Challenge Yourself!

What are the experiences in life that yielded within you maximum growth or that you are most proud of? More than likely such affairs involved exiting your comfort zone and/or experiencing challenge or struggle.

In watching students pass through my classroom I have the opportunity to see how certain approaches yield the most significant results. And this is not about “getting the grade” or “getting that amazing IB score", it’s about personal growth and development. It’s about establishing patterns of hard work. It’s about the desire to learn as much as possible and to be the best that you can be.

This year I had the amazing opportunity of advising two students through extended essays (independent, self-directed research culminating in a 4000-word paper) in Science. I might be biased, but doing an extended essay in Science takes a bit of courage and a lot of work that some of the other disciplines don’t require. Not only do the science students have the same expectations regarding research and the written word, but they are also required to produce an original scientific experiment.

One student chose to research and work on a chemical on which there is hardly any literature available. As a result she had to research and make connections between similarly structured chemicals. Her idea required hours in the lab generating a calibration curve and troubleshooting how she would manipulate the independent variable, before even performing her ultimate experiment.  The final results were that the independent variable did not have an effect on what she was studying, a conclusion that initially came as a crushing blow. However, she picked herself up, learning that this is also part of Science and that such results are valuable. She pressed on to put together a thorough and coherent report despite feeling discouraged and ever so “done” with her project. She shared that she had truly learned the meaning and value of perseverance.

The other student built his own electrophoresis apparatus! He also passed hours in the lab just trying to get his protocol to work. He dedicated an entire week out of his summer coming in every day, all day, to work on his experiment. Then school started and he averaged about 10 hours a week through the first semester. I was getting ready to have the conversation with him that he might want to consider another topic. However, that very morning he was able to visualize genomic DNA in his gel. He announced this breakthrough in homeroom and every single student in the senior class cheered for him as they all knew how hard he’d been working. He went on to perform a most interesting, original, and very involved experiment with his set-up. He told me during the viva voce (the final interview with the advisor) that he “learned the importance of trial and error and to never give up.”

In another area of IB curriculum, a student at our school elected to take the Dutch Language B course of study.  Language B is designed for non-native speakers of a language with 2-3 years of background in the language. This student had one year of Dutch language before the IB DP years. She took a 2-week language course in Belgium to help herself prepare. This experience alone was agonizing as she was the only English speaker at the camp. All other students were native French speakers coming to the camp to learn either Dutch or English and she was compelled to rely exclusively on her “broken Dutch” to communicate. However, she returned with increased language skills and embarked on a committed journey to learn as much Dutch as she could. She ended up earning a “5” out of “7” on the IB exam and now claims that that score means more to her than any other as it represents how far she came.  She accomplished what many assert isn’t possible: to succeed on an IB Language B exam with so little initial exposure to the language. Additionally, she learned of the growth, personal development, sense of achievement, and empowerment that comes from exiting your comfort zone and tackling the impossible.

Another student has been exceedingly dedicated in all of her classes. However, she desperately wanted to bring her math skills up significantly. So, she focused with fervor on practicing her math. Hours and hours were spent on becoming a better math student. And, she demonstrated huge success on her mock exams this past December. She continues to heed the advice of each of her teachers as she prepares for the May exams, not slacking for even a minute. It hasn’t been easy but it’s clear she’s learned the value of sheer hard work.

What makes these examples special is that each student chose paths of challenge. Adversity wasn’t just thrust upon them. They knew they were taking a less traveled path and I think this element of choice makes their journey all the more enriching for them and inspiring to me.

It isn’t too late for the rest of us! We are faced on a regular basis to take an easier route or a more demanding enriching route. This year I took on three new curriculums! Both struggle and joy have enveloped me. I’ve learned and grown as a teacher and as a person as I dealt with very new issues in the classroom. And next year I will be teaching robotics and Computer Automated Design (CAD). I look forward to this experience and anticipate that it will be invigorating, mind stretching, and character building.

My question today is, what new challenge are you ready to embrace?

MS Drama Festival: A Science Teacher’s Perspective

“Would you be a leader for one of the groups during the drama festival?”

It seemed like an innocuous request. After checking my class and curriculum schedules, I agreed. Before I knew it, I was carried away in a 3-day adventure of guiding students through the artistic process of modifying a fairy tale into their own creation of a playlet.

There we sat on Day 1 with the fairy tale in hand, reading through the story my group had selected. In observing this little assembly of 6-8th graders struggle to just read and comprehend the 2-page fairy tale, it was unclear to me how they would eventually generate an original script of their own. However, trusting the guidelines of our amazing drama teacher, I embarked on the coaching process of encouraging the students to brainstorm about themes, characters, plot, and setting. Ere long they were engaged and their story began to unfold! What a thrill to take a step back and let them share ideas and create.

At one point students were given the task to take what they had and just start acting it out. They stood there looking at me like, “Seriously? What are we supposed to say?” However, shortly their improvisation skills took hold and slowly a script began to emerge!

Indeed the classic story of Rumplestiltskin was evolving into a modern tale of an evil mother, a cash-generating printer, a daughter, homeless children, and a new Rumplestilitskin.

Throughout Day 2 the students continued to develop characters and refine their script. It was amazing to see how far they’d come since 8:30 the morning before! Then they began to think about props and staging. One of them had a great idea for making a jail.  To work we went and it turned out perfectly!

One boy requested more lines. As we were developing his character I made a suggestion for him to insert a line about an idea the students were throwing around. He responded, “Why me?” and I reminded, “You asked for more lines.” “Oh yeah,” he replied. The students practiced their play and coached and encouraged each other throughout the process. For me the biggest challenge was to make them to SPEAK OUT!

On Day 3 we faced the tech rehearsal. Two of the students in the group were assigned to the tech role in which they downloaded and assembled sound effects for the play. So, the rest of the group had come up with ideas for the tech boys and we arrived at our rehearsal prepared to try it all out.  However, the tech teacher approached me with the question, “What lighting cues do you have?” This is when the realization hits me that I am totally out of my element. “Well, what are my options?”  After he responds, I attempt to give him some perspective by saying, “This is like me asking you to fill in the blank. Van der Waals, Schroedinger, or Sertoli. You choose. Pick one.” He laughed out loud but still couldn’t fully grasp that I remained clueless.

In any case, we survived the tech rehearsal and the students walked away slightly more confident having tried everything out on the stage.  After a few minor adjustments and last minute preparations, they were ready to perform!

