Friday, July 11, 2014

A few words on classroom organization

Like most teachers, I love teacher discounts.  And office supplies.  And containers. So, imagine my glee when I read about The Container Store's Organized Teacher's Summer Sweepstakes  (Unfortunately, it seems that "A total of one winner will be selected in a random drawing from all eligible entries received." but I'll write this post anyway.)
We’re honored to support teachers’ efforts through our Organized Teacher Discount Program. In fact, we’re going to give one lucky teacher a $1,000 organized classroom makeover from The Container Store!
Let's begin here.  This is a picture I recently took of my middle school science classroom. On Facebook, I included the comment "This is my classroom on July 6th, 2014. In an apocalyptic, time-capsule-y way, I have not touched it since the last day of school on June 6th. I suppose I should get in there and make some progress..."  This room is a busy place during the school year and is desperate for organization.

It's not for lack of trying.  All of the shelving in my classroom (see photo below) came from Berkeley Outlet or Urban Ore, both local and specializing in used/recycled furniture inventory. I've even used cardboard boxes and duct tape to "custom build" shelving underneath tables for more storage.  There are bins with raw materials everywhere - cardboard, computer keys, wire, LEDs, felt, batteries, styrofoam, duct tape - all the tools of art and ingenuity.  During science fair season, there are projects literally everywhere!  

My favorite repurposed item is this shelf unit (below) from my roommate - she was redecorating at home and I let her know I could put it to good use in my classroom. It has now become our makerspace (read the whole story here.)   I have put thousands of dollars (out of pocket) into materials this year, but my classroom is finally well on its way to being the creative, innovative space I've wanted and I truly believe kids need.  Students are constantly working on projects during lunch, recess, science class... they jokingly refer to my room as "nerdvana."  I spent $250 alone on those containers you see inside the makerspace.

Roommate's shelf turned makerspace
Transporting the desk piece
Having the materials in clearly labeled containers was just what I needed to allow the kids ownership over their workflow. They don't need to ask me where the soldering iron, snaps, or embroidery hoops are anymore - they just go grab what they need.  Our makerspace is a very busy, student-driven space.  With $1000 dollars to spend on organization, I would like to further develop this student centered strategy.  I would really like a solid shelving & bin system so that students can keep their many works-in-progress safe, yet easily accessible.  

I would also like to bring some order to what I affectionately refer to as our "fabrication studio."  Here's where the kids work with our 3D printers. I refurbished these tables from recycling and scavenged the various pieces of bins and shelving you see below.

I have many pictures of my science room (the kids often threaten to set up a time lapse in my room just to capture the ebb and flow of the creative chaos) but I will leave you with my favorite Container Store story.

In 2011, as I do every other year,  I hatched chicks and ducks as part of our embryology unit.  That year we ended up with a far better hatch rate than expected!  I knew I needed a bigger brooder.  Racing to the San Francisco store on my bicycle (I do not own a car) at 8:58 pm, minutes before closing, I asked for their biggest clear container. The sales person rang up my order, looked at my bike (propped inside the door) and asked quizzically, "How do you intend to get that home?"  I hadn't thought that far ahead; I was focused on the birds.  I figured I'd take the bus or something...

The saleswoman said, "Come here, I have an idea" and proceeded to strap the container to me like some sort of plastic turtle shell. She did such a great job, I put it back on in the morning to bike the nine miles to school the next day!   (She was pretty proud of herself and readily agreed to take a photo.)

(In case you want to see more pictures of ducks, check out our Flickr album - they don't get any cuter than our crew this spring!)

Recess in my room one day- kids from all grade levels tend to hang out here during free periods.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Embedding Slide Shows

So, I just finished my science bike post.  I was surprised to learn that I could no longer embed a slideshow from an album.  (Granted, I am a Flickr person and rarely deal with Picassa outside of the mandatory collections from this blog.)

Luckily, this blog post provided a solution. The author writes:

One of the great features of Picasa Web was that you could embed a Flash slideshow of your albums. Google would even give you the code to do it.  There was a button that said Embed and it would give you the code. Just cut and paste and you were done. 
With the migration to Google Plus Photos, this disappeared. 
Here's a work around. 
Use the following link to get back to the original PicasaWeb site:
Hopefully the embed button makes a re-appearance, or Google leaves the old page up forever.

He also offers an alternate solution, if you want to go check it out.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Science Bike

It has been six years since I've sold my car and relied almost entirely on my bicycle(s) for transportation.  (Occasionally, I'll still grab a Zipcar - like for this 10 foot gutter for science fair - see photo, right)  I am also very, very thankful for Amazon.

Bike commuting can get pretty interesting as a science teacher.  I rode with all of the bike loads below, except for the bike rack, science fair boards, ladder, and shelf/desk combo - it those cases, my bicycle served as my pack mule.