Distance Learning Days 1,2,3

Day 1: What To Do…

The day before we went to Distance Learning, I was definitely the one freaking out about what we’re going to do. The other members of the Physics Learning Team kept trying to talk me off the ledge to tell me that it’s just for one class period. I’m thinking that it was more of a DoomsDay situation and it’ll be for more than one class period. And here we are. Luckily, this is the time of the year we go to NSTA so we had quite a few things prepped and ready to go for Distance Learning.

I went to a nearby Starbucks because I couldn’t trust myself to do work at home. Instead of actively working, I people-watched and documented the drama that unfolded before me. I fielded a couple questions, but it was mostly okay. The assignment was to complete a couple readings and then complete a questions similar to one on the test.0d690c0f-5ee4-405d-bd45-db5be16ec75dbc60ad62-6210-4214-a0bf-ff5a0a06297e116f9300-a2a0-4d11-a4ce-16d4568d3015b1407b72-bf71-45a6-82d8-14c20de6a326

At the end of the day, I walked on the treadmill while grading the submitted assignments that day. Walking away some of that anxiety helped a lot.

Day 2: Grades are Due

This time, I took the working hours a bit more seriously because 3rd Quarter grades were due. Because of the rotation, I was still okay with lesson plans. I am slightly more panicked about the Making, Hacking, and Tinkering class since what we do is build in class. The student suggested we complete some CodeHS courses, but I’m not too keen on doing this since it’s not a programming class. I will think about that more. I finished my grades! Woohoo!

My very good friend and awesome colleague Mrs. F came up with Distance Learning Policies for her own class. I took what she wrote and adapted it as my own: Distance Learning Policies. I tried to create one version that would work for all three classes that I teach mostly because I didn’t want to write three different versions. It seemed to work. I asked the students to tell me what they’ll find challenging and another way to organize themselves to stay on top of their assignments. Most of the students are identifying that writing down what’s due and physically crossing it out would be their method of organizing. Others wrote very valid concerns for distance learning that I will be following up on.

I utilize the Remind App frequently to remind students of things such as test dates or when there’s something big due. I reminded them not to work on anything for Physics on Friday since it was a scheduled school holiday.

Day 3: Getting Used To Things…then not…

I’m finally 100% on board with this whole WFH situation. I got up at 5:30am, did some chores, made lunch, got a load of laundry started. Then I sat down and tried to iron out more lesson plans. Today, I’m feeling more like a Help Desk rather than a teacher. I’m fielding questions about uploading images, uploading files vs dragging them, etc. The fun part is I was able to try Google Meet with a student. We were both in messy bun mode, but it’s okay…we’ll call it WFH hairdo.

At about 11:45a, we get the message from our school principal: SF Chronicle: Bay Area must shelter in place. We will get more details about it as information rolls out, but I believe my panicked state at the beginning of our Distance Learning is justified. I just needed some time to make peace with it. But now…what am I going to do? Grateful for all the resources and teacher communities out there! It’ll happen.

But….seriously. Bay Area Communities- we’ll be okay. Just stay home, practice social distancing, and that awesome skill we learned: Wash your hands!

Day 25 Physics: Bowling Balls Day!

Day 1-ish of Forces and Newton’s Laws, Part 1:

Last week, we went to the newly refinished gym to do bowling balls. I told the students how nervous I was to take them up to the gym because I did not want to get this privilege revoked due to us ruining the newly refinished floors. For the most part, students definitely adhered to the behavior agreements we discussed before leaving the classroom. This activity is credited to Noschese (2011) for this awesome activity.

We downloaded the Motion Shot app so that the students can use it to see what they’re doing, but also so that students who have awesome pictures can be seen by the rest of the class! Here are some photos:

Block 2 student demonstrating the speeding up. We talked about tapping the ball the same amount of “strength” and the student having to pick up speed to make sure that the ball doesn’t hit the wall or accidentally roll over any feet. 
After sharing this photo with the class, I realized that they were trying to show the bowling ball is moving at constant velocity by tapping the ball at the same “strength.” I am realizing that this was an error, and I showed this to the students anyway as an informal discussion of error analyses. 
Block 2 student showing how they got the bowling ball to slow down by tapping on the opposite side of the ball’s direction. 
Block 2 student showing off that they got the ball (and him) to stand still by not touching it. They also concluded that the gym floors are really “slippery” and didn’t allow the ball to stay still. 


