Friday, September 30, 2011

Just for Fun - Draw a Stickman

Just for fun visit Draw a Stickman.
Just open up the site and follow the prompts. This activity is fun but has a nice message at the end for your students. The site is most effective when used with interactive whiteboard (SMART Board).  Do not use the pens. Use your finger to complete each prompt. Make sure to follow all of the prompts until the very end to get to the message. 

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Fence

"The Fence" is a very short video clip that offers a great starting point for discussion topics of man vs. nature. 
In choosing an agriculturist (taker) and eventually an industrialist lifestyle, man has positioned himself first as an enemy of nature and then the defender of nature.
How soon though, will either nature completely disappear or decide to strike back?

Discussion Themes:
Hunter Gatherer to Agriculturalist
Man vs. Nature
Takers vs. Leaver
Man as enemy of Nature
Man's control of the Earth
Endangered Earth
Progress vs. The Environment

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Clear Communication is a Must

The notes that parents send to school in order to excuse their children for absences, PE, early dismissals and other events can be very amusing but in some cases quite alarming. 
I use the following list of notes from parents, to make a point with my students about the importance of proofreading their work.  We look at these excuses for what these very carefully written notes might say, don't say and hopefully do not say about these individuals and their families.  How important are basic items like punctuation, letters, articles etc...?
The entire meaning can be changed by the slightest error of omission or comission.  
So please read, enjoy, have a good chuckle, and then encourage your students to make sure what they put down on paper is actually what they want to say.

  • "My son is under a doctor's care and should not take P.E. today. Please execute him."
  • "Please excuse Lisa for being absent. She was sick, and I had her shot."
  • "Dear School: Please ekscuse John being absent on Jan. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and also 33."
  • "Please excuse Gloria from Jim today. She is administrating."
  • "Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip."
  • "John has been absent because he had two teeth taken out of his face."
  • "Carlos was absent yesterday because he was playing football. He was hurt in the growing part."
  • "Megan could not come to school today because she has been bothered by very close veins."
  • "Chris will not be in school cus he has an acre in his side."
  • "Please excuse Ray Friday from school. He has very loose vowels."
  • "Please excuse Tommy for being absent yesterday. He had diarrhea, and his boots leak."
  • "Irving was absent yesterday because he missed his bust."
  • "Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father's fault."
  • "Please excuse Jennifer for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday."
  • "Sally won't be in school a week from Friday. We have to attend her funeral."
  • "My daughter was absent yesterday because she was tired. She spent a weekend with the Marines."
  • "Please excuse Jason for being absent yesterday. He had a cold and could not breed well."
  • "Please excuse Mary for being absent yesterday. She was in bed with gramps."
  • "Gloria was absent yesterday as she was having a gangover."
  • "Please excuse Burma, she has been sick and under the doctor."
  • "Maryann was absent December 11-16, because she had a fever, sore throat, headache, and upset stomach. Her sister was also sick, fever, and sore throat, her brother had a low grade fever and ached all over. I wasn't the best either, sore throat and fever. There must be something going around, her father even got hot last night."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Professional Development Workshop


The Dynamic Teaching in the Block Schedule Workshop focuses on the creation of a community of learning, based upon those skills that are absolutely necessary for students to transition into their future.  A future where the majority of jobs do not even exist yet, using technology that has yet to be invented and solving problems that have not yet been created.  The skills students must master for success in the next three decades are the Three C's of learning: Think Critically, Work Collaboratively and Communicate Effectively.  It is these three skills that educators should promote within their classroom whether the curriculum path they are on is English, History, Math, Science, Art or Technology.

The workshop will incorporate powerful teaching strategies to enhance the culture of learning, to enhance problem solving skills, increase student participation, develop creativity and increase collaborative abilities. Teachers will be immersed in a classroom experience that places the student at the center of the learning and allows the teacher to become the mentor of their learning success. Imbedded in the workshop is the idea that transforming teachers in to the "Guide on the Side" will have a more positive influence on student learning than does remaining the "Sage on the Stage".  

Dynamic Teaching in the Block Schedule will provide a model of an interactive and robust classroom where both students and teachers value learning as a process of exploration and discovery.

