A Kindergarten and High School Science teacher describe the collaboration they entered with each other, their students, and outside school partners to engage students in inquiry and critical thinking through hands on learning experiences. They recommend the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program: https://www.globe.gov/
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Steve: 00:31 Collaboration: teachers, students, the greater community – learning for all. I’m excited today to be joined by two teachers from Holland central school district in New York state. I had the opportunity to meet with the two folks earlier and their stories I just found delightful and was anxious to find a way that I could share them with with all the listeners. So joining us is Pam Patterson and Kim Feneziani. They had an interesting collaboration and I want them to share that with you. And as you’re listening, I’d like you to consider the teaching and learning mindsets that are present. So, Kim, I’m wondering if you’d start us off with a little bit of background about your teaching experience and how a walk with your class led to the project with Pam.
Kim: 01:30 Yes. So I’ve been teaching kindergarten for 23 years. I’ve been a teacher for 28 years and I love the littler kids. They’re little sponges and they just love to learn. So it was March 13th, 2020. It was our last day before our school shut down for COVID. And, you know, we didn’t know what was going on, the kids obviously had no clue. But it was a beautiful March 13th day, the weather was nice for Buffalo, New York and I said, let’s just go outside for a walk. Let’s just get outside and enjoy the sunshine. So we were going for a walk and we always walk over by the high school because our campus is connected. So there’s sidewalks over to the high school and we’re walking and actually it’s kind of fun when we walk by the high school because the older kids see us walking by and they always come to the window and they always wave to us and the kids just love it.
Kim: 02:27 So we were walking by the high school and we noticed that there was this big white box up in the air. And my children said, Mrs. Feneziani, what is that? And I looked up and I said, I don’t know what that is, boys and girls. And Mrs. Patterson just happened to be walking out the door right at that moment. And I said, Mrs. Patterson, do you know what that big white box up in the air is? And she goes, I do know what that is. That is our weather station and we record temperatures and send it to NASA. And I said, how interesting. And I’m not kidding you that afternoon, I got an email from Mrs. Patterson saying, you’re all set. You have a weather station, it’s going to be put into the courtyard over at the elementary school and we are going to do this together. And ever since that, well COVID hit and we were shut down, but in September when I walked in, it was put together by some high school students actually, who I had in kindergarten, which is another amazing thing. They built the box and they put it in our courtyard and Mrs. Patterson and I worked together and she showed me how to use the machines and record all the data. and I went online and learn how to do it and now we’re doing it.
Steve: 03:45 Just awesome. Pam, you want to pick it up there and tell us a little bit about yourself and and your connectedness then to work on this with with Kim?
Pam: 03:55 Sure, sure. I started teaching – I’m in my 21st year, all basically high school. I’ve been in three different states and I’ve always had a passion for getting the kids involved in real science, doing real work for real scientists. So that’s how I got started with my own weather station. I found the GLOBE program. It’s a globe.gov, anybody, it doesn’t matter who you are, whether it’s a class or a citizen, anybody can do globe. And part of globe is actually these weather stations. We have a partner at SUNY Fredonia, Mike Jabbot, he sent us the equipment and he actually had boxes available, little lock boxes for us. But it was our students who had to figure out how to install these on our campus. So as Kim said, our students installed the one for her. mine was a little trickier because it’s not in a courtyard.
Pam: 04:49 We were concerned about security. I didn’t want anybody messing with it, especially on a high school campus. So I actually had a student, an engineering student design a post that is retractable so it can go up, it can lock and it stays locked and out of reach. And then when we need it, we unlock it when we bring it back down, that was kind of a neat thing. He designed it in about 45 minutes while I was being observed by my college professor in my college class. He came in and he said, I don’t have anything to do. And I said, go do this. Got observed, I was all done and we’re going over my observation review and he came back with two CAD drawings and the design, and she said, who was that? And I found that networking within the school, within the community, within the greater NASA even, the collaboration just makes so much of a difference with my kids.
Pam: 05:49 And they really they really are concerned about taking their measurements and doing them properly. They’re really excited to find out that their stuff is collaborated with NASA. We did find a little glitch between our ground measurement and the satellite measurements for one of our cloud measurements ages ago, or it was probably about three years ago. And NASA was doing backflips. They were so excited because that’s the whole idea. Let’s take what the satellite sees and see what you see on the ground and compare them. So I get an email that says, okay, this is what NASA saw, this is what you saw. Do you see any issues? And we can email them and say, hey, we saw some issues. So I actually pulled a student aside and I said, hey, NASA is really excited about what happened here, that we had a different result than they did. Can you write me a newsletter article, and we’ll share it with the community? So she did. That’s the beauty of high school. I mean, Kim has awesome things to say about kindergarten and I agree but high school, I can farm off all the, okay – you design this post because I have no clue how to do it. You write this article because it’ll sound better coming from you than it will for me. So I get the kids as involved as I possibly can.
Steve: 07:07 Kim, what did what did you find that as you’ve worked now throughout the year with the kindergarten students?
