Getting Around

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Today I Was the Best Teacher

copyright Mikereichold
Nutrition Cane or Energy Curve?
Today, I was the best teacher. Or so the kids told me.

In our science curriculum we have a lab where you simulate two different types of volcanic eruptions. It's a simple acid and baking soda reaction with slightly different acid solutions and with one of the types of magma colored so it looks cool. I've done this with preschoolers. It's not hard. The science curriculum gives you everything, including fake volcanoes that are easy to clean. But the reality is that it's so exciting that the lab is of dubious learning value (kids are too distracted by the fizzing and exploding that they don't remember what they were supposed to learn) and it can be really messy. Last year it was only offered as an enrichment activity.

I built it up days before we did it. I explained that my classes were the only classes in the whole school who would be doing this lab. I spent part of a period demo-ing the procedure so they would take it very seriously. They had to wear goggles. And clean up after themselves. And oh yeah, fill out a data table in between the fizzing and exploding.

They had a blast.

I took pictures. I took video. Some kids figured out that the ratio of baking soda to acid mattered. That sounds like a great add-on lab when it's time for us to blow off some steam again and the curriculum is boring us all to tears. I don't do frill classes, but if they might learn something, I'm all over it. And some kids really seemed to understand that there are different kinds of volcanic eruptions and different kids of rock that result depending on the amount of gas in the magma, so it wasn't a total learning loss.

I didn't even make them do the analysis questions at the end. My winter gift to them. They told me that I am the best teacher. 

But then, as it always does, the other shoe dropped. They asked me if we were having a party tomorrow, the last day of school before break. When I asked what all their other teachers were doing, they said they were having parties. And so, I explained that they just gave me the reason why we would NOT be having a party. We would be learning on the last day of school. Low-key, stress-less learning to be sure, but learning all the same.

I may not be the best teacher anymore. Maybe I should have told them that I was bringing in what another teacher calls "nutrition canes" to eat while they work tomorrow? Would that make me the best again?

(I might go with something like "energy curves" instead of "nutrition canes." Just to be different.)

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