Along with four other groups who had undergone the same transformation over the 3-day period of the drama festival, my students performed their piece late in the afternoon to our parent and student community.  All five performances were entertaining and unique! It was a huge success and each group came off the stage flushed with excitement.

It’s true, the students missed three days of classes but they gained much from the experience including, but not limited to: empowerment from the creative process, benefits of collaboration, joy in helping each other out, satisfaction of accomplishment, challenge in putting together a story, skill of scripting, and the thrill of performing. Yes, as a science teacher I once again advocate for the arts. Students need these adventures as much as they need lessons of math and science.

After their performance, as our group was waiting for the others to finish, one student (who just a week ago claimed he was too nervous to act) said to me, “You know what the best part about this was? Well, all three days and then the moment just before the curtain went up for us to perform" Doesn’t that say it all? Support the arts!





Facilitate learning through mind mapping

Their quest is outlined. Examples are given. The purpose is revealed. They are presented with the task.

“But that’s a lot!”

What are they to do? Create a mind map of the past two years of study in IB Biology. There are 6 core topics for Standard Level and 11 core topics for Higher Level plus two options for each group. Nearly every topic links to the others. On their sheet of paper the student teams are to record all the assessment statements with words, diagrams, figures, symbols, and pictures and then make as many connections between them as possible, indicating on joining lines what the relationships are.

At first they take to the task with the end goal in mind. They just “want to get the mind map done” but then I reiterate the value of review and making connections in preparation for their IB exams and I explain that they will not be assessed on the mind map itself. They will take an exam and be able to refer to their (and only their) mind map when taking the exam.


Seriousness and intensity settle on the group. They bend over their texts, notes, and mind maps with greater purpose. Discussions over potential connections ensue. Before they know it, the class is over. As they roll up their maps they make plans as to how they will proceed during the next session.

The value of this “hands-on” collaborative activity is multi-faceted. The purposes of mind mapping include but are not limited to (1):

  1. Enhancing memory (everyone wants this, right?)
  2. Enhancing learning (so, if it was missed it the first time, maybe they’ll get it this time!)
  3. Helping in planning and organizing (students will know what they need to study for the IB exam)
  4. Improving writing skills (which will help students better communicate on the IB Exams)
  5. Encouraging critical thinking and problem solving skills (which will help students on the IB Exams)

Do not underestimate the power of mind mapping! It is worth class time to allow students to work towards building the connections within their studies. 

(1) Mind Mapping in Education. (2012, January 1). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from

Another resource, created by the ThinkBuzan company and linked here, references and outlines the scientific evidence for the value of mind mapping.

Uncomplicated but poignant activities

It was a simple idea. It’s possible they’ve even done it before in another class sometime during their education. However, I knew they would learn from it and would thereby approach the learning objectives. So, I prepared the materials.

The instructions, accompanied by an image, were simple: build a model of the ventilation system. The building part was easy and fun. With their hands and minds engaged, they were hooked and as the more challenging part of the activity faced them, they plowed ahead. With the expectations for the write-up in front of them, they reached for the models again and again, seeking deeper understanding. They discussed. They questioned. They pointed. They pulled.


“Oh, I get it” followed by an explanation of the role of air pressure in breathing.

“So, when the diaphragm contracts, the thorax expands.”

“The intercostal muscles are located here and contract and expand with the diaphragm”

Soon everyone in the room can accurately and biologically describe inspiration and expiration. And all it took were some plastic bottles and balloons.

VALUE the power of simple.

Later in the day the health teacher and I were comparing curriculum since we share students who are doing a unit on the respiratory system in both health and biology. He began to describe an activity he had completed with the students and then hesitated, “Oh, it was nothing. It was so simple” he says, almost discrediting the activity because it was simple. “The students were handed a straw and told to run up and down the stairs using only the straw with which to breathe in and out.  He continued, “But they really got it. As they came up the stairs, they described feeling panicked, even though they knew they could remove the straw. Suddenly they had a real idea as to what it would mean to have emphysema."

Today as we continued our learning about the structures of the ventilation system, I asked those same students about what would happen if the airways were constricted. They immediately piped in what they knew about emphysema. They added their experience in the stairways and I asked them what they learned from that. The response was unanimous, “Now I know how it might feel like to have emphysema.” And all it took was a straw.

VALUE the power of simple.

Recently a colleague came to me and said, “I think I need to change the way I teach. I’m too lecture based and I need more activity driven lessons” and then she followed up with an overwhelming description of what that might look like. She had grand but complicated ideas that would require hours of prep time, a luxury she does not have.  “Simple goes a long way” was my advice. “What do you mean?” she queried. “Look at this gap activity – students simply matching concepts with descriptions” but it engages them. We brainstormed a bit and she came up with a brilliant idea. In fact, it’s so brilliant that I’ll be borrowing and reporting on it someday! She ran back to her room and produced the activity in about ten minutes.  And all it takes is a story problem and a stack of paper cut-outs with words to enable hands-on, engaged processing of the problem.

VALUE the power of simple.

Be empowered by uncomplicated ideas. Think outside the box but look inside the box (i.e. your classroom) for your supplies. 

Field Trip to the Science Classroom

Bunsen burners are lit, plants are everywhere, beakers, test tubes, and flasks scatter the lab benches, and students are bent over leaves stained with iodine analyzing the results of their experiments. We do not notice the movement in the doorway.

But we hear my name called and all turn to look at the classroom entrance. Then we see them cautiously filing in with their hands clasped in front of themselves. As they hesitate to join us in the lab area, it’s clear to me that they’ve been instructed, “Do not touch anything!” I beckon them towards us.

These wide-eyed 4th graders have been learning about the rain forests and photosynthesis. Their teacher came to me for additional resources and ideas and wondered if we were doing anything that might fit. And behold, we were! I gave her the link to the Photosynthesis song (click here if you want to watch it for yourself) and we decided that she’d bring her class up as my students were completing their photosynthesis experiments.

So, here they are. They receive a debriefing on the activities. When they are shown the variegated (green and white) leaves and are asked what part of the leaf will demonstrate photosynthesis they immediately exclaim, “The green part!” and off we go. With captivation the 4th graders listen to the 10th graders explain their various stages of research.  It is fun to watch the high school students carefully evaluate exactly what they are doing, deliberate the words they will speak, and embark on explanations that will be understandable to their elementary guests.

The 10th graders become more and more confident in their knowledge and the 4th graders get a taste of “real science”. Eventually the younger students must descend the stairs to their classroom and the reluctantly head out the door but before they leave, they shout out a series of “thank you”s.

