Thursday, June 25, 2015

Skype-A-Scientist Week

As a 5th grade science teacher, one thing that is always on the forefront of my mind is how I can make the content relevant to my students. For the past two school years I have used Skype to bring in guest speakers to share about their profession and to answer my students questions. During the 2014-2015 school year my students Skyped with an entomologist when we studied the life cycle of a butterfly, an employee from the NASA's Kennedy's Space Center during our Earth and Space Unit and Sylvia Earle, a world-renowned oceanographer, as we studied about the impact of humans on the world's oceans and marine life.

At the end of the school year my students participated in Skype-A-Scientist Week. We had the privilege of Skyping for 30 minutes with four scientists from various fields on four consecutive days. Each scientist took about 10 minutes at the beginning of the call to explain a little about his/her profession. Then my students asked the following questions of each scientist (so their answers could be compared and contrasted at the end of the week):

-Why did you choose this profession?
-What education or background experience did you need for your profession?
-What is your current position/role?
-What is a time where you had to persevere to reach your goal?

 Finally, at the end of each call, the students were able to ask their own questions until it was time to say goodbye.

Here are some pictures from each of the calls:

1.)  Roller Coaster Engineer - Adam House  @GreatCoasters

2.) Mariane Biologist - Founder of Sharks4Kids - Jillian Morris @BiminiSharkGirl   @Sharks4Kids

3.) Paleontologist  - Matt Borths    @MattBorths   @PastTimePaleo

*Matt and two of his colleagues made this video for my students to watch prior to the call!

4.) Geophysicist -  Mika McKinnon   @MikaMcKinnon

Each scientist shared great information about his/her profession and I can't thank them enough for the time and enthusiasm that they put into each call. If you would like to conduct a similar week or if you would like to Skype in guest speakers throughout the school year here are some suggestions:

Create a Skype in the Classroom account.  If you are new to Skype in the Classroom,  search for fields in science that fit with your content area.  Send them a message on Skype to begin to set up the call.

Search for scientists on Twitter.  In order to find two of the contacts above, I just typed in their profession, "roller coaster engineer" or "geophysicist" in a Twitter search. You may want to look up other hashtags too that relate to your content. (Ex. #scichat and ask other teachers who may have contacts that could Skype)

BE RELENTLESS. Sometimes contacts don't reply, timing doesn't work or conflicts arise. If you want to provide this type of opportunity for your students, you can make it work! If one scientist can't Skype, ask for a recommendation of a colleague who could be interested.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about conducting a series of Skype calls such as Skype-A-Scientist Week.  If you are interested in Skyping with your students, here are some other posts that may interest you:

My Skype Challenge

Um, Skype is blocked??? (and other issues)

My First Skype Mystery - Figuring out how to Skype

Answer The Call

Windows to the World (Global Classroom) 

Good luck,
Arin Kress
@ArinKress on Twitter.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


As we turn the calendar to a new year, like most people, I am focused on setting goals for 2015. At school, I also have my students focus on goal-setting. This month is @ClassromChampions's #StepsToSuccess month where the students will either set new goals or reassess goals that were set in September.  I plan to use the following video with my students to spark the discussion on goals. Even if you're not a huge soccer fan like I am, you'll love this video:

I think everyone who watches this video would agree how cute it is, but let's dissect it and find out how it can be impactful for educators and students:

First, here's the description of the video on YouTube: Little Josh Turnbull, son of Chelsea goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, scores in front of the cheering Stamford Bridge crowd after Blues' last match of the Premiership season.

Seconds 1-12:  Yes, this little guy has soccer in his blood with his dad being a professional goalkeeper. However, when everyone else is focused on what appears to be an award's ceremony, he wanders off to do his own thing. 

Implication for educators and students:   DO YOUR OWN THING! Set your OWN goals and do something that is challenging for YOU! It's ok to break away from the group and blaze your own trail. 

Seconds 13-33:  The crowd begins to cheer. Josh sets his sights on the goal. He falls down. He gets back up. He keeps dribbling and dribbling. He keeps his eyes on the goal. The cheering gets louder...

Implication for educators and students:   KEEP YOUR EYES ON YOUR GOAL! You might fall down. It might be a long road, but never lose sight of what you want to accomplish. In @ClassroomChampions's #StepsToSuccess month, the students will list out 5-7 mini-goals to reach a larger goal. Josh would have never scored in one hard kick. He literally needed to take "baby steps" toward the goal line and that's what needs to happen when setting large goals. Think of smaller, realistic goals that can help you accomplish something big!

Seconds 33-37: Josh kicks the ball across the goal line - the crowd erupts - and the little guy seems stunned and confused.

Implication for educators and students:   When we achieve our goals, it may be shocking at first or even later when reflecting on a previous goal that we met, we may have the "Wow, Did I really accomplish that?" type of reaction. It's good to feel a sense of awe about the things that we have accomplished. Think about it now. What are some goals that you have accomplished in the past? Are you surprised that you accomplished that goal? What allowed you to be successful? Acknowledging the success you've had in the past will help give you confidence for the future!

Seconds 38-40:  (My favorite part!) The crowd continues to cheer and little Josh raises both hands in the air in celebration! 

Implication for educators and students:   Even at such a young age, he knows the sound of success. Imagine if the crowd sat silently and paid attention to the ceremony at midfield and not his little jaunt toward the goal. He would have dribbled, scored and went on his way. But it was the cheering from the crowd, the support from strangers, that gave him the excitement to raise his two little arms in the air in jubilation. I think it's safe to say that he would not have even realized that he did something great, without the crowd erupting! .....When we are the ones who reach our goals, we need to CELEBRATE!!  We need to raise both hands in the air and take it all in.....When we're the ones in the crowd, watching others take strides in the right direction to meet their goal, we need to CHEER THEM ON!  Encouragement can go such a long way! When they meet their goals, celebrate with them! Acknowledge their hard work by offering IMMEDIATE praise (or feedback.)

Seconds 41-53:  A coach gives the ball back to Josh. He dribbles out a little and turns to face the goal again. 

Implication for educators and students:   Reaching a goal doesn't mean that you're finished. Grab the ball again and keep going!  Create a new goal or expand on the one you just accomplished!

Seconds 54-End:  Josh's dad appears, quickly celebrates with him. And, at the end you see him running after the ball as the camera pans away.

Implication for educators and students:  One of the key components of @ClassroomChampions's goal setting month in September was to "share your goal with others." I'm sure that Josh didn't verbalize to his dad that he wanted to score a goal that day. But I'm also sure that this isn't the only time that he's played with a ball and kicked it in the net in his dad's presence. Having those around you know your goal is SO important. They can give you support along the way and help keep you accountable. They can provide encouragement when necessary too. Finally, once you reach your goal, be sure to celebrate with the people important in your life who encouraged you and supported you along your way!

It's funny how teaching impacts you as a person. I would be a hypocrite if I continued to say things like "Dream Big! You can accomplish anything!" and I didn't take my own advice....So, I have my sights on a rather large goal for 2015. I want to co-author a book. I've always enjoyed writing poetry and blogging, but writing a book is a completely new venture. I'm excited to share this goal with my students and to hear the goals they set. With each other's support I know that we will help keep each other accountable and achieve more together. 

Good luck on your goals in 2015 and don't forget: #DreamBig!