Welcome to Carol Burch's 2010-2014 Project SMART & Entergy MST Grant page

Carol Burch, NBCT AYA: Science- physics, NYSED Physics, Math, and General Science 7-12 certified

Hannibal High School
Hannibal, NY
19 years teaching experience


CCLS Literacy Shifts Reflection

Shift 1
Balancing Informational & Literary Text
Literary texts have not been used in my classes this school year. Informational texts (including textbook), NASA web news and other primary sources, and Science World Magazine have all provided written material for students to read, discuss, and complete a variety of literacy focused activities from. These activities have served as formative assessments.
Shift 2
Knowledge in the Disciplines
Reading Science World Magazine articles has been a very important source of content related information for RSP9 students over the course of the school year. This source is designed for this purpose and engages students in content ideas that cross disciplines. The cross-cutting nature of this magazine aligns with the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) cross-cutting connections that teachers should be engages students with.
Physics students use their college-level text as a source of content information as well as web resources for information to construct two multi-media educational projects they have completed during the school year.
I have found that web and Science World readings encounter little resistance from RSP9 students. They respond positively, complete activities with focus, and look forward to future issues. Most are reluctant readers, yet this source is readily accepted by the group. In contrast, getting physics students to read from their difficult textbook is very difficult. I have had to repeatedly “train” them to read the text by outlining an approach that introduces them to the important ideas and then helps them read for finer detail. I have them read the summary first at the back of the chapter, then go to the assigned sections focusing in on highlighted areas, bolded headings and text, examine diagrams and example problems and finally reread the summary at the end of the chapter.
Shift 3
Staircase of Complexity
RSP9 students started the year with text sections that were geared for middle school. They later engaged with biology texts for high school levels study. Across the entire school year Science World provided varied levels of reading complexity with articles written at different lexile levels.
RSP9 students also read for content information within the ECOMUVE simulations as they completed the activities and learning quests associated with the units. The reading was fairly complex and very dense content-wise. I was able to support students one on one as needed during this unit.
Physics students faced the most challenging textbook they have encountered in high school. They still struggle with the level and the density of the text and concepts. I have used a thumbs up- thumbs down assessment of student reading and understanding of text ideas to provide feedback.
Shift 4
Text-based Answers
The entire school year has required RSP9 students to read then use evidence from their texts to support points of view, summarize, or some other directive given. The students use evidence to discuss and to write regularly. These activities have served as formative assessments.
Shift 5
Writing from Sources
Students regularly write journal entries, complete activities, and respond to questions that require evidence (facts) from their reading. These activities serve as formative assessment items.
Shift 6
Academic Vocabulary
RSP9 students encounter content specific vocabulary nearly daily. Other vocabulary is developed as articles are read from Science World and other sources. I use the smart board to highlight a variety of words that students help define from the context clues in the reading.
Physics students also encounter vocabulary that is challenging, both technical words and the advanced vocabulary found in a college text and lab assignment.
Analysis of Teacher Learning:
I have also learned many literacy strategies from PD work with Cheryl Dobbertin, Pre-AP workshops, and numerous sessions at NSTA. I now use a variety of strategies from preloading vocab, T/F statement before & after analyses, graphic organizers, word sorts, and many writing prompts.

I also investigated student engagement/learning using simulations vs. hands-on or traditional strategies. RSP9 students used two simulations developed by Harvard School of Education: ECOMUVE Pond and Forest. Students explored ecosystem relationships, food webs, nutrient cycling, atom pathways through photosynthesis, and human impacts in the pond simulation. More than 75% of the students eagerly engaged in the virtual environment and the associated lessons and activities. The other students who were not as interested were unhappy that they couldn’t hunt, drive, or interact in a more traditional video game style experience. That was definitely an unexpected road block as a teacher. They persisted in their desire to hunt the animals and have a higher “action-value” in the computer simulation. Overall, the ECOMUVE Pond was a successful experience and showed very high learning gains for the students in terms of nutrient cycling knowledge, food webs, energy flow, and biotic and abiotic factors in ecosystems. They performed well on the ECOMUVE formal assessment (74%).
Hands-on bio-bottles had students creating ecosystems that had similar structure to the simulated pond game. Students collected data about their closed systems over a period of 6 weeks and discussed and wrote reflections on their bio-bottles. Currently students are experimenting with a hydroponics system in the classroom that uses the nutrients from goldfish housed in a 40 gallon tank below the trough system. See hydroponics system

Physics: Simulations were used as tools to provide interactions between variables that are not easily done with traditional lab materials. The simulations also provided early experiences with a concept that revealed misconceptions as I observed students interacting with the PhETs. I watched pairs testing relationships, responding to prompts requiring prediction diagrams to be drawn, then observations recorded, and explanations made. The PhETs were used over several months interspersed with hands-on traditional lab activities. Some students really enjoyed testing relationships, others found it tedious. I conducted a survey that included some questions about the use of simulations in learning physics. Most student agreed or strongly agreed that simulations were valuable in learning concepts.

