Planting The Popcorn Seed Of Learning

In college, I took a course called “Teaching Science” where we spent class time creating our own scientific journals and carrying out experiments that our teacher created and that we created ourselves. While these were happening, discussions happened of how we can apply this to teaching our students about science, and how we can incorporate science into different aspects of our curriculum such as writing or math in order to see more of it in our school year. 

My professor for the course was truly one of my favorite professors throughout my entire college career. He reiterated over and over as often as possible that the goal with science was to be so influential that students picked it up and continued to use the scientific method on their own, beyond school. He told us that if we were teaching science correctly, students would be excited by the subject and want to know more, their learning would go well beyond the walls of the school. 

While I respected him greatly as a teacher, I never believed that I could be the type of science teacher to instill this in my own students. My emphasis for my degree was in language arts, and I had a hard time choosing between that and reading. Math and science were so far off of my radar. I knew it was something I would have to teach, but science wasn’t a subject I saw myself being so excited about that it shone through to my students. 

One day in class we were studying our long term science experiment, a flower we had planted. A colleague of mine brought up a childhood story of her sister and herself planting popcorn kernels made for air popping in their sandbox, and how they would grow tall enough that their mom would rip them out of the sand. My professor looked at us with a confused look and told us this was impossible. He said that the popcorn kernels we buy from the grocery store is processed and wouldn’t grow in soil, let alone sand. He claimed she must have been given corn seeds or some other type of seed because having any result from popcorn kernels was not possible.

The popcorn kernels I planted

Maybe it was the stubbornness in me, maybe it was my growing love for science, but whatever it was, there was a burning fire in me to prove him wrong. That night I went home and found a bag of popcorn kernels in my pantry, planted them in a pot of soil, and left them in the kitchen window. I didn’t tell him about it at first, because obviously I wasn’t about to be embarrassed if he was right and the popcorn seeds didn’t yield anything. Days and weeks went by with no sign of improvement, but I continued to water them and wait for the day they grew into something. 

One day I woke up to one little green leaf sticking out of the soil, it was incredible! It was actually working! I continued to take care of my plants until they grew bigger and stronger, strong enough to take a trip up to campus with me during my class. 

I walked into class that day holding my pot of popcorn seeds that had turned into real plants with the biggest smile on my face. I plopped it down on my professor’s desk and after he looked down at the plant, he looked up at me waiting for an explanation of what this was and why it was on his desk. 

“You told us popcorn kernels wouldn’t grow anything, you claimed that they were processed enough that they wouldn’t turn into anything when planted. Well, here you are, this is what happens when you plant popcorn kernels.” 

Immediately his eyes lit up and I distinctly remember him jumping up out of his chair in excitement. I was waiting for his praise on what a great plant caretaker I was and how right I was. I was also waiting to hear those precious words come out of his mouth, I was wrong. But that’s not what happened next. 

“You get it! You did it! You see what I’m saying now, this is genuine science, this is the ultimate goal as a teacher! You wanted answers about popcorn kernels and instead of going to the internet or accepting my answer, you conducted an experiment using the scientific method yourself! You did it!” 

At the time I was somewhat dissatisfied with his reaction, I wanted him to admit how wrong he was. But later on, when I looked back, I realized the full impact of what had happened. He knew from the beginning that popcorn kernels would grow, he just wanted to test us. He wanted someone to prove him wrong all along, and that ended up being me. 

That semester I may have planted popcorn kernels, but a seed was also planted inside of me. A seed that helped me understand why we teach science and how we teach it. I grew up thinking science was memorizing vocabulary and mixing vinegar with baking soda once in a while, but now I know that teaching science has evolved into inquiry and wonder of the world around us, how it works, and why it works the way it does and putting it to the test when we want to understand something deeper.

It took until my senior year of my undergrad education before I could grasp this concept, so my only hope is that I can inspire students to learn it much younger than I did and to plant the seed in them as well. 

Inquiry Into Symbiosis

Today’s inquiry post is by Melissa Sosa. Melissa is a mother of 2 young boys and a firm believer that life is a constant learning process. She currently lives in Humacao, Puerto Rico with her children and cat Quenepa.

I’ve always considered symbiosis to be a pretty interesting concept. Different species of animals and plants not only coexisting but collaborating together? I thought only humans did that! Well it turns out animals and plants are experts at maintaining symbiotic relationships that are crucial to the survival of our ecosystem.

When I created this provocation post I wanted to find fun resources that illustrated a fresh perspective to symbiosis, encouraging kids’ curiosity and understanding.  These resources have some examples of symbiotic relationships that may not be so common or well-known.

Resource #1: Symbiosis: A surprising tale of species cooperation by Ted Ed via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: The Wood Wide Web by BBC News via The Kid Should See This

Resource #3: Butterflies drinking turtle tears!? via The Kid Should See This

Resource #4: Vanishing of the Bees trailer by Bee The Change

Resource #5: Carl & the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

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Provocation Questions:

  • Why is the connection between humans, bees and flowers so important to our ecosystem?
  • How does symbiosis work like a partnership?
  • Can you think of an example of a symbiotic relationship in nature?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into the 4 C’s: Collaboration

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the Four C’s of 21st Century Learning. For more, click here.

