Thursday, March 8, 2018

Shark Week

To launch our environmental study this year, we are having our own Shark Week!  Here is the outline if you want to join us!

I found a hyperdoc created by FlipGrid and modified it to fit our curriculum and tie in the Global Goals.  This will lead into our World Water Day project which you can read more about here.


1. Global Goal #14 Life Below Water.
Students will review Global Goal #14 and identify why oceans are important.

2. Biodiversity
Define biodiversity and understand why it is important.

3. Shark Food Webs
Students will use Keynote or Buncee to create a food web that shows the biodiversity of the ocean.

4. Amazing Shark Adaptations
Students will learn about adaptations and how sharks have special adaptations that increase their chance of survival.

5. Swimming With Sharks?
Students discuss if they would swim with sharks.

6. Identifying Sharks
Students use a dichotomous key to identify different species of sharks.

7. Threats to Wildlife
Students use the WWF Together App to investigate more about sharks and learn about their threats.

8. Being a Shark Scientist
Using FlipGrids Shark Explorer Series, students learn more about being a shark scientist.

9. Make a Difference
Students design a plan to protect ocean habitats and share their plan with others.

10. Being a Shark Tracker - Citizen Science
Students use a Shark Tracking App to observe shark migration patters and try to determine trends in the data.

We added a few challenges in this week long investigation to encourage kids to take action and think more about certain concepts.  We award badges to those that complete the challenges.

- Collect 4 plastic drink holder rings and donate to the class art project.
- Record a meaningful response to someone on the Shark Scientist FlipGrid
- Create a meme that shows why sharks are an important part of our ecosystem
- Track a Shark using the Shark Tracker App

Thursday, December 21, 2017


I LOVE using the app Numbers -- here are my three favorite ways to use the app Numbers in class...

(1) Menus
I have used menus for quite a while, but always struggled with how to organize everything.  I love kids having options, but it does make it more challenging on my side to keep up with who did what. With Numbers, I can have different options in different tabs and students can add their product and return it back to me.

Each of the 3 parts of the menu below is a different state objective all connected to plant responses.  Students had about a week in class to work on it.  I spent my time going student to student checking notes and helping them decide which option to choose and giving them individual feedback and expectations.  

(2) Stations
I love using stations in class and usually just leave a page of directions at each station. The problem with this was that when students did not finish the station or if they were absent, they didn't have the directions in an organized way.  For the next stations we are doing in class, I created a Numbers document and added a tab for each station. Students can move around the room at their own pace and if they don't finish, they have the document with directions so they can complete at home.  For this particular activity, students do not have to do all the stations.  Most are overlapping information, so as long as they do 2-3 of them, they will get the required information.  They will have one day to do as many as they want to do. Each tab is a different location in the room with a different learning experience.

(3) Labs
I use to give students labs as a PDF and had them mark it up using a different app.  This past year, I started using Numbers thanks to the idea of Brian Phillips and absolutely loved it.  It helps to keep the lab organized for me and students.  The data table and graphing features in Numbers are fantastic and help kids learn better graphing skills.  

Want an original copy of any of these documents? Contact me and I am happy to email you a copy.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Curious Creatures

We are getting ready for a new collaborative project between 7th grade science students and K-4 students.  Our focus is on animal survival, behaviors, and basic needs. 

Want to join us?  Sign up here!

Part 1 - Have your kids introduce themselves and tell us where they are from.  They can ask questions they have about insects and plants and how they survive in their environment.  You can add responses here starting today!

EX: Why does an earthworm die when it crosses a sidewalk?  Why do bugs fly around lights?

From here, my students will design an investigation to answer the questions.  We will use earthworms, roaches, mealworms, snails, and plants in the lab.  We will test various types of stimuli - light, temperature, food, water, etc.  After our kids design and conduct the lab, they are going to make a one minute Clips video to teach animals basic needs using the evidence collected in the lab.

Part 2 - K-4 students will watch some of the Clips videos and learn more about animal survival and basic needs.  They can reply to the videos with follow up questions.

Part 3 - Reflection - all students can share what they learned from the experience.

