A Tale of Two Projects: Week 2 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project)

This blog entry describes what my students and I did during Week 2 of the Emerging Tech (NSF Grant) project.  The events in this blog entry took place at the same time as the events in this article.  As a pair, these describe what a PBL teacher does while running two projects in two different preps at one time.  To see accounts on earlier or later weeks of these projects, go here.


Week 2, Day 1 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



During Day 1, I was not available to work directly with the students because I was at a training related to my responsibilities as Campus Testing Coordinator.  The students started work on informal presentations on physicists who had contributed to our understanding of nuclear phenomena and quantum mechanics.  The students delivered these presentations on Day 4 of this week.

Each team was assigned a different physicist.  To start preparing students for a grant they would write several weeks later, the research questions for each physicist focused on the research of the physicist, its intellectual merit, and its broad impact.  The assigned physicists and related questions for teams 1 to 6 are shown in this linked image.  I provided them with at least 3 age-appropriate and accurate sources to research the questions to streamline their research process.


Each team was also given a template slide deck that limited teams to 3 slides per scientist (see linked template).  The template also constrained students to mostly images and very limited text on the slides.  The bulk of their responses to the research questions were hidden in the slides’ speaker notes sections.


Later on Day 1, I finalized a lesson for Day 2 of this week by analyzing test bank questions related to TEKS on nuclear phenomena and the weak nuclear force.  I found that my workshop needed to focus on types of radiation (alpha, beta, and gamma) and their relationships to nuclear forces (weak and strong) and various technology.  They also needed to introduce half-life and how to use half-life to select appropriate isotopes for different types of technology.  I designed a graphic organizer that included an embedded half-life chart and questions that asked students to interpret the chart to select isotopes for different technology applications – see Day 2 handout.


Week 2, Day 2 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



Early on Day 2, I made some minor adjustments to my visuals for the upcoming Nuclear Workshop because I needed to look up specific radioactivity values that corresponded to harmless and harmful levels of radiation and their effects.  I typically outline and draft lesson plans and related resources several days ahead of time and then refine them until the day before (or day of) the actual lesson.


Later on Day 2, I facilitated a workshop on Radioactivity with the IPE classes.  In this workshop, we introduced healthy and dangerous levels of radioactivity and used these thresholds to interpret the harmfulness (or harmlessness) of different types of radioactive technology.  We introduced the idea of half life and used specific half lives to discuss whether or not various isotopes were safe (or not) for consumer use.  We also introduced 3 types of radioactive processes (alpha, gamma, and beta) and discussed their connections to nuclear forces and technology applications.  After the workshop, students had time to answer the questions on the graphic organizer and to continue developing their presentations on nuclear / quantum physicists.


Later on Day 2, I finished grading revised reports from the previous IPE project on Rube Goldberg machines.  In this project, students built and tested Rube Goldberg devices in order to investigate conservation of energy and conservation of momentum.


Week 2, Day 3 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



Day 3 was the final work day that students had to prepare for their informal presentations on nuclear / quantum physicists.  In the warmup, we practiced using the half life chart to select the appropriate isotopes for specific technology applications.  During the warmup discussion, I was able to repeat and model correct thinking relating to interpreting the half lives of isotopes in the context of emerging technology.


While the students worked on their slides, I started contacting potential panelists in order to provide feedback to students during Week 5 of the project when students would draft their grant proposals.  I drafted a recruitment letter that summarized the project logistics and the types of support the student needed.  I linked the recruitment letter to a Google form that gathered information on volunteer panelists’ degrees, areas of expertise, and availability.  By the end of this week, this work yielded 5 panelists, a great number to support 10 student teams.  If you’d like to volunteer to be a panelists at CINGHS, click the linked form above.


Also during student work time, I ordered equipment from the UTeach department that related to an upcoming emission spectra lab.  I thought this equipment was critical to give students hands on experiences related to modern physics and to give students a break from a project featuring lots of online research and very few hands-on research activities.


My co-teacher and I prepared for presentations the following day by setting up Google Forms to gather peer grades on collaboration and oral communication.  I created a set of note sheets for capturing our teacher notes on teams’ presentations on quantum and nuclear physicists.  To prepare for our notebook grading day later that week (Friday, Day 5), we decided what assignments we would grade for that week and how many points we would assign to each assignment in each of our class’s learning outcomes (Oral Communication, Written Communication, Collaboration, Agency, Knowledge & Thinking, Engineering Content, Physics Content).


Week 2, Day 4 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



Early on Day 4, I decided to create an experimental tool to keep students in the audience of presentations more engaged.  I created a graphic organizer that students could use to take notes on other teams’ presentations.  I showed this tool to my co-teacher, Mr. Fishman, and shared a related idea: why not let presenting students’ stamp the parts of the graphic organizer related to their presentation so they could get real time feedback on how well they communicated their key points and also hold their peers accountable for taking good notes?  He was willing to try it.



The experiment was a success.  The students seemed to really enjoy stamping their peers.  Also several students insisted on making their peers improve their notes prior to stamping their papers so the level of accountability was kept high throughout the note-taking activity.  In addition to note-taking, students in the audience evaluated the presenters on their oral communication skills.  Meanwhile, my co-teacher and I took notes on their presentations relating to the rubric so we could use our notes to supplement what we would later gather from reviewing their slides and their hidden speaker notes.  Sometimes students say more than they write, so we use both our notes from what they say and what they write to evaluate their presentations and related research.


Later on Day 4, I used pivot tables to analyze data gathered via Google Form to generate peer grades relating to collaboration and oral communication.  I typed out my presentation notes in order to create a graphic organizer that summarized the key points delivered by all teams in both class periods.  I shared these notes with students the following day so they could learn from students in both periods.  See linked notes on tne left.  At the end of Week 4, the students used these notes and other notes to take an open notebook test on nuclear physics, quantum mechanics and biotechnology.


 Week 2, Day 5 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



On Day 5, we switched gears by introducing emerging (and ancient) examples of biotechnology.  We opened the class with a discussion on a Washington post article on the creation of pig-human embryonic chimeras.  After this introduction, Mr. Fishman led the class through an introductory workshop / discussion on biotechnology.  Students were so open with their opinions and prior knowledge of biotechnology that the 1-day workshop spilled over into the following day.


Week 2, Day 6-7 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF Project):



On Saturday morning, I checked the file revision histories of report documents to check which students were in danger of not meeting the final report revisions deadline.  I called the homes of all students who needed extra reminders and parental support to meet this important deadline.  Later on the day, I held online office hours to support students working on their report corrections.  While doing this, I gathered and re-formatted sample grant summaries that students would eventually analyze to learn the style of writing related to their grant proposals.  I also created a test on Nuclear Physics and generated the question sheet and bubble sheets for this test.


On Sunday, I graded the final revised versions of the students’ engineering report from the prior project (the Rube Goldberg project).  I also graded students’ presentations from earlier in the week using my presentation notes and also considering all the written texts and images on students’ slides and their speaker notes.  Using our IPE tool, the rubric chart (see linked Google Sheet), I was able to grade their presentations fairly quickly and enjoy the rest of my weekend.  The presentations were easy to grade because most of the students had done the assignment perfectly or nearly so.  I think the pre-selected articles, the specific research questions and the verbal feedback on the slides given throughout the week had really helped the students create quality products.


For more grading tricks, go here.  To continue reading  about this project, go here.


