Happy weekend, my friend. If we were together in person, I’d invite you for a cup of coffee and these are the things I would say to you as we sit back, sip our beverages, and chat.
Life in the Northeast – Since last post, my husband has returned safely from his annual deployment. As a former city girl, I was sorely unprepared for the series of snow storms that hit us here in the country this winter. The brand new automated chicken coop we built last summer broke down while the husband was away. I had to haul feed and water over sheets of ice during the cold winter mornings to ensure the chickens were taken care of. It was definitely NOT FUN, but I’m glad I got through it and now the husband is back to help me with the farm chores.
When we purchased the old farmhouse a year ago, I envisioned something that combined Joanna Gaine’s “Fixer Upper” modern fresh farmhouse decor style with the simple “Little House on the Prairie” sustainable lifestyle. I know nothing about fixing up houses except for what I learn from watching HGTV.
Renovations are very slow, but I enjoy the planning process and seeing how my sense of style evolves over time. Right now, we are waiting for the ground to thaw so we can finish building the run around the chicken coop and build the green house. I am keeping myself occupied with seed catalogs for the raised beds, perusing Erin Benzaiken’s book, “Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest and Arrange Stunning Blooms” (affiliate link), and planning which new annuals and perennials to add to my various flower beds around the farm.
Eating Whole30 – Right now, my husband and I are in our second week of the Whole 30 (affiliate link) program. If you have not heard of it, Whole 30 is a 30-day program where you focus on eating more real healthy food and less processed foods. It eliminates sugar, coffee, alcohol, beans, and grains from your diet to help you change your eating habits and cravings.
We chose to embark on this food adventure because we realized that we had unhealthy relationships with food and needed to reset. I was drinking two or more cups of coffee every day (with more sugar and cream than coffee), having chocolate or dessert after every meal, and even hiding treats in my office! My husband is a carb addict, and his doctor revealed less than stellar results during his last physical exam.
No lie: Whole 30 is a tough program, especially on days when I’m too tired or too busy to cook. The hardest part is figuring out what to eat for breakfast. We both used to eat pastries, cereal, and yogurt parfaits before Whole30. Now, I switch pastries to fresh fruit and homemade cranberry-walnut-date bars and yogurt parfaits to nut-based or coconut-milk yogurt and grainless granola.
However, I love that it forces me to be more deliberate about types of produce and food I purchase and put in my body. I also love that I get to spend more quality time with my husband in the kitchen as we prep meals during the weekends and cook during the week. To keep meals varied and interesting, I follow recipes from the Whole 30 Cookbook (affiliate link), from @whole30recipes on Instagram, and from other Whole30 recipes on Pinterest.
I still really miss coffee with good creamer and sugar (and the occasional chocolate bar), but I am able to tame my sugar dragon with nut butter and homemade coconut chia pudding.
STEAM Night – Last month, school held its 5th annual STEAM night. There were about 30 STEM local organizations that volunteered their time, including the local news meteorologist. Over 150 upper elementary and middle school students from our school and another local school attended. Students explored STEAM sessions through 3- 30 minute workshops.
It was great to see such turnout! I wish I had the opportunity to check out some of the other sessions, but I was in my own room facilitating a session on marble roller coasters. I had a good time, and was glad for a chance to test my lesson plan with students before I rolled it out in physics class.
Forces in Motion Unit- The great thing about being an NSTA magazine columnist and a teacher is that I am constantly finding advice and resources that make me constantly re-evaluate and refine my lessons and units.
For third quarter, class started their unit on forces in motion. After writing articles on problem-based learning and increasing math confidence in science class, I revamped the unit to include a theme: amusement park physics, and to include more math skills such as measuring distance, converting units, and calculating average speed, velocity, and acceleration.
Essentially, students were first tasked to create a roller coaster out of foam pipes to figure out where forces and energy transformations apply to the track. Then, they had to calculate average speed of different sections of the track and the entire run. Their culminating project is to create their own unique roller coaster design and create a billboard advertisement that showcased its features backed by mathematical evidence and written descriptions of how roller coasters work in physics terms.
I’d have my Google document linked, but I’m still piece-mealing ideas together as I go along. However, here’s what I have right now, using the 5E/6E learning cycle model as a skeleton guide.
- Elicit – KWL post-it notes chart on forces and motion
- Engage – journal prompts and think-pair-shares about riding roller coasters and their favorite features
- Explore – Task: Build a roller coaster out of provided materials that has 2 hills, 1 loop, and a gap. The marble must be able to complete the entire run on track. Students observe the movement of the marble, and try to explain how its movement changes and why it changes through labeled diagrams and written summaries.
- Explain – Use “Roller Coaster Model Interactives” from The Physics Classroom; notes on roller coaster physics (explaining terms such energy, energy transformations, friction and drag, velocity, acceleration, G-forces, and clothoid loops), YouTube videos for clarification, and explicit modeling of kinematic formulas.
- Elaborate – Task card practice using DST triangles, calculating average speed, velocity and acceleration; recreate roller coaster without the gap and measure average speed of the entire run and different sections of the track.
- Evaluate – Students design and construct a unique roller coaster that demonstrates understanding of the physics concepts. They create a billboard poster to advertise their roller coaster, which highlights its unique features backed with mathematical evidence and written descriptions using physics terms.
Creating a thematic roller coaster unit really engaged and motivated my students, especially those who struggled with math and science. They were able to connect the lessons with personal experiences, and they were moving around actively collecting and recording data. They were also able to grasp the physics terms much more easily during lecture because they had their observations and experiences from the Explore lab to refer to.
A downside to the unit is lack of time and space. It is stressful to build a roller coaster, collect data, and tear it down in 40 minutes. I grouped students in small groups, and directed them to claim a specific corner of the room. Using a timer helped keep them on task and served as a reminder for me to give them the last five minutes to clean up and put the furniture and materials back together.
Another thing I also started to see were that students were beginning to lose interest last week. I think this is because by this time, they have torn down and rebuilt their roller coaster multiple times. Next year I will introduce the culminating project during the Explore phase instead of asking them to build a generic roller coaster. Perhaps if it was their own design they would be more engaged; with ownership, it would keep them interested throughout the unit as we continue to build on our knowledge, adding layer by layer from energy and energy transformations to forces to calculating kinematic formulas based on data from the track.
Well, friend, that is all the latest news from my life. Thank you for sitting down and having a coffee chat with me this morning. Enjoy your weekend!
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