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Melting Chocolate


There’s few things that catch a kids attention better than chocolate.  Well, candy in general pretty much does it, but chocolate holds a special place in my heart.

Also, in moderation chocolate is not so bad for you – and if you use dark chocolate there’s even more healthy benefits – so you don’t feel bad giving the kids a little sweet incentive once in awhile.

We recently did an experiment with the melting point of chocolate that got the kids excited about being scientists.  When I told them there were scientists who helped make chocolate, that was something they could all see being a fun job!

The point of the experiment was to show how different forms of matter, in different states, change in different ways.  They only think of “solid, liquid, gas” in terms of water, because that’s the easiest example.  But they don’t think of chocolate in a liquid form, or plastic or metal – because those are a little harder to make liquid (and they don’t really become a gas).

So we took ice cubes and chocolate chips and placed them in seperate hands.  It took only a second to reach the melting point of the ice!  Most kids needed to drop them in the sink right away, and the resulting water that was left over in their hand was obvious for them to see.  The chocolate took a little longer.  After about a minute or so there was minor melting, but nothing big.  After a few minutes it was becoming a little bit of a mess, and I let them “eat” their experiment. (one chocolate chip, and you’d think I gave them a whole box of chocolate the way they were grinning).

In addition, I had them hold a piece of plastic for a minute, to show that IT’S melting point was WAY higher than our body temperature.  Different molecules react to temperature in different ways.

Science Rocks!

Spring Break

What a great, much needed rest.

It’s been a week since Spring Break came to a close, and I’m hopeful for the next two months!  The first few days back from a break are sometimes rocky – did they REALLY not remember what country we live in after just a week away from school? – but I think we’re back in a groove.
 
As a teacher, each new school year seems to provide a blank slate of possibilities for what’s to come.  On the first day of school there is a magical feeling, like anything is possible and we’re going to learn everything by the end of 180 days.
 
Now that spring has come into our school year, there’s a sense of urgency.  I only have them for a short while, and an even shorter amount of time until their end-of-the-year state exams.  Now we tend to focus our curriculum into a tight laser of “the essential” stuff we want them to know before they’re out of our hands once again for the summer.
 
And isn’t life the same way?  We start out with wild dreams and crazy expectations (in a good way).  The world is our oyster.
 
Halfway through, we start to get a little more practical, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had.  The reality that not EVERYTHING is going to be accomplished in one lifetime is pretty clear now, and we start to focus our efforts on what we thing is most important.
 
I haven’t reached the spring break of my life yet, but whether we’re there, or around the halfway mark, or even if you’re still at the first days of school – this is clear: 
 
Treat every day like it’s the final days of learning.  The last days of school are coming soon enough….

Assessment

Have you ever been driving somewhere with the family, and turned the music off or told the kids to stop playing their game because it occured to you they might not know the lyrics to the star spangled banner?  Or what city and state they live in?  Or what your phone number and address is?  When this happens to me what inevitably follows is a barrage of question and answering until I am satisfied they have it, and I can rest easy the rest of the drive.  I’m sure they love it.

Assessment is merely the process of finding out what your children know.  It would be foolish to think you can teach someone anything without also knowing what it is they KNOW.  Considering there is infinite knowledge in our universe, narrowing it down to what they DON’T know would probably help speed up the process. :)

But assessment, or testing, doesn’t have to happen as a seperate event.  You can assess while you teach.  The assessment can even be used as a teaching tool, as they learn while you figure out what they need to know.  An easy way to do this is a simple line up exercise.  When they are lined up to go somewhere (or sitting on the couch waiting, if you’re at home) just give them some questions.  The correct answerer goes to the front of the line.  Then, keep going.  Ask the same question two or three times.  Answer some questions if they don’t understand.  Discuss.  Repeat.  Learn.

I use this with my class, and my kids.  I’m thinking about using it with my wife as well.  Honey – what’s the capitol of Indiana? :)

Creativity

 

 

 

 

 

Creativity is important in our lives.  I saw a little post the other day that said “EARTH, without ART, is just….EH…”

I thought that was clever, and a little true.  Without the creative parts of our lives, we would tend toward the type of distopian futures we see in George Orwell books.  It’s our creativity, and our differences, that make us unique.

Top three reasons we should keep creativity and artistic expression in our schools, in an age where time is money and our time is constantly running out toward the MSP and HSPE testing time.

1) It will help on the MSP and HSPE.  To me, that’s the most convincing, because it’s important for our kids to do well on those mandatory tests, if only for them to feel good about what they are learning and feel they are doing great.  The test is not the be all end all of their education, but it’s another pat on the back for them when they do well.  When the artistic side of the brain opens up, it allows for quicker and easier recall and understanding of concepts.  Cool stuff.

2) If our job is to create fully functioning human beings for our world, and humans who will interact with and improve our society, creative expression is going to be important in their lives.  It’s very important to teach them to use word processing programs for future employment, yes, but also to use photoshop and blogging software and to listen and appreciate music.  To be a total person, you can’t just rely on the worker aspect.

3) It’s fun.  Especially for those kids who aren’t as analytically minded, if you don’t feed their souls they will not love school. And we want kids to love school like I do.  Learning is living!

Pride

 

They say that Pride goeth before a fall, and I think that’s true about self pride.  But pride is an important commodity as parents and educators.  We feel pride at our students and children’s accomplishments, and there’s a little bit of self pride in there as well, because you KNOW there must be at least a LITTLE bit of you inside that accomplishment. 

It’s okay – no, it’s NECESSARY – to be prideful of our young charges.  They need that pride to keep going.  They feed on it.  I think sometimes we forget to show them that pride – even the ones who don’t always make us feel prideful.  In the elementary years  there are many learning opportunities, and even though sometimes it takes doing it WRONG for the child to learn not to do it. 

For instance, I had a young student try stealing for the first time last week.  I know he’s not a theif, it was almost like he needed to try it.  Needed to see what it was like and see if he could get away with it.  Now that he’s been scolded and told that it is wrong, he’s not tried it again.  When they do things like that, they are still good kids, and they need to feel our pride in them still.  That pride keeps them believing they are great, and greatness comes from belief.

I am extremely proud of all my students, and exceedingly proud of my kids.  The girls are getting so grown up now – they actually wore heels and earrings to our recent father/daughter ball outing.  It was a fun night with my kids, and I couldn’t have been prouder.

The trick is keeping that pride the next day, when they’re whining about not having enough of the right kinds of cereal. :)

Smile

It’s amazing the power a smile can have.  I think I went through my first 20 years trying to hide my smile because I thought it showed weakness.  I wanted to show strength and toughness, and a smile was just too nice.

But I learned through time and trial and error that a smile is a lot tougher than muscles or scowls.  A smile can open doors.  A smile can change souls.  All strength does is harden hearts and close doors.  You may be able to force your way through some doors, you may be able to change minds through force and intimidation, but in the end that is not a final solution.  Just a temporary fix.  The door you pushed through is still going to be closed to you next time, probably more so.  A smile can open it up, and keep it open forever.

It comes down to two different styles of leadership and dealing with people – do you want to be the type of leader that dictates and forces compliance, or the type who builds capacity based on respect and relationships, and then dictates – and compliance comes naturally and organically because of that respect and relationships.

Just smile.  Have a positive attitude in all things.  Then people will not only start opening doors, they will hold them open for you and offer to help you pass through them.

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