Physics Day 17- Race to Tie

During our planning conversations last year, we talked about adding more lab-based assessments. This year, we added a Buggy Lab quiz, which is a paper and pencil quiz AND we brought back the Constant Velocity Challenge. Most of the team did the Dueling Buggies, which we did when I first started teaching Physics at SHC. After I attended the Modeling Instruction workshop in 2017, I started implementing Race to Tie, which is the same concept, but they’re not trying to collide.

The first year I did it, I think the Ss collected data and then we did the test on the same day. It seemed too crazy, so I thought maybe we can separate it. The students collect and analyze their data one day, and then do the actual test on another day. They were able to finish their write-ups, and I think it’s going swimmingly.

Then, the heat wave hit. It was so incredibly hot in the classroom! As I walked through the halls, I see the teachers and students just dripping in sweat. Block 1 came through, and everyone is focused (because we talked about how this is their test)….and all the buggies have gone haywire. The buggies that were purposefully made slow are now fast, and the buggies with brand new batteries were even faster or slower. Basically, NONE of the buggies were the same velocity.

Still debating on how to grade fairly. I may just add a Reflection piece so that the students get graded fairly on the accuracy of their calculations without punishing them for the buggies going nuts.


2019-20 School Year Resolutions


This year, I’m teaching THREE classes: Physics, Making Hacking & Tinkering (MHT), and AP Computer Science Principles (APCSP). I’m looking forward to learning about teaching a new course. The last couple of years, teaching MHT rekindled my joy for programming. I remember enjoying the coding classes during high school and undergrad. I thought I should take some moments before the school year really gets going to think about some resolutions for this school year.


  1. Include more lab-based assessments across all classes. I feel like I did not do a great job of acknowledging the student’s improvement of lab skills throughout the year. It wasn’t until the 4th quarter that the Physics team and I thought we should start including more lab-based questions on our summative assessments. This year, we’ll start from Unit 1!
  2. Be more intentional with assignments. Some situations, I assigned some practices because that is what we assigned the year before. There were some moments where more practice could have been used, but also sometimes the extra practice was a bit overkill.
  3. Improve maximizing class time. There were times when there was a lull in class, and it could have been better used by including a reflection or practice assignment. Although this goal is useful for improving the Physics and MHT courses, this resolution is more for APCSP. I want the students to find their in-class time useful as it will be a hybrid class.
  4. Keep the bus moving. When I attended the NSTA conference in Atlanta a couple years ago, I will never ever forget the keynote, Ron Clark. He presented his book , “Move Your Bus.” In this book, we have to visualize a Flinstone-esque bus (think a vehicle with the holes punched through and human feet keep it moving). Essentially, it was learning how to identify the driver (leaders), runners (positive workers), joggers (workers who don’t push), walkers (getting dragged along), riders (negative nay-sayers). I don’t want to be the rider or walker for my teams or school. Hence, my goal for the year is to keep the bus moving!

Hope everyone out there is having an awesome beginning of the school year season!

Physics Camp: Things that Crash!

Today, I used a lot of material from Mrs. Freudenberg’s friend, Griff Jones, who is also a modeler. His IIHS-HLDI website has a lot of fun lesson plans for Physics and Biology. (Note to self: This might be a really great entry point for social justice learning in Physics…not sure how yet, but could be…)

Screen Shot 2019-06-11 at 3.46.42 PM I created a little packet for them to follow today because yesterday, it seemed like we were all over the place and didn’t have something to go back to. The packet made it a little bit more tangible, and the campers were able to go back and forth between the directions for the specific activity and the main point projected onto the board.  However, I really should have created that packet a while ago. Lesson for next time..

Momentum Bashing- We used IIHS in the Classroom’s Lesson: Momentum Bashing 1 and 2 to start with the momentum bashing. I wish I could take credit for thinking of doing this activity because I think it’s super genius, but I’m definitely going to have to credit the wonderful Mrs. Freudenberg here. Using these Momentum Bashing lessons is giving me more ideas to use for next year’s Physics classes. I really like the way they were designed complete with the Introduction, Conclusion, and topical videos.

