My Fancy Scientist Mentor

Kenan says that their Fellow/Mentor partnership is the foundation of their program and let me just say I feel like I hit the mentor jackpot! Dr. Stephanie Schuttler, otherwise known as the Fancy Scientist, goes above and beyond when it comes to the role of a mentor.

They say to pick a time I learned something or had an “ah-ha” moment, but honestly every time I’m around Dr. Schuttler these two things occur. I’ve learned so much from day one, but data day was definitely a long day and the final “ah-ha” moment was worth it. We had spent hours trying to figure out how to get the data for eMammal and finally after lots of hard work BAM we got what we needed. The visitors of the science museum might have seen four women dancing happily through the glass windows.

Over the course of the fellowship, Dr. Schuttler has been there for us every step of the way. There was a perfect combination of working side-by-side and letting us go and figure things out on our own. She has even offered to come to our classrooms and speak to the students about the project and her career. This type of structure has resulted in a wonderful working friendship that I know will continue long after the fellowship is over.

I am currently waiting to hear if our abstract was accepted into the Citizen Science conference in Minnesota. This will be my first scientific conference and I am so excited for the opportunity to present the collaboration between Kenan, the State Science Museum, and the classroom.

New Kind of PD

One requirement of Kenan is that you must develop a Personal Remote Learning Plan (PRL). A PRL is very similar to North Carolina State’s Professional Development Plan. I was very excited this summer to find out that we would get a chance to go to a Legislative Summit, so I decided to do my PRL on improving my teacher leadership. Unfortunately, asbestos was found in the legislative building so our summit was postponed to this upcoming spring/summer. I still plan to attend the summit as I think it is a critical part to me understanding how to become a better leader in my field.

Since the summit was postponed, I chose to attend the 2016 NCSTA (North Carolina Science Teachers Association) Conference in October. The two days were packed full of amazing presentations and my brain was on overload. It was almost like I had stepped back into the summer at NCAT with all my other Kenan Fellows. The conference gave me tons of ideas that I am currently trying out with my students and sharing with other teachers.

One thing I wish I could share with all my colleagues is the experiences that I have had with the Kenan Fellows Program. Their professional learning programs are unlike anything that I have been to. They keep me fully engaged, pushing me to my limits and beyond. If every teacher got to experience just one day of a Kenan Learning Program I know they would be changed forever. I have taken numerous things back into my classroom and engaged every student, often pushing them beyond their comfort zone. So I must say thank you Kenan for continuing to change my life as well as the students.

 

Something New

So, I’m not really sure if this counts as a new tool or strategy but one thing I have done this year differently is I created a lunch club called eMammal for students who are interested in science. We meet every Wednesday at lunch and explore the world of science. This group of students not only deals with the eMammal project directly, but also explores a variety of different science experiments.

Many students can’t stay after school for a particular club so making it during the day allows an opportunity that wouldn’t necessarily be there. As a new teacher I have all these great ideas of things that I would like to try and this smaller group allows me to see if it would actually be reasonable on a larger scale. Many of us know that experiments with 15-20 students is much easier (and affordable) than with 140 students. The students have kind of become a panel for me to bounce ideas back and forth to get a students perspective on what its like for them. Feedback from these students have helped me rework lessons, build on old things, and even try some new materials with all of my classes.

Like I said I’m not sure is this is considered a new “tool”, but I know that my teaching style changes almost each week for the better because I decided to take on this eMammal Team.

Bringing “real science” into the classroom

When I talk to students about what they think a scientist looks like, many times they picture a guy like Albert Einstein rocking the classic white coat. Fortunately for me I am part of Students Discover and get to bring citizen science into the classroom, changing students perception on what a scientist actually is.

The whole goal of citizen science is to show people that they can be a scientist in their everyday clothes, looking at their back yards, living ¬†their life. They don’t need to be in a lab coat, in a fancy building, with fancy equipment. I think this is an incredible module to be using in classrooms around the world and its success depends on how well teachers present the opportunity to their students.

My school has a lot of students that don’t get to see much outside of their own world. They don’t get to see that they can be part of something bigger that impacts a large variety of people. They don’t get the opportunity to be part of scientific history. ¬†With citizen science that will all change for them. My particular group eMammal will have data that will be stored in the Smithsonian forever! My students are finally going to get a chance to see that even as middle schoolers, they are making a difference in the science community. If the lessons we create and share inspire just one student to pursue science, I believe that citizen science has done its job!

Bringing it Into the Classroom

The best part about my group was that we found a way to connect all our lesson plans to our curriculum. My favorite lesson plan is a scientific experiment that no one knows the answer to as it hasn’t been done before. The students will use the camera traps and take data as they normally would. After a couple weeks a pink yard flamingo will be placed in front of the camera and the students will then look at the new photos and record any observations they see with the animals and the flamingo. It is our thought that animals from a more urban environment would not be affected by flamingo as they are used to these different objects, but animals in a more rural environment might be put off by the flamingo as they have not seen an object like that before.

I will be implementing this lesson plan during our evolution unit. We talk about adaptations and how if something is unable to adapt to a changing environment it would then die off and not be able to pass on its genetic material. I am excited to talk to my students about the different adaptations they believe would best suit a mammal living in their particular area.

What’s it all about?

When I think about my internship, I think about all of the amazing experiences I got to enjoy, from looking at photos from around the world to small mammal capture and release. The only thing I truly wish is that it would have lasted longer as I didn’t want my time to end.

