Silverdome Implosion = Teachable moment

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Flicker by Dave Hogg

“Mr Bloch, did you hear they are imploding the Silverdome this weekend?” A student asked at the start of advisory today. “Yes, I heard it on the news.”

“What’s the Silverdome?” another student piped in.

Since Ford Field opened in 2002 the Pontiac Silverdome has become a forgotten relic wasting away in the elements. My students weren’t born the last time a significant event occurred there. I quickly shared how I attended Lions and Pistons games an the occasional concert at the Silverdome while I was in college. Pulling up pictures of the stadium for them all to see.

“Man it would be cool to see it BLOWN AWAY!” I was quickly reminded of how middle school students love explosions. What science could we discuss? I quickly responded,

“You realize the matter is not destroyed, just changed into something else.”

“What?”

“Matter doesn’t disappear it just changes.” A puzzled look over came the 7th grader’s face just as the bell rang for him to move on to his next class.

Middle school students love science, they just don’t quite understand all of it yet. Implosions look like explosions, not many kids care to know the difference. When something implodes or explodes all they cares is what was once there is now gone. But where did it go? Energy transforms matter into something else, dust and debris, that has the exact same mass as the original structure. Students have a difficult time understanding this.

To help my student understand the law of conservation of mass and energy transformations I plan to use a new website, Legends of Learning, where the science is brought to life through games. To help my inquiring students better understand the implosion of the Pontiac Silverdome there is the game Energy Lab that shows students how energy flows in the chemical reactions used to implode the structure. Students are engaged while playing the learning games. Potential Match can be used to explain how the potential energy is changed to kinetic energy and back during the implosion.

Students love seeing science in actions rather than reading about it in a book or seeing it in a video. Video games help science come alive and be interactive, like those teachable moments we find in life.

I plan on getting my 13 year old son up early on Sunday to drive down M-59 and watch the dome go down all in the name of science.

Don’t miss all the teachable moments that occur in your community where science is always in action!

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The Improv of teaching

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“Mr Bloch, we didn’t do that activity second hour, why did sixth hour do it?” Well to be quite honest no two hours in my classroom are the same! My teaching doesn’t stick to a script. Sure we cover the same topics, but depending on the audience and how they react to the topic the class stirs where the learning will go. I see teaching as working as an improv actor. I know the topic, know many ways to convey the needed knowledge about the topic but wait till the audience in the seats reacts to see which path I travel down.

When I started teaching I felt my classes deserved the same lessons. I felt if I short changed a class if I did not cover all the material the class before. The classes had to start and end at the same spot even if it meant one class had to rush to get there and another had to slow down or stop learning just to keep to the script. Does the lesson drive learning or is it how students interact with the knowledge?

When students participate and engage in their learning, their interests and questions drive what is done in the classroom. If teachers stick to a defined script students will feel disconnected with the learning process and shut down. Similar to the way a comic on the stage has to read the audience, see where jokes bomb or succeed and move towards the success.  A teacher can’t push through a lesson if it is failing, they have to shift to find success. Teachers have to constantly gage the students level of interest, listen to the questions their students are asking and shift lessons towards their needs.

Lesson plans serve as a map that show where the class needs to arrive, eventually! The teacher needs to make sure to keep all roads clear so students can find the one that fits them best. My worst days in the classroom came from forcing my class down a road they didn’t want to travel down. As the learning guide teachers have to remember the destination is important and the path there doesn’t matter. Some classes want the direct route using memorization and worksheets (yes some students like this approach) while others want to climb mountains and enjoy the view during their journey.  Teachers just need to make sure students keep moving forward and arrive unharmed with knowledge.

Educational reformers seem to think that teachers just have a script to read from for the 180 days of the school year. If this was the case TVs and VCRs would have replaced teachers long ago. Students need the constant interaction with a knowledgable sherpa to learn.

To be a great teacher, sharpen your improv skills, gage the interests of your students to guide them on the many paths of learn!

#AMLE2017 Pre-Conference thoughts

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I leave tomorrow for Philadelphia. I am excited to be presenting at the AMLE annual conference in front of incredible educators from all over the world. I wonder if there will be enough time in the two days that I am at the conference to do everything I desire. I want to attend ALL the sessions, connect with everyone and learn new things. I have to contain myself and remember a few guiding principals.

  1. Slow down– Don’t rush from moment to moment but just live in the moment. It will be over way to fast if you rush. Make all connections meaningful. Learn in the moment and don’t worry about the getting to the next moment.
  2. Talk to teachers– The conference will be full of incredible experts, authors and leaders. I enjoy connecting with all of them, but to hear about practical classroom practice, I need to connect with classroom educators. I need to make time in my busy schedule to make sure I sit in a few session with current classroom teachers. They know what works and the ins and outs of practice best, especially if they are presenting at a national conference.
  3. Say Hi– As I go through the conference I need to look for the attendees who seem to be by themselves. (Like me) I need to slow down say high and spark a conversation. During past conferences this is how I have meet some incredible people. Nobody wants to be alone, so I need to find my tribe. I also can’t assume people will recognize me from twitter. I am not a handle but a person.
  4. Follow twitter– This will allow me to not miss incredible stuff going on. I can see the retweets and interactions. If it was worth hearing, it will show up on the #AMLE2017 twitter feed. After I return home Tuesday night I will search the feed to continue learning.
  5. Use the APP– AMLE has invested money in creating a handy app. In the all presenters can upload all their resources. So even if you can’t make a session you can still find resources to use and help you grow. The APP has all the contact information you need to follow up with presenters and gives you a space to take notes.
  6. Have FUN– If learning isn’t fun it won’t be meaningful. I need to not stress about my sessions or who I connect with (I hope all of you!!) but enjoy the moment and the opportunity the conference provides.

See you all in Philly! Please stop me and Say HI if I don’t first!