What Science Junkie, Kid-Loving, Education Nerd Wouldn't Love This Place?!?

Science is a compilation of facts and evidence, but at the very basic core of each scientific endeavor lies imagination, exploration, discovery, and passion.  All of this can be found at the Hill Country Science Mill.

When I first found out about the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City, Texas, my inner science nerd came out!  To have a place where middle school and high school kids can go and get excited about the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math was a rare find.  They are introduced to possible career opportunities and are able to find out what academic requirements are needed for those jobs and what internships and mentorships are available to them.  They even have exhibits and Learning Labs that are appropriate for grades K-5.

Every nook and cranny of this restored 1880's grist mill property gives kids a sneak peek into areas of STEAM they may have never realized they were interested in.  They "accidentally" discover that application of these concepts is where the magical part of science begins.  Even some of my most hard-to-reach kiddos and reluctant learners were excited about many of the experiences they had while visiting the Science Mill on a field trip.
From the time you walk in and create your custom Avatar Passport to the Mindball challenge (one of my faves) and the Cell Phone disco that resides inside of one of the 40-foot-tall repurposed grain silos, kids (and adult-kids like myself) are immersed in a fascinating world of science.  You really can't leave this place not loving science a little more.  To check out an extensive list of exhibits at The Science Mill, click here.

I have visited The Science Mill on 4 different occasions- once with my teaching partner and principal, once with my own 2 children, and twice with our entire 8th grade as a field trip.  Everytime I was there, I discovered something new and had a blast doing it.  It is truly a gem in the Texas Hill Country that should be taken advantage of.

Interested in a Field Trip?

The best part about going to The Science Mill as a field trip is that I knew my students were going to be exposed to TEKS-based experiences that would reinforce what I was teaching in the classroom as well as igniting their interest in other areas.  The staff at The Science Mill took care of organizing every little detail of our well-planned visit all the way down to lunch and our Learning Lab experience.  All I had to do was put my students into groups, ensure that we had the correct chaperone to student ratio, and turn in my lunch orders ahead of time.  This handy Educator Guide will walk you through everything you need to know.

This year my campus is looking into the new cross-curricular field trip experience that is a partnership with The Science Mill and the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park.
To learn more about the opportunities for field trips, click on this link.

2017 Summer Camps

The 2017 Summer Camp Schedule is out!  They have a variety of options for ages, interests, and abilities.  If finances are an issue, they even have financial assistance available.  CLICK HERE to be taken directly to the summer camp page.  

Elements 4D App

I recently found out about a new FREE app that I think all middle school teachers and chemistry teachers would love- the Elements 4D app by Daqri. In addition to the free app, the site also provides free lesson plans for teachers of elementary students, middle school students, and high school students.  It is an augmented reality app in which students discover the properties of various elements (available via interactive blocks that are printed and assembled into cubes by the teacher prior to the activity - also free to download from their site.)  CLICK HERE to be taken directly to the site.  
The video clip below shows 2 of the 6 blocks that are provided (36 different elements in all).  By utilizing the app, the elements are brought to life.  Students are able to see what the element looks like in its natural form - it's state of matter is shown inside the block as the element "comes to life."  Students can also click on the element name to discover more factual information about the element.  If two elements are able to combine to form a compound, the compound that is created will also "come to life" when the two element blocks are touching.  Students see the chemical equation that is produced when the two elements combine to form a compound.  If they do not form a compound, nothing will happen.  

The Assessment-Grading App That Changed My Classroom

For years, I have been using data to drive my instruction.  Tests (summative assessments) were entered into a program (Eduphoria) that aggregated the data for me and I used it religiously to make adjustments in my teaching and lesson planning.  This is how I discovered the concepts that my students were understanding, not understanding, and what teaching strategies and methods were most effective.  If a particular lab or activity really seemed to drive the point across and the test data supported it, then I definitely made note of that and was sure to continue it in the following years (with minor tweaks, of course!).  But most of the time, I was ready to move onto the next unit and the data I collected was only used for developing my lessons for the following year.  I was missing out on the data that was probably most important in the moment - the quizzes.

Formative assessments are really where you have the chance to catch misconceptions and make interventions before it's too late.  But for some reason, until last year, I never put as much emphasis or attention on my quiz data.  If you aren't looking at assessment data, you are missing a HUGE component of what can make a difference in the success of your students and you as an educator.  Data should drive the instructional decisions you make.  We don't have the luxury of tons of extra time, so why waste your precious minutes on assumptions about what you think your students are struggling with and what they have mastered.  

3 Smart Ways to Improve Parent-Teacher and Student-Teacher Communication This School Year

As secondary educators, our list of responsibilities seems to grow exponentially every year.  More paperwork, more tasks, more meetings...

Why do we view communication as such a daunting task?  I believe it has a lot to do with the amount of time it can take.  On several occasions, I've contacted a parent at the beginning of my conference period, only to have the BELL end the conversation!  There went my entire conference period and I got none of the work completed that I really needed to.  UGH!  But what if there were quick and simple tools at our fingertips that made communication quick and simple?  Well, guess what?!?! Those tools exist!  Now you just have the difficult task of choosing which one is right for you.  :)

I present you with Celly, Class Messenger, and Parent Contact Cards...

Task Card Storage & Organizational System (plus a FREEBIE)

The days of organizing my task cards in these little plastic file folders from the Target Dollar Spot (or was it Dollar Tree?...I can't remember) are over!  Bottom line... they cost a dollar and I'm so glad I didn't spend much more than that.  Whew! 

They got so bulky and I was constantly having to go through them all to find the cards I was looking for.

Now they are so organized!  I love the rainbow colors that coordinate with everything in my classroom and for the first time, I can quickly glance at the boxes and find the set of cards I am looking for...heaven for this organizational freak!

For those of you who own my task cards, I have decided to share the Task Card Storage box labels with you as a FREEBIE!  And each time I add a task card set to my TpT store, I'll update the signs so that you will have everything you need to complete the job.

Items you will need:

Directions for assembling your task card storage & organizational system box:
1.) Print out the FREEBIE in my TpT store on card stock and laminate (optional).
2.) Cut out and place signs inside of each box, using double-sided tape or hot glue to attach to plastic.
3.) DONE!