A Tale of Two Projects: Week 1 IPE Emerging Tech (NSF) Project

This blog entry is the partner entry to this story: Week 1 Algebra 2 blog entry.  During the short week between Wed, 1/18, and Fri, 1/20, we launched two projects in my main preps: the Emerging Technology (or NSF) project in Integrated Physics and Engineering and the Sports Science Video project in Algebra 2.   The events in this article occurred concurrently with the events in this article.  To get links to accounts of earlier and later phases of this project go this page: A Tale of 2+ Projects.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 1 NSF Project , 1/18

Students in IPE were greeted with this visual when they arrived in class in Day 1 of the Emerging Tech project.  The branding on this agenda slide shows the icon from the previous project with a bandaid over it.  This reinforced the warmup for the day which was a reflection on their past report scores and their plans to use report feedback to raise their scores that week.  In the IPE class, student work is graded once a week: notebooks are graded on Friday’s and major products submitted online are graded on Sundays.  Students have up to 2 weeks to revise their work: after 1 week, they can earn up to a 90% on late or resubmitted work and after 2 weeks, they can earn up to 70% on this work.  After 2 weeks, my co-teacher and I no longer accept the work.

After the students completed the report reflection warmup, we held our once-a-6-weeks Class Officer Elections.  Nominated students gave speeches to earn student votes in elections for 3 officer positions: Facilitator, Time Manager, and Grade Manager.  The facilitator goes over the daily agenda at the start of class each day.  The time manager tracks the time left in class activities and class periods and provides periodic time announcements describing the amounts of time left for activities and left in class.  The grade manager uses a weekly task completion chart to follow-up with students who did not turn in assignments.  All 3 officers support the class when I’m sick.  Subs who have taken over my classes are usually just adults on record who take attendance and watch while my 3 officers lead students through the day’s activities.  Three of my Algebra 2 officers that were elected earlier in the morning during 1st period managed to get elected in the same positions in their IPE class periods. I allowed them to run for office again because I enjoy having experienced and committed class officers.

After the officer elections, we announced teams.  The teams claimed new team tables to serve as headquarters for their new teams.  They used the visual below to set up their notebooks for the next project.

We explained to them that we were going to do a project in “Advanced” Physics and Science topics.  We explained that “advanced” in this context did not necessarily mean more difficult.   What it really means is that it involves science discovered “later” than much of the science we had studied throughout the year.  We also explained that the National Science Foundation (NSF) has a very large budget (order of billions) which it allocates to science and engineering proposals with the power to advance our understanding of science (intellectual merit) and to improve our society (broad impact).  We explained that the goal of the project was to create an NSF proposal that involves emerging technology that has intellectual merit and broad impact.  To give them an idea of some the problems they could address in their proposals, we watched a video about the NEA Grand Challenges in Engineering.


After we watched the video, students working in teams dissected the project design brief and created a chart listing their Content Knows and Need-to-Knows and their Project Logistics Knows and Need-to-Knows.  For the final activity of the day, the facilitator in each class period led a class discussion to consolidate all the students’ Knows and Need-to-Knows:

 While they shared their prior content knowledge in their Content Knows, I appreciate how the 4th Period students gave me a brief summary of what they remembered about atomic theory and what they knew of GMO’s.


Later in the day, I prepped for activities later in the week by continue to conduct research and to draft visuals and question prompts for my first workshop on Nuclear Physics for Day 3 of the project.  While reviewing the nuclear material I decided that the way to chunk the Nuclear Physics was into 2 parts.  Part 1 would focus on the strong force, energy-mass equivalence, fission, and fusion and its applications.  Part 2 would focus on radioactive decays (alpha, gamma, and beta), the weak force, the idea of half life  and applications of radioactivity.


I also prepped a Test Correction assignment because trimester exams are in 5 weeks.  In this activity, students use a key to correct their test using a colored pen or pencil different from the color they used in the test.  The color contrast helps students know what concepts they need to revisit when they study for their trimester exams.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 2 NSF Project , 1/19



On day 2 of the NSF project, students did a warmup that reviewed Laws  of Exponents.  I designed the warm-up problems to take on the same form as the energy-mass equivalence (E = mc^2) problems we would introduce the following day.  This warm-up gave us the opportunity to review laws of exponents and putting final results into scientific notation.


After the warmup, the students created their team norms and agreements and documented these in a team contract using this template.    They also set up their Google folders and shared them with their teammates.  On this day, we started the useful practice of adding the team number to the name of the Google folder.  We linked their Google folder links to the project rubric chart:


The rubric chart is our one-stop-shop for all the electronic work students submit for the project.  It also contains text from all the project rubrics (see left column) and has column boxes which we populate with yellow (partial credit) and green (full credit) stamps as each team completes parts of the rubrics in their products.  After the students set-up their team folders and team contracts, we gave them time to work on their test and report corrections to wrap up class Day 2 of the NSF project.


Later in the day, I prepared for Day 3 by finalizing my lesson outline, lesson visuals and lesson handout for Nuclear Physics (1 of 2).  To really focus the lesson, I referred back to my analysis of a test bank aligned to my target TEKS.  This analysis led me to focus my lesson on binding energy, mass defect and how these relate to fission, fusion and mass-energy equivalence.  In addition I found this great gif that illustrates the chain reaction that occurs with uranium-235:



Integrated Physics & Engineering, Day 3 NSF Project , 1/20

On Day 3, I facilitated part 1 of 2 of a workshop on Nuclear Physics.  Because our previous project had focused on conservation of energy and momentum, I integrated questions in the workshop that tied the new forces (strong forces) and new energies (binding energies) in nuclear physics to concepts we had already learned in previous projects: energy transformations, Coulomb forces, potential energy, and kinetic energy.  We learned about the role of the strong force in the stability of atomic nuclei.  We learned how to calculate the mass defect and the binding energy using E = mc^2 where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light.  We learned about fission and fusion, their connections to the strong force, and technological applications of each.


Later in the day, I graded all the Week 19 assignments in students notebooks.  I also learned how to install a TI-83 emulator unto my laptop so I could model how to do calculations with very large and very small numbers in our class set of scientific calculators.


Integrated Physics & Engineering, Week 2 Prep NSF Project , 1/20

Over the weekend, I prepared for Week 2 of the NSF project by setting up a rubric, research questions and suggested sources for presentations students would give on nuclear and quantum physicists.

A Tale of Two Projects: Week 1 Algebra 2 Sports Science Project

The first week of the 4th-six-weeks grading period was a short one at Cedars International Next Generation High School due to a school holiday on Monday, 1/16, and Benchmark testing on 1/17.  The 3 remaining days were still quite dense.  In this time, we launched two projects in my two main preps, Algebra 2 and Integrated Physics and Engineering (IPE).  This article describes the the first week of the Sports Science Project, an Algebra 2 project on Quadratic Functions.  The next article in this series will describe what happened in the first week of the Emerging Technologies (or NSF) project in IPE. To read about the prep that went into preparing for the launches of these two projects, you can read this blog article.  To read about later phases in this project, visit this page: A Tale of 2+ Projects.


 Repeated Disclaimer: If you don’t want to know about all the details in the PBL sausage, stop reading.  


Day 1, Algebra 2 Sports Science Project: LAUNCH!