All videos will be shared on FlipGrid 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Writing In Science

Recently our school attended a training called Talk Read Talk Write.  I really liked some of the ideas they shared on how to get our kids to write more in class so we attempted our first TRTW this week.  We are studying the types of cells and cell structures so we prompted our students with this question:

How do antibiotics "know" which cells to attack when you take them.  How do they know what is a good cell and what is a bacteria?

TALK: Students discussed this at their tables and then we made a list of potential hypothesis.  They had some really interesting thoughts and were very into the conversation. 

READ: We use a case study from the World Health Organization and modified it for a 7th grade reading level.  Students did a quick read of the case and we discussed as a class.

TALK: Students were given an envelope of thought questions to discuss at their table.  They read the questions out loud and discussed as a group and then we discussed them as a class. Again, they were very into the conversation and had a lot of thoughtful questions.

WRITE: Students were given this prompt to write about.  I was so impressed with the depth of their answers and this was a topic that they really had little prior knowledge of.

QUESTION: (We added this one) We asked students to generate a list of questions they still had regarding medicine, viruses, bacteria, and cancer.  We are going to incorporate these questions into our next lessons.

Overall, this was a great experience.  Here is a link to the Google folder with all the resources if you want to try it.  

Friday, September 1, 2017

Badges FTW!

Last year when I was completing my Apple Teacher certification, I was a little addicted to the badges. Not sure why, but I was.  Same with the Apple Watch...especially the special badges that only exist on certain days, like the National Park Challenge.  I wondered if my kids would be as geeked out about badges as I was so at the end of last year, I tried it out using Schoology's badging system.

At first I thought they would laugh and blow it off, but I was very wrong.  Their interest in the badges was quite hilarious.  We invented random badges like "Class Shhh-er" and "Winner Winner Chicken Dinner".  They continually asked when the next badge was going to be up for grabs so I started using some that were a little more challenging.  I used a badge called Coder to try to convince them to use coding for a class project.  I did a SMASH badge for kids who app smashed a project.  

The end of the year feedback was so positive, I knew I needed to continue this year with the badges. Here are mine so far -  I printed this out and had kids use it to keep up with their badge collection on paper as well as in Schoology. I would love to know what badges you use and how you use them in your classes. 

Yesterday I posted an update to Schoology 10 minutes before school was out to see if anyone wanted to earn their clean up badge by helping me take down a super messy lab we did.  Eight kids showed up  - EIGHT!  I had six more reply and ask if there would be another opportunity for that badge because they had practice after school.

I love trying new things in the classroom and seeing kids engaged.  As silly as most think badges are, it makes my kids laugh and get excited - so its totally worth it.

Special thanks to my friend Mrs. Perkins for the ideas on some of these badges! :)

Friday, July 21, 2017

1st 5 Days

I decided to add a new 1st 5 Days post since it has changed so much over the last two years.

Several years ago I heard Alan November share on the importance of "The First Five Days" and how we need to build a culture the first week. Share and discuss what is possible instead of telling them what they can't do. 

I have used "The First Five Days" philosophy every year since then. Here is an updated version of how my first week of science looks in 7th grade. 

Day 1: Welcome
We rotate through 8 interactive stations that help plan the year and reflect on the previous one. Here is the link to the folder that contains directions for each table. 

Day 2: There is no “I” in team
Time for a team challenge! This year we are going to see how quickly they can work as a team to problem solve. Each group will be given a Sphero and will take one of the challenges listed HERE. (Ideas from Sphero) They will have a photographer that will document their Sphero journey using Clips to share their story of struggle.

Few of my students have any prior experience using these devices. Our focus is on trial and error and celebrating failed attempts. 

Day 3/4 - Purpose
On day 3, I bring out the poster from the first day station on world problems. The poster is typically covered in words like equality, poverty, malnutrition, pollution, etc. As a class we look at the UN Goals for a Sustainable Development and make connections. Students determine which goal they feel most passionate about and dig a little deeper. Next we divide up by goal and they pick a partner who thinks similarly. 

With their partner they design an invention that could address that problem. They sketch it out in Paper53 or a drawing app and then develop a 45-60 second pitch speech about their invention. They record the pitch in Flipgrid to share with our global classroom partners. 

This gives us the opportunity to discuss digital citizenship and online etiquette. Students will reply to other students in the grid with questions and follow up ideas.  (You can join us on Flipgrid and have your class participate too.)