Kim: 07:14 They get so excited. So every day we go out at the same time and we record what we see in the box and one student gets to touch the buttons to see what the numbers are saying, and they just get so excited about it. But the best part is, one day, I was just starting, we were just getting into it and I had just emailed Pam and said, I don’t know, I feel like we’re not doing this right. Could we come over and just check it out? She said, yes, come on over. So I got the kids all ready, it was another beautiful day, we walked over and Pam’s out there with her children. And my students got to see the high schoolers on how they’re doing and they were great. I took so many pictures. Her students would get down on their level and show them how to record it and what they’re looking at. And then the best part was that Mrs. Patterson had a great experiment that she wanted to share with us, with the Coke bottle and the Mentos and put it in there and it shot up. And you would have thought that my students were at the circus. They just, they loved it.
Steve: 08:24 Pam, I’m wondering about the high school students’ responses to to collaborating with the kindergarten kid?
Pam: 08:30 They were thrilled. I told them, we’re going to go outside, we’re going to do some measurements outside and I got the email from Kim shortly after I think I said that statement. And I emailed her back and I said, can you come now? And she said, yes. So I told the kids, we’re going to have some special guests. And I don’t know ESP or whatever, one of my kids said, are they going to be little kids? She got so excited. I said, honestly, how do you know that? So we went outside our door and the kindergarteners met us and our kids were so, like she said, my kids were so great in showing them what they were doing, explaining to them at their level, what we were doing. We were doing a slightly different project, but we did pull down the weather station and we showed them how to use that and how we used it.
Pam: 09:18 And then it just happened to be the one girl who was so excited about the kindergartens coming, it was her birthday. And we’ve been celebrating birthdays this year with diet Coke and Mentos. So I said, would you mind sharing your birthday? So she was ecstatic. And then as Kim said, we’ve been trying to do more things. So this girl and her partner are going to be – well they taught her students a lab virtually last week. We connected on our equivalent of Zoom and my kids taught a lesson. We sent over the materials ahead of time. And we were able to collaborate in that way, just a really neat opportunity. And then my kids actually had to design the lesson, they had to come up with the plan and the lesson plan and everything involved in it. So I find it’s kind of interesting for my kids to see that side of education also.
Steve: 10:10 How do you think this impacts that the two of you going ahead, having had this experience?
Kim: 10:18 I think I want to do it every year. I know that. It just has been such a great experience for my class and just for myself. I forget how it is teaching older kids. I’m always down on the kindergarten levels and now it’s like how independent high schoolers are and what they can do. It’s just, it’s been such a great experience.
Pam: 10:39 Same here. I love doing this every year. I’ve gone to the elementary school in two of my districts and had my students teach and I just think it’s so eye opening for them. It’s so eye opening for me. Same thing, Kim, it’s, you know, I had to keep telling the kids, okay, slow down. You gotta go slower and you gotta wait. You know, usually we’re there with you. So it was weird doing it virtual this year, but, you know, it’s hard for the kids to realize how much instruction the kindergarten really need. Okay, now everybody wait their turn. And so it was kind of fun for them to experience that all over again.
Steve: 11:22 Thoughts on students learning science versus what I might call us teaching science? What I hear you presenting kids to kids is a chance to see science as a scientist, rather than as a student.
Kim: 11:39 Hands-on. Everything’s gotta be hands-on. And I see it in the high schoolers too, when they did the lesson over here and they just dove right into it. And they sent over all the materials we needed and had everything set up for us. But that’s, I know for kindergarten, we need everything hands-on and that’s how they learn in high school.
Pam: 12:03 That’s how they remember. They remember the hands-on. And I give them a lot of freedom, because like you said, they’re very independent. So I give them a lot of freedom and I say, okay, figure it out. And they look at me like, what? But once they’re used to it, we do that right from day one. Basically, we get our little, you know, housekeeping stuff done and I say, okay, go to it. And they say, well, what are we supposed to do? I don’t know. You figure it out. And it’s eye opening for them, but then they’re addicted to it. Now that’s what they want to do. Why are you not letting us decide what we want to do with our experiments? And I love seeing their thinking process. It’s so different from mine. And I learned so much just from watching them do it, you know, watching them figure things out.
Steve: 12:54 Would you go a little further with that? Because I think that’s really intriguing – the idea of studying their thinking process.
Pam: 13:04 Absolutely. I am a national board certified teacher. So part of my national board certification really made me analyze what I was doing and how to improve it. And one of the big things that came out 20 years ago when I first started this was more inquiry. More hands-on where the kids do the designing. So I came up with these labs that was just, you know, a statement – test the water from our classroom for water quality. Go. And I don’t give them that without background. So, you know, we’ve done the hands-on ahead of time. They know the tests that are available. So here’s five tests – you decide which two you want to do. What question are you trying to examine and what do you expect to learn from it? Develop your own hypothesis, develop your own experiment. I do this thing called a order materials day.
