Saturday, August 9, 2014

setting up my new classroom (again)

At my first school I was in the same room for 6 years. When I moved in it wasn't my room - I shared it with another teacher (I also shared another room with two different teachers) since I was split between science and math. So I didn't get to start from scratch. The second year it really was my room, but I was too busy to do much in the way of purging and organizing. After 6 years in that room, circumstances dictated that I move into another room in the building. I LOVED my new room, and I relished the opportunity to start fresh. I spent much time that summer organizing my new classroom. It was perfect. By the end of the year, though, I found myself applying for a job at school #2. During the summer I went back to school, packed up all my things and drove them up to my new school with the help of three amazing friends.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I learned that school #2 would be relocating at the end of the year to a temporary building, and then relocating permanently two years later. This means that I will have moved my classroom three years in a row!

I started packing up my room in March. It was hard to find things that I new for sure that I wouldn't need until next autumn. Luckily the district provided boxes, packing tape, box labels, and a wonderful moving coordinator. She suggested that we make an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what is in each box (as well as labeling the boxes with numbers), and I am so glad that I took her advice. My TA's helped me pack and offered suggestions - I am always learning from my students!

This time I get to truly start from a blank slate. Our temporary building has been empty for some time, and was remodeled in order to be up to code for our two-year stay. I'm planning on taking advantage of this opportunity to start fresh with more intentional use of my new space.

Unpacking is challenging, to say the least. I arrived in my new room to find my boxes piled willy-nilly in the center of the room. Tables I requested from the old building were propped up on their ends. Boxes appeared to be missing. It was overwhelming.

After staring hopelessly at my things I finally convinced myself to start. But where to start? I decided to put my easel back together. It's the least important thing to do, but also the most obvious place to start since I knew where all of the pieces were and putting it together would allow me to move it out of the way more easily thanks to its wheels.

Student chairs were delivered while I was there, but so far no student desks yet. It makes my room look HUGE, but I know that as soon as those desks arrive it'll be a tight squeeze. My new room is long and narrow (like my old room was) but it's narrower by 2-3 feet.

I expect it'll take quite a bit more work to get my room student-ready. I'm planning on tackling it in small chunks so I don't get overwhelmed. Yesterday, my first unpacking day, I only spent three hours before going home. It wasn't very much time, but I feel pretty accomplished. Along with emptying 5 or 6 boxes, I moved furniture around and figured out how to open those huge, old windows.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

the DIG Field School

I cross the Cascades and the Columbia.
Made a stop at Dry Falls.
And the Grand Coulee Dam.
Eventually I entered Tatooine (or Eastern Montana, close enough).
We camped next to Hell Creek and woke up before sunrise every day.
By 7am we had eaten breakfast, packed our bags with tons of water, and headed out to the field in SUV caravans.
Sometimes we couldn't get the SUVs very close to our site. This picture, and the following picture, are taking from roughly the same spot, just facing opposite directions, to show you how far we hiked from where the ferry SUVs were parked (many of the SUVs did not have enough clearance to go all the way out - the roads were very challenging).

This is what the hadrosaur site looked like when we arrived. While we were there we helped jacket three large bones so that they could be removed from the site.
A close-up of some of the hadrosaur bones.
I touched dinosaur bones!
This is what the site looked like after a few bones had been jacketed in plaster.
We visited a site called Nirvana where we saw, and touched, the K-Pg boundary (that's the layer that documents the asteroid impact, and the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs).

I saw many interesting rock formations.
I learned how to surface collect for micro fossils (croc scute, gar scales, bone fragments, turtle shells, etc) 
Someone in my group found a rib bone, which was jacketed in plaster for removal.
We brought back bags of in situ sediment, which were put into screen boxes and set up in the creek.

After soaking all night the screen boxes were brought out to dry in the sun.
And of course there were dino toys at dino camp.
On the way home I saw the wildfires.
All in all, I drove 941 miles each way. It was a long drive, but completely worth it.

One of the coolest things for me about this trip is that every piece of data we collected (sketches of sites, micro fossils, in situ sediments, measurements to determine how far above or below the K-Pg boundary, etc), every piece of data was useful for the DIG team. I helped collect real data that will be used by Greg Wilson and his team back at the UW and the Burke Museum in their research. How cool is that? As a middle school science teacher I don't get that opportunity very often. Most summer teacher programs focus on content and lessons, which are extremely useful, but this program focused first on doing real field work and secondly on lessons. I found it exhilarating. 

I also want to say that it was a pleasure to work with each and every one of the DIG team members. The team members ranged from PhDs, PhD candidates, graduate students, recent grads and undergrads. And everyone had something to bring to the table. And everyone was treated with respect and affection by Greg and co-director Lauren. That's the kind of team everyone strives to be a part of, and it was a treat to spend 4 days with them.