We will come back to these ideas in a another week or so as we begin to plan our year and determine our plan to make a positive impact on our community and environment.

Day 5 - Critical Thinking
Students first are given a square piece of paper and they have to define creativity using only one word (thanks to the idea by The Tech Rabbi!) We will discuss perspective and opinions and how everyone thinks differently.  I will use these to papers make a mosaic on the wall.

Next, we play a game of Hero or Villain (this idea is from Sunny Richardson).  We discuss a few scientists that created something or developed an idea that ended up not being such a great thing for the planet.  

Students then choose a controversial scientist and dig deeper.  We talk about credible searches and that not everything we read is true. Each group shares out and we debate if they would be considered a hero or a villain or neither. Students then "Tweet Like a Scientist" into a Today's Meet to share with the other classes.

We also discuss qualities and characteristics of a good scientist and connect that to being good classmates, lab partners, and citizens.  

Finally, students discuss a time they epically failed at something and what they learned from their failure. This will be added to our FlipGrid conversation next week.

This folder will contain all the resources for my #1st5Days as I create them over the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Teach SDGs

When I was first introduced to the Goals for a Sustainable Development by the United Nations, I was hooked. I knew this was just what my class needed for focus and purpose.  For the last four years I have started each year in the same way - asking my students what they want to learn.  

What big problems can we identify in our community or globally and what can we do to address those issues?

Here is an overview of how our projects have gone. All of these projects were designed, created, and completely driven by students. As the teacher, I only guide and give suggestions.

Year 1: 2014
Students selected Global Goal #3: Good Health and Well Being.  
We decided that our focus would be on helping children make better decisions on how to take care of their bodies and why it was important to do so.  Students decided to create a free online course in iTunes U to teach kids healthy habits.

Final Product: Health Without Borders
This can be subscribed to for free on an iOS device. As of 2017, this course has over 56,000 subscribers worldwide.

Year 2: 2015
Students selected Global Goal #4: Quality Education.
This year students partnered with a non-profit out of South Africa that was giving teachers in low income areas an iPad for their school. My students decided to develop a free multi-touch book to accompany Health Without Borders to add science education to the course.  

Final Product: Health Inside Out
This can be subscribed to for free on an iOS device or Mac. As of 2017, this book has been downloaded over 55,000 times.

Year 3: 2016
Students selected Global Goal #15: Life on Land.
This year, 7th graders partnered with the Dallas Zoo to learn more on conservation efforts to protect endangered species. Students developed a multi-touch book that highlights 8 different endangered or threatened species.  Working with experts around the world, students showcased ways we can help protect these species from extinction.

Final Product: Through Their Eyes
This can be subscribed to for free on an iOS device or Mac. As of 2017, this book has been downloaded over 10,000 times.

Year 4: 2017
This year students couldn't decide on one goal, so we covered several. Their original idea was to create educational materials to make society understand the importance of protecting our planet. We focused on climate change, pollution, recycling, and protecting our water. Students developed a multi-touch book for children to share our story of helping in our community and to encourage others to take small steps for big changes. 

Final Product: Saving Earth
This can be subscribed to for free on an iOS device or Mac. As of 2017, this book has been downloaded over 12,000 times.

So what's next? I actually have no idea! Thats the best part. Start each year with a blank slate and find out what students are passionate about. They have great ideas for improving our world, we just have to encourage them to think big. It makes my job much more fun -- I let them lead the way and I find ways to connect our content and state objectives to their interests and ideas.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


One of the big reasons I wanted our district to go 1:1 iPad was the mobility of the device.  As much as I love my MacBook, I can't really take it outside and capture pictures and video with it easily.  The mobility of the iPad allows us to have class wherever we want, whenever we want.

Here are some ways that we take learning outdoors:

1. Citizen Science:  Using the app iNaturalist, our kids can become citizen scientists.  They can capture images of living things around them and upload to document nature.  There are so many projects in iNaturalist you can join, or you can create you own.

2. InfoPics: One vocabulary word, one picture, and a five word or less definition. This is a great way to review vocabulary with each student taking one word and creating their infopic using Moldiv or PicCollage.  Once everyone is done, students can upload them to a common space (we use Schoology media albums) and comment on each others pictures.  We use the "Yes, and.." format when commenting. See the example below.