Water Balloon Toss- After exploring a bit with Momentum Bashing, we walked down to the 2nd floor (we were on the 4th floor) to fill up our water balloons. The Chemistry and Biology classrooms have sinks and the Physics classrooms do not. We learned how to tie water balloons without spraying ourselves. We successfully completed the water balloon tosses without anyone getting completely soaked.

Egg Drop Design Challenge- We made landing pads for [hard-boiled] eggs to land on. Once again, Mrs. Freudenberg hooked it up with a lesson plan- Egg Drop Design Challenge from the IIHS in the classroom website. We used parts of it for Physics last year, and we blew through it. I didn’t take the time to do the pre- and post- discussions with the students. I feel like the younger students were much more creative with their designs. The high school students used more science knowledge, but didn’t readily apply their creativeness to this project. It was great fun watching the students drop their eggs onto their landing pads.

Soft Landing- Next, we did Soft Landing, a design challenge from PBS Kids. I’m going to blame the heat on this, and totally forgot that they were supposed to make this in teams. They each made their own, but instead of 10 balloons, they had 4 to work with. A couple of the students thought that maybe they can combine some of their resources to make a really awesome contraption for their egg. We dropped our eggs from different heights, all the way to three stories up. Our last drop almost got Dr. Skrade, our school’s president, and Ms. Beima, the best volleyball coach ever.

Paper Car Crash- We used the Paper Car Crash lab from the IIHS in the Classroom website. Honestly, my brain was so fried from the heat at this point, students were asking if they can use ____ material for their car. I said yes. By the time I came to, I realized I totally allowed them to use materials that I initially told them not to. Some of the students who were following the rules realized this and called me out on my inconsistencies. I totally get it though, I’d be upset too. At the same time, the classroom needs air conditioning.

Please enjoy this video I made to recap Day 2-

Physics Summer Camp- Things that Go!

I’m 3-4 years removed from middle school, and today, I was reminded of life before high school. Middle school students are energetic, creative, and curious about everything around them. Our Human Bingo card was a little challenging. I tried to make it as specific as possible to our local culture, and for it to take a while. If you’re interested, here’s the bingo card I made:  Human Bingo. I took it from a few different places, and a couple I wanted to add just because I was curious about some things.

For activities, we did the ZipLine Challenge,  2 Wheel Balloon Car, and Movement of Heat (Ice Cream in a Bag). The morning went by really fast. The older students (8th and 9th graders) blew through all the activities. The younger ones had issues with the time limit I set. This was a huge reminder that time limits are vastly different for 6th and 7th-8th graders. Tomorrow, I’ll need to figure out how to fix that. Also, next time, we should have more vanilla extract on hand because when I allowed students to pour their own stuff, it spilled.

I also totally forgot that we did Marble Launchers and Crazy Coasters! I used the Pasco Marble Launchers to do this. I now realize why we don’t use it during the school year. Launching marbles in a hot classroom was one of the most dangerous things I have ever elected to do in a classroom. Marbles were flying everywhere, students running after their marbles, and then there was the don’t hit the projector rule. It was an enjoyable madness. The Crazy Coasters took up a lot of time because the parameter I gave them was to make the coaster last 11 seconds. I could have probably expanded it and had them connect their coasters to make one really gnarly ride.

Here are some pictures:

A special thank you to my three student helpers, Ruby, Victoria, and Colin. They worked hard on putting kits together, and making sure every camp student got what they need.

Day 2 @CUE19

Shifting Math Culture

Admittedly, I only attended this session because I was fangirling over @edcampOSjr stickers. Tech + hip-hop, what’s not to love?

The reason why I attended this session in the first place. Super glad I did!

After the session, I’m realizing that the entire school culture is developed for learners to dislike math and critical thinking. There aren’t many opportunities for students to get up, walk around, take a risk, and converse about math. The presenters went through the necessary introductory slides for a bit and when it came time to get up, take a risk, and discuss math—most of the attendees left! When I walked in, there was basically no room and I forced myself into an empty seat. After the exercise, there were seats available EVERYWHERE. I think that right there is why we allow learners to say that they’re not “math people.”

