Science Experiment Conversation

I am going back and cleaning up the 100+ blog posts I have written since 2009 that have never been published. Some are too personal to share, some never finished, and some just plain suck. However, there are moments that need to be shared. Over my spring break I will be posting some of these as I take a break and do some new adventures.

This post is from April 9, 2010 so my son was only 5 years old. This is just too funny to not share!


 

My son Aiden loves science and doing his own little experiments. For his birthday and Christmas he was given about 6-7 different kits of beginner science experiments(he is 5 so keep this in mind when you read the rest of this post). Last night we were working on an experiment mixing citric acid and baking soda and food coloring to make cool looking volcanos. Well, as were getting everything around to begin our science evening here is what was discussed.

Aiden: Dad, I really want to do some experiments(restated multiple times as I was hoping that not responding would help change his mind…did not work)

Me: Alright, let’s go to the kitchen and get the stuff.

Aiden: Okay dad, you get the powders and I will go get my testicle tube.

Me:……..(yes, a pause)What are you going to go get?

Aiden: (With a serious look on his face like I am an idiot for asking ) My testicle tube so I can mix the stuff in the testicle tube

Me: (trying not to laugh) Do you mean you science experiment tube?

Aiden: Yeah, my testicle tube that I always use

Me: Hey, Amanda(in the other room), could you help Aiden find his testicle tube

…………..

You gotta love children. If only he knew I was sharing this with the world. Needless to say we also had a vocabulary lesson that lead to many intriguing questions.


What are some of your funny moments similar to this as either a parent or educator?

 

Image from Flickr

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Can we push our kids too much and too far?

Reading an article in Parents as part of my self experiment to push my comfort zone and perceptions I read about the issue of the amount of pressure we place on our children to excel at activities. This article and topic lead me to connect the contents to Passion which has been my hot ticket item this summer on this blog.

As a parent of 8, 6, and 2 year olds I feel great pressure that my kids are not involved in activities on a daily basis, participating on travel teams, being involved in scheduled events all day everyday, and not competing like every other child that we know and run into.

I feel torn and this has been an issue that I struggle with as well as my wife. We both are quite competitive coming from college sports backgrounds in basketball and volleyball. We loved what we did. It is hard not to have kids loving what we did. They are young and my heart tells me they will develop their love of things on their own. However, the crazy culture and society we live in today makes me feel like I am doing a disservice to my children by not forcing them into drills and travel teams and being part of an organized system all day and night.

My instinct as a parent along with my coaching experience that includes all the good and bad parenting pressures leads me to believe that my kids need to be kids. They need to experience the world on their terms and find their own passions. By giving them the freedom to create, play outside, be bored, experiment, and just not live a structured life of always being in an organized activity will pay off. So many children today do not know how to entertain themselves on their own. How will they ever find their life passion if they cannot accomplish the most important ingredient in life – making oneself happy? To be clear my kids are involved in activities, but during the summer they are left to figure out how to entertain themselves, create their own games, organize their own fun with the neighborhood kids, etc.

The article discusses how parents are getting kids to find their speciality early to appeal to college. Parents feel like they have a head start if they start their children on these paths early. I love the quote by Michael Thompson, Ph.D when he states, “The goal of childhood is to become independent, moral, loving, and productive young adult – not to go to a great college.” I think it is easy as a parent and also as an educator to lose sight of this central idea.

This quote stuck with me as an educator. As we work to be the best teachers we can be I think his quote is a great reminder of what our jobs are as teachers. We are trying to help students and kids become independent, moral, loving, and productive young adults. Schools are so focused on standardized tests and college prep that we are overlooking the most important ingredients to our recipe for success in the classroom. Those ingredients are the ones that we should be focusing on because if we can help students become independent, moral, loving, and productive, then the scores and curriculum content will just naturally occur and the test scores will take of themselves.