3. Walk and Talk:  Get with your project group and plan your project while taking a lap around the school. Discuss goals for the day, who is doing what, any supplies or materials needed.  

4. Nature Walk: Test the soil pH or temperature, find seeds, collect specimens for viewing under the microscope, etc.  Several of our labs could be completed outside - measuring heart rate, calculating jump distance to compare to height, etc. We also use the Pro-Scope iPad camera attachments to get macro images of nature.  Everything looks cooler magnified by 40X.

5. Flipgrid Reflections:  Using the app FlipGrid, have students reflect on their learning or answer a question prompt.  Going outside allows them to spread out and have better sound quality on their recordings.  You can also join FlipGrid Friday and discuss some science hot topics with us! If you follow the grid, you will notified as new questions are added.  

6. Sidewalk Chalk: Want to see 7th graders get super excited? Hand them some sidewalk chalk!  Once we left Earth Day messages in the car loop, but my favorite is having them draw a structure, capture an image of it and then annotate it on the iPad.  Now with the Clips app, the could put together a short video that explains the particular topic we are focused on.

Share ways that you take learning outdoors!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Saving Earth

This year my 7th graders focused on ways to improve our planet.  They began by looking at the United Nations Goals for Sustainable Development and figured out ways we could help in our community.  At the end of our first semester, they presented their plans to their peers and we voted on which projects we could accomplish in the spring semester.

The culminating project was to create a book, Saving Earth, to help kids better understand how they could help.  The book is completely student created including animations, illustrations, photography, and text.  We were able to collaborate with other schools on some of the chapters and share the voices of students from around the world.

Download their book and see what you think!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Earth Day 2017

This year for Earth Day, we will partner with schools around the world to conduct a BioBlitz and compare our communities.  Join us as we capture nature, become citizen scientists, debate, challenge others, and create art!

1.  SAY HI: Introduce your team. Share where you are from and why Earth Day is important to your group.  What are your team goals?

2. EXPERIMENT: Conduct a bioblitz (a quick survey of living things) in your neighborhood or community.  Create a quick video slideshow of your images of living things using an app such as Clips or iMovie and share your environment by uploading it on FlipGrid.  You can also upload your images to our iNaturalist project and become citizen scientists!

You can read more about the BioBlitz from Apple Education.  There are several really awesome lessons here to celebrate Earth Day.

3. DEBATE: As a group, decide if you think we should be concerned with climate change. Share your opinion here and make sure to defend your thoughts and opinions with reputable science.

4. CHALLENGE: Come up with a challenge to pose to our audience to encourage them to make a difference and protect our planet.  What can you say in under a minute that would convince someone to make every day Earth Day? Give them a specific challenge, such as meatless Monday. Start your challenge with "I will..." as your commitment and encourage them to do the same.

5. CREATE: Using only recycled material you find on campus or at home, create an original art piece.  Share your art and explain the materials you used and why it is helpful to keep them out of the landfill.

6. REFLECT: What did you learn? What surprised you the most? What questions do you still have? This room will open at the conclusion of the project.

So far schools in Ohio, Texas, New York, Virginia, and Bangladesh have joined this project.  If you want to join us, SIGN UP HERE!

Download the FlipGrid App and use the code earthday or use on your computer.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

World Water Day

World Water Day is March 22.  Our class is looking to connect with schools around the world to compare our water sources.  We plan to look at creeks, streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Here is our outline:

1. Have a few students introduce your class HERE.  
(The grid code is worldwaterday)
Tell us where you are from, what local water source you are going to look at, and what the biggest water threat is where you live.

2. Have your students analyze the water.
You can do this anyway that works for your classroom.  You can talk about the color and smell, you could record the temperature or pH, you could look at it under a microscope and tell us what you found.  You can use any equipment you might have or just make qualitative observations. 

We will do this in stations. Here are the STATION SIGNS
Here are the directions for each STATION.  These are written for 7th grade students so feel free to edit away!  Both are shared as a PDF.  If you want an editable Pages version, contact me and I will send that directly.

Have your students submit their results HERE and also share their thoughts to the FlipGrid that will be opened on Wednesday, March 22.

