Currently sitting in the Centre, taking some down time during sports and marine biology period, enjoying the sunshine and balmy winter weather. It is so refreshing to look around and see how far this Centre has come, with an aquarium teeming with life and a full-fledged lab complete with a new bunsen burner. Sadly, it is a bit of a slow day, due to the fact that next week is filled with final exams for almost all of the students. However, we just have to keep in mind that that means that after this week, the Centre’s activity will skyrocket once students are on their holiday break.
Last week held some one of the most anticipated lessons: rockets! Science class attendance was record-breaking, and students excitedly learned about aerodynamics, air resistance, and propulsion before being cut loose with a film canister, paper, cups, foil, glue, rubber bands, straws, and tape to engineer the rocket of their heart’s desire. The first day was devoted to background and construction; the second to a height competition. Students were so psyched that they refused to leave class and we had to rewrite the schedule, and many even showed up early the next day to perfect their designs! Much of the Centre gathered in the yard for the competition, and each student donned their glasses, loaded the baking powder in the canisters, and hurriedly stuffed the cap in after a quick addition of vinegar. Although there were many mis-launches through the day, Kevin definitively owned the competition, due to the lightest and most aerodynamic build. Now, everyone’s creations are proudly displayed on the top shelf of our new lab, with Kevin’s front and center.
However, even though we have come so far in this last month, there is still a lot of work to do. A few days ago I administered a midterm evaluation to my students, to see how much they have been retaining, as well as how much they already know of what we will study in the future. It was a little disheartening to see the results. There were a few students who did brilliantly, but also many with almost blank tests. This shows me that I need to more sensitive to students of all ranges in my classes. There are a couple I look to to measure the amount that kids are grasping, but I think there are many times I accidentally leave a couple behind.
This was also indicated by the last question, which asked what they liked and disliked about science class. The “liked” part was not surprisingly dominated by all of the experiments, but the “disliked” comments often included “it’s complicated,” “sometimes I don’t understand when the teacher explains,” and other similar comments. In combination with the common gaps in the students’ knowledge on the exams, this shows me that I probably need to slow down and emphasize more review. It is often difficult to manage an inconsistent student base, and catch up new students while also avoiding punishing my most faithful students. Also, my class is entirely designed for the kinesthetic and auditory learners. I think to re-emphasize my points and reach a visually-oriented student body accustomed to chalkboard-textbook teaching, I need to somehow incorporate taking notes into my class in a fun, constructive way.
My latest approach is to introduce lab reports. This actually has achieved amazing results: the students seem to retain more the next day, they achieve a final product for me to publish on our walls (and soon our blog), they end up designing their own experiments, and of course learning the somewhat complicated process of how to keep lab notebooks and write reports. The students have definitely risen to the occasion, which makes me extremely excited to kick off our science fair competition next week.
Until then: squishy circuits, an egg drop competition, and hopefully flame tests! Just pray I don’t send myself to the hospital first, while dissembling fireworks to harvest the mineral salts.
One last note of importance: I am officially opening my own coiffure (aka hair salon). I have now somewhat successfully trimmed not only Grace’s hair, but also sheared off Ed’s amazing samurai ponytail. I feel as though I cut the mane of a lion, but it needed to be done. As I poeticized in his iambic pentameter class:
Ed’s hair so long he nearly looks a stray
Or maybe even a small girl at play
It’s time the ponytail must go away
Or else Lexy’s nerves will begin to fray.
All proceeds go to ELI Africa BH Fund.