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Upper El (Mr. D): Great Observers

Our afternoon's this week have introduced a lot of new things. First, on Monday, we started what I'm calling our "Field Notes." We went back to thinking about Darwin and the work he did. Well, first, we meandered a bit off course into the realm of time travel and relativity but soon came back to topic!

"What did Darwin do?"

I was met with many great answers, and I helped summarize them to a single word for our group. He observed. He documented what he saw and, from these observations, made his theory of evolution (along with the observations of others as well). There was no remarkable feat of genius, in my opinion. Yet, the result is genius.

So, we will practice being observers this year. With clipboards, pencils, and paper in hand, we trekked into the woods. I gave everyone the task of finding something they would like to observe closely, sticking with plants and trees for now because they can't run away from us! Then, they made a sketch of the plant or leaf, or vine, followed by writing as many details about it as possible.

It was great to watch students sitting, focused on a leaf, observing the veins, and then looking closer to see details they'd never noticed before.

Tuesday, we introduced part II of this ongoing quest to be great observers by broadening our search to everything else. I printed a worksheet that students can fill out when inspired, or when prompted by myself, with anything they see in the world around them that can be improved, made better, or something really interesting that might lead to a science experiment or an independent study project.

I used a story of a 16-year-old girl from Minnesota as an example. She observed paralyzed or injured animals and wanted something done about it. So, she started making wheelchairs for these animals—from dogs to ducks!

We spoke about how if we feel that "somebody should do something about that," we should first see if that somebody could be us. Several students began filling out the sheet immediately with ideas they've had.

Our Evolution Project has reached our collage stage, and they are coming out great! And hysterical! To represent the mutation of a "longer and stronger tail," one of our students is using a picture of a bicep along with a tail. I can't wait to see how that comes together!

Friday was another day for NEW. We opened up our maker-space area (officially) and brainstormed guidelines for this space together. Then, students were off to create. From a popsicle stick replica of the Eiffel Tower, to painting, our students let their creativity run wild!

Lots of fun this week, great discussions, and of course, great observations. Another awesome week in the books!

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