After results are posted, I would encourage you to have your kids ask questions of other students results.  I will share a Numbers document with each teacher that has the shared data in it so your students can compare the different results. They could create charts, graphs, or just look at the results.

3. Have your students come up with an "I Can..." statement. 
Their statement should share how they can conserve or protect water.  We will open another room on our Flipgrid for this statement on Thursday, March 23. Example: "I can reduce the amount of water I waste by not watering my lawn during the warmest parts of the day"  

4. Develop a plan to spread the word and make a difference.
Think Ice Bucket Challenge, but without wasting water. :)
We will open this FlipGrid room for this Friday, March 24.

5. Reflect
Have your students reflect on their learning in our last FlipGrid room (opens next week).  What did they learn? What surprised them? What questions do they still have?

So far we are connecting schools in Texas, California, Maine, Ohio, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Canada, and New Zealand.  Feel free to share this with anyone you think might want to join. 

Sign up HERE to participate in our World Water Day project for 2017.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mystery Box Challenge

Everyone loves a good challenge, especially the day before Christmas break! Here is the overview of Mystery Box Challenge: Holiday Edition:

  • 8 groups 
  • 4 different Mystery Boxes
  • Each group was competing against one other group.
  • The challenge had to be completed using a minimum of 4 supplies from the Mystery Box.

Each Mystery Box contained random supplies such as spoons, cups, plastic wrap, bottle lids, yarn, etc. Really, I just took the contents of my junk drawer and any leftover project supplies and threw them into random buckets. No two Mystery Boxes were the same.

Students had 15 minutes to complete the challenge and take a group selfie with their creation.  Then they came up to test it out.  Most had no idea they were applying science principals to their creation but it was fun to listen to them discuss if weight made things faster, if the surface area was smooth or rough, and how sound could be echoed through a cup.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Global Goals Project

Want your kids to solve world problems and collaborate with other students across the globe?  This project might be for you...

Starting the first week of school, we will devote every Friday to working on solving a global issue as identified by the United Nations.  Students will start by researching the 17 Goals to Transform Our World.   Once they choose one area of interest, they will work through the iTunes U course, Global Problem Solvers or GPS. (click this link on your iPad or iPhone to subscribe to the free course)

The final product for part one is a short documentary that discusses which problem they selected, their research and their plan to solve the problem.  Students will try to convince the audience how their plan can be implemented in the spring semester of 2017.

Students will attend a screening of the documentaries and vote for which projects should move forward to the implementation phase.  Once projects are chosen for implementation, students will form action teams and begin their plan to create a positive change.

This course is designed for secondary level students, grades 6-12 and is interdisciplinary.  So far students in Maine, Texas, and Illinois have committed to completing the course. Once students select topics, they will be partnered up with collaborating schools for brainstorming, peer review, and feedback.

Here is our general outline:

  1. Introduce the 17 sustainable goals
  2. Write YOUR purpose


  1. Create a graphic organizer
  2. Develop an infographic of statistics


  1. Develop a Slogan
  2. Share idea and gather feedback - 6 word story video
  3. Develop a Plan of Action
  4. Interview an expert, explore community connection
  5. Collaborate with Global Partners
  6. Write or create a product that explains connection to content
1. Develop a documentary (1-2 mins)
  1. Showcase purpose, research, why important, action
  2. Share globally, garner feedback



If you want to join us, have your students subscribe to the course. We will continue to build the course over the year and look for opportunities for our kids to work together. We would love thoughts, feedback, or ideas you might have to improve this project! :)

 This project was created by @jdeinhammer@miaLmorrison, and @smyles2100 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

16-17 School Year Challenge

Even after almost 20 years in the classroom, I still LOVE back to school.  I love all the excitement and positive energy seen in both the students and teachers. This year I encourage you to mix it up and try something new as you start your new year. Maybe you are already doing these things. If you are what other ways can you challenge yourself to step it up and try something different? Change is good!

7 Ideas to Mix Up Your School Year

1. Ask your kids what they want to learn. "What questions have your always wondered about?" "What would the syllabus look like if you could design it?" Let students generate the guiding questions for your class. Use their guiding questions to drive the learning in your room. Keep their questions posted in the room to allow for more questions to be added throughout the year. Give them the state objectives and let them make connections to their interest and then try to tie those interests into your routine. 