I will probably use fewer PhETs next year as a result of the student feedback, selecting those that seem to have more value than others in revealing student misconceptions.
Analysis of Data on Student Learning:

RSP9: The bulk of the work this year has focused on literacy and engaging students in evidence-based writing. In line with this effort has been collecting, organizing, and analyzing data to support conclusions made in scientific investigations. Student writing assignments/tasks have been evaluated over the school year to anecdotally look for student growth. The level of engagement in writing tasks has grown in nearly all of the RSP9 students. Two remain reluctant and require many redirects to complete a task. My very lowest student has shown the most growth of all. He has moved from a simple fragment of a sentence to recently writing three paragraphs that have several facts, details, or other pieces of evidence included- all without requiring a single redirect or refocus! Spelling remains an issue for nearly all of the RSP9 students, but I have deliberately chosen not to focus on that in terms of grading.

Science World CCLS activities that have been assigned as homework have the highest rate of completion overall with over 50% of the students returning completed assignments the following class. Students who have been absent also complete Science World activities more regularly than other activities that can be made up.

Students have grown in their ability to write testable hypotheses and draw conclusions based on data collected. Student journal entries or summaries from Science World articles have also grown in length and detail over the school year. They have responded positively for different types of writing tasks and seemed quite engaged in a strategy called “Postcard Home” that I learned at NSTA where students place themselves in the text or video as a member of a crew or team and write home to share details, set the scene, and give their emotional impression of the experience.

Physics: This is the first year that I have seen significant growth in the quality of written lab reports across the student group as a whole. I have provided more specific feedback on written lab reports than in past years to help them improve. Couple the feedback with a more intensive experience across all classes as CCLS writing efforts are being required, I feel like the students have really grown as a result of the school-wide effort.

The two multi media projects that require students to storyboard, script, record, edit, and produce educational videos on physics related ideas have also shown improvements from past efforts by students. I have provided clearer rubrics and had multiple firm check-points for progress being made (drafts, evidence, conversations, etc). Peer reviews have been great opportunities to discuss what works and what doesn’t in general terms for planning and producing projects for others. All but one student has made the numerous required deadlines for check-in points which is unexpected. The single student who failed to meet deadlines also did not complete the first video project and is struggling with the second project due next week. The intermediate deadlines indicate that they help keep students on track for completing a project on time, and improvement over past years.

Physics student survey data for PhET simulation use in learning

*the overall scores were determined by multiplying the number of responses per numbered category by the number value of the category and summed across the question.

NSTA Conference Boston April 2-6 2014

Regents Science Prep 9 classes 2012-2013

There have been two sections of RSP9 this school year and they have been the primary focus of the Entergy MST grant work. Integrating the new ELA Common Core standards into the science curriculum has required some changes in how activities are planned, resources used, and time allocated.

From conversations within the science department, it was confirmed that students have significant difficulties reading and following laboratory/activity directions at grades 9 & 10 and have very serious road blocks to writing instructions/procedures for scientific investigations at grades 11 & 12. Based on my students' results on the NYSED Grade 8 ELA assessment, it was very clear that my classes would benefit from additional time spent reading, writing, editing, and organizing ideas.

The Entergy grant provided funds to purchase four sets of LEGO Mindstorms robotics kits that were at the heart of a new unit that focused on procedural thinking and communicating. Students have also been completing daily journal entries since September that have required thinking and writing related to science. This year Scholastic's Science World Magazine was integrated into the RSP9 curriculum and has provided a wealth of interesting science news stories to engage student interest and make meaningful connections to important science concepts. A new unit on plate tectonics and earthquakes was also developed utilizing iPad apps and resources acquired from attendance at NSTA 2013.

Pre/post assessments were used throughout the procedural thinking unit to track student progress. Post unit activities (assessments) occurred as well to see persistence of procedural thinking skills.