This is definitely an advantage of our smaller school: An elementary class can take a field trip that merely involves climbing the stairs. High school students are afforded the chance to teach younger students, solidifying their own knowledge. If you have the chance to mix younger and older students, take the chance. You’ll find learning at its best!

Fostering scientific creativity, before the IB years!

The lab is abuzz with activity. Various experiments are taking place at every lab bench in the room.

“Um, do you think I should use the large filter or the small filter?”

My reply is coupled with a smile, “That’s your call” Every subsequent question receives the same response.

It is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Internal Assessment (IA) time for seniors. At this point  in their educational journey, students are supposed to be independent enough to simply design and run their experiments. As teachers we are no longer allowed to provide input or guidance. Not even guided questions. And it takes a lot of control. Sometimes I literally have to bite my tongue and watch as obvious flaws in the experiment ensue.

Today, however, I had the grand luxury of giving some 10th graders freedom in troubleshooting a design for their lab on testing for photosynthesis.

Together we had studied the set-up of an initially faulty and cumbersome design. The students were given access to a cart of supplies from the lab. Their instructions were to come up with an experimental set-up that would work for them and provide the results they were looking for. Oh, how creative these students were!

“Do you have some sticky tack?” one student queries.  Well, that’s not on the cart but I love that he is thinking beyond the supplies on the cart and I rummage through my desk drawers to find the item he seeks. Upon seeing the huge glob in my hands he exclaims, “Oh yes, that’s perfect!” Triumphantly he bends over his plant with his lab partner and begins to assemble his idea.

When students asked for input, unlike with the IB IA experiments, I can actually provide guiding questions to help them reach the best decision. It’s so freeing and it reminds me why I enjoy teaching all levels of science. There is something absolutely thrilling about fostering scientific creativity in students.

Each pair of students deliberates and collaborates to come up with a unique idea. Questions abound. Cabinets are searched. Glassware is examined. Yes, it’s chaotic. Yes, it’s busy. Yes, it’s messy. However, how amazing to view the different designs that result! Clearly this is more constructive and interesting than telling the students what to do!

Don’t be afraid to free the students. It will take you and them on a glorious journey!

Overcoming the Gross Factor


“Do we have to touch it?”

“Do we get gloves?”


The mounds of pink flesh silently wait as the students conquer the “gross factor” in preparing to approach the lab benches. Admittedly, the subtle stench of death doesn’t help.

Some students are loud and adamant about the disgusting task in front of them while others silently observe in quiet dread.

We read through the procedure and then the pairs are assigned. Students reluctantly line up to receive an organ. My handling of the hearts without gloves awes them. These hearts came straight from the slaughterhouse and there is nothing to fear.

One of the loudest opponents snaps on the latex gloves and, with attitude, approaches the heart, assuring me this is the grossest thing she will ever do in her life. However, as she wraps her gloved hands around that pig heart a transformation takes place. With sudden tenderness she exclaims, “Oh, it’s soft” followed by, “…this is actually cool” and before she knows it she is completely immersed in a pig heart dissection, her nose nearly touching the raw flesh that moments earlier had repulsed her.  Eagerly she identifies the vena cava and pokes her finger through the opening explaining how the deoxygenated blood enters the heart at this point. She easily follows the flow of the blood through the heart,  her hands becoming more and more familiar with the organ. At the end of the lab she claims, “I think I want to be a heart surgeon”. And from that day forth she becomes a serious student of science evolving from a laissez-faire B/C student to a straight A engaged, conscientious pupil. The metamorphosis is both dramatic and inspiring.

Recently, my IB students did a similar lab. This time the hearts came from the local butcher but these students also had the moment of “overcoming the gross factor”. However, they quickly immersed themselves in the dissection. Carefully they drew and labeled diagrams of their observations really trying to understand the function of the heart as they proceeded. Following the lab each one remarked how helpful that was and how clear their understanding had become.

Why do I bother tromping around trying to find pig hearts for my students? Why do I encourage them to touch the heart, get dirty, and “go for it”? Because I know there’s value in seeing and handling the real thing. Students become excited, they learn, they gain deeper appreciation for their own amazing body and all its functions. In stepping out of their comfort zone they discover that they can tolerate more “gross” than they originally anticipated, new interests are unearthed, and they receive a deep satisfaction in learning.

It’s always worth the effort to provide hands-on learning, even for IB students. Also, lets follow the example of our students and take on something new to learn! We might discover hidden talents and new passions. So, go for it!

Comments and Parent Teacher Conferences without grades

Recently progress reports were sent to parents. No grades. The purpose was to focus on what students have (or not) learned, provide evidence for the learning progress (or gaps) and identify the next steps for further growth.

Teachers invested a good amount of time in developing and writing their comments according to guidelines developed by our assessment committee. Everyone strived to ensure that the comments were individualized and informative in describing learning and suggestions for advancement. It was a piece of information that went beyond the data found in PowerSchool to which students and teachers have full access.

In fact, one progress report arrived at our home for our 13-year old son. For the first time I actually felt like a mailed report from school was communicating something worthwhile. The comments were informative, revealing strengths and suggestions for improvement that, if heeded,  will yield better learning practices for our developing student.

Shortly thereafter parents filed into my classroom one after the other for parent-teacher conferences. Most of them had the printed comments in front of them. All of our discussions centered on student progress and how to foster continued growth. Not once were grades mentioned. Not once. It was incredible. Parents handled a child’s poster, a piece of work completed exclusively in class. They perused formative assessments and other assignments that would never have appeared in a backpack or on a table at home. The work demonstrated how well students follow directions, pay attention to detail, and how much they invest in their work. My preparations included plans to veer discussions away from a focus on grades but this topic was not once broached. We had so many more important details to discuss in the precious ten minutes that we shared. The conversation was completely focused on each child’s learning progress and how he/she can become an even better student.

The value of comments-only reporting became even more apparent as discussions among teachers ensued following the conference evening. Others also experienced a similar experience of positive interactions focusing on student learning. Indeed, meaningful narrative is so much more productive than reviewing grades. 

Dead Last

Why play if the odds of winning are not in your favor?

It seems Facebook is flooded with endless posts of State Champions, 1st place this and 1st place that as we are very much a winner driven society.  It is so important to be first, to be at the top, and to be a “winner”.

However, not everyone can be the winner. Our little school is very often not the winner and often is fighting to not be last place. There are a number of reasons for this, mainly being that we are small in numbers. There are no try-outs and there are no cuts when assembling a sports team. It’s more of a recruitment event as each new sport’s season begins.

