FIRST HAND LEARNING E-NEWSLETTER
Vol. 6, No. 1


IN THIS ISSUE:

1. OUTDOOR INQUIRIES ON ICE
2. THE FUTURE OF TESTING?
3. LET’S MAKE ROBOTS!


1. CREATING A FIELD GUIDE IN WINTER
Some may think that the opportunities for outdoor investigation are over until spring, but not the hardy group of teachers, administrators, pre-service students, college professors, and environmental educators who braved the winter winds last month to attend a professional development workshop held at Honey Creek Resort State Park on the shores of the second largest lake in Iowa, a two-hour drive from Des Moines.

The workshop, “Creating a Field Guide,” offered strategies for developing students’ science inquiry and literacy skills through the investigation of local habitats. Facilitator Pat MacGlashan, First Hand Learning’s Director of Curriculum, waited until the temperature outside rose above 0 F (!) before she sent teams out to observe, record journal entries, and collect specimens. Despite the cold and snow, the participants were enthusiastic, and even found opportunities to use many of the tools – hand lenses, thermometers, collecting jars, etc. – that were provided for them in their Outdoor Inquiry™ Toolkits.

Response to the workshop, sponsored by the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition, was positive, with many participants eager to put into practice what they had learned. Two teachers said that they were excited to have something new that they could use right away, and planned to have their students begin creating field guides immediately so that they could follow organisms through the seasons. Several teachers explained to the informal educators how well the activities meshed with the Iowa state standards for science, math, art, and language arts. And the pre-service college students agreed that they would incorporate ideas from the workshop into a summer program they would be leading.

First Hand Learning, Inc. offers a variety of professional development workshops, including ones focused on Outdoor Inquiries.

Contact us about your individual PD needs: inquiries@firsthandlearning.org.

2. BIG CHANGES AHEAD FOR AP BIO
Many opponents of high-stakes educational testing decry the over-emphasis on facts, “content,” to the detriment of a deeper understanding of big ideas. They see exams too often requiring only a regurgitation of information rather than an ability to deploy critical thinking skills. Now it seems that in one area at least – in Advanced Placement tests taken by high school students – the balance is shifting. Read more about the changes taking place in AP in an interesting article from the New York Times.

What do you think? Will the AP test revisions signal a change to the way testing is carried out in other areas of the educational system? Will teachers be able to focus more on bigger concepts and analytic thinking? Is this a good trend? We’d love to learn your thoughts; write to us at inquiries@firsthandlearning.org.

3. HANDS-ON ENGINEERING AND INDUSTRIAL DESIGN FOR BRONX HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Sure, you’re fairly adept at using your computer, but do you know how to design one? Students attending Bronx Guild High School in the South Bronx do; they have been learning “physical computing” and tackling engineering and design problems through a series of fun, hands-on projects.
The NSF-sponsored GreenFab program offers classes and after school sessions that focus on computer information systems, physical computing, engineering and design – all through direct engagement with intriguing materials and with a strong focus on eco-effective design and sustainable technologies. Students have built robots, designed wind turbines, developed energy efficient LED lights, along with other projects. Learn more from one of the project’s teachers here.
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First Hand Learning, Inc. offers a variety of professional development workshops, including ones focused on Outdoor Inquiries.
Contact us about your individual PD needs: inquiries@firsthandlearning.org.
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The First Hand Learning Catalog offers nature journals, hands-on science kits, posters, and more. Go to http://www.firsthandlearning.org/catalog/catalog_frameset.html
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We hope you found this edition of the FIRST HAND LEARNING E-NEWSLETTER informative. Please contact us with any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have by emailing us at: inquiries@firsthandlearning.org.

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