Student Text Access

The Frustrations of Online Courses


Net-Text is cumbersome, time consuming, clunky. Navigation is poor. Visual appeal is poor.

I need to make my own web page.

What Order Topics

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
- John Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra , 1911, page 110.

Connecting Course With Text

The goal of the environmental science course is to provide you with an understanding of the interrelationships of the natural world and humans impact on those interrelationships. It will address the application of scientific process to environmental analysis, the management of natural resources, and analysis of private and governmental decisions involving the environment.  Since there will be no money for textbooks for the new environmental science course, my students will be accessing a free online textbook, The Habitable Planet published by Annenberg Learner.   To facilitate this, I am taking an online course using the text. [Oh yes, what a good idea, Sandra! I knew you'd agree.]

The order of the textbook makes perfect sense because the climate controls the planet systems, but I wish to start by showing how interconnected everything is, as it says in the quote above [one of my favorite quotes]. So I think I have the order worked out, with a reasonable separation between the fall and the spring semesters. I am still trying to decide if the first unit of both courses should be the same or if the spring semester should have a summary of the fall, or if I should just not worry so much.

Habitable Planet
The Habitable Planet, Table of Contents
The Fall course focusses on Earth systems -- geophysical, atmospheric, oceanic, and ecosystems -- as they exist independently of human influence, and on climate change.

Unit 1 Science and the Environment
Unit 2 The Dynamic Earth
Unit 3 Organization of Life
Unit 4 Ecosystems and How They Work
Unit 5 Land, Food, and Agriculture
Unit 6 Water Resources
Unit 7 Atmosphere and Climate Change


The Spring course explores the effect that human activities have on the different natural systems, such as energy, environmental hazards and human health, economics and public policy, and the political economy of sustainability.
Environmental issues
Source:  Tutzone.org

Unit 1 Science and the Environment [??]
Unit 2 Understanding Populations
Unit 3 Biodiversity and Its Decline
Unit 4 The Environment and Human Health
Unit 5 Mining and Mineral Resources
Unit 6 Energy Challenges
Unit 7 Waste
Unit 8 Economics, Policy, and the Future

Deciding the order consumed quite a bit of thought but now I am ready to start filling in the pieces. If you think I lost the ocean unit from the book, fear not - I integrated it into the Dynamic Earth unit. I have a preliminary pacing schedule which looks impossible to keep without assigning a lot of homework. Ugh - I'm not a big fan of homework but it seems necessary.

Formulating An Environmental Science Curriculum

dogwood sprout
Dogwood  Tree Sprouting
This fall the high school I work at will have two honors environmental science courses that will run in sequential semesters and I get to teach them! I am very excited about this, but I will have no paper-based textbook and the curriculum needs to be assembled. Looking at courses online, most are designed for AP Environmental Science, which is not what the courses will be. The courses will also be linked to the Pentucket's Safety and Public Service Academy.

The goal of the environmental science courses is to provide students with an understanding of the interrelationships of the natural world and humans impact on those interrelationships. Both courses will address the application of scientific process to environmental analysis, the management of natural resources, and analysis of private and governmental decisions involving the environment. Course I will focus on "ecology, energy flow, ecological structures, earth systems". Course II will focus on "energy, environmental hazards and human health, economics and public policy".

The students will need a text to refer to and give them structure and study material, so I am looking at using the free Annenberg Press The Habitable Planet as a baseline for them. There are other units I will need to add, plus I need to split the work into two reasonable sections.

Dogwood Tree Blooming
I will be using this blog for reflecting on the units as I read the text, find supplementary materials, and put the courses together.Student lessons will be posted separately from this blog.


Blogger Technical Issues

Learning protocols takes patience and time. If students don't get protocols instilled in them at the beginning of the year, the rest of the year will be a struggle.  It's worth the beginning-of-the-year lag to do it right.


