Sunday, October 25, 2015


As a teacher, I definitely take pedagogy and content knowledge seriously as I plan learning experiences for my students.  But, as we all know, teaching is much more than that.  It involves thinking about how to motivate and engage my students, how to ignite their curiosity, and how to answer that deeper question of 'so what?'  or 'why am I learning this?'

I had the opportunity to read the book Drive by Dan Pink recently and it was such an interesting experience.  It put into words what I somehow knew to be true intuitively as a teacher.  What drives or motivates people to do great, innovative things?

Pink hones in on three words:  autonomy, mastery and purpose.  So, after reading this book, I find myself asking these questions: How am I providing opportunities for my students to have autonomy in their learning?  Do my students have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work that requires them time and hard work to master the skills that go into it?  Are my students motivated by a greater purpose - do they see that their work in my class extends beyond the four walls to making a difference in not only their future, but the world around them?
These are real questions and there is no better time to ask them than now.  A friend and colleague just emailed me a video of Heidi Hayes Jacob where she asks: What year are you actually preparing your students for?  I see it as my job to prepare them for a world that is changing more quickly than we realize. To this end, I have some learning to code, others creating an app for a greener earth, others designing buildings, and still others learning about the importance of having a growth mindset.  Why?  Because "around here...we don't look backwards for very long.  We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keep leading us down new paths" (Walt Disney).

Thursday, October 8, 2015


I got inspired by this lesson on biomimicry found here.  Before getting into biomimicry, though, I had my students first explore nature right on our schoolyard by going out and taking pictures.  I registered the class for our first Project Noah mission - Global Schoolyard Bioblitz.  We then uploaded the pictures and made observations about the colors, structures, and functions of organisms.

After this, we explored biomimicry through a few resources.  One of the videos is shown above.
I then introduced the quest to the students:  How can we use reverse-engineering to learn from nature and innovate solutions?
I reminded them of how we used reverse-engineering when taking apart a video game to figure out how it works.  They then went on to reverse-engineer a sunflower, taking it apart into its component part in order to get inspired by nature to come up with an innovative solution based on the color, structure, or function of the sunflower.  Their ideas were great!  I used dotstorming to crowdsource the ideas.  Students had the opportunity to vote on their top 3 after which I used the ranking function to organize the ideas.