On Wednesday, 1/18, we started the Algebra 2 class with a few activities to wrap up the NERFallistics project.  In that project students learned about polynomials and applied that knowledge while analyzing the trajectories of NERF gun pellets.  These wrap up activities were designed to give students time to reflect and revise their work.  To set the right tone and maintain the suspense for the new project a little longer, I used this for my opening agenda slide:

The band-aid is over the project icon for the project we were wrapping up, the NERFallistics  project.  The icon symbolized the work we were going to do to fix the boo-boos in our last project.  

In the NERF Report Reflection warmup, the students read over their report feedback, checked their report grades, and made plans with their NERF teammate to make revisions on the report.  In my classes, students always have 2 weeks to re-submit deliverables: after 1 week, they can earn up to a 90% on their resubmitted work; after 2 weeks, they can earn up to a 70% on resubmitted work, and after that, I no longer accept the work.  After they completed that reflection, I gave students time to complete a culminating activity from the last project that many teams did not have time to finish during our last class meeting.  In the Target Practice activity, students had to solve a regression equation the modeled the trajectories of their NERF guns to in order to hit a table and a small chair in the common room of our school.  One team succeeded in hitting the table and the chair shown below from distances of 10+ meters away.  They were exuberant to find that sometimes, Math really works!

After these wrap-up activities, we started off the six-weeks with our traditional once-a-six-weeks Class Officer Elections.  Every six weeks, my students in each period elect 3 class officers: a facilitator, a time manager, and a grade manager.  I learned how to integrate and train student leaders in my classes from my friend and mentor from Manor New Tech HS, Ms. Holly Davis.  The facilitator starts the the class each day by going over the class agenda with the class.  He or she does this while I take care of start of class logistics like taking attendance, refilling my coffee, etc.  The time manager keeps track of the time for the class and makes time announcements to alert students and teachers of the time left in class activities and in the class period.  The grade manager gathers student work on my grading days (each Friday) and follows up with students who need to submit work late because they missed some due dates.  The elections are both playful and quite serious.  Candidates give speeches to convince the class that they will be the most effective student at their desired roles.  

I let the students take their time with this process because I rely heavily on my class officers to do my job effectively.  I’m so used to effective time managers that I don’t know what time some of my classes end.  I’m just used to my timekeeper telling me when to wrap things up and move on to the next period.  My facilitator acts as my acting sub when I’m absent.  When I’m out, the facilitator leads the class through activities while the adult-sub-on-record takes attendance, hangs out, and watches.  Sometimes I get so far ahead in my prep that I forget what we’re about to do in class until my facilitator goes over it with the class.   My grade managers are amazing!  I may not have the best turn in rates on the original due dates, but my 1-week-late turn-in rate is awesome thanks to all the in-person / emailed reminders students receive from my grade managers when they forget to turn in work.


After class officer elections, we announced new teams and set up our notebooks for the next project.  

After setting up their table of contents for the new project, the students read over the design brief with their team and came up with at least 10 Knows and 10 Need-to-Knows for the project.  They divided these into Content (Algebra 2 related) items and Project (logistics, deadlines, etc) items.  The design brief communicated the project’s objectives, purpose, rough timeline and deliverables.  In the Sports Science project, students will gather and analyze 100-m dash data to create a sports science video that investigates the question: What separates everyday and world class athletes?  In addition to analyzing the Design Brief, we watched a sample ESPN Sport Science video featuring Lebron James.  This video provided a sample of their final product and showed them how motion data can be used to make a compelling argument.


Later that day, I prepared for Days 2 and 3 of the project by preparing a workshop and practice set on position-time graphs and by purchasing a 300-ft long tape measure.  My co-teacher, Mr. Fishman, had me download the Home Depot app so I could shop for my tape measure efficiently.  When you’re in the store, you can search for products and the app will give you the aisle and section of the store for the product along with a labeled map of the store.  It was so sweet.  I bought calculator batteries and a crazy long tape measure in record time using the app.


I sometimes joke with my friends that my Algebra 2 class is my Physics-2 class.  About half of the students in Algebra 2 are also taking my Integrated Physics and Engineering class.  Sometimes our projects in Algebra 2 are situated in Physics contexts because the math fits and I can’t resist because of my physics background.  This is why I found myself preparing an activity on Position-Time graphs for my Algebra 2 (not Physics) students.  I prepared the lesson because it was in my students’ need-to-knows and because I knew that students needed to be equipped with this knowledge to make sense of the data they were going to gather on their 100-m runs.  (On a side note, my students sometimes get confused by all the math they are learning in physics and all the physics they are learning in math; sometimes they write their notes in the wrong notebook and end up writing a weird location in their table of contents for an activity they placed in the wrong notebook.)


I also spent some time search for videos of world class athletes in 100-m races that we could analyze for our comparison cases.  It was really challenging to find the perfect video because many distances within the 100-m are not marked.  I settled for looking for videos with sideview camera angles and found one video that compiled sideview from several races.


[Spoiler alert] Later in Week 2 of the project I came up with a way to approximately analyze world class run data.  Usain Bolt’s stride length is well documented.  I was able to analyze his world record 100 meter run by using Coach my Video to find the times associated with each of his strides (exact time that one foot hit the ground) and used his average stride length to determine positions for those times.  Later in the project, I provided students with a data table of his world record run so they could analyze it and  compare his motion stats to their own run data.


Day 2, Algebra 2 Sports Science Project: Team Contracts / Explore Position-Time Graphs:

We started off Day 2 by completing a warm-up that was a pre-assessment on what students already knew or could deduce about position-time graphs:


I scanned their notebooks and the results were hit-or-miss.  A couple students did it perfectly, many more guessed several wrong, and a couple didn’t know where to start.  After the time manager let us know that the warm-up time was over, I told students I was going to break protocol and not go over the warm-up at this time.  I did this because we were about to go over position-time graphs and I reused the warm-up problems to make up half of the follow-up practice set to this activity.

After the warm-up, the student facilitator went over the agenda and then led a class discussion to come up with a compiled list of student Knows and Need-to-Knows.  Here are the students’ Content Knows and Need-to-Knows:


And here are their Project Knows and Need-to-Knows:

I had to play devil’s advocate a bit to get students to elaborate on their Content Knows.  They’re pretty good at specifically articulating  their Content Need-to-Knows and Project Knows and Need-to-Knows.  Over the course of the project, we will revisit and update their Knows and Need-to-Knows as students learn new things and develop more questions.

After the Knows and Need-to-Knows discussion the students set up their team contracts and shared project Google folders.  The students completed this Team Contract template and then placed their finished contract in a sheet protector and inside the Team Contract binder.  Over the course of the project they will revisit their contract and use the back side of it to document their Work Log goals and agreements.  While they prepared their contracts, I linked their Google folder to the Project Rubric Chart:


I’ve streamlined student turn-in processes such that their nearly all their work lives in 2 places: (1) in their notebook and (2) in shared project Google folders.  If their work is located in a project Google folder, I link the folder and its key contents to a rubric chart.  I use the rubric chart to give students yellow and green stamps on project work that relate to rubric items (see left column).  Having the links very close to the rubric makes it easy for me to assess project products against the rubric.  Later in the project, students refer to the rubric chart on work days to see which items they have earned full (green stamp) and partial (yellow stamp) credit.  

After they set-up their team contracts and team Google folder, we started an activity on Position-Time graphs.  I set up the workshop to be interactive. Throughout the workshop, I displayed a prompt on the board and had their teams discuss the prompt while I played Jeopardy music. While the music played, I overheard their discussions and looked at their proposed motion graphs.  After the music stopped, I called on the students with interesting insights and went over the correct answers.  We did this 10 times.  By the end of these cycles we had completed and thoroughly discussed a graphic organizer that showed the shapes for all the types of motion they would need in the project: stopped motion, constant velocity (positive and negative direction), increasing speed (positive and negative direction) and decreasing speed (positive and negative direction).

