mainstream then the trajectory of how we live can turn toward creating sustainable communities that seek to fulfill the needs of all its citizens.