VAST PDI 2010

November 21st, 2010 | Uncategorized |

I have to admit, I wasn’t really looking forward to this conference, but I actually had a great time. Thursday night’s lecture wasn’t what I was expecting, listening to Dennis Leary discuss being “the bad guy,” but I did enjoy his saying that everyone in his company knows that if there is a problem out there, someone has to solve it. That’s what they do. Upon arrival Friday, I started out by going to a session dealing with how to teach students atoms (nucleus, electrons, protons, neutrons, filling order, etc.) through inquiry. The presenter had us in groups of 4, each group having a board and 3 different stacks of different colored marbles. The board looked similar to a chinese checkers board with holes all over it for the marbles to go in, but they were arranged where the subatomic particles would be aligned. We then started our game. We each had to draw 5 cards, each card giving us directions to add or subtract a certain amount of protons, neutrons, or electrons. The object was to use whatever card we had that would be able to give us a stable atom or a neutral atom. For example, if there were 2 protons and 4 electrons on the board, I would want to use a “subtract 2 electrons” card in order to get a stable and neutral helium molecule. You would get points for using ending your turn with either a stable or neutral atom, or you could use your turn to use another card which could stop your opponents from getting points. This game is a great way to get students thinking about where particles are placed in the atom, neutrality, stability, etc. Great for inquiry teaching!!

The next session I attended wasn’t as good. It was how to teach cellular respiration, but it used an extremely expensive bit of technology that graphs carbon dioxide levels, and it was quite confusing to use. I can’t ever see myself giving those to my students and just saying “go for it,” but it’s nice to know that technology like that is out there for me to use someday. After that I attended a session for preservice teachers that talked about different opportunities for us and organizations we could join. I won a $25 gift certificate to Carolina Biology there! To sum up that session, I got a lot of free stuff and a sheet of websites to visit; nothing too exciting. Later on in the day I was able to attend a session on subcellular assembly in biology. This one was pretty cool. It had us using magnetic marbles to demonstrate polarity and specificity of atoms binding to make molecules in the cell. I think sometimes people don’t realize that cells and organelles are made up of atoms too, so it’s nice to see activities to show just how amazing cells are at the nanolevel.

Then, we made the trip to the Air and Space Museum, which was a lot of fun. I enjoyed all the  really cool exhibits out for us, as well as the delicious food for dinner. The auction was definitely the highlight of the museum though. Watching those teachers go head to head to get those materials was quite interesting, and seeing the little boy outbid Rachael every time was priceless!  We definitely thought we had a lot more money than we did though, seeing as some of the bids got up into the $20-30k range (we had about $10k, I think). It was quite fun though.

Saturday morning I was able to attend the session put on by Kevin Goff to listen to last year’s group discuss their first years of teaching. Although it was nice to hear them talk, they didn’t really say too much that I wasn’t expecting to hear. The only real thing that made me feel better was hearing that only one of them had a job offer before graduation, so even if I don’t, I shouldn’t worry too much. Next, I attended “DNA modeling & Karyotyping”, but the group brought the wrong materials, so we ended up doing “fast plants” instead, which wasn’t nearly as exciting (all we did was plant some seeds).

Overall it was a great experience and I’m quite glad I attended. It was very informative, I got to meet a lot of very nice experienced teachers, and I got a lot of free stuff. VAST PDI 2011 in Roanoke anybody?

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