Internship Reflection Week of 2011-10-24 [09] (CSI, CJTC, POGIL)

Monday 10/24/2011

Here’s Monday’s schedule.  Had the third meeting of the second session of the “Science Behind CSI” elective that I am co-teaching.  Topic today was:  Fingerprints Part 2.  Interesting part was giving a pint of blood before my class!


What went well:  In today’s class I really tried to take it a little slower and savor all the comments and interactions that were going on in class—very do-able with only 8 students.  I also tried to keep my answers brief, and stick to the content.  Part of doing the latter is recognize when I am rambling (to related/interesting places, mind you) but straying from the original intent of the question.  If questioning is something I would like to gain real expertise at, then I need to keep track of the question asked, give an answer, follow up with the questioner to see if the real query was addressed, and then proceed to my tangential or related next question.  Another technique suggested by Dan D. but which I haven’t done yet, is to keep a sheet of paper on the wall, and capture the student-generated questions which I don’t want to treat, but want to acknowledge and honor.  These middle-schoolers have such fertile imaginations.  Our dusting for fingerprints activity went well this day (video to post to Vimeo later this week).  One student broke a glass which I had brought from home but we were able to get at least 4 groups of 8 dusting, dusting, dusting with both white and black powders at our shared desks.  I have to say it is truly magical to take white dust, put it on a black surface and see the fingerprint pop out at you.  I hope it was for the students as well.

What could go better:  By the time one half of a whole table was covered with black dusting powder, I was struck by how much these students just want to experience these activities.  For me, sometimes when my hands/fingers are doing something I am able to listen or focus better.  Still, I think having a clear process they were to follow would have been a little more organized for all students.  Dan D. pointed out that latent finger prints are actually made up a mix of oils, salts, perspiration, etc. and I have to say I hadn’t done my homework on exactly what the composition of fingerprints really is.  The video will show a couple of really hand-waving-type comments at that point.  The other comment I needed to have some backup information for was which surfaces have yielded viable fingerprints, why and how exactly they are obtained from those surfaces.  I personally have yet to get a latent fingerprint from dusting that is recognized and processed by the fingerprint matching software. I think the ability to get a print with just the right amount of dusting powder (no large globs, that is) and then lift it without smearing or smudging is a true art.  Our attempt at cyanoacrylate fuming was thwarted as well by a dried out superglue tube.  I think I need to get hands on and do that myself as well.

As B Lippitt pointed out, it would be really valuable to go through a more formal lesson planning procedure with the CSI Elective.  I have been meaning to do that, but should start.  Also whereas my colleagues in the ARC have to do 3-4 sessions of the same class each day, I only get one shot, but then can repeat in 4 weeks again.  That time to reflect needs to be capitalized upon.

Tuesday 10/25/2011

I was really looking forward to our field trip to the Criminal Justice Training Center / Burien Law Enforcement Academy today.  We were able to gather 11 students for the walk (yes, we are located close enough to walk) to this field trip location.  We met our tour guides at 10am on the site, and proceeded to observe a class on police ethics, a demonstration of scenario-based education for the cadets, and a quick tour of the indoor shooting range, and a physical-education class.  Our students were inquisitive throughout and at the end of the tour had buttonholed the Commander of the facility on how they could get high-school internships at that site.  I was very proud of them!  As you can imagine the staff at the school are unaware of how our school works and I pointed out to a few of the students that they need to prepare a presentation on how the school works which they can give to prospective mentors.  This would make their ask more compelling and could be used by other folks at the school in their “marketing”.

In the afternoon I was helping student S. with a garbage survey.  As part of her senior project she is pushing to get our school more recycling aware and so we had planned to go through some garbage together today.  The plan is to evaluate how much recyclables are in the schools waste stream before S. implements a push to recycle and then how much recyclables are in the waste stream after the push to recycle.  As we dug into the dumpster, removed bags, opened them and categorized the contents as either garbage or recyclables, a reporter from the b-townblog was there to capture our work.  We would weigh the total bag, then separate the bag into two components (recyclables and non-recyclables) and then weigh those.  Two of us were able to process approximately 6 bags in 1 hour.  The STP (Senior Thesis Project) is a requirement for graduation from Big Picture High School and is meant to demonstrate work toward solving a problem in the community.

Our staff meeting in the afternoon was focused around 3 activities.

1. Organize the weekly schedule for clubs that have been needing times to meet, but which are not meant to take away from instructional time.