College Physics PHY103 & PHY104 classes 2012-2013

College physics also integrated more Common Core ELA through increased writing required for lab reports, the creation of LiveScribe problem solutions by students, two peer evaluated multi-media projects, and assigned text readings. More connections were made to the real world and math applications through calculus within the course, reinforcing Common Core math standards applicable in my classroom.

Student use of my Physics Wiki grew quickly this fall, with all but two students accessing it more than once a week for help with homework. Parent and student feedback related to the wiki supports was very positive.

College Physics and Regents Science Prep 9 Classes 2011 - 2012

I have had two sections of College Physics this past school year and we have been involved with a few Entergy MST grant related activities.

Physics Wiki

Probably the most important activity and the highest impact work has been for physics in the creation of an extensive resource rich class wiki which can be found at: http://hannibalphysics.wikispaces.com
I started the wiki in August 2011 with each chapter providing concepts, links to resources, embedded simulations where available, and most importantly the homework help Pencasts using a LiveScribe smart pen. My students have been very enthusiastic about the wiki resources and pencasts, using it several times a week. Many parents have commented very positively as well, noting that they listen to the narration and sometimes even use my tutorials to work with their children to get through an assigned problem. I have watched the unique IP address hits grow from an average of 18 per day in September, to 25 in December, to a whopping 60+ in the spring as the wiki has been used in other nearby schools as a resource. I invested an average of 6+ hours per week in wiki building from late August through early June. Many weeks were in excess of 10 hours of pencast recording and wiki page building. My net result is more than 55 pages in the wiki, over 160 pencasts that students can access 24/7 that animate the text and provide time synched narration.

Remote Sensing Multimedia Project

To scaffold skills for the biophysics video project, I developed a new project for this year where students could partner or work individually to profile any NASA remote sensing mission whose focus is to monitor the vital signs of Earth and Earth systems. I provided instruction on using Audacity to record and edit narration and Windows Movie Maker. I also built in computer lab time for individual help and short lessons.
Entergy MST grant funds provided three additional HP Tablet laptops for students to work with on this project as well as an Apple Mac Mini desktop for my Apple based users. Remote Sensing project wiki page

RSP9 Energy GIS Activities

Having the tablet laptops available in my classroom enabled a shift in integrating technology for RSP9. Keeping students in the classroom rather than moving to a remote computer lab saved time and kept them focused. We completed nearly a dozen energy focused GIS based activities that profiled world energy production and consumption and then focused in on the United States. Solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, oil, coal, natural gas, and nuclear. The culminating project had students apply what they learned to develop an energy policy for a fictitious island (Navitas) that had rich GIS layers to provide students with authentic distributions, environmental concerns, historical and natural feature limitations, and most interestingly, the power grid to think about distribution! The energy activities came from Lehigh University's Environmental Literacy Initiative project directed by Alec Bodzin.

Looking at plate tectonics using GIS tools was also used in RSP9 this school year following the general activity outline provided by Exploring the Earth Case Study for Evidence of Plate tectonics. Modifications were made to accommodate the variety of levels of ability found in our RSP9 classroom.
Students really responded well to the work, many improving attendance and class participation that extended beyond the many weeks of GIS work. Probably the best bit of change that came form this project was finding one student had great natural skills in GIS and now wants to attend CCC for a 2 year degree in it. He had been saying he would drop out at 16. NOW he has college in mind!

Physics Simulations

PhETS were used extensively to compliment concept development in physics. Having many laptops to cluster pairs of students at made the experience very hands-pn and interactive for just about everyone. They manipulated variables to discover or refine understandings of relationships, could visualize otherwise challenging ideas and had a high interest level in each simulation- EACH one!

(Student work samples to be posted soon through Vimeo links)

An example LiveScribe pencast for physics
See http://hannibalphysics.wikispaces.com for access to more

Sample climate change PBIL plans for RSP9 fall 2012

Link to Moodle Climate Change course (still being worked on...)

Update Biophysics Project outline and Student Peer Evaluation form

2010 - 2011 College Physics and Regents Science Prep 9 Classes involved in MST grant activities

This past school year (2010-2011) three of my classes have been involved with Entergy MST grant related project work. With a focus on communication technologies and literacy, these classes completed projects that would provide challenge, opportunities to develop new Web 2.0 skills, and require planning, time management, and presentation for peer evaluation of a multi-media project related to a scientific topic.

