Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Setting up Labs

Lab Time should be Happy Time for both teacher and students.

Often it isn't.

Here's how to give yourself every chance that your Labs will go smoothly and your students will learn something in an organized, non-chaotic environment.

Start with using COLOR. Yes, COLOR!

The VERY first thing I did when I started each new school year was tape colored squares of paper onto each desk. I cut out two inch squares of the following colors of Astrobright paper: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. I would always have two tables of each color, except red, which had three including the work table in the back of the room. This was for larger than usual classes.

When I assigned students to seats, they were by default being assigned to a COLOR TEAM. Since two students sat at each table, this made each team have four students, three in a smaller class.

I had a stack of small plastic baskets. Each year I would also tape two-inch squares of colored paper inside these baskets. I would have two baskets with yellow squares, two baskets with blue squares, etc. Three baskets with red squares.

Each table would get their corresponding team color basket for a lab with the required materials inside.

Some of the advantages of this system:
  • I could call one person from each color up to pick up their materials (and return them). I would just say, "Send one person when I call your Color Team ." So two people would come up each time I called a color. Easier than having 14 kids all come up at once. (Same for return of materials.)

  • In a cramped classroom, having baskets of materials meant some labs could be done at desks, not at the lab stations around the perimeter of the room. Nice some days not to have to push all the desks toward the front to make room.

  • I could aways tell who returned a messy basket and give them a chance to clean it up before they lost clean-up points off their lab rubric.

  • The Color Teams worked together as a team for labs, some assignments, and Team Games. When I reassign students to new desks, they changed Color Teams, too. I kept track of all the Color Teams during the semester and tried to give my students as many new Team members each time as possible.

CONSIDER THIS: Set up Color Teams. Great classroom management tool!

Using Google Maps

Google Maps can be used to show the Plate Tectonic Features of the planet Earth.

I discovered this quite by accident once when Google Maps had just added the Satellite Pictures to their site.

Go try it yourself: Go to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Click on Satellite. Do you see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge System? What Google's done here is spectacular! You can show your kids the bottom of the ocean!

You can show them the Mid-Atlantic Ridge!

You can show them tons of others things, too:
  • The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean where the Pacific Plate is subducting under the Eurasian Plate.
  • The Juan de Fuca plate as it subducts under the North American Plate.
  • The Andes Mountains where the Nazca Plate is subducting under the South American Plate.
  • Northern India where the Indo-Australian Plate is Colliding with the Eurasian Plate, thus forming the Himalayan Mountains.
  • Iceland where two plates are moving apart, splitting Iceland in half. NOTE: When in Iceland, click on Terrain, which shows where the glaciers "should" be. Then click back on "Satellite" to show how much is actually left. Astounding.
  • Go to Hawaii. Show them how most of the Hawaiian Islands are undersea volcanoes formed by the Pacific Plate moving over a Hot Spot.

Click on "More" on the upper-right hand area and see Photos or Wiki entries.

Now, if you have a projection system hooked up to a Smartboard or big screen, you have just an ideal setup! When I've done this, my students were absolutely glued to the screen! They loved it.

At the very end, go back to your schoolyard. Start at the largest map of the planet. Double click on North America. Double click on your state. Keep double-clicking down-down-down to your school. If you are very lucky, your car will be in the parking lot! (Mine still is! The satellite photos are a couple years old!)

Only thing is: be prepared for them to ask to see their own homes!

NOTE: The YouTube video at the beginning of this blog entry is not from Google Maps, of course, but shows the ocean as it appears on Google Maps. This video would also be a great teacher tool! Project this on your Smartboard/Big Screen! Let it play to the end and then "surf/browse" along the bottom for all sorts of great videos, including one called, "Approaching a Trench."

CONSIDER THIS: Add Google Maps to your Plate Tectonics unit!

FUN LINK: Click here for Google Maps.
Click here for Google Maps Guide for Teachers.