Day 164: Presentations & Mystery Block

AP Physics: Presentations

Students continued presenting their work. In one class, the number of presentations I scheduled per day is spot in. In the other, presentations are flying by and won’t need the full period tomorrow. I need to give some thought to what that class will do after finishing presentations.

Earth Science: Mystery Block

To revisit relative ages, students had to determine the steps in making a mystery block. There were a couple of particular elements that provoked some great conversation. In particular, one side had white paint and some grooves. The color made it very tough to tell if there was any paint in the grooves, so students had to use other features on that side to decide whether the paint or the grooves came first. Next time, I’d like to use this at the start of the unit as a model-building lab; I’m pretty sure this is a concrete enough context that students can reason out most of the principles for relative dating.


Day 163: Presentations & Paleozoic Minnesota

AP Physics: Presentations

Students started presenting their projects today. A full class period of student presentations can be deadly, but I wanted students to have an opportunity to share their work with their peers and couldn’t come up with a good alternative. Students ended up very engaged; over the last few weeks, they’ve heard bits and pieces about each other’s projects and seemed to enjoy seeing how everything came together. In one class in particular, students had some great questions after each presentation that showed they were really thinking about what they heard.

Earth Science: Cenozoic Minnesota

We started class by whiteboarding what students came up with for Minnesota’s Paleozoic era. There was some really nice discussion linking to earlier topics about why there are very few Precambrian fossils in Minnesota. Afterward, we continued the pattern with Minnesota’s Cenozoic rocks and landforms.


Day 162: CTSR & Ancient Minnesota

AP Physics: CTSR

Students took the CTSR today so that I can have some data to help decide whether to use that or the FCI next year, though I’m leaning towards the FCI since the responses on individual questions is much more meaningful. In the past I gave the CTSR because I was in a PLC with a chemistry teacher, so we wanted an assessment we could both use, and it lead to great conversations about how to build reasoning skills across grade levels. I think if all of the science classes gave the CTSR each spring, especially if we developed some common language using materials like Sayer & Addy’s Curriculum Analysis Taxonomy and the NGSS Science Practices, there is the potential for some really interesting department-wide vertical alignment.

Earth Science: Ancient Minnesota

Students examined a poster of Minnesota’s geologic history to reinforce the relative lengths of time and see how the geology has changed over time. Afterwards, I gave students some information about Minnesota’s Paleozoic geology so they could complete an activity similar to Friday’s look at Precambrian Minnesota.


Day 161: Skip Day & Precambrian Minnesota

AP Physics: Skip Day

The Friday before Memorial Day is traditionally senior skip day at Tartan, so my classes were very small. The students who were here worked on their projects. One student was surprised that the fits on his raw data and linearized data had the same coefficient and intercept, which is a good reminder that I need to keep having students verbalize what their slope means, not just what physical quantity it represents, especially when dealing with linearized graphs. Since all but two of my students were either in calculus this year or took it last year, they were able to say a lot of the right words, but I still need to make sure they have a clear understanding of what is behind the words.

Earth Science: Ancient Minnesota

I gave students some information about precambrian rocks in Minnesota, then had them use what they’ve learned this trimester to make some inferences about that era. I had students point to a specific piece of evidence to support each statement they made, but I think this activity would have been better served by having them do a CER for each inference, instead.


Day 160: Peer Review & Geologic Time

AP Physics: Peer Review

I put students in random groups and had them share their project so far, then evaluate each other with a rubric. In addition to the feedback, students found it really helpful just to practice talking out loud about their project. A lot of them also got excited hearing about what some classmates they don’t normally interact with are working on and are looking forward to the presentations next week.

Earth Science: Geologic Time

Students made timelines to compare  the relative amounts of time in a 14 year old’s live to the amount of time in the major geologic periods and eras, which seemed to help them wrap their heads around the relative lengths of time much more than the big numbers would. I used a worksheet that already had specific events in the life of a 14 year old they should include, but next time I think I will either stick to just having a set number of years or work on making the events more open-ended since many of them are very cultural.


Day 159: Frisbee Golf & Radioactive Decay

AP Physics: Frisbee Golf

Today was the last true work day on the final project. One student is analyzing a specific throw frisbee golf had come up with attaching an LED to a point on the edge of his disk to make it easier to find the angular velocity after a throw since a sticker wasn’t quite visible enough in the video.

A lot of students are getting excited for presentations next week. Several students are really proud of what they’ve done so far and are looking forward to sharing it with their peers. One student was really disappointed when he realized he’s going to miss one day of presentations; I suspect he’ll insist the students he misses tell him about their projects some other time.

Earth Science: Radioactive Decay

When I collected notebooks yesterday, one of the items I looked at was a reflection that included a question about what students need from me to end the term the way they would like. Several students wrote they aren’t always sure what the big idea behind a lab is or how it connects to other labs, which isn’t surprising since I feel like I’ve been struggling with that in earth science. This is a good reminder of how important it is to have a coherent, purposeful curriculum.

Today, we shifted from looking at the relative ages of rocks to finding the absolute age with radioactive dating. Students did a lab flipping “coins” to model radioactive decay. I also collected a class average and spent a lot of the post-lab discussion looking at how results from individual groups compared to the class average. I also expanded the time we spent on connecting the lab to actual radioactive decay in response to the student comments.

coin flip


Day 158: Trampoline & Superposition

AP Physics: Trampoline

Students continued to work on their projects. One student wanted to study trampoline physics, but was having some trouble figuring out how to get reliable jumps. She ended up building a mini “trampoline” by stretching some lycra over a bucket to get something easier to control and collect data from.

Technology access is more of an issue than I anticipated. I have some students who would like to use video analysis on their project, but had fallen behind and were not ready to take advantage of the time last week we were able to spend in the computer lab. Next year, I want to spend more time having students do some backwards planning on their project. I had them submit a proposal to me, and I might have them include a timeline.

Earth Science: Superposition

Students got some cross sections and had to rank the age of various features. Students were very successful at figuring out not just the rules of thumb for determining relative age, but making sense of why those rules are true.