Our first year at the school we had two teenage sons with us. One of which was more the athlete while the other one was more the academic. So, the athlete son ends up convincing the academic son to try to join the boy’s varsity soccer team. Our academic son approaches the soccer coach and proclaims an interest in joining the team.  The coach begins to question him.

“So, have you played soccer before?”


“Do you know the rules of soccer?”


“Have you even been on a soccer field?”


“Do you know what a soccer ball looks like?”

“Um, I think so”

“We can use you”

And thus, our academic son joined the boys’ varsity soccer team, having never kicked a soccer ball in his life.

All of the sports’ teams end up recruiting students from below the average playing age. The U12 teams often need to recruit down to 5th and 4th grade. They are operating with anywhere from zero to three or four subs so everyone gets a lot of playing time, even the weakest of players. The combination of young team members, low team numbers, land lack of subs means that each team battles hard for every win and loss on the courts and playing fields.

Sometimes there seems to be more losses than wins. On the last day of the NECIS tournament this past weekend I was substitute coaching again for the U14 boys’ soccer team. During the third of four quarters it was clear there would be no win for us. So, a new tactic came into play. It was the last game of the season and I wanted to make sure each boy had a chance to play where he wished. A new goalie went it and those who desired to shuffle positions did. Everyone played as much as they wanted. The loss was heavy and they knew that the loss meant they were dead last in the tournament but they heartily congratulated the other team and came off of that field with huge smiles on their faces.

Instead of moping around with glum faces they clambered into the stadium seats in the gymnasium to cheer the U12 volleyball team. And, they were truly thrilled and happy for the girls who could enjoy a 2nd place victory.

So, none of the soccer parents will be proudly posting pictures but they should. Their children know how to not become overwhelmed by the goliath opponents they face but rather to focus on personal and team best.. They have learned to gallantly lose and rejoice in the victory of others. A love of the game of soccer exudes from them. As a team they’ve learned and grown together.  The discipline of practice, team commitment, and never giving up are engrained within them. They met all their team goals for the season. These students know, really know, that playing sports isn’t just about winning. They’ve learned that you can still be happy when things don’t go the way you wish. And that is why, when the odds are against you, you still go for it and you still play!

Cheers to all the teams who experienced losses this season! I hope everyone can recover from loss and gain from lessons learned as our U14 soccer players have.

More brains, more ideas and best practices.

“Do you think we could have a sheet with all the definitions explained?”

My internal demons attempted to take control of my thoughts “Oh but that’s so much more work for me!...and I haven’t needed it in years past!" But, she was right. This year’s class is, shall we say, very “neuro-diverse”! And, her suggestion was, in the end, simply a “best practice” that would benefit the entire class. So, heeding her advice and attempting to incorporate the ideas of a brainstorming session she, another colleague, and I had,  I spent an evening preparing some new resources for this lesson.

First came the vocabulary cards. Following the cards was a diagram with application of all the usages of the vocabulary words. Finally a “vocabulary in action” activity culminated the process. It flowed. Excitement welled within as I anticipated success with this new plan of action.

The students were grouped according to strengths then they were turned loose to work through each activity at their own pace, with the option to move ahead of their partner or to remain at an activity while the partner moved on. To my surprise several students chose to stay behind on an activity while the partner moved on and it was a relief to realize that students did not feel pressure by what their partners were doing. As the lesson progressed new partnerships were formed. There was intense silence interspersed with discussion. It was a new kind of energy. As students progressed they still referred back to work they had previously completed. It was thrilling to see how they deemed each resource useful in subsequent activities.

Because everyone was moving at different speeds, I was able to, at several points during the lesson, meet individually with each student and assess their progress. Immediate feedback followed by corrections followed by more feedback followed by additional correction on the “vocabulary in action” activity left every student with a mastered piece of work that will be a valuable resource as we continue with the content.

With ten minutes left of the class students were asked to put everything away and think about what they had learned. Names were randomly drawn from the deck of cards we created on the first day and students were required to say one thing they learned. No repeats were allowed and names were returned to the pile so no one could sit back and relax after being called on. Next, two names would be drawn. One person had to think of a question from the day’s work and the second student was expected to answer the question. Oh were they attentive and planning and thinking with each draw of a card. It was so fun!

I’m so glad the Learning Support teacher made the suggestion for her student. Of course the entire class benefitted and we will probably move forward more quickly as a result. Though this class has a lot of need, we’re fortunate to have two learning support representatives to assist. They have amazing ideas and are constantly reviewing my lessons, plans and assessments through a different lens. They are an incredible resource for me.

What was the result of heeding the advice of my colleague? A fully differentiated lesson interspersed with formative assessment. A great lesson closure. Most importantly, student engagement and student learning. And the benefit for me? Just plain FUN and being able to experience teaching at its best.

Two heads are always better than one! Look around. Who can you work with to become even more successful at what you do? Find people to bounce ideas off of and to collaborate with. Remember, a good practice can always get better. Don't be afraid of trying something new or adding a new idea. Collaboration and new ideas will yield increased achievement and happiness for all involved so just go for it!



Let Go of Control

It has been 2 months. We’ve spoken once. We’ve instant messaged three times. My daughter is completing volunteer work in South Africa out in the Bush working in conservation for part of a gap year post high school graduation. During our short exchanges she radiates increased confidence and a fierce sense of independence. I rejoice yet I also feel a sense of loss. It’s our goal, as parents, isn’t it? To help our children go out on their own and become productive, independent citizens of the world. However, it’s also heartbreaking to let go.

Walking the dog at night just isn’t the same without my daughter. The heart-to-heart talks and shared secrets are a thing of the past. And I’ll forever miss that. But, more importantly, my daughter is developing into an amazing human being with thoughts, opinions, and passions of her own. She doesn’t parrot me. She is her own person and that is wonderful to see.

Recently, on the playground at school a parent told me her daughter has been resisting the overseeing parental eye claiming, “Mom, I’ve got this. I’m doing it. I know what to do” and to the mother’s surprise, her daughter has been completing homework successfully. This Mother finds it difficult to “let go” though and truly allow her daughter the freedom both to succeed and fail on her own. This Mom still insists on reviewing that essay and forcing her daughter to make changes even though she realizes it’s time for her daughter to take responsibility of her assignments and accept consequences for her imperfect submissions.