I went into the exercise with a specific math-phobic student in mind. I have never seen such a drastic shut down in a learner when it came time to talk about numbers. I stood up and went to the group that was closest to me. But then, they were really intimidating. Someone immediately said that they know the answer and then threw some equations up on the board. I left and went to find a less crowded area. At this board, there were 2 other people looking at the board and we were all pretty timid about getting started. Our timidness to start wasn’t because we didn’t want to–I was just reluctant to take a risk with strangers (I can’t speak for the other two).

It totally hit me–I’m a math/science teacher who was too shy to discuss math with other math/science professionals. I was able to get a glimpse of what my math-phobic student must feel like. I wonder to what magnitude the students in my classroom feel physically and emotionally when forced to discuss a math/physics problem.

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This is the exercise we completed at the session. I like that the bit.ly site to their presentation is included.

It’s really important for teachers to do the math homework themselves.

What a concept! Why do teachers assign math homework without completing it themselves? I try to make sure that I complete the physics homework (so that the students can have an answer key and I can see any potential holes in the teaching).

Some awesome takeaways are:

  • Have students do Number Talks (10 minutes)- It’s really tempting to take these conversations for more than 10 minutes, especially if it’s rich. However, it turns into a lesson. Keep it short.
  • Sentence Frames for math- I recognized the importance of having sentence frames available, especially for those who are getting comfortable with the English language. However, it seems that I need to remember that math is a language that not all the students speak fluently.


Bringing Coding to Life With Raspberry Pi

This was mostly a repeat of what I did at East Bay Cue with @MsHaughs last month. It was fun to discuss with two other educators how we can use it in the classroom. One of my learning partners asked how to set it up in series, and then we took it further and tried to figure out some codes students can use to make the LEDs blink simultaneously or by itself. I really enjoyed that session mainly because of the rich conversation around planning that I was able to have.

Sponsored session-

I was interested in how another school was able to set up their school to be a STEM school. I figured I could transform that into the classroom as a makerspace. Then I realized it was their story of how they ended up using a product. It’s the end of the day, so I ended up leaving a bit early.

Pi Day @Spring Cue 2019


#CUE19 is going green! There wasn’t a lot of paper involved (thank goodness!). I really like the Sched app used to keep track of all the sessions I’m interested in. I also thought it worked much better than whatever NSTA was using last year. I’m sure that the use of an app for conferences are a relatively new thing, so it’s going to be pretty exciting to see where this use of technology goes!

Ditch that Textbook with Matt Miller

During #MERIT18 Summer bootcamp, we got the opportunity to Skype in with Matt Miller. I was intrigued to find out more, and I’ve spent some of my free time since then casually looking through his material. I have yet to get a copy of his book. (Note: You can only purchase books at a discounted rate at Cue when you have Premium Membership.) His energy totally reignited my desire to do more and do better for the students. I’m seeing all these teachers on the edge of their seats, and I think about how lucky these students are. All these teachers working on finding a way to be innovative in the classroom.

Coding and Science with Scott H. Moss

I’m going to chalk it up to this session happening right after lunch. This was mainly using Scratch to code. I really liked how he used the padlet to gather ideas from the attendees about how they can use coding in their curriculum.

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This is a screenshot of the ideas that people came up with. I wish we could have spent more time talking about how to code in our subject areas.

We spent a lot of time working as a group working through the States of Matter code example. We looked at how to make our own sprites, how to code the sprites to do different things, and how to create variables and functions. I thought that the example was a good use of time and how coding can be written successfully for a class. The students can exhibit their knowledge of how fast molecules move in comparison to each other in different states. I was thinking that biology/chemistry could use it to showcase a movement of particles in different concentrations.

Scott also showed us a few examples of how students coded for meiosis and mitosis. I remember teaching these two in middle school, and I disliked how I taught the students. I think this would be an excellent use of coding.

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Screenshot of our code for the session’s example.

Science: Hip-Hop edition

During lunch, Ms. B and I were looking through all the presentations available tomorrow. As I was going through the Twitter feed, I ran into @edcampOSjr’s tweets. I’ve heard so much about him through @LisaTeachesTech and through all the @KCI courses offered. It turns out he loves hip-hop as much as most of my friends do! So….it inspired me to create these series:


Yes, I created stickers for my classes. There will be a series of kinematic equations using the RUN D.M.C. format. I’m afraid I took my corniness to a whole new level. So far, I only ordered the Straight Outta Physics. I’m going to be very obsessed with these stickers. I think I might design one each for the science classes.