Also, while developing these workshop slides. I came up with a new trick to convey the alignment between state standards and workshop objectives.  I color-code the verbs (red) and noun / noun phrases (blue) in both the standards and the objectives to highlight the connections between the two.  I now do that in all my workshop objectives slides and in all my daily agenda slides.

After the workshop, students redid the warm-up problems and did a few more practice problems on motion graphs.  Nearly every students was able to do the warm-up perfectly on the first try after the workshop.

Later on Day 2, I did some big picture planning of the content scaffolding in the Sports Science project.  I looked at the standards again and ranked them from easiest to hardest and grouped them by similarity and developed an outline for a lesson sequence that would cover all the standards.  In broad strokes I decided we would start by learning several techniques to formulate quadratic equations (from easy to hard), then learn how to solve quadratic equations, and then learn how to solve systems of linear and quadratic equations.  


Day 3, Algebra 2 Sports Science Project: RUN, STUDENTS RUN!!!

Prior to class on Day 3, I prepped for an exciting Data Collection day by using spreadsheets to create a Track Marking conversion chart (meters to feet and inches):

I also created this visual to convey all the hats students would need to wear in order to ensure a safe, efficient time in the parking lot:


Also at the end of Day 3, I knew I needed to get student work for my grading day, so I created this visual:

This visual shows my Algebra 2 grade manager in the middle of his election speech.  He gave me permission to use that pic in visuals reminding students of deadlines.   [Spoiler Alert] My grade manager enjoyed this image so much, he had me put it up again in the IPE class where he also got elected into this role.


Data Collection day was a blast!  The whole class helped to prepare the track on the parking lot behind the school.  I put a student in charge of the tape measure and in charge of organizing the team effort to create the track.  The students were really smart.  They designed the track in a way that made data collection of a tricky data set really simple.  They used long lines to mark each 2-meter increment and they marked each line with the total distance from the starting line to that line:

It took them about a half hour to create the track.  Then I demonstrated how to properly videotape a run, by taping Mr. Ray while he ran.  This involves some back pedaling and some frantic, laughing and chasing while trying to aim the iPad camera in a way that the runner’s feet passing each increment line is captured throughout the 100-meter run.  It was really fun to watch students to gather data.  By some trick of Murphy’s law, nearly every team had a big height mismatch between their (very tall) runner and their (very short) camera-person.  However, the track design that my students came up with, made it possible to get excellent data even when the camera shorts were really dynamic due to the chasing that was occurring.  

Mental Note for Future Versions of this Project:  Everyone needs to wear running clothes and shoes because the photographers ended up running just as hard as the runner to get good footage.


Here’s a sample data set that came from a video that was really bumpy:

Even though they were unable to see some of the track markings (usually when the photographer transitioned from backpedaling to forward chasing), they still gathered enough data to see clear quadratic and linear regions.  Just the thing needed to learn how to solve systems of linear and quadratic equations!  Every team was able to get a good data set that made sense.  Data Collection day was a surprising success.  I was worried that the data would be too hard to get or too dirty to analyze, but everything worked out great.


At the end of Day 3, I did my routine Friday grading of notebooks. After I graded all the notebooks, I used conditional formatting on my Google spreadsheets grade book to create this visual.  I cropped out the student names for this post.  Red boxes represent missing work and green boxes represent turned-in work.  I emailed this visual (the version with the student names) to the grade manager along with a couple links to Google forms associated with a couple of these tasks.  My grade manager sent follow-up emails to students missing work and during the following week, he collected late notebooks from students on Tuesday when I decided to follow-up on some late work.  By Wednesday the chart was nearly all green except for one student who was out sick for several days.  Student Leadership Rocks!


Pre-Week 2 Prep:


Over the weekend, I prepped lessons that showed how to use Desmos to find linear and quadratic regression equations.  I also prepared a warmup that had students compare motion equations to linear and quadratic equations in order to relate motion quantities to the parameters in the standard forms of linear and quadratic equations.  I also finalized a Shell Science Lab Challenge grant in the hopes of getting more support to design more and higher quality STEM experiences like the ones we had in Week 1 of the Sports Science project.

CINGHS Week 3: September 6-9, 2016

Week 3 School-wide Events:


Week 3 featured our very first Game Night.  About a dozen students stayed after school Friday to play video games, games with foam dart guns, etc.  They enjoyed each other’s company and also pizza.  Game Nights will be a regular event occurring roughly every other Friday at CINGHS.  In addition, our school is starting an eSports club so that students can be a part of a team that plays video games competitively.


Week 3 in Algebra 2:


During Week 3, students interviewed Laura Hayden, a graphic designer who works for National Instruments, using FaceTime.  They asked Laura all of their Need-to-Knows related to logo design.  The students had many great questions about the processes graphic designers use to design effective logos.


During the week, I allowed students to use self-pacing to differentiate the class according to students’ individual needs.  Some students completed extra practice on parent functions and their properties (domain, range, axes of symmetry, asymptotes).  Students who were already comfortable with parent functions moved on early to workshops and practice sets dealing with inverse functions.


By the end of the week, the students were introduced to decision matrices so they could use this tool to select the brainstorming sketch that their team would develop into their amusement park logo.


Week 3 in Integrated Physics & Engineering (IPE):


In IPE, we continued exploring the Design Process by applying the following steps toward the design of next generation cooking devices: Define the Problem, Specify Requirements, and Identify Solutions.  The students created summary problem statements for the project (Define the Problem).  They analyzed the project design brief and rubric to create lists of project constraint and requirements (Specify Requirements).  They conducted background devices on old and current versions of their team’s cooking device (Identify Solutions).  They compared the old and current devices to identify improvements and to get ideas on new improvements that could be made to create their next generation devices.  They also created several brainstorming sketches in a Quick Draw activity.  Then they elaborated on each other’s favorite sketches in a Carousel Brainstorming activity.


Also, during Week 3, we introduced the Heat Equation and used it to analyze the required heat in several cooking scenarios.  Students voluntarily chose to attend follow-up small group workshop on the Heat Equation when they found practice problems challenging.  I like how students are starting to advocate for themselves by choosing to attend optional workshops to sharpen their skills.  At the end of the week, the students took a 3-color quiz on Heat Transfer mechanisms and the Heat Equation.  They used 3 colors to show what they were able to do with (1) their brains only, (2) with notebook assistance, and (3) with workshop assistance.  Many students were able to excel at the quiz with only 1 or 2 colors.


Week 3 in 8th Grade Math:


During Week 3 in 8th grade math, we continued to explore club data using more statistical tools.  We introduced a new spread value: mean deviation.  We practiced calculating it first on small data sets.  Then we started discussing methods for calculating it for large data sets so they would know how to analyze data sets that included the opinions of all the students in our school.  By the end of the week, the classes collaborated to create a survey that was completed by the entire student body that gathered data on students’ interests on a variety of clubs.

CINGHS Week 2: Aug 29 – Sep 2

Week 2 School-wide Events:


During Week 2, two students led our very first school tour for visitors from the Texas Charter School association.  The students presented an overview of our school culture and logistics while guiding our visitors through a tour of our school.  They did an excellent job for their first times. This was the first of MANY MORE tours that our students will lead this year and beyond.


