THREE ENGAGING WEB RESOURCES FOR EDUCATORS

Happy Sunday, everybody! The forensic science presentations by my students were postponed slightly due to some various scheduling issues. The presentations officially happen tomorrow, Monday, January 28th. So, next Sunday’s blog post will be about the presentations. In the mean time read about some amazing web 2.0 tools and other possibly little known resources that you can utilize in your classroom!


The New York Times Learning Network

This one is my personal favorite for many reasons. Over the past year, I have learned to love integrating current events and journalism into my curriculum. I briefly discussed this in my post about our school’s interview with Sarah Koenig. The New York Times Learning Network is a resource that utilizes the brilliant reporting by the Times. Lessons plans are pre-made and neatly laid out for educators from all backgrounds to easily understand and implement. The blog is organized and easy to navigate. They put on regular student contests for students participate in. The current ongoing contest is their 5th Annual 15-Second Vocabulary Video Challenge! The blog has a section dedicated to categorizing the various activities available for students. Just below that are lessons plans separated into the various subjects (ELA, social studies, science and math, ELL and arts, and current events). This obviously comes in handy when you are looking for a quick lesson plan and have little time to spare for planning. You can also search the blog to find any teaching activities for a specific topic that has been archived. The Learning Network is, hands down, a fantastic resource for those educators who occasionally have little time for planning, need something authentic or meaningful, or who just wants to try something new!

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Buck Institute for Education (BIE)

The Buck Institute for Education (BIE) is an organization dedicated solely to the wonders of project based learning. The website houses a selection of materials for educators to be introduced to or strengthen their PBL knowledge. Available for readers are blogs, books, and articles to peruse. What may be even more helpful for you, though, are the variety of rubric, planning forms, and student handouts that are available to download for free on their site! These documents are highly professional and can be used in a multitude of subjects. Wether you are a beginner or a pro at PBL, these resources are sure to help you!

My personal favorite on BIE is the interactive project search. I practice PBL in my classroom everyday and when I am struggling with developing a project, I need some innovative ideas to spark my imagination. This is where the project search comes in. Here, you can search by source, subject, and level to find incredibly creative and authentic projects that your students can engage in.

BuckInstitute


National Center for Case Study Teaching In Science

I came across this great site by linking through on BIE. Based at the University of Buffalo, SUNY, this site contains a vast library of case studies (721 to be exact!) from virtually all areas of science. The premise of the case studies is that students are introduced to an authentic scenario that could easily be present in the real world. From there, the students answer a series of questions in which there are to problem solve and critically think their way to the answer. This site probably provides the most realistic application of science than either BIE or The Learning Network. These case studies also come in handy when you are short on planning time and need an engaging, easy to understand activity. Just a note: If you sign up for an account to access the answer keys, you will need to prove that you are an educator at which time the organization will provide you with a password.

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SARAH KOENIG Q&A

Serial

It seems as if the brilliant podcast Serial never fails to make the news somehow – for good reason! This last Thursday, my students and I had the incredible opportunity to have a Skype Q&A session with Sarah Koenig, the amazing creator and host of the podcast. I’m not sure how he did it, but my high school English teacher colleague managed to find a personal connection who happened to work with Sarah at some point in their career. Within 24 hours of that contact, we were Skyping with the fantastic journalist.

When I read the email from my colleague about the news, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity. The bad news was that I had a class exactly at the time in which the Q&A would take place. The good news is that I’m lucky enough to work at a school in which teachers are given much autonomy. So, I told my 7th Graders that there was a presentation from a major figure from the journalism world that I could not miss seeing. I let them loose at the ping pong tables while I had the privilege of watching and listening in.

Most of the questions from the students for Sarah, for good reason, focused on the basics of Season One of Serial (they had listened to Season One in English class). What are her thoughts on Adnan as a human being? Does she think Adnan committed the crime? What inspired her to become a journalist? Me, personally – I couldn’t help but ask about her concerns, if any, about the state of journalism with the current political climate in the United States. She addressed my question with a very intricate, detailed answer. Essentially, she believes that the current administration has actually improved reporting by the media and has caused citizens to be more aware of the political climate. She stated that subscriptions to many media outlets have actually increased as a result. I would know as I myself subscribed to various outlets in recent months – which brings me to the point of this blog.

Something about the combination of living in Guatemala, an incredibly impoverished country with one of the largest income gaps in Latin America, and the current politics of the United States has inspired me to incorporate elements of currents events in my curriculum. Now, keep in mind I have a lot of freedom in my current position. And I count my lucky stars for this reason. Yet, I firmly believe that so much of the disengagement seen in students is because of a lack of connections. Students should be presented opportunities in which they can connect the content to their personal lives. Current events is crucial to make this happen. For example, as I currently work on a forensics project with my students, similarly we recently discussed the neurological effects of solitary confinement in prisons. We did so by examining the case of Kalief Browder and reading the first published story about the then-teenager. In this case, I was sure to emphasize the point that Kalief Browder was only 16 years old when he was arrested and subsequently spent 3 years at Riker’s Island without having been convicted of a crime. This really stuck with them. They could never in a million years imagine themselves, the same age as Kalief, being put in the same situation. I’ve yet to observe so much emotion and passion from my students as I saw when I read them Jennifer Gonnerman’s piece.

These types of connections give students an incredible perspective of the world and how it can affect their personal lives. All this being said, journalism, I think, is crucial for educating the youth with authentic, meaningful learning. I highly recommend doing anything you can to incorporate these journalistic elements into your curriculum. An excellent place to get started is with The New York Times’ The Learning Network.

Regardless of what you do or what your teaching philosophy is, I think we can all agree to be passionate, be aware, be educated, and be open minded.

Regards,

Mr. Noondi

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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