For me I’m not sure if I could pinpoint just one interesting moment but I can say I really enjoyed looking and identifying animals from different areas of the world. It was so funny because you would always know when someone found something interesting as we (Lena, Nicole, and myself) would be oooing or ahhhing. Stephanie, our mentor, would then chuckle as she had seen what seemed like 10,000 of what we had just saw for the first time. It really gave me an idea of what my students must feel when they experience something for the first time. It reminded me that even though I know exactly what will happen when it comes to labs, chuckle with my students, “ooo” and “ahh” with them too.

Everything was not easy when it came to the process of actually working with the data. There were times when the site would decide that it didn’t want to cooperate that day and therefore we would not be able to get the data necessary for the lesson plan. Although this was frustrating at times it was nice to have it happen so that I now know how to mix things up if it happens with my students.

My time at the Natural Science Museum was incredible. We spent most of our time in the biodiversity lab working directly with eMammal. However we did get to explore the other labs and the collections departments. It was nice to have the VIP treatment and be able to see and explore places that are off limits to the public. I would say the best ‘extra’ part of our group was being able to go to Prairie Ridge and do small mammal trapping.

I really enjoyed working with my mentor Stephanie Shuttler. I learned so much from her and she made the whole process fun and enjoyable. It was amazing the photos that she would be able to show us that were taking from students around the world. She explained that the majority of research is done in nature parks, and this has given scientist an opportunity to see animals outside of a protected area and see how they are interacting with the influence of humans.

Although I was very sad to leave the museum after those three short weeks, I am so excited to bring everything I learned back into my classroom. The biggest thing for me was remembering what it is like to be a student. I can’t wait to share with them the mistakes and errors we made that resulted in us trying something new and ending with a great experience. The need to know that it is ok to fail and make mistakes. You just have to pick yourself back up and continue on the course.

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It’s all fun and games, until the website won’t work

Lets start with the fun and games. Overall the development of lessons has been absolutely wonderful. I have had such an amazing time with both Lena and Nicole and I am so thankful I was put into a group with this two incredible women. The three of us were like pieces of a machine functioning and helping one another to create some awesome lesson plans. Once we would get talking about an idea we would all build on each other and find the best way to make it work for each targeted grade level. Even when our amazing idea was uploaded a couple days later by the Florida teachers, we did not let that discourage us and we moved on to something different. I can honestly say this is the best group I have ever worked in and I believe our success of three lesson plans for multiple grade levels were all because of that.

Now some of our lesson plans focus heavily on the website. We chose to make some of our lessons work for classrooms that don’t have access to technology by downloading the graphs and data for them. It seemed like such a wonderful idea until the website decided to take a mini vacation for a couple days. Although that put a little kink in our flow, we moved on to all the other aspects of the three lessons. Eventually the site got back up and running and we were able to save our graphs and data for the lesson plan, but I’ll admit I might have been just a little nervous after day three of no website.

How can I help you?

What is so amazing about this particular fellowship is that it is mutually beneficial to multiple parties. We talk and discuss a lot about how this will impact the students and other teachers, but we must look into the impact on our mentor’s organization as well.

After spending weeks in the lab it has become very clear to me that my classroom will have a large impact on my mentor’s organization. We are providing real life data that is being used directly in their research. It was so amazing to read different papers and be told that this data came from schools or that students data helped with this aspect of the research they are conducting. The photos my students “take” on their cameras will be stored forever in the Smithsonian and possibly used by future scientist. That alone I think is incredible and I know the kids will be fascinated by it!

I also think that our group bridged a gap with creating curriculum that was suitable for elementary aged students as well as middle school. So far eMammal has not published any lesson plans for that grade and I think that perhaps our lessons might get some of the younger grade levels involved. This will just increase the amount of data available to the Science Museum, while getting more students involved. Overall, I am just very excited to have the students see that they are doing real life science.

 

High Five Goal!

When I first started the internship I wasn’t 100% sure exactly what I was going to do or how I was going to do it. All I knew for sure is that I was going to get this amazing opportunity and find a way to incorporate it into my classroom. Once I got there and really dove in with my team, our goals became more clear. We decided that we were going to create three lesson plans using eMammal, but do it as a team.

In previous years, fellows had decided to create individual lesson plans, but we really liked the idea of taking one lesson plan and making it work for a variety of grade levels. I loved working with Nicole and Lena, it seemed like each day more amazing ideas would pop into our heads on how this would work for elementary and if we switched this it would work for middle school. I’ve never enjoyed working on a team more than I did with these two ladies. I swear the ideas just kept flowing and everyone was jumping in, making the lesson plans better each day.

My group experienced really made me think about how my kids must feel when I place them into a group. From the initial anxiety of “Oh no, I may have to do this all on my own” to delegating responsibility and finally a joyous high five when everything works out in the end. I really can’t wait to share with my kids this process to let them know I understand where they are coming from, but also to let them know how amazing a group can be. I’ve also decided to give them a chance to share their thoughts after a group project. Here’s to getting them to their own high five moments!

About My Fellowship

I am a brand new lateral entry teacher having just finished up my first year this past June. I teach eighth grade science at Woodlawn Middle School in Mebane, NC. Since I was a first year teacher I didn’t really know what to expect. I feel like I remember my eighth grade year as the first year I really got to dive into the hands-on aspect of science. When I got to my classroom I realized that my particular school didn’t have a lot of funding or the tools necessary to be super hands-on, so my team teacher and I decided to take it on ourselves. We would purchase supplies and figure out new and creative ways for the kids to have a science experience. That is why I wanted to become a Kenan. I really wanted my kids to have an experience that took them outside their eighth grade box and placed them into real life science. My goal of the internship is to get the kids excited about the possibilities science has to offer them. I am excited to see how eMammal might change their view of animals, research, and science in general.20160629_102000the 2016-2017 eMammal team