Several students are sitting casually in my classroom during a break. We’re chatting about life and they ask me how my daughter is doing in South Africa. I share what I know. They are somewhat in awe and the majority expresses a desire to do something similar when they graduate. Except for one high school pupil whose shoulders droop and smile wanes, “Even if I wanted to do a gap year, my parents would never let me”.  I admit, I was a bit stunned. I wondered, “At what point will this student be permitted to make decisions independently? At what point will the path of choice as an adult be granted?”

That preparation for my children began long before high school graduation. We attempted to give them as much say as possible and within reason with regard to the direction their lives went. And yes, they made decisions sometimes that we weren’t exactly keen on, however, in the end; their lives have been their unique journey. They have developed into remarkable and interesting adults with their own tastes, views, and interests. None of them are products of our wishes or projections of our hopes. They have forged their own paths and have discovered talents and passions that have formed their careers and who they are as adults that could have only happened by them pursuing their dreams instead of ones we might have imposed on them.

As teachers we face the same need to “let go." The Fun Night my Going Green Group hosted a few weeks ago is a classic example. As I previously wrote, it was a night organized by students. And believe me, there were times I wanted to just take over! However, my colleagues and I restrained ourselves. We gave the guidance and let the students choose whether to follow our lead or to do it “their way”. Fortunately, despite the imperfections of the evening, those who attended had a fun time and the night was successful. When our student organizers were asked to reflect on the evening and how to make it better they all commented, “We should have been more prepared” and then they outlined how they would do it differently next time. And there will be a next time! – in April. So we’ll see if they did, indeed, learn. In listening to them reflect and outline the changes they’d make, I realized how important it was to let them get to this point on their own. It was so much more productive than had we become more controlling and insistent at the front end in our desperation to make the night a “perfect event”.  Yes, “letting go” was, indeed, the correct choice.

In the classroom as well, “letting go” has its place. In letting go of rigid expectations with regard to homework, more learning might take place. Recently, in one of my high school classes, I decided to give the students more freedom in how they manage outside preparations for class. Instead of homework assignments I gave suggestions for managing reading and studying from their text following class activities on the topic. Their “homework” was not graded nor would it be the same assignment for everyone, as they would each select their own method and their own focus of study. I decided to give a “reading quiz” that wouldn’t count towards their grade (as it was a surprise) but would help them assess how well they processed information from the text and give me an idea of how well they were learning the material. I made the quiz quite tricky; with the intent to expose any oversights and weaknesses in their approach. To my surprise, they all exceeded my expectations! They each then shared with the group their study techniques and then spontaneously reflected and assessed their own approach. Each one indicated how they could do it even better, without any prompting from me. They were taking ownership for their learning.

Today I challenge us all to discover areas in our lives where we can or maybe should “let go.” I think we will find that the children we are worried about will thrive.




Green Fun Night

A group of students has monopolized the bench space and availability of my classroom in order to perfect the art of making recycled paper. The last few weeks have brought recycled goods to my classroom that are stacked on the windowsill and lab benches. Craft samples of refurbished glassware into vases, candleholders, and bracelets are scattered throughout the room. Bins of soaking bottles pepper the lab benches. Excited students stop in throughout the day to check on their projects. The room is teeming with preparation!

This is event is different from others organized at the school. Our Going Green Team that is a student driven organization sponsors it. Unlike our school science fair, this event is organized by and will be conducted by the students.

At some point the students realize a need to advertise the event more effectively as our school newsletter doesn’t seem to be reaching families. They agree to visit all the elementary classes announcing the Green Fun Night in an enthusiastic and inviting manner. Furthermore, 6th graders see the recycled paper project in action when they come to science class and all exclaim, “Oh, I’m definitely going”. But not one single person has responded to the R.S.V.P.

Then there are the student presentations. We’ve asked to see the Power Point and hear what they want to say but several deadlines have come and gone and there’s still nothing. When do the students actually put the presentations together? Well, one person has it done the day before but the other two groups are working on their presentation an hour before the event begins!

The entire two days before the “Green Fun Night” is spent in preparation. By the time Tuesday night arrives, my room is in complete chaos. I seriously wonder if it will every be returned to normal again. But boy are the students excited. They beam with confidence and are eager to teach their “trade” to the school community.

Our Green Team students are juggling drama, sports, debate club, IB schedules as well as this Green Fun Night. They also have never organized an event to this scale before and don’t really know what it entails. They are doing the best they know and they seek to follow our guidance to the best of their ability. Finally we gather in the cafeteria, an hour before the event is to begin. We are basically ready. The students devour the pizza we ordered. The presenters quickly practice and make some modest changes. And then everyone positions themselves for the night.

As the students begin their presentations on the South Africa trip; the accomplishments of the Green Team last year; and the progress and plans of the Green Team for this year disappointment battles for a place in my heart. There are only a handful of people in attendance. Will it indeed, be a night with no participants? However, by the time the festivities begin, there is a crowd. After the presentations the students quickly assemble themselves at their “booths”:

  • Making recycled paper from scrap paper
  • Bowling with recycled bottles
  • Origami from scrap paper
  • Decorating recycled glass bottles with paint, string, and/or feathers and sparkles.
  • Trivia Game on green activities at the school (answer the questions for a free popcorn)
  • Organic Smoothies
  • Fundraising

A parent approaches me and tells me that her daughter awoke that morning and exclaimed, ‘Today is going to be a good day because there’s a party tonight at school!” This parent admitted having not planned on attending but due to her daughter’s enthusiasm changed her mind. She followed up with “What did you do to advertize?” Then I realize that the students’ efforts in the elementary school did indeed have an effect.

In the end, despite some glitches, the evening turned out to be a big success. Students and parents were engaged. All had fun. Awareness was raised.

One of the goals in becoming an eco-school is to educate the community and raise awareness and we certainly accomplished that at our Fun Night. We also made a start to our fundraising goals, in that we made a small profit despite a huge receipt for the ingredients for the organic smoothies. Going green should be fun. It should be cool. And hopefully we’ve begun to spread that word to our school community.

Do it Again

And again. And again. And again.

This is the third time the diagram of a local food chain and food web has been submitted to me. Each time comments have directed the necessary corrections. Each time the corrections are minimal, not carrying the changes out through the entire document. This time it’s tempting to say “Oh well. Good enough”. However, this task fulfills an IB assessment statement and might appear on the IB paper when this student sits the final exam. It’s almost painstaking to emphasize my previous comments and point out that the changes aren’t sufficient. The work needs to be deeper, more thorough, and more precise.