“Enthusiasm motivates a child to keep getting better at something.” quote by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. strikes another chord with me. As parents and educators we have to share our passion and enthusiasm for life and learning. I have blogged about finding our passion and sharing our passion as teachers to engage learners. Enthusiasm is key. It is contagious just like passion. Look at a young kid loaded with excitement for life and try not to smile!

Reading this article made me feel better. My kids will find their niche. It took me most of my life to find mine. I have bounced around to explore. I have to remember that basketball was not always my desire, but for a large part of my youth it was. It has once again changed. I have to remember that my instinct is right. My kids will be fine. When it comes to my classroom I have to allow my students to explore and learn and bounce around. I cannot worry that my children bounce around from activity to activity. I have to remain open to this idea both as a parent and an educator because after all life is the passion of child. Kids by nature are to explore and therefore bouncing around from this activity to this activity is part of the process.

Whether a parent or educator our jobs are to provide many different experiences and opportunities for students and kids to explore and find more about themselves. Mix things up. Appeal to the senses. Move around. Try new things. Share your passions for life. By doing these things  we are creating the next generation of passionate learners of life.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Ideas were based on reading of article from August 2013 issues of Parents magazine: http://www.parents.com/parents-magazine/

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How Coffeechug Uses Evernote: Part 1

If you have thought about using Evernote, then this post may provide you one example of the benefits to this amazing piece of software/web tool/app. I started to use Evernote as an experiment towards the end of the school year last year. Since then I have fallen completely in love with it and will never go back to the old ways.

I am far from a pro and have much to learn about the best ways to use this tool, but I want to share the many ways that I find benefits to Evernote so far.

The first way I use Evernote is as a digital portfolio for my own children. My school district currently does not have a digital portfolio system in place for students. It drives me nuts. I am hoping to create a grassroots movement by having my students create one this year and spread the word. (mischievous grin while typing!)

Without going into how to set up everything because I am sure there is a much simpler way than the way I do things I basically have a stack set up for each of my three children. Within each stack is the school grade they are part of as seen in the picture to the right.

There is not a lot in the folders as one of my summer projects is to add all the paper copies of school work from years past. I would like to organize the contents within each grade level.

Within each grade level I have added materials to the folders since I started using Evernote. This is such a great benefit. I can take pictures using the Evernote App and add to the proper folders. Below you can see a small example of my daughter. There is no reason to keep all the paper copies. It just creates clutter. So I quickly snap a picture and dispose of the work. At first my children were super bummed that I kept tossing things until they realized what I was doing. It finally made sense to them that I was keeping it all in digital form. Some things we do keep, but the day to day stuff can go. However, what this allows us to do is see their growth. I kept a little story Addy wrote at the beginning of kindergarten and compared it to the end of the year and it was amazing. This learning journey is more valuable than a data on a report card.

One of my favorite features is being able to record audio to the images and documents. Below is a story Addy wrote about our trip to Wisconsin Dells. I cannot read what she wrote, but she could read it clear as day. I recorded her reading the story. This is so powerful! I did the same months later and it was amazing to hear the growth. I will be doing this at the beginning of the upcoming school year and throughout. I think it is good for my kids to hear themselves and actually see and hear their growth. They are kids and don’t always think they are learning.

I will continue to do this for my kids. I need to improve with using tags and organizing but it is a start and one that I find to be powerful for all of us to document their journey. Being my own children I have added elements outside of school. I continue to find many uses.
I will be using Evernote this year for my TA students as we create our journey with Habitudes and learning about ourselves. This will be an interesting experiment with using Evernote with students. It will be a big learning curve for us all, but one that I think will jump start the conversation about doing this for all students in our district.
If I was still in gifted education this was going to be our ongoing project to document our students and where they ended up after we were done with them. Now that I am an instructional coach I am going bigger and thinking all students.
I hope you enjoyed this. Please let me know if you found this worthwhile. If so, then I will continue to share the many other ways I use Evernote. It plays a role in everything I do now.

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Digital Citzenship CAN and SHOULD be taught to young kids

My son is going to be in third grade this fall and he has more online awareness than I had at any time in my life growing up as a kid and teenager.