Students have been having difficulty understanding how to post, tag, and add pictures. Since I've been trying to assess their understanding, and they have not posted, I took time today to go through the steps once again, but this time on the whiteboard in class with students, not at computers. It seems that repeat, repeat, repeat is necessary for the students to get the hang of posting their work. Some students were making a new blog each time they were supposed to make a new post. Most students were not labeling with key words. Each week for the past month I increased the blog reflection requirements. Today was a good time to review the entire scope.

  1.  Where the blog name is:  It's not the student username. It's not an email address. It's not the title at the top of the page. It's not the url when in edit mode. The blog name IS the url when in "view blog" mode, and is followed by "blogspot.com".

  2. Add a new post, NOT a new blog. Each blog has to have a unique name (see above) so adding a blog every time you want to say something is going to get complicated when it comes time to keep track of your posts. It is much easier to put all of one topic (or course) under one blog.  

  3. Compose or HTML? Know which format you are typing in! Compose is a "what you see" format where html requires coding for formatting bullets and numbers and such. You can work in either, just be aware! I recommend you keep you options (see image below) clicked to"Interpret typed HTML" and "Press enter for line breaks".

  4. Record labels.  Labels are "key words" that help others find your awesome discoveries. Key words are often the major points or topics of your post. Key words are separated by commas. In blogger they are called "labels" and are in the settings choices on the right. (In wordpress they are called "tags".)

  5. Include pictures to add interest. Cite pictures you did not take. Give pictures a descriptive or interesting caption. Pictures are added by clicking on the little picture frame at the top and following the directions that follow. The school library computers may have blocked you from doing this, in which case you will need to complete at home or on my computer after school.

  6. Include links. Links are helpful for sending a reader to the definition of a technical word you use, and for directing the reader to more information and/or your sources of information. 
  7. Publish when done. No one, including your teacher, can read what you did not publish. If you go back and edit your post, then you must "update" to save. How does it look? 

Our Day In Hampton Harbor


Floating Lab Field Trip


Oceanography students were blessed with a picture perfect day for their field trip with the UNH Marine Docents Floating Lab Program on October 4, 2013. This program took place on a fishing boat rented from Eastman's Docks in Seabrook, NH and consisted of five separate lab activities, each about 25  minutes long. The five labs were:
  • Plankton sampling
  • Charting a position
  • Benthic organisms
  • Water sampling
  • Georges Bank Fish

Students were grouped into five groups and rotated through the stations. Each station had two marine science docents, so the student-to-teacher ratio was no more than 1:3! This was a wonderful opportunity to get some authentic learning for high school students. We also took advantage of a sandy beach lesson after lunch. Each station is briefly described below.

Trawling For Benthics

Before any of the activities got underway, we trawled for benthic organisms and the students helped pull up the catch.

A model of the trawling net is used to explain its operation
Many hands make light work.
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The trawl line dragging behind the boat
Students line up and grab a piece of the trawl line rope to pull it up.
ImageBottom trawling is a benthic sampling technique that uses a net dragged along the bottom of the water body to collect organisms living there, for further study. The device used in this program is shown in model form in the image below. If has floats on the top of the net and weights on the bottom of the net to keep the net as open as possible. For purposes of scientific study, it provides a "grab" sample of a small area and facilitate habitat mapping studies. Since trawls are destructive in nature, they are not to be used in fragile habitats.





















Plankton Catch

Students used a standard plankton net - and I forget the size mesh - for taking a plankton sample. The critters were then rinsed down the mesh and collected in a box, where students could take a sample for viewing. The viewing container, I believe this is a DiscoveryScope, is a little clear rectangular box that fits together. This viewing box then fits onto a frame with a magnifying glass to look through. I could not get any pictures through the view box but some of the students were able to.
Working a plankton sampling net
Stunning students sampling plankton

Viewing box to see the plankton collected

Learning how to use a parallel ruler

Charting Your Position

At this station students determined their location in Hampton Harbor using a portion of the marine chart and parallel rulers. We had tried a similar activity in class, but did not have any parallel rulers, and this - being on the water bobbing around and looking for water towers and high tide lines - gave a more honest representation of how to plot your location. The students also had real compasses, rather than their iPhone compass, which further improved the activity.
Docent showing the Georges Bank Chart










Benthic Organisms

The best way to describe what was pulled from the bottom is to show you the pictures.

