Okay, brand new blog, and already I’m trying to use it to my (and my students’) advantage – If that’s not a sign of a true teacher, I don’t know what is!
I’ve recently begun a new adventure as a Kenan Fellow (read about that here! www.kenanfellows.org) on a project for Students Discover (read about that here! www.studentsdiscover.org) called Digital Dinos. Working with the amazing Dr. Jason Bourke in the Zano Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, I will find ways to bring my students into the scientific community by contributing to Dr. Bourke’s research.
Specifically, we will be using CT scans of dinosaur skulls and 3-D imaging technology to track genetic changes in specific structures (specifically nasal passages) of several species of dinosaurs. Here’s the challenge… I teach at an alternative school, where kids have a history of… well, let’s say sometimes my students need a little extra motivation. As if being a middle schooler wasn’t hard enough, my kids face poverty, learning challenges, difficult home lives, and a host of other hurdles that can make science lessons fall to the bottom of their priority list.
As I sat in the museum lab this afternoon, viewing the 3-D images that will fill my thoughts, lesson plans, and probably dreams over the next few months, I struggled to understand what I was seeing. And that’s when it hit me – that sinking feeling. I am over-the-moon excited about this fellowship, I love what I do, and I am passionately curious. If I am struggling to focus and understand these images, this project might be dead before the first bell rings at my school.
Never fear, in teachers like me (no, I don’t mean arrogant ones, bear with me), that feeling of dread is usually followed by a flood of “what ifs” – What if I introduce it another way? What if I find an incentive? What if I tie it to something more comfortable or motivating? And then it hit me! What if the scans were not of lumpy, unfamiliar anatomical structures, but SHOES instead? My kids spend hours discussing the latest shoe trends, exploring the websites of their favorite shoe company (did you know Nike has a place where you can digitally customize a shoe the way many of us order their favorite pizza?), and protecting their shoes from the horrors of dirt and grass stains. If I had digital images of SHOES that kids could manipulate, I’d need velvet ropes and a bouncer at the door.
Once the idea appeared, it took shape effortlessly – the way good ideas often do. I discussed the details with Dr. Bourke and my Digital Dinos teammates, and the excitement grew. Just like Dr. Bourke’s research will track the changes in specific facial and skull features over millions of years, my students could track changes in things like sole thickness, lace placement, and tongue length over seasons and across lines. Similarly to the way Dr. Bourke compares features across species, my students could compare basketball shoes to running shoes. The connections flowed freely and I left the lab determined to do what I have learned to do well – beg for free stuff for my underprivileged students.
Nike, it appears, does quite a bit of community support and I applaud any company that finds ways to give back. I am also sure they get scores of requests for donations and must find ways to structure their process. Unfortunately for me, this means an online donation application that requires documents I can’t access and involvement in a process that is bigger than I can take on.
So… I’m hoping for some help from friends, or friends of friends, or… you get the idea. If you’re reading this, I’d love your help.
Here’s what I need: Awesome shoes. Shoes that will make my kids say, with tones of awe “Ms. Campbell – where did you GET those?” Shoes that will inspire kids to use vocabulary that, when I try to repeat it, makes me feel every one of the 40 years I have lived through, so I will spare you.
No one is going to wear these shoes, so they don’t need to be perfect. I don’t need matching pairs, I’m happy with the random damage that can happen in shipping or manufacturing, but for the sake of my goal – impressing my 7th graders enough that I can trick them into learning, I’d rather they not be used… or at least not obviously used.
So… can you help me out? Or know someone who can? Thanks for reading, and being part of my community! My students and I thank you!!