FORENSIC SCIENCE

My first ever teaching job, a long term biology substitute at High Tech High in San Diego, CA, I had the fortune of having an incredible teaching team. They welcomed me with open arms considering that I was filling a position in which the former biology teacher was extremely popular with the study body. Nonetheless, we were able to pull off my first PBL project with huge success.

I don’t think there was a particular news event, film, or experience that inspired me to implement a forensics project, but I knew that teenagers dig that kind of stuff. Now in the midst of doing this project for the second time, I’ve managed to switch it up a bit. Instead of integrating typical evidence analysis such as fingerprints or DNA assessment, I’ve learned to integrate current events and media into the equation.

I am a huge fan of Radiolab. The hosts of the show have great radio voice and engage the listener by using unique sound effects to paint a very visual picture in your head. Back in 2013, they released a short piece about Ötzi, a famous case of a perfectly preserved corpse found in the Alps who was determined to have lived hundreds of years before the Pyramids of Giza were constructed. I first learned about Ötzi when my brilliant mentor teacher, John Maschino, taught about him in his middle school history class. It was interesting, but didn’t really spark too much attention to me. I found this podcast and immediately found a connection to forensic science.

The main difference in my implementation of this project than last time around is the collaboration between my two classes, Biology (sophomores) and Global Scientific Inquiry (juniors/seniors). I am teaching each class virtually identically in both cases. This reduces stress on my end by having essentially one less prep. The goal is that once both classes have learned how to analyze a crime scene and various piece of evidence, each will devise and write their own crime. Then, each class will be presented with the other’s crime and will need to solve it using the techniques learned over the weeks.

Now, I fully understand the forensic science isn’t necessarily a true science that utilizes experimentation and the scientific method. Nevertheless, I am a proponent of using the concepts in a science classroom for two crucial reasons: critical think and problem solving. Solving a case successfully requires the utmost of dedication and attention to detail. It requires that investigators find and piece large amounts of evidence (along with the many types of evidence) together to reconstruct the crime and, eventually, determine a suspect. These steps involve problem solving and forming conclusions. Isn’t this is what science is all about? Inquiry and discussion?

I know forensics is not a true science. The important part for me is that engages the students in critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving, and does so with more passion than I’ve seen in other projects.

Forensic Science
Sneak peak of our upcoming forensic science bundle on TeachersPayTeachers

THE CLIMATE CHANGE AGREEMENT

In April 2016, representatives from around the world came together in Paris to discuss and reach the landmark ratification of The Paris Agreement. At the time, I was not following current events as much as I do today. Nonetheless, I knew that addressing climate change was at a critical turning point. Fight now, or it will be too late for Homo sapiens as we know them. Now, day to day, I see positive news about countries banning gas-powered cars by 2040 and the State of California considering a similar measure. This is all well and good, but sometimes I do think we are already too late.

Nonetheless, I was inspired to do a mock climate change conference with my students. The purpose is to engage students in both the science and dangers of climate change along with the policies involved in mitigating the effects. Hence was born The Climate Change Agreement project (click the link for more info on TeachersPayTeachers).

Students are asked to interact with the actual, legal text of The Paris Agreement. They respond to various questions to understand the purpose of each of the 29 articles written in the agreement. From there, students are assigned a role as a representative of a country. They are required to think from the perspective of this role to understand the current effects of climate change seen within their country. These effects include economic, social, political, and environmental aspects. Following extensive research, a climate change conference is simulated in which all representative parties must unanimously agree on a given number of guidelines and goals. These goals are then written in a formal document by each individual student as the form of assessment.

This has been one of my most achieving moments as a teacher. I felt like I was truly empowering and engaging the kids in an incredibly meaningful and increasingly important discussion about a scientific topic that is crucial for social and economic survival. It engages students who may not be into the political side of current events, but immerse themselves easily in science. It works the other way around, as well. Students who do not normally naturally engage themselves in science can be involved through the political aspects of the project.

Whether you use this project or not, consider these lifestyle changes below that make a positive impact on your global environment.

11/7/2017 UPDATE: Within the last few weeks, both Nicaragua and Syria have pledged to sign The Paris Agreement. This leaves the United States as the lone outlier in the entire world to not be committed to the respective climate change goals.

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Source: Grist.org

MISSION TO MARS

Student Mars Colony
Sample student work of a model of their Mars colony

My most successful product on my TeachersPayTeachers store is the Mission To Mars project.

I first devised this project after reading constant news about Mars One, SpaceX, and the Orion spacecraft back in 2014. This inspired me to designed a project in which students design a working, habitable Mars colony completely from the ground up. The project involves groups of four propose a colony including a name, food sources, technology, religion, etc. From there, students do research based on the role that they chose within their group. They will then design colony blueprints, technological advancements necessary for survival, a colony flag, and a marketing campaign to convince others to move or visit their colony.

Two great ways to introduce this project and get the students excited is either watching The Martian (starring Matt Damon) or reading excerpts from The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. From there, I guarantee that students will be hooked! In the end, this project could last anywhere from 1-3 weeks depending on your commitment and district standards. You may even see some incredible results from your students! Just check out the physical model (pictured above) of a Mars colony built by one of my students from the first time I did this project!

This projects includes elements of scientific research, engineering, astronomy, entrepreneurship, budgeting, collaboration, and innovation! It’s the perfect PBL project to engage all types of learners. There is technology involved for those who learn best using that resources. Textual resources for those who enjoy reading. Visual resources for those who enjoy creativity and design. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Regards,

Mr. Noondi

Perhaps You Need A Little Guatemala

Hobbitenango, Guatemala
Hobbitenango, a magical village located in the secluded hills outside Antigua, Guatemala

Last year, I took the daring leap to leave the security of my family and friends behind in San Diego, California to pursue further growth as an educator. Where I ended up is here in the colonial city of La Antigua, Guatemala. I had accepted a position teaching middle and high school science at Antigua International School. It has been the most incredible personal and professional decision I have made thus far. It’s a place of sheer beauty. A place in which there are magical places to call home (such as Hobbitenango – pictured above). A place in which learning Spanish as a second language is critical to your success. A place that opens your eyes to the severity of some of the societal issues that humans must face.

It has been a time for me to view the world from, most importantly, the perspective of students raised in an immensely different cultural and socioeconomic background than of many students seen back in the United States. I surely have grown during my time spent here.

My time here will never be forgotten. The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences as an international educator, my unique project-based learning resources, and their positive effects on my students.

I look forward to sharing my writings with all of you readers. In the mean time, please check out my current resources available on my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Regards,

Mr. Noondi