On Monday of Week 2, our school tried out our very first Student-Directed Learning Time (SLDT) time.  During this weekly work session, students get to make their own choices on how to best use a 2-hour block of open work time.  Students got to choose from a menu of optional and mandatory 20-minute workshops in Art, ELA, Engineering, and Math.  Also during that time, students got several opportunities to attend an info session on the Games / eSports Club.  Students not attending workshops also had time to catch up on work in any of their classes while working as individuals or with their new project teams.  It was very cool to see many students using this time wisely to further their educations.


Week 2 in 8th Grade Math:


In 8th grade Math, we launched a new project, Join the Club.  In this project, students will learn about mean, median, mode, range, and mean deviation by gathering and analyzing school-wide data on students’ club interests.  One of the project’s early activities was the Graph the Class Activity.  In this activity, we practiced analyzing the interests of one period’s levels of interests in Mondays, Sports, Arts & Crafts, and Video Games.  While completing this activity, students practiced creating bar graphs and calculating mean, median, and mode.  During a class discussion on their results, my 4th period was very excited that many of their summary results equalled 3.  They claimed this was a sign of the Illuminati.  This outburst of enthusiasm showed me how willing the students are to make connections between math and things in their own lives that they find interesting.


Week 2 in Integrated Physics & Engineering (IPE):


In IPE, we launched a new project called What’s Cooking?  In this project, students will learn about the design process, thermodynamics, electrostatics and electric circuits by inventing next generation cooking devices that are battery-powered and also powered by standard US electrical outlets.  During our project launch, our newly-elected class officers got their first opportunities to lead student-led discussions.  Our facilitators led class-wide discussions aimed at generating class-wide lists of project knows and need-to-knows.  I was impressed by how well our class officers involved ALL students in the class discussions and at the amount of Content-specific information the students included in their knows and need-to-knows.


During this week, we led our first Content workshops: Intro to Engineering Design Process and Intro to Thermodynamics.  We also started our weekly Friday tradition of ZAP time (Zeroes Are not Permitted).  During this team, students checked their notebooks to make sure they had all the activity stamps in their notebooks that went with all the graded activities for Week 2.


Week 2 in Algebra 2:


In Algebra 2, we launched an Amusement Park Logo project.   In this project, students will learn about parent functions and inverse functions by using them to create and analyze an amusement park logo.  We held our first content workshop on Parent Functions.  In this workshop, we learned the parent function names and equations.  We also practiced finding the domain, range, axes of symmetry and asymptotes of parent functions.  We also learned how to represent domain and range 3 ways: inequalities, set notation and interval notation.


Toward the end of the week, we had our very first 3-color quiz on Parent Functions.  In 3 color quizzes students use 3 colors to represent 3 different sources of info: brain only, notebook and workshop.  After students had used all 3 colors, they had a visual on what they could do on their own and with the aid of resources (notebook and/or workshop).  After this activity I asked the class if they wanted me to create more parent function practice sets.  I was surprised and impressed that most of the class requested that I create extra practice sets so they could continue to develop their understandings of parent functions.

206: Why and How to Teach Science to Children?




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Summary of National Goals:
  • On Learning:
    1. Students should explore broad concepts or “big ideas” instead of isolated facts or skills.  Learning frameworks rather than facts will enable students to continue to learn and understand new ideas as they emerge in our ever changing technological society.
    2. Students should learn how to think critically, solve problems, and make decisions.  Learning these skills will prepare students to make informed decisions that impact their own lives and societies.
    3. Students should actively construct meaning from experiences with concrete materials, not be passive observers.  Students need to actively engage with phenomena to construct deep understandings.
    4. Students should learn how to apply science and technology to everyday life.  Students should learn how science is relevant to their present and future lives.
    5. Science should foster students’ natural sense of curiosity, creativity, and interest.  Teachers should leverage students’ interests to make learning more engaging.
    6. Science instruction should foster develop of scientific attitudes in students.  These attitudes include: seeking out knowledge based on evidence, questioning ideas, relying on data, accepting ambiguity, being willing to refine explanations, respecting reason, being honest, and collaborating to solving problems
  • On Curriculum:
    1. Less content should be covered – aim for depth not breadth.
    2. Science should be portrayed as interdisciplinary – should explicit connect fields of study.
    3. Students should explore the interrelationships among science, technology, and society.
  • On Teaching:
    1. The teacher acts as a guide (facilitator) of exploration, not solely as an authoritative presenter of knowledge.
    2. The content of science should be taught as a process involving investigation and answering questions.
    3. Science instruction needs to be integrated with instruction in other discipline areas.
    4. Science instruction should encourage students to challenge conceptions and debate ideas.
    5. Science instruction should build on students’ prior experiences and knowledge.
Connections between National Goals and Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  1. PBL focuses on covered less content with more depth:
    • In PBL units, students investigate authentic questions that explore central concepts over an extended period of time.
    • Students ask and modify questions, perform investigations and build artifacts over longer periods of time (weeks, sometimes months depending on the scope of the project)
  2. PBL’s driving question are important, meaningful and worthwhile to students.
    • Students learn to apply content towards real world applications
    • Students learn how to apply solutions that apply to their own lives.
  3. PBL promotes an interdisciplinary approach.
    • While creating artifacts, students may learn how to read and write more effectively in more technical genres.
    • While conducting background and experimental research, students may learn connections to other fields such as mathematics, other science course, history, etc.
  4. PBL teacher act as facilitators of exploratory experiences.
    • Teachers guide students through the processes of modifying driving questions, developing investigations, engaging in explorations, collaborating with others and creating artifacts.
  5. In PBL projects, students collaborate to solve problems and learn new content.
    • Student interact with other students and experts to construct knowledge, debate ideas, share and explore ideas.
  6. In PBL projects, teachers leverage students’ prior knowledge to guide scaffolding and assessments.
  7. Investigation is at the core of science PBL projects.  Through investigations, students learn a balance of science content and process skills.
  8. PBL units engage students and leverage students’ natural curiosity.  Students questions (need-to-knows) drive the curriculum in PBL units.
  9. PBL supports the development of scientific attitudes and habits of mind such as accepting ambiguity, being skeptical, and respecting reason.
  10. PBL stresses assessment processes that are embedded in the instructional process.  Assessments double as tools in the investigation and as evidence of student learning.
Project based learning (PBL) is deeply connected with national science goals for science teaching, learning, and curriculum.  Through PBL, students receive opportunities to learn the content, frameworks, strategies, attitudes, and habits of minds that make science an effective investigative and problem solving discipline.  Even if students do not become scientists, students can apply science knowledge, skills and attitudes to make informed decisions about their lives and their societies.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze science curriculum standards.  Look for enduring understandings and opportunities for interdisciplinary connections.
  • Design a yearlong project sequence that focuses on enduring understandings.  Where possible include projects that make natural connections to other subjects.
  • Design projects that are held together by engaging investigative driving questions.
  • Design project scaffolding that emphasizes the relationships among concepts and key process skills.
  • Design assessments that double as investigative tools and diagnostic tools that gather evidence on student learning.
  • Evaluate project designs using Summary of National Goals on teaching, learning, and curriculum.  See above.  Refine projects designs to better align to national goals.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement projects designed in preparation steps.
  • Use many formative assessments to fine tune projects and to give students specific feedback they can use to refine their understandings and products.
  • Evaluate project implementation using Summary of National Goals on teaching, learning, and curriculum.  See above.  Refine projects implementation to better align to national goals.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Collaborate with experts outside school to create more authentic learning experiences for students.
  • Design projects that enable students to use science to solve problems in their communities.