This time I opt to have an interview with the student. Understanding claims to be present, however, we’ll see what the results are next week.

In another class,“Show your work.” On the redo the work is only partially there. And the answer is still incorrect. Resubmission. “Show your units.” She adds her units but she still doesn’t see her error until it’s pointed out that she’s dividing cm by mm. “Oh”. Finally, on the fourth try she gets it. Proudly smiling she passes her work to me, “Now I get it!”

You know, it would be easier to just “let it go”.  In a way, it could be argued that my part’s done.  Differentiated learning has been provided. Formative assessment has directed the lessons, the plans, and discussions. Feedback has been given all along the way. The students have been exposed to diverse learning opportunities. They truly have everything they need in order to know what they need to know and have been given every opportunity to learn it. So, I could justify giving them the test and just moving on. However, that’s not the point, is it?  The point is to aid every student in achieving the standards. Some remain unready so they’ll need to do it again. Others may move ahead with deeper, enriching activities that must be planned and coordinated to fit into the unit in a timely manner.

Again, it would be so much easier to just test everyone and move on.  Getting things right takes effort.  Getting students to get things right also takes effort.  A lot of effort. For everyone. My favorite question (not really) is, “What if I just take the grade as it is?” Some students are actually willing to just take a lower grade rather than put forth the effort to master the material.  Their faces always drop when I reply, “That’s not an option.  Currently this assignment is incomplete and not in a state acceptable for assessment”. They grudgingly plow forward.

However, the beaming response when a student hands in, after several modifications, an assignment he can be proud of, we both feel a sense of accomplishment. Our congruent thoughts to “just give up” vanish.  And, I realize, it is worth it. 

The message I hope students receive is that they are capable and that with perseverance they can accomplish things they didn't beforehand think possible. If we as teachers and parents keep working with them, they will grow and develop and learn. They will reach heights even we didn't realize achievable. So, keep at it. Make them do it right, even when you're exhausted. It is worth it.

IB Week: An alternative to Trip Week

Last spring, after a year of incubation, an idea was hatched: Specifically set aside days for IB students to have focused time on IB related mindset, skills, and activities. Our IB and CAS coordinators have persevered in making the idea a reality that came to fruition a week ago during our scheduled secondary school trip week.

Grade 6-10 students gathered with suitcases, daypacks, snacks, and much eagerness and departed on their anticipated trips to different locations in western Europe. The building quickly emptied out leaving the hallways of the secondary school empty and quiet.  However, staggering in for normal school hours were the Year 11 and Year 12 students.  Though they arrived for “school”, normal activities weren’t exactly what faced them.

Sounds of hammering, the aroma of soil, the discussions of learner profiles, coaching on life after high school, chopping knives, and Internal Assessment workshops emanated from the classrooms. Furthermore there were seniors working independently on extended essays and internal assessments, consulting with teachers, and participating in CAS activities.  There was vibrancy, productivity, and energy.

The internal assessment (IA) workshops centered on math, history and science, giving students a cohesive, focused overview of the IA process, expectations, and criteria. The post-high school work shop helped students to think about where they should be in the university application process and the considerations they should be pondering about what they want to do after graduation.

My duties included mentoring students participating in CAS activities that supported the Going Green Initiative at the school.  Specifically, students built mug racks, made a green wall pallet, and volunteered at an organic farm.

Students lined themselves up according to self-designated responsibilities.  Their heads bent with intensity and focused on their individual task.   They measured, cut, hammered, stapled, drilled and screwed.  Gradually the windowsill filled with beautiful mug racks for the staff room.  Their project will aid in reducing plastic waste in the teacher lounge.

Another group has prepared a recycled pallet (retrieved from the rubbish bin) with landscaping material to transform it into a green wall.  Giggling erupts as they press their hands into the dark aromatic soil and disperse it throughout the pallet.  They plan their planting and carefully set the selected flowers.  Slowly they raise their garden and are pleased that it holds and clearly adds beauty to the roof.

Our Going Green members were bussed to an organic farm to harvest carrots, weed tomatoes, clean hydroponic gear, sort chickens, and plant young lettuce seedlings.  Physical labor yielded exhausted but satisfied participants. As one student remarked, “It feels really good to help out a worthy business that relies so heavily on volunteers.  We did a good service here today”

Another projects conducted that week included a high tea with the elderly and a trip to the soup kitchen. 

A set of students met with a chef who guided them through the process of baking cupcakes, biscuits, and cookies.  They mastered skills of yolk separation, sifting flour, and allocating the right amount of dough for the perfectly sized cupcake. Theirs was definitely the tastiest of our week’s projects.  With completed delicacies they departed for a nearby Alzheimer’s center and shared a high tea with some of the residents there.

Students gathered late one afternoon to chop the vegetables and then assembled themselves early the next morning to cook the soup.  Through the steam they stirred and flavored their soup, patiently awaiting its readiness.  With carefully wrapped pots they departed for the Soup Kitchen.

All of these activities were balanced with a self defence class that taught some good skills and brought on laughter and a great release of energy.

Following their workshops and service projects, the students participated in a 2-day trip to Ypres, Belgium where they completed a guided bike tour through battlefields, cemeteries and monuments of the area.  They visited the Flanders Field Museum.  Together, these activities provided the students with physical exercise and greater historical insight not necessarily obtained through curriculum delivered in the classroom.

In all, our IB week was successful and definitely helped our students become more focused and mature as IB students. It clearly sent the message “This is serious. You are an IB student.”  It seems to have set the tone for the 11th and 12th graders this year and put them on a path of having greater understanding of the program, being better equipped to meet deadlines and being prepared to be successful IB students. I highly recommend an IB week for all IB students.

A Teenager's Identity

The end of an IMYC unit is marked with an “Exit Point”. It is opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have incorporated regarding the big idea that has underpinned the content in all of their classes for the past 8 weeks. The students are given the task of sharing their thoughts, in this case, in the form of a PowerPoint, Prezi or Keynote presentation. It is one of the few times that there is no rubric and there are no guidelines, only the instruction to share whatever is important with respect to the big idea.

So there we sit, awaiting the philosophical input of our 8th graders. One by one they stand. Their theme?

Our sense of self and that of others is continually developing through our different interactions and impacts on how we exist in the world.

 Did they make the connection? Do they realize the dynamic nature of their own identity? Do they understand that their identity will change over the years? In fact, one of them outright makes the claim, “Our identity changes. What we were like when we were 9 is different from what we are now”.