  • College Physics Animal Adaptation or Biophysics Video Project
Students were asked to research a creature that could be profiled to show clear connections between physics concepts and strategies used for the species' survival in their environment. Individual conferences early on provided both the students and teacher with an opportunity to flesh out one or more clear physics concepts in the proposed creature of interest. Students were provided a rubric that specifically outlined aspects of their video project that were required. Clear expectations of citing sources of information and imagery as well as the use of royalty-free music were communicated to increase student awareness of copyright and ethics.

Students used Windows Moviemaker or Apple i Movie to produce their videos as well as Audacity to record, edit, and export the video narration as an mp3 track to insert into their movie storyboard. Most students had not used either type of technology prior to the project. The technology certainly provided MANY challenges for the students and proved to be a true opportunity for developing perseverance and patience. The project also required the students to write a script for their narration which was turned in with the final finished video. Peer evaluation was an important component in this project, increasing the importance of producing a quality video and providing an opportunity to critically evaluate others' work. Students used a peer evaluation rubric to score each others' projects and their feedback was counted as 25% of the final project grade.

Students commented that they learned quite a bit while completing the project- about technology tools and the connections between physics and biology. Students were very enthusiastic about the 'video fest' peer evaluation aspect of the project and the opportunity to see each others' work and learn some pretty cool things about biophysics.

Project Documents:
Video Project Rubric
Peer Evaluation Rubric
Get Audacity FREE lame library (required to convert Audacity file into mp3)
Audacity Help (from outside source)

Samples of Student Work:
Bottlenose Dolphin Echolocation (Hosted on Vimeo)
Bat Physics (Hosted on Vimeo)
Mantis Shrimp (Hosted on Vimeo)
Bat Echolocation(Hosted on Vimeo)
Ants (Hosted on Vimeo)
Emperor Penguins (Hosted on Vimeo)
Hedgehogs (Hosted on Vimeo)
Capybara (Hosted on Vimeo)
Basilik Lizard (Hosted on Vimeo)

  • Regents Science Prep 9 Rosamond Gifford Zoo Trip Video Project
Regents Science Prep 9 (RSP9) is a class designed to provide academically challenged students with a hands-on general science class to cultivate an interest in science, develop self-confidence in science work, and to develop basic science skills in data collection, graphing, writing, critical thinking, and more. Topics relate to Earth science and living environment, but focus on the interdisciplinary aspects that present a more global view of science. An earlier companion project set the stage for planning the zoo field trip. Students had to create interview presentations that their peers would evaluate and then choose the winner of for each class. This project was to help students become familiar with the animals at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo and the sorts of jobs and special knowledge needed to work there.
Zoo Assistant Interview Project
Zoo Interview Student Generated Presentation Guidelines

Student Video Peer and Self Evaluations

  • College Physics Goal Setting and Student Data
Carol Blunt White's workshop on collecting student data on the students currently in the classroom was motivating and made sense. I started the year with my students setting long term "SMART" goals as well as course goals. Students set goals for each major exam and wrote at least 2 strategies that would help them achieve goal, exam by exam. Students recorded their actual score on each exam and then set the next exam's goal and improved strategies (if needed) that would assist them. Each exam was graphed in terms of goal and result for each student on a record card. Each exam was also graphed as a whole class (no names!) and displayed in a prominent location. We regularly engaged in short class discussions about goals, studying, strategies, time management, etc. One result was in increase in student interest in holding review sessions for major tests outside of class time. Another significant result was a 9 point increase in the class average on the college physics final exam! I credit this gain in average score to the students' awareness of their progress and identifying what they wanted to earn.

  • Bio Acoustics Lab: Right Whale Listening Network & African Elephant Listening Project
Physics students use real data and recorded sounds and spectrograms to learn more about how sound in analyzed to help conserve endangered species. Cornell University's two bio acoustics projects are featured in this online lab experience. Students also record and analyze their vocalizations to examine spectrograms and find fundamental frequencies to relate to the length of their vocal tracts.
Listening Projects Lab

  • Regents Science Prep 9 Topography, Climate, and Ecoregions Activities
Landforms, climate variables, and ecosystems were studied during this school year. The following activities were used with RSP9 students to help them develop skills and connections related to these large scale concepts.

Three Cornell graduate students, "Conservation Scientists", are profiled as part of the Crossing Boundaries NSF funded project. The "Conservation Scientist" study locations and the climate related factors that influence the featured eco-regions are the central focus of the activities below.

Topography profile practice activity

Mark and Recapture Lab (This helped introduce Nate Senner's Hudsonian Godwit mark and recapture research in tracking Godwit migration)
This activity is adapted closely from Family Math Challenge (#52) at www.figurethis.org