Like many other kids, he is addicted and loves Minecraft. He does things so quickly and rapidly that blow me away and most times do not make sense to my eyes.

One thing we have done as parents is instill a sense of trust with him. We have laid out guidelines and have open communications about what is acceptable and not acceptable. We then cross our fingers that he listens.

He is a typical boy. He pouts. He does not like chores. He loves outdoors. Etc. He is just your regular run of the mill boy.

And he gets the gold star in digital citizenship.

He plays on the JoKaydia server which is ran by an amazing educator and person who I have so much respect for. We don’t peer over his shoulder, but ask that he remains open and honest. He has done wonderfully talking about issues. It leads to some great conversations not only about digital citizenship, but making proper decisions in life and treatment of others.

The other week I was out of town and I had to discuss with him over the phone about why he cannot play Halo or Modern Warfare while his other friends get to play. This is tough and puts him in a tough situation as he cannot play with his friends when they play these games. I often wonder if we are losing him to the peer pressure and possibly open communication.

Then I was reminded that he is a rock star. We received an email about him dealing with a situation on the Minecraft server.

HI ********,

I read the server logs of the incident you had with ******** in the mines today and I wanted to let you know that he has been banned for using swear words (cussing) and being rude to you. I’m sorry you had to experience that situation and I wanted to let you know that I’m very proud of you for handling it so well. You clearly reminded him to follow the rules and not use bad words, and you logged out when he wouldn’t stop – which was exactly the right way to handle things.

We take bad behavior including rudeness like that very seriously, and ******* account will stay banned for at least 2 weeks and we will discuss the problem with him and his parents before he is allowed to come back.

I was very proud as a parent. My 8 year old son handled a situation completely on his own and handled it perfectly without any guidance from us as parents. This also showcases how amazing some people are like Jo Kaydia who help make learning possible in safe environments. Additionally, this shows how fluent kids are today with the internet and the digital landscape.

On a higher level this goes back to an idea I shared months ago. Digital citizenship needs to be taught starting in kindergarten. Kids are networking online younger and younger and need to learn how to deal with issues. They need to be taught how to behave and what to do when others choose not to behave properly. They can handle it. The earlier they hear the message and more frequent they hear the message, the more positive their digital footprint will develop. They live in a day and age where they can no longer erase their actions. All they do is recorded. We must provide the kids with the tools and mindset to handle these powerful tools and games in the correct manner.

Part of our jobs in schools is to help develop these discussions and awareness. Yes, parents play a pivotal role as well, but not all parents are aware of these issues and don’t know how to go about it. This incident is another reminder of the obligations we have to our youth.

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In the chair of a student: Minecraft learning reverses my teacher role!

Learning how to play Minecraft with the teachings of my 8 year old son has brought me back to my school days. I felt stressed and not sure about myself.

Minecraft CastleAs Aiden rattled off all these keyboard shortcuts, new lingo, how to do this and that all at a blazing speed of an 8 year old excited to show his dad the world he loves, I was out of my element.

Now, I am a nerd. I love computers and games and anything involving technology so it is not like I don’t understand basic game mechanics. However, I needed him to slow down. I realized that his excitement was over the top. I loved it! He was so passionate about what he could create and do.

What I finally had to do was tell him to move on and just let me explore. I had another kid on the server help me at a much slower pace. I felt much better getting instructions from someone else. I felt bad about this, but this is when the light bulb clicked.

As parents, how many times has our children not listened to us, but hear the same message from someone else and it completely sinks in?

As teachers, how many times have we grown frustrated that a child cannot do this or that, but never give much thought to the fact that this may be their first time ever doing the task while we have done it for years?

Sitting in my computer chair I was reminded that I too, need to slow down. I must remember that not everyone operates the same way that I do. I was reminded that as teachers we can be the ones to deliver the same message that they are not hearing at home despite the family preaching it a million times or not at all.

