August 17, 2012

First Week Reflections: Full STEM Ahead

Two months of planning, moving classrooms, reorganizing a science lab into a STEM lab, all led up to Wednesday: the first day of school.  This year I have stepped away from 8 years as a classroom teacher into a role as a grades 1-4 STEM teacher and coach.  I was feeling incredibly excited, a little nervous, and a little wistful since I would not have "my own" class.  Class after class proved to be an extraordinary week in many ways.

3rd and 4th graders took The Marshmallow Challenge.  We had innovative design of those spaghetti structures and great reflections on how to build a stable structure.  During one class I overheard a 3rd grader reassure her frantic group, "Don't worry, stay calm and relaxed!  We're in this together!"  That was a pivotal moment for this group of students where they regrouped with focus and went on to meet the challenge successfully.  What a smart kid.  What a lucky teacher.

1st and 2nd grade participated in a simple, but very cool density (lava lamp) demonstration.  Setting up for the first of the first grade classes, I was feeling a little more nervous than I thought reasonable.  But, I'll be very honest here, my last experience one-on-one with a 1st grade class was summer of 2003...  So, the class stampeded came in to the lab and sat down on the carpet to bombard me with questions and bathroom requests.  They were darling, inquisitive, squirmy, and eager to learn.  Our demonstration went just okay, but they enjoyed the end result and we shared lots of high-fives at the end of our time together.  My son is a first grader this year (his class will visit me on Monday!), but I was not prepared for a class full of first graders.  Lesson learned.  I will be better prepared next week!!!

I ended my Friday with an amazing class of 2nd graders.  They were more enthusiastic about STEM than any other class this week, and that enthusiasm was contagious!  We had a ball going through the lava lamp demonstration, but they were a little disappointed that there wasn't a grand explosion finale.  As I reflected on my day - 1st grade fail and 2nd grade win - I was feeling a little ho-hum.  Then tonight I received this email from a 2nd grade parent:

I've been given a gift with this opportunity to cultivate curiosity in roughly 380 students.  While I know it will have its challenges, I know this is where I'm supposed to be and I do believe this is going to be one of the greatest adventures of my career.

And now for the grand explosion finale!

August 6, 2012

Cultivating Curiosity

Today the real work begins.  The STEM program is explained, curriculum maps available, collaboration has begun.  I love my new role in learning.
The “motto” for Z’STEM is Cultivating Curiosity as we share a vision to cultivate curious and skeptical students who understand process thinking, have a mindset that is confident and positive about STEM, and have a work ethic that supports problem solving.  As I watched the live stream for the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, I was struck that Curiosity sent “heartbeat tones” back to the team at JPL.  Curiosity has a heartbeat.  Isn’t that the truth?!   There are amazing young people who are about to walk through the doors of this building and their heartbeats are precious, we're going to cultivate their curiosity together.