2. Plan for how we will be doing school wide Exhibitions.  The Exhibition cycle is like final exams or tests for students, occurs three times a year, and results in narrative evaluations (grades) for all students.

3. Address other hot topics from our staff meeting which have been festering.

Wednesday 10/26/2011

Wednesday started with our followup PD (professional development) meeting from the day before.  Some topics that arose in the course of the free discussion were:

  • Transcripts, Assessments and Exhibitions
  • Advisor Effectiveness
  • Are we at Big Picture improving?
  • Leveling up and accountability



Thursday 10/27/2011

On this day I drove to Bellevue Christian to observe Mare Sullivan and her high school chemistry class that uses POGIL (Process-Oriented Guided-Inquiry Learning).  See my blog post about that experience.

Returning back to Big Picture at about 10:30a, I was asked to work with a couple of students (L. and D.) that are very interested in computer gaming.  I was also asked to work with a student, J., on his nuclear power project.  And then later that day I was supposed to get with C. who wanted to work on his computer proficiency.  That’s in a nutshell the essence of this job, helping students discover or develop interests that provide an entry to deeper engagement in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).

But, back to games for second.  Last week, Big Picture was granted access to software available from Microsoft via  Since there are development tools for games free for download at that site, my idea was to install those tools and use them to get students involved building the games that they love to play so much.  (Game playing on school computers and on school time is pretty common, sadly.)  My gambit is that students that really love games will want to build games that their friends will like or play, and that the design, building, troubleshooting, tweaking, and publishing of a game will make an excellent project for a student’s learning plan.  However, on this day I met some serious roadblocks trying to install this software on Windows XP computers that either aren’t supported or didn’t have the graphics cards to support the Kodu Game Lab or the XNA Game Studio 4.0.

Meanwhile, the student who wanted to read about nuclear power was deeply engrossed in a story which had pictures of the aftermath of the tsunami in northern Japan, and the impact that disaster had on the nuclear power plant there.  He was asking great questions, and not evidently having any trouble reading the article that I had asked him to read.  I am told that the trick is verifying comprehension of the article so I should read the article myself and ask him some questions from that to gauge his understanding.

The student who was scheduled for some computer literacy evidently developed a massive headache and needed to go home.  His teacher and the aide suspected that some stresses around other activities that day might have been contributing factors.

The end of the day on Thursday was the standing meeting of the Special Teams at the school.  Main topic of the meeting was discussion of the Fall Exhibition Cycle which will be taking place during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November at the school.  Exhibitions are opportunities for students to demonstrate tangible progress toward the goals listed on their learning plans.  To see more about how exhibitions fit into the Big Picture educational model, see my blog post here.  I was a little apprehensive about exhibitions before this meeting, but during the course of the discussion, I was persuaded by the veterans in the room that it is a very healthy experience for all present, student, parents, advisors and other staff.  The student often rises to the occasion, and if not, even a lackluster exhibition can have a lasting impact on the student.

Friday 10/28/2011

A student, P., was working on the computer in my room this morning and we got to talking about various topics.  For some reason during the conversation I looked up the 2005 Commencement Speech that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University, which ends with the admonition “Stay hungry, Stay foolish.”  As we viewed the YouTube story together, the student surprised me a little with her ignorance of who Steve Jobs was, what he had done at Apple, and how (recently) he had died.  Needless to say Steve’s words about hoping to live another decade or two (he was dead in 6 years), and, since the time is short, making sure that what you are doing you do because you really love it, are pretty powerful, especially for students in high school who are often asking themselves life-changing questions.

Dan D. was out this day, and so I taught the “Science Behind CSI” elective without direct supervision.  As usual, I taped the class so that we could review it later.  This time I also asked students to complete a “Clear & Unclear” exit activity.  Results were very interesting.  Since this class session involved about 3 clips, I was not surprised to see one student who didn’t get the reason for watching videos in class.  I did recall that in the last section of this class, the next time I showed so many videos in class they got very disinterested and started to disengage.  I’m still convinced that video is valuable and powerful as a teaching aide, I just don’t want to overdo it.  The other thing I learned from the “Clear & Unclear” exercise is that I need to allow more time for writing responses.  Students were very reluctant to sit down and right something, so soon before the end of class (and lunchtime that follows).  Many wrote merely some questions they had about something random in the last 10-15 minutes of class.


The rest of Friday

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