The last in this mini series of posts on the 4 C’s of 21st Century learning. Collaboration can be a tricky one, especially when students equate it with group projects where only one kid does the work. But authentic collaboration is nothing like those group projects. Done right, it can be inspiring, fulfilling, and world-changing. Share these resources with students to help them inquire into the true nature of collaboration.

Resource #1: The Globemakers: Craft with a Modern Spin by Great Big Story

Resource #2: Filmbilder Animanimals videos: Ant & Crocodile

Resource #3: Mozart Symphony No. 40 by Berliner Philharmoniker

Resource #4: ÖVERALLT – IKEA collaborating with African designers by Ikea Today

Resource #5: Carl & the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

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Provocation Questions:

  • What is collaboration like when it works? What is it like when it doesn’t?
  • How can collaboration help the individual? How can it help the group?
  • What are is the responsibility of the individual when collaborating? What is the responsibility of the group?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into the 4 C’s: Communication

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the Four C’s of 21st Century Learning. For more, click here.

Does anyone else find the concept of communication fascinating? Its history? The way it’s evolving? The way people seem to bend it in new ways to meet their needs?

That’s why I hope you enjoy this provocation with your students. There is so much to think about beyond just the stereotypical, “Can you clearly convey your ideas?”

Resource #1: The Evolution of the Desk by Harvard Innovation Lab via designboom

Resource #2: The Science of Science Communication by the Duke & the Duck

Resource #3: Vonage – Communication is Everything by Steve Savalle

Resource #4: Satirizing ‘code-switching’ on screen by Newsy

Resource #5: Picture books ~ Say Something by Peter Reynolds & The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy

Provocation Questions:

  • How is communication changing today? How is it compare to the past? What is the same and what is different about communication now vs. communication throughout human history?
  • What are examples of modern communication?
  • What is the connection to social justice and communication?
  • How does code-switching work in communication? Why is it significant?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into the 4 C’s: Critical Thinking

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the Four C’s of 21st Century Learning. For more, click here.

Critical thinking can be exceptionally difficult to describe, even for adults. Why is this? How might giving students resources to investigate it as a concept help them develop their own views on what it really means to be a critical thinker?

Resource #1: What’s Going On In This Photo photoseries by NY Times

Resource #2: How to Spot a Pyramid Scheme by TED Ed & Stacie Bosley, via The Kid Should See This

Resource #3: Anti-Racism Experiment on Oprah (note: 2:32, the “N” word is used to describe racist thinking)

Resource #4: Except If by Jim Averbeck

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Resource #4: The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca & Daniel Rieley

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Provocation Questions:

  • Why can critical thinking be hard for us to define?
  • What might be some differences between critical thinking and ordinary thinking?
  • Why is critical thinking important today? How does the massive volume of information available online make it even more important?
  • What is the connection between critical thinking and addressing racism and social injustice?
  • What is our personal responsibility to develop our own critical thinking? How can it impact our lives? Our communities?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into the 4 C’s: Creativity

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the Four C’s of 21st Century Learning. For more, click here.

By far the most helpful way I’ve found to help students foster their own creativity is to openly and continually discuss my own messy and imperfect journey toward creativity with them. Until our students see its authentic application in those they trust, they will likely continue to see it as something just for those artist-type folks.

Meanwhile, these resources may serve as part of those discussions, and to help students consider what it really means for them!

Resource #1: Creative Types Personality Quiz by Adobe Create

Resource #2: Large Domino Chain: Small Actions, Large Results

Resource #3: Student Design Award Winner – Curiosity: Exploration & Discovery by RSA

Resource #4: The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken & Hum & Swish by Matt Myers

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Provocation Questions:

  • Why does creativity matter in our world today?
  • Why does creativity matter for you personally? How can it impact your life? Your family? Your community?
  • How might creativity look for different people?
  • What is the connection between risk-taking and creativity?
  • What are the different perspectives on creativity in various jobs?
  • How does honoring our own creativity impact the world?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into the 4 C’s of 21st Century Education

Now that I’ve completed the series of provocations for the Sustainable Development Goals, I am moving on to a new mini series! This time will be the 4 C’s of 21st century education:

  • critical thinking
  • communication
  • collaboration
  • creativity

The National Education Association started out with more like 18 standards for 21st century learning in a longer framework, but they quickly realized that it was too complicated. In their words,

“To resolve this issue, we interviewed leaders of all kinds to determine which of the 21st century skills were the most important for K-12 education. There was near unanimity that four specific skills were the most important. They became known as the “Four Cs.””

An Educator’s Guide to the Four C’s

Here are some resources to help introduce your students to the 4 C’s, and to provoke inquiry.

Resource #1: The Adaptable Mind

Resource #2: Afternoon Class by Seoro Oh

Resource #3: MIT Media Lab Knotty Objects: Phones by m ss ng p eces

Resource #4: Connected Learning by Connected Learning Alliance

Resource #5: Picture books, The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds & They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Provocation Questions:

  • What is education like today? How is it different than the last century?
  • What modern innovations allow us to approach education differently today?
  • How might critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity impact an individual in our modern society?
  • What is our responsibility to approach learning differently today?
  • What other “C’s” or qualities do you find important for the modern learner?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto