The Great Lakes: Keeping Them Clear and Keeping Them Here

Growing up in western Michigan I traveled to Lake Michigan with my family before I can even remember. Photographs of being at the beach is my only evidence for how young I was when I first experienced one of Michigan’s greatest natural resources, fresh water. I have also felt the lakes presence both directly and indirectly due to the lakes great effect on the local climate and its affect on the ecosystem. The Great Lakes contain 95 percent of the United States fresh water supply, and only trail the polar ice caps and Lake Baikal in Siberia in total volume of freshwater globally. Without the Great Lakes, the entire region surrounding Michigan would be much different, including the types of jobs and natural life in and around the state. Continue reading

‘Bull’ An Unexpected Literary Treat

For those who know me you might be able to envision my reaction when I read the opening line from David Elliot’s book, Bull. Sorry Mom, I am just quoting here.

”Whaddup, bitches?”

I literally set the book down.

But like a curious cat the intrigue of why a book would start in this way got the best of me so I reread the preface and started again.

I quickly understood this would be a unique read for me. I seem to stay in the non-fiction genre most of the time and this verse-novel version of the Minotaur tale from Greek mythology piqued my interest early.

With some thematic elements and some literary imagery fit for HBO the story reads quickly and presents the epic in an engaging way. Each of the seven characters communicates through their own poetic form. Another bonus in my mind is given the short stanzas of poetry, the story reads quickly. Continue reading

iNaturalist

Have you ever come across an odd spider, insect, or plant and thought, “Hmm, what is this thing?!” Enter iNaturalist.

iNaturalist is available for Android and for Apple and is completely free to download and use.

After downloading the app you can ‘Make an Observation’ by uploading a picture of the organism in question and the iNaturalist database will give you closely matched options. If the app does not automatically find a perfect match, the community of citizen scientists can suggest species information and help identify your unknown sample. Continue reading

Are You Listening?

A soft, steady click. Not more than the light click of a spacebar.

This little click is all it took to cause a week-long headache of a recurring battery failure on our Ford Explorer. A headache that peaked when the dead battery caused our son to be late for his first day of pre-school.

The issue in diagnosing the problem was the battery was fine to drive from Grand Rapids to North of Detroit, then the next morning it was dead. After recharging it was fine for a day. Then dead again. After recharging again we drove back to Grand Rapids with no trouble. Finally, another full day later the battery was dead on pre-school day #1. Continue reading

These 6 Things

This post is geared to the educators out there, so if you know a teacher pass this along! I have been blessed to teach with some great educators. Not just people good at their job, but individuals who are constantly pushing themselves to be even better. One of these individuals is Mr. Dave Stuart.

Several times a year students will comment about how great Mr. Stuart is and stir up a little bit of teacher envy inside my teacher soul. To a high school student some teachers are “great” because they allow cell phones, or give open note tests, or don’t keep track of tardies. The more I have gotten to know Mr. Stuart, and how his class functions, the more I have realized he probably expects more from his students than the average teacher.

During the second year at my current school I became more interested in finding out what makes Mr. Stuart such a great teacher in the minds of so many students. I asked students, positioned our instructional rounds group so we would see Mr. Stuart in action, asked colleagues, and even asked Dave for bit of advice.

Through these observations and conversations I learned a lot about things Mr. Stuart’s class does but I was missing the real difference that helps students key in to his instruction. It is not some trendy pedagogy that helps students enjoy Mr. Stuart’s class. Sure, students frequently share about a good Pop-Up Debate, or how the Article of the Week is relevant in their life.  What underscores all of these activities is a set of beliefs students share in that class.

The Five Beliefs are:

  1. Credibility: I believe in my teacher.
  2. Belonging: I belong in this classroom.
  3. Effort: I can improve through my effort.
  4. Efficacy: I can succeed at this.
  5. Value: This work has value for me.

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I have the benefit of being in the same building as Dave and can pick his brain if I am looking to try something from his class in my own room. I have even tried resources on his website. If you are anything like me, I like to have a physical copy as a guide when trying something new that has some type of format involved. As a college student I remember having Harry Wong’s First Days of School, and once I started my current assignment a colleague handed me Teach Like a Champion 2.0. Both of these were great resources to help build a skill-set as a teacher.

Lucky for anyone looking to build classroom culture, Long-Term Flourishing in their students, or looking for a guide to using Pop-Up Debates Dave has just published his second book. This one is simply title These 6 Things.