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Tough guy crab


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Baby lobsters


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Sea squirt


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Baby mussels and tunicates
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Red algae


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Front box: barnacles feeding


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Sand dollar, baby flounder, and red algae


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Adult female lobster with thousands of eggs on swimmerets

The lobster in this picture was quite large with an impressive number of eggs on the swimmerets.  I wish I had gotten a better picture.
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Two baby lobsters with a Jonas crab


Water Sampling

Students setting up a Van Dorn bottle, horizontal water sampler, to take water sample.


<img class=" wp-image " id="i-2158" title="Students take water samples at 5m depth" alt=""
Students take water samples at 5m depth


1003131018Georges Bank Fish

Thinking about what fish use Georges Bank, what they eat, where they live, and their abundance.


Afternoon Sandy Beach Program

We had a 45 min break for lunch (yay! beach pizza from Tripoli's!) and then one last activity on the beach: How do beaches form? Students examined and compared high, mid, and low-tide sands as well as the wrack line, and made nifty little booklets about what they uncovered.

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Student Assignment

Students who went on this field trip are to blog their learning, choosing from one of the questions below or creating their own:
  • How was your ocean literacy changed?
  • What is one thing you learned today?
  • Choosing just one of the floating lab stations, what value did you get from the station?
  • How did this field trip help you understand marine science?
  • How did the field trip illustrate methods used by scientists in the real marine science investigations?
  • What do you understand better now, as a result of the learning stations?
All statements must be supported with evidence (examples), and have follow-up from additional sources (links). The usual two paragraph minimum with a related picture applies. The pictures Ms. Goodrich took are here.

Kudos

It was a good day. The weather was spectacular. The students were engaged in real, honest-to-goodness science practices. And the staff of both Eastman's and the UNH team were great.

Thanks goes out to Dari Ward at UNH for organizing this wonderful ocean literacy program. The docents on this field trip were extremely professional, knowledgeable, friendly and experienced. They enhanced the program considerably with these qualities.  The program itself is funded through a New Hampshire Sea Grant.

Lab Safety Posters

Safety in the High School Science Lab

The first thing science teachers have to do each year - before students can mess about with the science-y stuff - is to go over safety procedures and rules of the lab. It can feel tedious teaching the same thing for five periods in a row, especially when you know they got the same lecture the previous year and the year before that, but it must be done.

If you are interested in what our lab safety contract looks like, you can find it here.

The SOP is to hand out the lab safety contract, discuss the rules, take a tour of the room and review the locations and use of equipment, view a video, and finally, take a quiz. We (science department) usually show "Accident at Jefferson High", but this year Flinn Scientific's lab safety video was discovered so a couple of us showed that as an alternative.

The walls of my classroom start out the year with very little on them as I prefer to have the student work posted instead of purchased or teacher-generated posters. Thus, it makes for a good opening activity for my physical science students to make the lab safety posters. Since I have more than one class and I don't want to fill what little wall space I have with safety posters, my students work in pairs to create a safety poster from one of the rules.

And that is what physical science did today, make lab safety posters. Some were quite clever.



How Science is Really Done

Be very, very careful what you put into that head, because you will never, ever get it out. Thomas Cardinal Wolsey (1471-1530)
Today was the day I told the students that there is no "Scientific Method". It is astonishing that the misconception of "steps" of the scientific method continue to be propagated through textbooks and poster publishers.

I use the marvelous website linked to the graphic below to explain how science really works. 


http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/scienceflowchart
How Science REALLY Works: The Flowchart