Pam: 13:58 So I give them the question, I let them think about what they want to do with it and then they have to order the materials and I call it, this is your shopping day. If you don’t order it today, you will not get it. You have to look on the black market. And then there’s all this, what is the black market? What is the black market? You know, and they’re resourceful so they figure it out. If they have to get it on the black market, like one kid will email me that night and say, hey, can I just bring it from home? Yes. Or, you know, they’ll go over to another group, hey, can we borrow your magnifying glass? We forgot ours. Yeah. They figure it out. But it’s just kind of, they get used to that ordering materials day. And then I set up shop on a cart and I say, there it is. Everything you ordered is on the cart and you have to get it. You have to come up and bring your list and request it and show me that it’s on your list so they can’t add the day of, and they have to go shopping, their own little shopping. So there’s a lot of planning that goes into it.
Steve: 15:00 I was going to use the word critical thinking.
Pam: 15:02 Absolutely critical thinking. And then sometimes the results are completely not what we expect, including me. And I love when that happens, but I always loved it when – I was a scientist before I was a teacher and I always loved that about being a scientist, was the unknown and the surprises. Those were always exciting to me, even if my boss wasn’t too happy about it, I was excited. So I want to figure out why it didn’t work out.
Steve: 15:30 Kim, I’m seeing your smile there – I’m guessing teaching kindergarten is being a scientist every day? [laughter]
Kim: 15:40 [laughter] Every day.
Steve: 15:40 A hypothesis as to what it is that’s going to happen that day. It’s really interesting, Pam, as I heard you use that, that, that word hypothesis, the call that I was just on before we got onto record is I’m working with a school that’s designing teachers’ professional growth plans around teachers forming hypothesis. So the teacher has this hypothesis that I think this approach of me doing this would bring about this change in students. And so my growth plan will be to lay out a structure where I will carry out that hypothesis, collect the the evidence. And it’ll either prove that my hypothesis was right, which will be reinforcing and keeping me going down that path. But, equally my prove that my hypothesis is wrong and I’m I’m back to the drawing board to to take take another another look at it. So I think it’s just great for kids to be be having that opportunity.
Pam: 16:44 Oh yeah. We have a lot of fun with it.
Steve: 16:46 Well, thank you so much for joining us here. I’m just wondering if I gave you a last thought, if there’s a a word of encouragement you’d like to give out to to teachers who are listening in?
Kim: 17:01 I would just say, keep learning. I’ve been teaching for 28 years and I feel like I’m getting better. I feel like I change. I don’t do things the same every year. I’m learning myself every year. And I just feel like, just keep learning, just keep being a scientist.
Steve: 17:20 Yeah, absolutely. I’ve always shared that one thing you don’t have to worry about if you went into education is that you’re going to master it prior to retirement. As soon as you reach that level of success, you see a new level. The picture I use is there is no mountain top. Each piece you climb, you just see up to another piece. Pam, how about you?
Pam: 17:43 I’m going to piggyback on that. Keep learning, keep striving for more. It’s amazing, like when the subject matter doesn’t change or the content doesn’t change, those kids are changing and they’re changing rapidly. The more you can keep up with that, the more you’re going to enjoy coming to work every day, bottom line. And I found that community connection – so when I renewed my national board certification, because it lasts for five years now, but it was 10 years at the time, the focus that I noticed that I really needed to work on was community partnerships, whether it was local or international, you know, all the way in between. And I’ve found that the community is so willing to help. And you never know the connection you’re going to make just by walking outside, right Kim? [laughter] And the connections just make everybody’s experience, including mine so much more exciting.
Steve: 18:37 Great. That’s great. Would you tell folks again how to explore the GLOBE program?
Kim: 18:44 Sure. Globe.gov, it’s a great place to start. I always tell people, start with the cloud. If you’re in high school, it’s a great place to start because there’s no equipment needed. So they’re cloud measurements, and as Kim was saying, you learn about it online. You do like a 15 minute, it’s – they teach you and then you take a quiz, but you can take the quiz as many times as you need to pass it. It’s not high stakes, but it teaches you the background you need as a teacher so that you can go out with the kids and say, okay, we’re going to look at the clouds and you can have information for them. This is why we’re doing it, this is why we care, this is how we do it and it’s very basic. There’s an app, I have an app on my phone, I follow the app, so even if I forget what I learned, the app walks you through it and reminds you, oh yeah, that step, this step. And on top of that, if you do something wrong, you take pictures of the sky and NASA sees the a picture. So if you really messed up, they can look at the pictures and say, oh, well, oops. So it’s foolproof.
Steve: 19:46 Terrific. I’ll be sure to put that in the lead-in to this podcast. And if you’re both are right with it, I’ll put your your school email address in there in case people have questions and want to check back with you.
Pam: 19:58 Absolutely.
Pam: 19:58 Absolutely.
Kim: 19:58 Thank you.
Pam: 19:59 Thank you.
Steve: 20:01 Appreciate it. Take care.
Pam: 20:03 Bye.
Steve [Outro]: 20:05 Thanks for listening in folks. I’d love to hear what you’re pondering. You can find me on twitter @stevebarkley or send me your questions and find my videos and blogs at barkleypd.com.