It has been so long since I've posted anything but having a parent nominate you for a TV spot helped me take a step back and reflect on all that has changed for me in the last few years. Here is the story.
In a few days I will mark my first full year as the academic director of STEMBusUSA.org. Our summer camps were very successful and fun. I am extremely proud of the camps I created and of all the hard work our team put together to pull them off. Check out this awesome highlight reel.
My last official duty as a teacher at Maharishi School last year was to award Pranav Chhaliyil the Excellence Award, the highest award a single student can receive. It isn’t a surprise to hear that Pranav is still making waves. Pranav just became Grand Champion of the Iowa Science Fair for the second year in a row. This year is particularly impressive because he was a 9th grader competing in the high school senior division.
Pranav will be going to Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair as a finalist in Phoenix, Arizona. He wrote to me recently about this honor and included the following:
Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity of doing Radio. The speaking skills that I developed through Radio really helped this year. Thank you so much for all your support and encouragement. Your writing classes helped me so much when I wrote my provisional patent and the research paper I am writing now.
I just found this great feedback about the class I taught at this year's TechKnow Camp in Charlotte, NC.
Found on DiscoverTechnology.org
Asheville, North Carolina continues to impress me. I’ve been working at Open Space AVL and its transformation has been amazing since I was last here in December. Just half a year ago the building has been transformed from a bombed out, defunct preschool into a clean and transforming maker-space. There is still a long way to go, but considering that all of the professional construction, electric work, and beautification has been done as a labor of love, shows power of an impassioned community.
Steve Cooperman, my long time friend and project manager (I’m sure he’d deny that title), says “The space determines the use. We waited for the space to tell us what to do with it, and the people that show up. Even though they’re connected, co-working and co-learning, there’s people at different stages of their learning journey, with different ideas of what they wanted to work on.”
This summer, I was found out by Discover Technology who has flown me out to North Carolina to teach at one of their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) camps. The camp is exciting, education rich, well run, and extremely affordable. I am scheduled to teach MIT App Inventor next week. The camp has students flying self assembled drones, talking to robots and tinkering with LEGOs.
Last night I walked through the sweltering North Carolinian midnight. It was another scorcher of a day -- well over 100 degrees -- and the fresh rain was thrown off the pavement. The vapor reached back for its missing lover with soft fog hands only to be inhaled by the baleful streetlights.
The videos turned out pretty well. It was the first semi professional video editing I’ve done. The pressure of the authentic need for my work to be decent combined with the morning deadline was not lost on me. All educational lessons should be so authentic. Such conditions produce the best work from everyone, not just students.
One of the camp directors passed on the videos to PBS, who came in today to shoot footage for a show of theirs. I should have watermarked my work.
One of the Video of the camps I edited together.
The station assistant had not actually learned our names yet either, so when the interviewees asked for my students by name, they were told they weren't here. The guests left a message and went home.
Luckily we had a practice show prerecorded. As we were driving back to the school one of my students said, “I learned a lot more today than I thought I would.” Here we just had a total meltdown of communication that resulted in a near complete failure of our first show and we all “learned more than we thought we would.”
Because my students were doing a real job, they pulled success and learning out of failure. I could not have planned and orchestrated such a lesson in a traditional classroom. Even if I could, learn from our mistakes and communication is key are lessons that would take months to pull off. These kids did it themselves in fifteen minutes.
The Radio Action News Team really has learned those lessons well. They’ve published their first blog on 100.1 KRUU FM’s website and did a very difficult interview with a whole 5th and 6th grade class. They are doing a real job and getting real work experience.
My students made the news today when they took over the local courthouse. It was all part of one of our authentic projects.
Far more in depth than a simple mock trial project, students ran their own criminal investigation of a fake crime committed on school grounds. They worked with local police, the County Attorney, and a District Judge. Two students were “arrested” and will stood trial at the courthouse. They were prosecuted and defended by a team of peer lawyers in front of a jury of 10th grade American Government students.
Teacher Vandalizes Student Art!
On October 6th, I told my students that they were doing a painting project. The students were to create 4x8 foot murals that would go on display in the local Arts and Convention Center. Additional, the local Art's Association was awarding the school a $12,000 grant to do this. The students were broken into small groups and got painting. In one day, they accomplished an amazing amount of work. However, the whole “painting project” was a front for the real project.
That night I, their beloved teacher, spray painted graffiti and other school appropriate vandalism over their murals. The next morning students discovered what had been done. The head of my school, totally in on the project, came in and lead a discussion about what was done. They discussed how it felt being victims of a crime. Then the students were told the true purpose of the project. We emphasized the importance of holding onto the empathetic feelings they might have toward other victims of crimes and to remember to never blame victims for what happens to them.