Internship Reflection Week of 2011-10-03 [06] (typical week, mission of bphs)

It seems like I am behind on reflections for prior weeks, but let me put a stop to that!  The mission of Big Picture High School is as follows:

The mission of Highline Big Picture High School is to use internships and rigorous, interest-based projects to immerse students in work they are passionate about in order to develop the skills, habits, and knowledge to succeed in higher education, overcome obstacles to their well-being, and contribute positively to their communities. This mission is implemented one student at a time within a supportive network of students, staff, advisories, families, and community partners.

I’m tagging this post both “internship” and “hbphs=Highine Big Picture High School” since it is hard to describe my experience at this school over the past few weeks without giving some background on the Big Picture model, and this particular instance of that model.  When I post particular details about this school but not my particular experience of them as an intern, I will use that tag by itself.

Let’s start with the weekly rhythm of the school.  Students spend most of their Mon-Wed-Fri in Advisories, i.e. their homerooms.  Homeroom has a connotation that students are marching all over the school to various classrooms throughout the day only to return to homeroom for specific periods of time.  In fact, this school has no bells or classrooms on separate subjects which students march off to every 50-55 minutes.  The Advisory model means that students have all their different subjects in their homeroom.  I will write more about this in a later post, but suffice it to say that Mon-Wed-Fri is Advisory-based instruction.

On Tue-Thu students are taking part in activities related to their LTI (Learning Through Interests/Internships).  Staff are working on those days to get students placed in an LTI, or working their networks to build LTI connections for the school.  There is also a standing all-staff meeting on Tuesday afternoon.  A key event occurred on Wednesday in Week #5 related to LTI, but let me discuss that below.

Since Monday of Week #3 (9/19), I have been co-teaching an elective for middle-schoolers* entitled “The Science Behind CSI”.    There are six to seven students in this first version of a class on this topic.  The class meets two days a week on Monday and Wednesdays and we will be meeting for 4 weeks.  This coming Monday and Wednesday (Week #6) will be the last classes for this section of the elective.  We plan to start a new section of the elective with new students on 10/17.


Now back to a reflection on Week #5.  On Monday the topic in “Science Behind CSI” was handguns.  We talked through a PowerPoint about how handguns work, and the fundamental principles of forensic ballistics.  We also watched a film showing a bullet impacting various targets.  In order to drive home the concept of rifling we went outside and tried to throw a Nerf® football through a hoop with and without any type of longitudinal spin.  The goal for the exercise was to conclude that over longer distances projectile accuracies increase if that object is spinning.  Students took very little data and were not very systematic in their throwing, so the activity probably only really served as an opportunity to get some fresh air.  Will need to think about how to assess learning on that exercise.  Once students returned indoors, a handout was given to them and they were asked to work in pairs to match photographs of bullet markings.  Left column of the sheet had bullets fired from the gun and right column had second bullets fired from the same gun.  Overall students were a little lost, and started matching the outside edges instead of the inside edges.  Next time I do this I should have handouts which are pre-separated, or ask students to separate with scissors.  Class ended with a quick discussion of gun control versus the Second Amendment.  Students really seemed to warm up to that controversy, sorry I ran out of time.  As I recollect now I don’t think I had a coherent closer, even though the opener “how does a gun work” was pretty engaging.

Monday afternoon my mentor teacher, Dan D., helped facilitate a freshman advisory in an activity around hypothesizing what independent variables might impact a person’s pulse rate.  Students had done a similar activity previously, but revisiting it with some more vocabulary around the scientific method was helpful.  We hope to do more such activities introducing science (Empirical Reasoning) and math (Quantitative Reasoning) at some point in this advisory and in other advisories.


Tuesday morning we have a regular meeting between Dan D., the principal, Jeff P., and myself.  We call this the STEAM Team meeting, where STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.  One offshoot of that meeting was to start compiling a spreadsheet of all the students in the school, what their current main interest is, and how that interest relates to STEAM.  Given that information Dan D. and I can start engaging students on activities or start supporting them on the QR (Quantitative Reasoning=Math) and ER (Empirical Reasoning=Science) parts of their learning plans.  Tuesday afternoon is a 1.5 hour all staff meeting which was discussing this week improvements that could be made across the school in the LTI system.