2. Don't give them a list of class rules. Instead of going over all the things that they can't do this year in your room, develop a list of class goals and post those instead.  "We will make a positive impact on our community." "We will encourage each other to take risks and not be afraid of being wrong." See what they come up with when you ask what CAN we do?

3. Be present. Get to know your kids and who they are.  Try to attend events like a volleyball game or art show. My own kids get so excited when their teachers show up at their little league games. It truly makes their day when you are present. Simply make an effort to recognize that your kids are more than just students in your classroom. 

4. Try Genius Hour. Last year we did a genius hour type project for our final exam and kids presented their ideas to our community. This year I plan to do this for the full year. Students will choose a topic they are interested in during the first month of school and we will devote every Friday to working on it. Students will be required to connect our objectives to their topic as we move through the year. They will have a folder in their digital portfolio to keep up with their work and creations. At the end of the first semester they will create a documentary explaining why their topic is important and we will do an Oscar type screening of the documentaries to decide which projects we can implement the following semester. 

5. Don't give your kids homework. I know a lot of people would have a hard time with this, but think it through. When you get home from work, the last thing you want to do is more work. Our kids need a break just like we do. They need to play outside, they need to hang out with their families or just chill out. Instead of homework, can you give your kids a warm up problem or question each day to determine where they are? Can you incorporate 10 minutes of "practice time" in class each day so you are there to help if they don't understand? Can you better utilize or rearrange your class time to avoid outside of class work?

6. Connect and borrow from your PLN.  We learn best when we share and connect with other teachers.  Use your PLN to help you improve or change up a lesson or idea.  For example, this past year I was able to present with the great Katie Morrow. She mentioned that she had her students run a class blog. She had a blogger of the day that wrote about what was going on in class that day. I am going to try to replicate that in my classroom this year.  Katie sharing this stratagy allows me to implement her idea in my own room, giving my kids a chance to share their voice and practice their writing skills for an authentic audience.  Share your ideas and borrow from others. Don't monetize your work, sharing is caring! We make each other better. 

7. Let your kids create something for an authentic audience.  Have students write a book, create a tutorial or teach someone else.  Connect with a local elementary school and have your kids teach them about something in your content area. Nothing is better than watching your kids become the teacher.  We had a kindergarten class teach high school seniors how to use a Makey-Makey one year. The littles were so proud to know something that the bigger kids were so impressed with. You could also have your kids create helpful information for next years class, for example an "in 60 seconds" of a topic that you could use to introduce something next year.

Try something new this year and let me know how it goes. I would also love to hear about other challenges that you take to improve your classroom. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Through Their Eyes

This year we partnered with the Dallas Zoo to learn about endangered animals and the conservations effort the Zoo has in place to protect them.

First, we visited the zoo and captured images and videos and talked to the zookeepers to learn more.  Students were divided into teams based on which animal they were researching and then we came back to class and shared what we had learned.

As we started writing the book, students had the choice of how and what they wanted to contribute to the book.  Each student decided if they wanted to illustrate, create, or write and submitted original work to our class editors.  The student editors filtered through the work submitted and selected the items that were publishable to add to the book.

After the majority of the work was added, we contacted several organizations to see if they could proofread and give us feedback on our work.  We heard back from Dian Fossey Gorilla Foundation, The Cheetah Conservation Fund, VulPro, SANCCOB and even the World Wildlife Fund.  SANCCOB took the time to FaceTime with us and introduced us to a South African penguin named Princess.

After we edited and corrected our mistakes, we sent the book to Ben and Marti and the Dallas Zoo who did a double check of grammar and facts and then gave us the go-ahead to publish.

The book was published to iTunes and now my 7th graders are published authors! This interdisciplinary project connected science, art, language arts, and math as different teachers jumped in to help us create this multi-touch book. We will be showcasing our work at Wildlife Weekend at at the Dallas Zoo on May 21-22.

Our final product?  Through Their Eyes  
Download it now and see what some amazing 7th graders are capable of when you set the bar high. 
We created a video response board so if you download their book and want to give them feedback, click on our FlipGrid and let them know what you think!