There are moments of goofiness, awkwardness, trepidation, and shyness. There’s even fear. They each address the big idea and their definition of it. But then one by one they attempt to communicate what their own identity is. Their diverse backgrounds are astounding: Hungary, Austria, South Africa, France, the UK, Holland, India, adopted from China to the U.S.A., U.S.A., Iceland, Ukraine. They are all 3rd culture kids. They each allude to this part of their self. Yet then they drive deeper. Musings of culture, sports, likes/dislikes, family, religion, and values are shared. One boy pauses before exclaiming at the end, “And this is who I am”. He has put himself out there. And it is touching.

In the end, each student has reflected on, identified, and communicated the essence of self. And that has value. It’s empowering, especially to young teenagers, to know who you are.


Image: Culture: Cultural Identity? Personality? Language? Reality?. (n.d.). ChineseBreeze Unorthodox Language Learning Blog. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from

Periodic Failure leads to Success

Adopt an Element.  That's the title of the project. 

Students can hardly wait to select their element.  Computer screens are popping up with images of obscure elements. Excited exclamations filter throughout the classroom.  There is a buzz of activity.

My colleague and I have decided to split the entire periodic table between the total of 8th grade, that’s 90+ students.  Each student is researching and reporting on a unique element.  As we were planning how to display the student work, we have an absolute stroke of genius, “Let’s make a wall display of the periodic table!”  We nearly burst with excitement over how amazing this project and subsequent display will be.  In fact, we were nearly intoxicated with anticipation of its impending greatness.

We plan the size, orientation, and position of the posters. We measure.  We cut. We place the background. The posters have been submitted, students presented, and rubrics consulted.  It is Friday afternoon.  Our anticipation of the display is so rousing that we can not wait any longer to build that periodic table.  Friday afternoon turns into Friday evening.

It’s hot.  We’re sweating.  We continue on with hope and eagerness.  I stop to wipe my brow and assess the gradually forming periodic table. Despair descends upon me, “This sucks,” I think.  It looks juvenile.  It looks terrible.  “Is it even worth continuing?“ I wonder. My colleague, also pauses. She deflates before me and quietly comments,  “Somehow I imagined this to look a lot better than it is”.

My despair gives way to the laughter that erupts from deep within me. Before we know it, we are on the floor in hysterics. Through tears of delirium we complete our display.

Uneasiness settles in at the thought of the rest of the school viewing our pathetic display on Monday but it’s done and there’s no turning back.

My colleague and I having accepted and overcome  the disappointment of our display.

 I slink into my classroom first thing on Monday, before anyone has arrived.  Within a few minutes one of our other science colleagues bursts into the room, “It looks great!” she genuinely expresses. The students are thrilled.  The principal adulates the project as the perfect example of student work and collaboration. In the end, it’s not nearly as bad as we had perceived it on Friday night.

Adopt an Element.  Despite our moment of despair, it was indeed a huge success. My message today? When working with students focus on their learning and their achievements, and it will all be OK.

Letting Go: Allowing Students to be Independent

The illusive photosynthesis experiment.  This student has a good start but has a lot to figure out. 

“I want to do something with plants”

My heart sinks.

“How about the effect of acid on plant growth?”


“How does light intensity affect photosynthesis?”

Heavy Sigh.

What do these ideas for internal assessment ideas mean to me?  Often, failed experiments.

For whatever reason, students think setting up a plant experiment will be easy. They never factor in the time it takes to determine the best conditions to grow their plant or sprout the seeds. It often results in a neglected, unwatered project of withered specimens.

It's always a temptation to check: maybe this one will work. 

And I know this.  So why don’t I just say, “no plants”?  That approach would be notably simpler and it would spare me the pain of watching those pathetic seedlings atrophy and die at the back of my classroom.  However, it is my firm belief that students, especially 16-18 year old IB students should have their own choice. The choice fosters ownership in their work. And if they really want to do it, then they deserve a chance to try, right? So, after bequeathing warnings about how difficult plant experiments really are and that statistically there have been few true successes come from them, I allow my students to proceed. For some reason, they always think their situation will be different.

Though I noticed the deteriorated state days ago, a student came to me today and showed me his shrivelled seedlings as though they’d “just perished”.  He was running a pretrial to determine whether he would best conduct his experiment in cotton or soil and approached me with the observation, “ I think soil worked better than the cotton”.  He looked down at me with his big brown childish eyes hoping for confirmation and I’m thinking, “Seriously?  They’re ALL DEAD!”  but I just smile and ask him how many of the 5 seeds in each cup actually sprouted to which he responds, “One”.  “So what does that tell you?” Silence.  Thinking.  Wheels turning.   “That I need to plant ten in each cup?”

Exasperation is threatening to settle in but I patiently continue, “Well, that might be a choice you make, however, what is the actual observation?”  More silence.  Thinking.  Wheels turning. “Um, that not all the seeds sprouted?”  He receives the advice to consider these observations as he proceeds.  Of course I know he’s baffled in attempting to incorporate this information into subsequent planning.  He returns the blighted seedlings to the fluorescent lamps though I’m not sure why.  They should be tossed in the rubbish bin.

Then there's the photosynthesis experiment that's been sitting in my lab area for five days.  It's obvious to me that the set-up isn't optimized, however, the student keeps returning hoping to see a measurable amount of oxygen.  At what point will she realize that no more oxygen will appear in the tube?  Tomorrow I will tell her it's time to reconsider her design.

So, in the end, the students who were counting on an easy experiment with their plant idea often give up after the first attempted failure.  Others persist repeating over and over again until they get it to work.  They always spend so much more time than the students who design an experiment in which data can be collected within a day.

Regardless of the design choice, it’s the most difficult thing to resist telling them what to do. The path of “no choice” is decidedly more manageable!  But that would deny my students the purpose of this journey. 

Students work their way through the scientific process. They deal with frustration, glitches, and failed attempts but in the end, they all end up with two reasonably controlled experiments that they have designed and carried out. And they are always proud of their work.

To all of us out there struggling to let go of the control, just do it!  The students will be rewarded with a worthwhile journey that leaves them feeling accomplished and you will be profoundly happy for them.

Benefits of Recording Formative Assessment

It’s our Open House night. Parents pour through hoping for insight on how their child’s school experience is going. However, this isn’t a night to talk about students. It’s a night to talk about curriculum, general class structure, and possibly specifics about projects or assignments currently underway or coming up.