Wednesday morning was a big day at the school as we had invited approximately 30-40 mentors to a fair in our cafeteria where they could meet and explain their work to interested students.  The event was a smashing success, as all the middle-schoolers and all the high-schoolers had an opportunity to meet with prospective mentors and other folks from various businesses in the community.  I should put in a quick plug here for being a mentor.

Student at Highline Big Picture High School need your expertise as a successful adult in industry to gain insight into how their own interests and passions might find useful expression in the community.  We have various levels of engagement from simple informational interviews where you can describe your path to your career in a one-time session with 2-3 students.  Another level of engagement is to allow students to shadow you for a day in the course of a routine business day at your workplace.  Finally, we enable students on Tuesdays and Thursdays to be at your workplace in a formal internship (non-paid) where you can mentor them and see them grow their skills.  Youth of today need to know there are adults in the workplace that want to see them succeed.  Sign up today to be a mentor!

Following the LTI Fair, we had session 6 of “Science Behind CSI” course.  In this session my objective was to describe other folks that might show up at a crime scene including:  Forensic Pathologist, Forensic Anthropologist, Forensic Toxicologist, Forensic Odontologist.  My plan was to describe each of these briefly and then watch a quick film clip of an interview with someone in that field.  What I learned in this class is that students will not sit still for such disjoint and boring content.  I have two students in the class that are a challenge to my classroom management skills and I finally called them out of the classroom to talk to them, each one separately.  I doubt I made any headway or impression on them, and the next day I talked to their middle school teacher for more advice and insight.  Of course, their behavior is consistent even when not in my elective class, and the tricks used to motivate them might transfer.

Following the elective.  We had a meeting with a combined sophomore advisory discussing a recent data dig** which Loren D. did in order to argue before the school board that a middle school based on the big picture model would reduce dropout rate in the district.  Students could all identify with the findings since they themselves are self-avowed “at risk” types and also respect Loren D. and the work he has done for 6 years at Big Picture.  Dan D. followed-up with the walkthrough by Loren with a handout that was asking the students to make their own hypotheses related to the data on dropouts and see where their hypothesis would lead them.

Wednesday afternoon Dan D. and I met with the Senior advisors and some of their advisees about how their STP*** could be improved to contain more QR and ER components.  The discussions were also meant to make sure that each student had a clear problem statement in their STP, and were taking concrete steps toward realizing the proposed solution to that problem.


Thursday was an LTI day for me in which I wrote some thank you notes to folks that I had invited to the LTI fair, and did some more research on potential LTI assignments for students.  I also used the time to do a little research on topics of interest to some students.

Thursday afternoon is a meeting of support staff from the school.  The support staff is comprised of all those folks not in administration and also not one of the 8 advisors.  Routine attenders to the meeting are Dan D., myself, the LTI coordinator, the college and career counselor, the IEP specialist, the Wellness Center folks, and the Vista/Americorps volunteers that are working with the school.  It was noted in this meeting that there are almost a greater number of support staff than there are advisors.  Main topic of the meeting was how that meeting and the staff meeting could be made more effective for the support staff and other new folks at the school.


Early Friday morning I met with Jeff Blount who is a math teacher and track coach at Mount Rainier High School and also a former teacher at Big Picture.  It was “get to know your teacher day” at Mount Rainier and so I got to hear some of Jeff’s story, some formative events in his life, and how they impact his teaching today.  I will go back and observe Jeff again some time to see him do some more teaching.

Friday afternoon I did some counseling with a student (sophomore) who would like to review some topics for the the PSAT/NMSQT.  Both Dan D. and myself are eager to help students 1-on-1, but often find our time crunched between that and providing more general services to a broader population.  This is a constant struggle and one with Dan D. is intimately familiar.

I had some time on Friday to plan for the “Science Behind CSI” course taking place on Monday.


*Big Picture Middle School started this year, with a campus adjacent to the High School.

**A data dig is an exercise whereby tabular or graphical data is provided to or generated by students on a topic of their choice, and then a presentation is made of some findings.

***STP is Senior Term Project in which a community issue or challenge is called out by the student and a solution is proposed as well as implemented which addresses that issue or challenge.

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  • halgera  On October 20, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    This sounded like quite the week! I encourage you to move beyond the “this is what I did” approach and start thinking more about the pedagogical implications and how you are growing as a teacher. There were already signs of this in your post.

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