205: Using Investigative Approaches Year Round





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  1.  Follow the KISS Principle:
    • Introduce fundamental concepts for investigations in first investigative units and spiral those concepts through successive investigative units
      • Examples: text, context, and subtext – see this article for related prompts: Facilitating a Historical Investigation
      • Science connection:  Concepts that need to be spiraled through scientific investigation units are variables (independent and dependent), constants and the manipulation / measurement of these in the design of research studies
  2. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
    • Lesh recommends for 1 investigative lesson per unit
    • Focuses on the following core concepts during investigative lessons:
      • Causality
      • Chronology
      • Multiple perspectives
      • Contingency
      • Empathy
      • Change and continuity over time
      • Influence / significance / impact
      • Contrasting interpretations
      • Intent / motivations
    • Science connection – Can aim for the design or analysis of the design of at least one experiment or research study per project (in a PBL school that runs project-to-project).
      • I need to conduct more research to develop a list of core concepts for science investigation – here’s my tentative list for now
        • Testable question and hypothesis design
        • Use of variables and constants in designing experiments
        • Reproducibility
        • Model Building, Analysis, and Interpretation
        • Organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data
        • Formulating data-based conclusions
        • Connecting research to background research
        • Implications of specific research studies
  3. It All Starts with Questions
    • Make good driving questions the center of investigative units
    • Science connections
      • Ditto
      • Let driving questions and processes used to investigate these highlight the problem solving nature of science as a discipline
  4. You Will Still Be in Charge
    • Factors that promote on-task behavior:
      • reducing number, length and types of historical sources
      • varying grouping styles (full group, small group, pairs, individual)
      • periodic quick writes (short formative assessments)
      • engaging driving questions
    • Connections to coverage:
      • students tend to better remember content when they are engaged
    • Science connections
      • Factors that can promote on-task behavior:
        • introducing fundamental concepts in a gradual, structured way
        • variety of formative assessments
        • investigations that are well tied to engaging driving questions
        • investigations that address student need-to-knows
        • using resources that are student friendly
        • providing scaffolds that make resources more accessible to students
  5. Before and After Are As Important as During:
    • Make sure investigative lessons are sandwiched between lessons that support investigative objectives and that continue to be engaging to students
    • Science connections
      • Use well-designed student-centered approaches to lab-based and non lab-based lessons
    • Develop a yearlong plan that provides opportunities to teach / learn all fundamental concepts, especially those that are high stakes
    • Science connections
      • Ditto above
The tips listed above for implementing investigative approaches year round emphasize the need for good design at the macro (year long sequence) and micro (lesson plan) levels.  They emphasize that using this student-cemtered approach does not mean abandoning teacher control, but shifting the aims of teacher controls towards goals that balance content and process.  Spiraling key processes throughout the year will gradually build student skill and also help them learn the centrality / importance of these skills to the discipline.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze the course curriculum and identify fundamental concepts and processes.
  • Develop a year-long sequence of projects / units that includes time for all fundamental concepts and processes.
  • Develop a gradual sequence that spirals fundamental processes throughout the year.
  • Research and design resources that will teach students how to apply key processes towards solving problems and learning key concepts.
  • Design driving questions for each project that engage students to learn and apply content and to develop and use key processes.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement projects in year long plan that provide opportunities to learn key content and processes.
  • In all projects, use the following key elements:
    • engaging and provocative driving questions
    • variety of grouping styles
    • variety of assessments
    • scaffolding the supporting learning of key content and skills and answers key students’ need-to-knows
    • well design project sequences that mimic the problem solving sequences of discipline-specific experts
    • for more criteria for good project design and implement, see this article: 6 A’s criteria for designing projects
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use project reflections to gather student data that will improve project design over time
  • Research fundamental concepts and processes that are promoted by professional organizations and use these to supplement (provided broader context) to concepts / skills present in standards
  • Develop driving questions that are more and more authentic – involve questions and deliverables that are used by people outside the classroom.  For more ideas on this, see this article: Amping up the authenticity

204: Teaching Historical Empathy (Truman & the Korean War)





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Teaching Historical Empathy:
  • Bad Examples:
    • binding the hands and feet of students to help them feel what it felt like to be transported like slaves
    • dividing class in halves and treating one half like they are privileged and other half like they are part of a persecuted underclass
    • place students in a position to empathize with a moment, idea or person in history without examining historical evidence
  • What It is Not
    • impossible to make students have the same emotions and thoughts as historical figures
    • not being the person; not an exercise of pure imagination
  • What It is
    • attempt to use historical evidence to make sense of the way people saw things and how those viewpoints influenced their actions
    • attempt to answer question – Why did an individual or group of people act in a certain way given a set of circumstances?
    • developing appreciation that the past is very different from the present
    • judging past actors in their own historically situated context and on its terms
    • listening to voice of the past without preconceptions – let people of the past begin and end their own sentences
    • stripping away the present and immersing students in the past on its own terms
    • examining multiple sources of evidence in an attempt to understand the past in its own terms
  • With whom to empathize?
    • Working through a “structured dilemma” that requires students to work through evidence can build empathy
      • example: key presidential decisions
        • Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation
        • Jackson’s removal of the Easter tribes
        • Franklin Roosevelt and whether to bomb Auschwitz-Birkenau
        • Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis
        • Truman and Korean War decisions
  • Caveats
    • Do not let students use their imaginations to re-create historical decisions without letting them base their decisions on historical evidence available to actors at the time of the decision
Why the Korean War?
  • Conflicting Intents
    • US entered was as part of United Nations forces, did not declare war
    • Contain spread of Communism in Asia
    • Avoid World War III starting in Asia
  • Korean War & MacArthur:
    • MacArthur broke a stalemate with the successful attack of Inchon harbor on September 15, 1950
    • Recaptured Seoul Sept 28, 1950
    • As a result, US changed policy from containing Communism to the 38th parallel to it back to the Chinese border
    • Sept 2, 1950 – President Truman authorized MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel and take the battle back to the Chinese border
    • Tides of war turned against US
      • Nov 26, 1950 – 260,000 Chinese troops crossed the border and engaged UN and South Korean forces
      • Jan 1951 – UN forces pushed back across the 38th parallel with massive casualties
    • Nov 18, 1950 – US Security Council reaffirmed intent to prevent war from flaring into a global confrontation (anti-WW3 intent)
      • steeling itself for a possible other WW3 in Europe against Soviet Union
    • Apr 19, 1951 – MacArthur speech to Congress asking for a wider war
      • prior to this met with Chiang Kai-shek – to gather support of Chinese Nationalists
      • also make public comments about need to support Taiwan
      • Wanted to widen war by:
        • involving Chinese Nationalist troops to invade China
        • attacking Chinese industrial sites
    • Mar 1951 – tensions between MacArthur and Truman administration escalated when MacArthur conducted interviews in Tokyo that discussed the need to escalate the way and that criticized the Truman administration for limiting his ability to win the war
    • Apr 11, 1951 – Truman administration removed MacArthur from his position
    • May 1851 – MacArthur returned home to a victory parade
    • Apr 19, 1951 – MacArthur addressed joint session for Congress and continued to press for his policies
    • Korean War ended in stalemate, negotiation and frustration
    • Negotiated settlement reached in Eisenhower’s administration due to threat of use of nuclear weapons in Korea
Implementing the Lesson:
  • Pre-Launch activities:
    • Students read a reading on early events of Korean War
  • Launch events:
    • Student brainstorm list of events that might affect public support for a war
      • emphasize unpredictability of public opinion and need to manage pubic opinion when US is involved in military engagements
    • Students analyze public opinion polls during first 8 months of Korean War
    • Students discuss change of public opinion over time
    • Polling subtext is important –
      • how does sample size affect results?
      • how do questions affect the results?
    • Debrief reading on Korean War events:
      • focus on battlefield events and US domestic policies
      • establish context for Truman’s decisions
  • Investigation:
    • Students consult a timeline of Korean War events and create a T-chart for evidence for and against the removal of MacArthur
      • Work individually and in a pairs
      • Attempt to decide whether Truman should listen to MacArthur’s advice or fire him
    • Working in groups of 4, students consider the questions
      • If the US does not fight to win, will it be perceived as weak by China and the Soviet Union?
      • Could MacArthur’s suggestions expand the scope of the war and possibly escalate it to World War III?
      • Did MacArthur violate the Constitution with his actions and words by crossing the President acting as Commander and Chief?
      • Even though the President is the Commander and Chief, shouldn’t he listen to the advice of his generals?  Whose job is it to develop military policy?
    • Students divide themselves into 1 of 3 groups:
      • Truman and MacArthur should negotiate peace with North Korea
      • Fire MacArthur but follow his advice to escalate the war to all of Korea
      • Look past MacArthur’s actions and follow his advice
  • Halftime:
    • Students develop quick list of thoughts that occupy Truman’s thoughts in the winter of 1950-1951
  • Finishing Investigation:
    • Quick review of key historical content
    • Revisit driving question – Given events of 1951, what should Truman decide?
    • Examine reactions to President Truman’s decisions to fire MacArthur and start peace negotiations
    • Students write a press release as Truman’s press secretary
      • Explains decisions relating to Korean War and ties these to
        • causes of Korean War
        • events that altered the course of the war
        • General MacArthur’s demands and actions in the war
        • reasons for Truman’s decision
  • Student responses to lesson:
    • some see context within the current period
    • some struggle to shed current notions and examine decisions from the presents
    • some use cliches to formulate decisions
    • learn difficulties of making decisions as a policy maker who has to consider variables such as public opinion, political impacts / consequences, etc.
    • develop some empathy by considering multiple sources of historical evidence
Science Connections:
  • Students could consider various sources of scientific evidence that are used to inform policies.  Examples:
    • Should US invest in nuclear energy?
    • Should US de-incentivize fossil fuel energy sources and incentivize non-fossil fuel energy source as wind power and solar power?
    • Should US create policy that requires labeling of foods that include genetically modified crops?
    • Should public schools require proof of early childhood vaccines?
    • Should US limit the use of fossil fuels in an attempt to reduce fossil fuels?
  • Students can create T-charts that use scientific evidence in favor and against specific policies and then create an Analytic Memo for a policy maker that:
    • suggests a specific policy
    • provides scientific context of events / evidence that support the policy
    • discuss impacts of policy