My fallback is my web site because everything is there. Parents respond positively to the web site as it is very informative and it’s not only a way for students to know what is going on but parents as well.

However, the big surprise came when a few parents added,

“Oh, and I love how you monitor their progress”

“…she looks at Power School and sees improvement and it makes her feels so good about herself”

“I like how you can see how they are learning.”

And I’m surprised and pleased that they’re following Power School that closely and that they recognize my attempt to monitor and follow progress.

There is definitely a train of thought that supports not recording or reporting on formative assessments. However, my policy is to record and report on as many formative assessments as possible.

But not checking this box in Power School, the number will not be included in the students' grade.

But not checking this box in Power School, the number will not be included in the students' grade.

For example, with my Entry Tickets I can actually quantitatively determine how much a student knows at a given time. This number then gets recorded in Power School as a non-counted Test/Quiz score (it is removed from impacting their final grade). Thus, students (and parents) can see different “progress reports” throughout the unit. The content of these entry tickets will ultimately be the content of the unit test so the progression should directly be reflected in their test score at the end.

At a glance I can determine who is progressing and I can target struggling learners, especially during group and individual work. Currently, my 8th graders are working on a lab that contains negative and positive controls and for some reason they are really having a difficult time wrapping their heads around this concept.  However, many are grasping it and I can see it. There are a handful who remain very unsure and today during the lab I spent time with all lab teams but was able to linger longer with those students who I know, based on their entry tickets,  are really struggling more than the others. My goal was to help them visualize the concept with their experiment.

Tomorrow’s Entry Tick will, indeed, tell me if the visualization helped!

The practice of reporting on formative assessment has yielded some surprising results:

  • In the time it takes students to prepare for our first activity, I know who needs help and I know exactly what I need to focus on that day (and isn't that the entire purpose of formative assessment?).
  • Students become more focused on learning specifics.
  • Students ask more questions.
  • Students arrive more prepared to class, knowing I’m going to probe their knowledge.
  • Student know they will get more chances to learn the topic, and have hope if they still 'don't get it'.
  • Students seem happier and more motivated to tackle difficult topics.
  • Being questioned in a quiz format de-stresses the entire experience of “being tested”. It’s just part of learning now.
  • No time is wasted at the beginning of class because students are engaged as they walk through the door, already reading through their entry tickets.
  • Oh, and parents are happier.

My entry ticket assessments and the recording of them is spreading to all of my classes!  

More formative Assessment

Entry Tickets

It’s good to have a routine.  But then it’s also good to sometimes change up those everyday activities.  This week began a new routine in the classroom.

Students were greeted at the doorway.  They almost ran into each other as they realized they were expected to line up and wait for further instructions.  Their routine of simply entering the classroom first thing in the morning was interrupted.  They paused and smiled with curiosity, wondering what was up my sleeve.  After our regular greetings, each student received a small piece of paper with three questions on it.  They followed the instructions to take a seat, remove their lab work from their backpacks and answer the questions.  Furrowed brows, scribbling pencils, and the flipping of lab pages followed.  Immediately students were immersed in the work at hand, reflecting on and processing what was accomplished in the previous class and preparing for the current lesson.

They passed their papers forward and we discussed what the rest of the lab entailed.  As they gathered goggles, dawned aprons, and assembled supplies, I took a quick look at the entry tickets, immediately assessing what the students did and did not understand about the lab.  As I circled between the lab pairs during the lab I was able to target the misconceptions.

Furthermore, at the end of the class we jointly created a set of tables to clarify the definitions for and identification of the positive and negative controls in the lab (relating to the entry point questions).

The entry tickets directed me in how the lesson needed to progress and took the students down a path of greater understanding. The technique will become a regular addition and will also spread to my other classes.  Adding a new technique into a lesson also engages the students and generates a new kind of energy within the classroom.  Encouraging more formative assessment and the courage to try new techniques in the classroom!

Becoming a Scientist

It’s how you think.

The gas flame hissed at full height while a pot sat precariously askew on the burner. There, at eye level to the flame and pot stood my little 5-year old son.  He was trying to stabilize the pot with one hand while clutching a partially filled balloon in the grimy damp fingers of his other hand.  Sweat dripped from his temples as he focused intently on his task.  He didn’t even notice me approaching his hazardous situation.

“What are you doing?”

He looks up at me with his big, open, intense blue eyes. Maintaining his grip on pot and balloon he explains, “Trying to figure something out”.  I help him with the pot as he continues; “You know how when you have a balloon in the hot car it pops?  Well, I want to know if that has to do with the heat of the car. “

We study his experimental set-up and he adds, “The balloon should get bigger if I put it in the hot water”

And there it was. The inherent curiosity. The desire to know. The determination to find out. The pursuit of a test. A formed hypothesis. It wasn’t something we taught him. It was just there.

Of course, with my guidance he completed his experiment and jumped with joy when that balloon began to expand.  He loved the idea of air molecules speeding up so fast to take up more space and pushing on the sides of the balloon to make it look like it was “filling up”. 

“If we take it out now, it will shrink again, right?”  Of course, we did it.

It seems his entire childhood was spent in testing the world. As an adult this son continues to think like a scientist, answering everyday life’s questions using the scientific method. He can’t help it. I know, because I’m the same way. 

However, not everyone thinks this way.  I see it all the time in the classroom. One student sits in a stupor while his neighbor has ten great ideas for research questions. Despite learning the proper steps and being shown the way, it still is so much more difficult for some than others.

As science teachers, it is our responsibility to do everything we can to teach the scientific method and use it as the framework for all activities in the lab.  All students can learn to formulate a proper research question, to form a hypothesis, to generate a table of variables, and to carry out an experiment using necessary lab skills.   However, some students will be stronger at thinking up innovative questions and designing creative experiments because their minds think differently than their peers.

The different wiring of brains becomes more and more apparent as students progress into the more advanced classes and are expected to become more and more independent in the design of experiments.  Students really separate out during the internal assessment process in IB science where total independence is required.  Then, there are the students who choose to do their extended essay project in a science, which is an opportunity for them to design and conduct an experiment completely stemming from their own interests, not a small feat.

It is a pleasure to foster the growth of budding scientists but there is something really special about spotting that scientific mind and seeing it wonder and wander through a myriad of questions and possibilities.  It’s true, the best I can offer as a teacher is to teach the students the framework of the scientific method (and content) and to foster the growth and expansion of the mind.  Scientists need the freedom to meander intellectually and be free to test their ideas.  That’s my job, to give those minds that freedom.