I know my copy will be nearby as I plan throughout the year. I am sure it will be a much loved resource as I continue to build my skill-set and get students more involved with reading, writing, and using meaningful argument.

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So aren’t Reading, Writing, and Speaking things that should be left to ELA and the Social Studies departments? Not at all, especially with the Next Gen Science Standards and the increased emphasis on students modeling their understanding of science concepts.

A key piece of developing science-minded students revolves around what NGSS refers to as the Science and Engineering Practices. There are eight practices, but let’s connect dots between three of these standards and These 6 Things.

  1. Analyzing and Interpreting Data- Reading
  2. Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information- Reading, Writing, Speaking
  3. Engaging in Argument from Evidence- Speaking/Listening

Our biology classes have dabbled with using news articles as source documents. We have also increased the amount of modeling as part of our investigations. Having These 6 Things as a guide for Pop-Up Debate is the piece I am most excited about having this physical copy.

There are so many topics in science that will lend themselves nicely to Pop-Up Debate. Climate Change, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), safe dieting, stem cell research, and how about the granddaddy of them all, Evolution.

Dave’s writing is conversational, yet informative. He is authentic and it comes through in his teaching and in his book. Whether on a personal, department, building, or district level there is value in getting this book into teacher’s hands. Almost all of us who are teachers chose this career to make a meaningful impact in the lives of others. Not just to help boost standardized test scores or get into a college, but to really help students become successful individuals as they head out into life after school.

This book helps focus on 6 things to streamline meaningful instruction. This helps students flourish in the long-term and will help teachers find balance between school and life. I know this book will be a great resource for Professional Development. I am curious to see how long it will be before this book is on a college syllabus for new teachers. First Days of School was a good preview to essential classroom management. These 6 Things will be a great resource for helping develop meaningful, life-long skills in our students. I hope you have a great year! Peace.

 

 

PFAS Aren’t the Problem

Anyone who has been paying any attention to local news in west Michigan knows that PFAS are a group of chemicals that have contaminated local water sources. PFAS are a known carcinogen and the area of PFAS contamination seems to just keep growing. Initially, Wolverine World Wide in Rockford was being singled out as the source of all the local contamination from poor storage of waste product. The scenario in Rockford is not playing out very well. Home values have dropped, complex filtration systems need to be installed, and local fishing now has a “Do Not Eat” designation. Upon further testing it appears PFAS are found throughout the state.

PFAS are a problem, but I contend that PFAS are not THE problem.

The problem is a disregard for nature and the human desire for quick results rather than using sustainable practices. Continue reading

Learning to Fly

Last week my son was riding his bike on the sidewalk and shouted “Dad! A baby bird!”. The week prior we had come across a dead baby robin on the sidewalk and had to have an impromptu “circle of life” conversation, so I was fearing another little bird had met the same fate. Moving closer to the small brown pile of feathers we could see its little body rising and falling with each quick breathe. A few moments after approaching the little bird, it fluttered through the air a few feet and came crashing down. While it fluttered away I noticed small pockets of red under its wings.

baby cardinal

My attention was also drawn to a nearby rooftop where a male cardinal was keeping watch. Cardinals are one of the most beautiful birds we get here in Michigan, so to see a baby cardinal fresh out of the nest was exciting! At the same time I grew quite worried since this small flightless bird was sure to become a quick meal in its current condition. Continue reading

The Four Tendencies

A recent road trip allowed for some much needed audiobook time. This time around I gave a listen to The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Certainly in the non-fiction self-help genre, but an interesting listen from the start.

In a nutshell there are four tendencies which people tend to naturally fall into. In the book there is a printed version of a tendency quiz, or there is an online version (you will need to give an email address to get the result). Continue reading

Looking Up

Spending time camping with family is an perennial gift I am blessed to experience. The separation from the daily grind at home truly helps with recharging the emotional batteries. Once again this year our family has spent a week at Aloha State Park in Mullet Lake in northern Michigan.

Similar to several other state parks in Michigan Aloha offers campsites, bath houses, a nice little beach with a great lake view, access to a rail-trail, and as a nice bonus a camp store with donuts and ice cream! Much like other great camping locations the real benefit to camping here is the time spent with family and friends.

Moreso than in years past, our camp has spent some quality time around the campfire looking up at the stars. It has been a nightly goal to spot a satellite and catch a shooting star as it streaks across the sky. Continue reading