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Friday, March 9, 2012

Keeping it Real

Terry was my mentor, my dept chair, my boss, my friend and my partner in crime (we did have a lot of fun!).  He was a master teacher.  He taught me everything I know about getting students engaged in learning.  I am not sure how he would have done up against today’s rubrics, with all the ubd’s, plc’s, and lmnop’s.  I do know that he made a difference in kid’s lives and they learned a lot from him.

Terry was all about keeping it real.  His classroom was outside.  He taught kids about all of the living things around them.  He had bee hives up on the roof of the school.  Children climbed a ladder, donned bee gear and tended those hives.  They laughed if someone got stung.  No one was sued; no one was hurt; kids were excited and amazed.  He had kids make museum collections out of the insects that died in light fixtures.  They mounted them on pins, classified them and displayed them.  He took the class fishing, “dissected” the fish, and cooked it over a fire for them.  He had students pick up rocks in the streams to find and identify the organisms that lived there.  He took them to the ocean with seining nets.   Every day was an adventure in his class.

So I have been thinking about my roots and wondering if technology had somehow led me away from my roots.  Is technology being used to replace real experiences?   Are we still rolling marbles down the ruler or are we watching simulations?  Is technology taking us away from “real science?”  I do believe some companies would love for that to happen.  I also believe that technology can be used to enrich and enhance these activities just as it does with “real” scientists.

Think of all the possibilities that technology can put in the palm of our student's hands (like the tablets now being used by the CSI on TV).    How cool is it that students can document their findings in the field with pictures?  Or record the work of the insects on video?  Or use the internet in the palm of their hands to identify species?  Even Terry Patterson would have liked to watch the blood flowing through the tail of a fish under the microscope up on the big screen!  And he probably would have been proud to have been blogged about!


  1. Great story. I think we all know a Terry, and we meld them into everything we teach, whether it uses technology or not. Sometimes there is value in getting dirt under our fingernails as we dig into learning, and it's the Terrys of the world who showed us how.

  2. Love the metaphor of getting dirt under our fingernails. Applies directly to my goals of walking the walk! Conquering new technologies, ways of teaching, etc. can get messy!

  3. I enjoy that style too! Nothing canned, synthetic or just cook book experiments. The holistic learning where you deal with real encounters and think on the spot.

  4. Thanks. My mentor was the king at that. He could turn a walk in the woods into a rich science lesson!