I was also reminded that my brain operates much different. He lives by self teaching through YouTube. I had to download some books as I like to read, take notes, and then apply. Our brains and lifestyles have changed as technology has provided new ways of learning. I hate to say it, but I learn the old school way and he is part of the new school generation.

Despite feeling stressed about learning so much so fast in Minecraft by my son, I loved the experience. It reminded of what he goes through everyday. It reminded that I have so much to learn as there is so much I don’t know. It reminded me to stay involved with the passions of my son and to be sure to share my own passions. All it takes is 5 minutes to listen, even if it stresses us out! It shows we care. And even more importantly he is excited about it.

Instead of harping on him all the time about playing too much perhaps I should embrace that he wants to share his passions with me. If all I do is harp at what point does he no longer share his passions with me anymore?

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Minecraft present to their mom

My kids Aiden and Addy worked hard to build a little birthday present for their mom for her birthday. Pretty impressive considering how quickly they built it and completely on their own. Many little personal touches that I was quite surprised they put in on their own.

Once again Minecraft has been an outlet for my kids to showcase their personalities and thinking. By taking a new world and working together they built a perfect present for their mother. This is much better than anything you buy with money because this shows their appreciation for their mom.

I never expected them to share what they did. So proud of Aiden and Addy.

I only show this as an example that people can trash video games and electronics, but I am believer that there is a word of positive in these tools and games.

Here is the link for the video

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8 year old Aiden Minecraft Video #2: Pez Dispenser Challenge and Help Requests

On April 2nd my 8 year old son posted a video to Youtube to showcase a rollercoaster he built. We shared it on this blog as a blog post. I was not sure what to expect and just wanted him to have the chance to do something that interested him. My only rule was that he speak and explain his thoughts(the teacher in me).

About a week later he has over 50 views. I know that is not a lot in the YouTube sense, but it is a lot for an 8 year old testing out the waters of social media. I showed him how to look at the views and to check for comments. He was so happy to see that people actually watched his video. It was like he was testing out the waters himself to see if it was worthwhile.

A few days after posting he had a comment left on the YouTube site by the infamous Jo Kay who is a staple in the Minecraft world. Jo had challenged Aiden to build a better rollercoaster and gave him a place to start with learning and viewing. This was all that was needed for him to continue his self learning. Over the last few days he had been working hard to meet that challenge for Jo.

Here is what is cool about this whole process. He wanted to record again, but this time it was different. He is stuck. He has watched I don’t know how many videos, but he just cannot grasp what he wants to do. This time around he asked me to leave the room so he could record by himself. I let him do that, but I did edit the video because there were some long pauses of nothing going on. As I condensed the video I realized I have another chance to teach him about presentation skills, tips, and ideas.

To make things even cooler he had a comment left for him on the blog by another 8 year old who lives in China and likes his rollercoaster. I have never seen a smile so big when he found out another kid his age left a comment. He feels so special to have these two comments. Now he is working on connecting to these people online to learn and to teach others. It is a rather remarkable journey that we are embarking on together.

So, here is a link to this latest video where you can see his two attempts at making a Pez Dispenser rollercoaster from the challenge and some other ideas he has.

 http://youtu.be/LjPLwUV4-Nw

Like a typical 8 year old who is excited and working through the process he skips around so bare with him. He laid out his plans for his Minecraft video series last night so they will only get better and I think he has plans to show the Ender dragon and all that jazz.

Let the journey continue………

And if you have any suggestions or ideas for him leave a comment here or on YouTube.

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My 8 year old son’s Minecraft Roller Coaster Challenge

My son always plays Minecraft. After viewing some cool videos online I gave him the challenge to build his own roller coaster. He set out to do just that by learning on his own and making it happen. I think it turned out pretty good for a self taught 8 year old.

He would love it if you checked it out and perhaps had any cool suggestions for him to try to make it better or cooler. I lack any Minecraft knowledge and am not able to help him in any capacity.

I hope you enjoy and this is just one more example of the power of Minecraft. Despite not understanding how to do things, I do see the power of thinking and creative expression within the game.

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