Using analysis of various types of historical evidence to develop some sense of historical empathy can teach students how to use evidence to understand other people’s perspectives on their own terms.  Using “structured dilemmas” to build this sense of empathy can help students to better understand the challenges and variables that impact policy maker’s decisions.  It can also give students opportunities practice in skills that help them become better advisor and / or policy makers.



Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings are related to host of scientific evidence that has been / is currently being considered to make policy decisions
  • Research to find or create an annotated timeline that includes scientific evidence that supports and goes against specific policy decisions
  • Gather evidence of public opinion that supports or goes against policies that can be used during project launch.  Could take form of
    • public opinion polls
    • contradicting editorials or political cartoons
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch
      • brainstorm what kinds of scientific evidence can sway decisions of policy makers and influence public opinion
      • initial investigations of public opinion pieces
      • introduce driving question – Should ____________ support the policy to ______________?  What scientific evidence supports this policy?
    • investigation phase
      • students study scientific evidence and develop a T-chart in favor and against specific policies
    • half time assessment
      • make a quick list of scientific evidence that must be considered to suggest a good policy
    • continue investigation
      • students in teams consider questions such as:
        • What does scientific evidence suggest as potential benefits of a specific policy?
        • What are the limitations of the scientific evidence used to support and contradict a specific policy?
        • How can scientific evidence be presented in a way that sways public opinion in favor of a specific policy?
    • end investigation
      • students use T-charts to make a specific policy recommendation
      • students create  an Analytic Memo for a policy maker that:
        • suggests a specific policy
        • provides scientific context of events / evidence that support the policy
        • discuss impacts of policy
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are using scientific significance criteria to compile T-chart evidence
  • Monitor students while they debate which policy to support – make sure they supporting their recommendations with scientific evidence
  • Provide formative feedback on Analytic Memos that focuses on students’ use of scientific evidence to support policies
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Students analyze a current issue and submit / present policy recommendations to lobby a real policy maker or person who works for a real policy maker



203: Using the Civil Rights Movement to Teach Historical Significance





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Inspiration for the Lesson:
  • Debate among leaders of the Organization of American Historians as to when the Civil Right’s movement started
Implementing the Lesson:
  • Student investigate a series of images related to the Civil Right’s Movement and select the top 2 they associate with the Civil Right’s Movement
  • Teacher asks students questions about their top choices
  • Teacher tells compelling stories of images without votes
  • Class discusses criteria for determining the historical significance of an event
    • Students come up with criteria similar to ones by Levesque
      • Importance
      • Profundity
      • Quantity
      • Durability
      • Relevance
  • Use their own criteria for historical significance to investigate events on annotated timeline that covers Civil Rights events from the 1900’s until today and try to answer the driving question:  When did the Civil Right’s Movement begin?
  • Students use this analysis of historical events to answer driving question and create a Birth Certificate that has
    • Date of start of Civil Right’s Movement
    • Parents of Civil Right’s Movement
    • Event that started Civil Right’s Movement
  • Student gains:
    • learn greater context for events involve Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks
    • learn that Civil Rights figures did not magically appear, instead they were furthering goals of predecessors
    • use analysis of evidence to make an evidence-based argument
    • learn how to use their own criteria to establish the historical significant of events
Science Connections:
  • The most famous committee that rewards scientists for making impactful discoveries is the Nobel Prize Committee
  • A similar lesson can be designed that has students investigate the scientific significance of discoveries.
  • In this lesson students can:
    • develop criteria for the scientific significance of events
    • analyze discoveries on an annotated timelines and try to identify the next winner of the Nobel Prize in a subject related to your course
    • analyze discoveries on annotated timelines and try to identify who should have been the winners of the Nobel Prize due to their contributions in the understanding one a specific concept
  • End product – Nobel Prize announcement that
    • names the Nobel Prize winner
    • explains the significance of the winner’s discoveries using the criteria for scientific significance determined by the students


In this lesson, students learn how to develop and use their own criteria to establish the significance of historical events.  This skills teachers students how to use their own judgement to develop frameworks that can be used to analyze sources.  While using their criteria to investigate several events in an annotated timeline, students learned a broader context for the events of the Civil Rights Movement.


Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings have underpinnings that include people and discoveries that are invisible in typical science curricula
  • Research to find or create an annotated timelines that includes people and discoveries that both well-known and unknown to most science students
  • Research criteria for the Nobel Prize.  Decide whether you would like students to use the Nobel Prize criteria to determine scientific significance of a discovery or develop their own criteria.
  • Create an image bank that can be used to launch the event:
    • include both iconic and less well known images of concept being studied
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch – initial investigate of images and selecting of top 2 iconic images
    • review of criteria:
      • students create criteria for scientific significance OR
      • students restate Nobel criteria in their own words
  • Students working in teams investigate discoveries on an annotate time lines and the criteria for scientific significance to determine which discovery should win the Nobel Prize in ______________ for contributions related to the concept of ____________
  • Students compose a Nobel Prize announcement that includes name of prize winner(s), the discovery, the significance and impact of the discovery
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are using scientific significance criteria to prioritize and rank discoveries
  • Monitor students while they debate which discoveries deserve the Nobel Prize – make sure they are reference evidence related to the discoveries and scientific significance criteria
  • During debrief discussions, probe for questions, understandings and misconceptions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Get students to analyze discoveries of current scientists and predict who will win the Nobel Prize in 10 years – have them back their conclusions with evidence from the discovery and future impacts the discovery might logically have on technology and other branches of science



202: Continuity & Change Over Time (Custer’s Last Stand or the Battle of Greasy Grass)







Pledge of Allegiance – Example of Continuity & Change
  • 1870’s – poem by Edward Bellamy to commemorate 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery
    • Bellamy salute – left hand on heart, right hand extended with palm facing the flag
    • “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and Justice for all.
  • 1920’s –
    • “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible with liberty and Justice for all.
    • Due to concerns about anarchists and Communists and xenophobia about immigrants
  • 1930’s –
    • Bellamy salute -> right hand over heart
    • Differentiate American democracy from European fascism
  • 1950’s –
    • added phrase “under God”
    • Distinguish US’s religious freedom from Soviet Union’s banning of religion
Lesson with Pledge of Allegiance:
  • Early in the year, show students 3 forms of the pledge and ask them to:
    • identify major differences in the pledges
    • speculate reasons for changes in the pledges
Inspiration for lesson involving Custer’s last stand:
  • new evidence uncovered near the battle site caused historians to reexamine evidence of the battle
  • political lobbying by Native American community to rename the park and modify park exhibits that glorified Custer
  • why venerate Custer when he had died while many poor tactical decisions
Supporting lessons:
  • Students examine post-Civil War population movement westward.  Students examine:
    • Transcontinental Railroad
    • Homestead Act
    • Exoduster migration out of the South
    • Indian Wars
      • Sand Creek incident
      • pusuit and capture of Geronimo and Nez Perce
Little Big Horn Lesson:
  • Before the lesson, students read about the causes, course, and consequences of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
  • Project images of battle that represent 2 different perspectives – one that glorifies Custer and one painted by a Native American who had fought in the battle
    • after students discuss each image, teacher reveals the purpose, creator and timer period of the image
  • After discussion around images, teacher provides brief overview of the events that led to and define Custer’s last stand – summary of reading students had done earlier.  Students exposed to:
    • relationships among Plains Indian tribes, the settlers, and the military
    • battlefield actions
    • helps student understand context of the battle
  • Introduce driving question – students are members of the National Park Service who are charged with naming the battle site. Possibilities include:
    • The Battle of the Little Bighorn National Monument
    • Custer’s Last Stand National Battlefield
    • Sioux Victory National Battlefield
    • Custer’s Battlefield National Monument
    • Native Victory National Battlefield
    • Greasy Grass National Battlefield  (Native name for Little Bighorn River)
    • Little Bighorn National Memorial
    • Fill in the bank with your own choice
  • Students individually consider 1 of various assigned sources that represent different perspectives of the battle
  • Students in teams that include experts of each of the sources try to interpret all the evidence and come up with a name for the historical site
  • Student misconceptions
    • bias is a bad thing rather than a neutral thing (point of view) present in all history sources
    • truth is absolute, black or white, no grays – miss the idea that sources depict different people’s perspectives
    • sorting truthful from untruthful sources – this type of thinking oversimplifies the investigation
    • create interpretations colored by their own personal beliefs
    • false mathematical views of history – try to mathematically aggregate the sources to find the one right answer
  • Student gains
    • students see the need to consider multiple sources to come up with historical interpretations
    • students see the need to consider where sources came from
    • instead of interpreting history as accepting “other’s facts”, start using facts to make their own historical interpretations
    • roles played by main actors in the events humanize Indian Wars for students
    • students learn to pay attention to historical details in sources to make decisions
Science Connections:
  • Teachers can design lessons that cause students to investigate how our understanding of fundamental concepts has changed over time.  Core concepts that have evolved over time include:
    • gravity
    • energy
    • thermodynamics
    • atomic model
    • electromagnetism
    • evolution
    • nature of light
    • solar system models
  • Students can investigate how theories evolve over time due to
    • invention of new tools (both technological and mathematical)
    • application of old tools to new things
    • development of theoretical models
  • For ideas on how to structure this, see Now What? section below


Using historical sources to study how historical artifacts (such as the Pledge of Allegiance) and historical interpretations evolve over time can teach students to appreciate history in ways that are deeper than taking history merely at face value.  Learning how to consider more perspectives to develop more nuanced understandings of historical events will teach students skills they can apply in history and fields outside history in their future careers.


Note:  This is written for Science teachers.  For tips for history teachers, read the book or the summary of the book chapter in the WHAT? section of this article above.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what concepts are the enduring understandings of your particular course
  • Research to determine if any of the enduring understandings have underpinnings that are continuum of models that evolved over time
  • Research to find several sources that:
    • focus on the evolution of model centered around once concept
    • offer a collection of models / understandings of the concept
    • use multiple methodologies to investigate the issue – different experimental studies, different theoretical models, etc.
    • are accessible to students with some vocabulary scaffolding support
  • Develop a driving question that can be investigated by all the sources – It could be something like:
    • Why is the model of ________________ evolving?  What should be the name of a research institute dedicated to the discoveries of the concept of __________?
  • Develop thinking sheets for each of the sources that ask students to consider:
    • what model is constructed to describe the phenomena?
    • what are the strengths of the model?
      • what type of phenomena are described well by the phenomena. Why?
    • what are the limitations of the model
      • what type of phenomena are not well described by the model.  Why?
    • what new discoveries led to the modifications present in the model?
    • who supports the model? why?
    • who does not support the model? why?
  • Decide which sources will serve as the launch source:
    • the launch source should hook students into the debate and transition well to the driving question
  • Design a project calendar with following phase:
    • launch – initial investigation and initial impression gathering phase
    • provide background overview that helps students have some holistic sense of why models are evolving
    • investigate individual sources individually
    • in groups share evidence in order to formulate answers to driving questions that consider evidence from multiple sources
    • students present their interpretations of the driving question to the class
    • debrief discussion that shares current accepted views of the phenomena and how the science community came to agreement on that model
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement project calendar described above
  • Monitor students during individual investigation phase to make sure they are questioning and accurately describing he strengths and limitations of the models in their sources
  • Monitor students while they debate and formulate interpretations in their teams – make sure they are using evidence from their sources in their arguments
  • During debrief discussions, probe for questions, understandings and misconceptions
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Get students to investigate a model that is still in development (ex – origin of the universe, expansion of the universe, dimensions of the universe) and extrapolate how that model might evolve in the future and the evidence that would be gathered to create projected changes in the model