For more information on scheduling this workshop for your school faculty, contact Brian S. Miller at

Thursday, September 22, 2011


“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those
who cannot read and write, but those who cannot
learn, unlearn and relearn." 
                                  - Alvin Toffler -

From A-Z, Helping Teachers Work Smarter not Harder in the 21st Century Classroom, is a wonderful blog  created by Ann Zimmer, co-Director of the Center for 21st Century Classrooms.

The blog provides a wealth of materials, media and links, that are invaluable for educators who are challenged by the educational systems and general state of learning in the new century.  This website provides great suggestions and discussion points that will help educators to understand the basis for changing the paradigms in our classrooms as we prepare students for a world that is no longer predicatable and shrinks with each new technological shift. 

I truly believe that Ms. Zimmer has spent time in my classroom as  the video piece she created called "The Challenge", quotes Alvin Toffler and the 21st Century definition of illiterate, brings in pieces from "Shift Happens" on the job market and   ties in many aspects of the Three C's, communication, critical thinking and collaboration. 

The Challenge
from the A-Z Blog

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I recently put together the Lasallian terminology piece above.
The vocabulary includes, the Lasallian Core Principles, the 12 Virtues of a Good Teacher, Lasallian phrases, prayers and ideals.  I hope that this JPEG is something that you can use in your classrooms, offices and schools. It is a nice way to begin a discussion of the common threads that all Lasallian schools share.    

Match A Graph - PASCO

I hear and I forget,
I see and I remember,
I do and I understand.
                                     - Confucius -

Sometimes the best way to solidify a concept in the minds of students it is best to use the most basic of experiences to drive home the point. The PASCO GLX series offers a very functional and simplistic  E-Z Lab called Match-a-Graph. utilizing force motion sensors to graph motion.  Although this lab is designed for junior high students ist provides a great opportunity to explore the concepts of graphing motion and the relationship between displacement, time and velocity.  For many high school physics students, there is a difficulty in the understanding of how the x and y axis of a coordinate plane in math functions as velocity or acceleration tool in physics. The transition in understanding that the y-axis can function for directional motion rather than a negative and positive value. It  is invaluable to get students to think in terms of  a negative velocity or displacement is backward, south or left and a positve velocity or displacement is forward, north or right.  Moving their bodies to match the graph really brings this concept together for most students and makes the next steps of calculating displacement and velocity so much easier.

The program provides four pre-fabricated motion models.  Students try to match the movement pattern represented by the graph both by displacement and velocity based upon the direction and slope of the graph.  The GLX data logger and the force motion sensor translate the movement into a line graph that is superimposed over the original graph.  Students determine their velocity and displacement based upon the graph created. Students must complete two trials for each graph and compare their own data with the other members of their group.

The Match-a Graph lab also provides insight for students of the relationship between slope of the line and increases or decreases in velocity, and finally the significance of a horizontal line as a representation of an object at rest. I use this lab to also provide practice in organizing data, using dtat tables and labels. I also have the students find the averages of trials for each student and determine who is the best at Match a Graph from their group based upon numeric comparison.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Visiting the Past with Billy Joel

"Those who do not learn from history,
are doomed to repeat it."
                                            - George Santyana - 

Although there is a tendancy to think that connections to the past take place in only in history or religion classes, making connections to the present and the future is something that
can be done in any class.
One way to do this in regards to 20th century history is to explore the last half of the century
using Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". 
Reviewing all of the historical references allows both teacher and students to create
historical, political, social, entertainment and sports connections from the decades
of the forties through the eighties.  
Getting students to look at them from a six degrees of separation point of view helps them to see that nothing in this world is a stand alone. 
I complete the assignment by having students continue the song by writing verses for the decade of the nineties and the first decade of the new century.
Since I use this primarily in my environmental science class, I mandate that there must be line references within the verses about science and enviromental topics.
It is an eye opener, to see where students take this, what they focus on as important and where they make connections throughout the recent past and their present.  

We Didn't Start the Fire
(by Billy Joel )

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I", and "The Catcher in the Rye"

Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, Rock Around the Clock

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Zhou Enlai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
Starkweather homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land,
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning.
We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
It will still burn on, and on, and on, and on...

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Greenwashing - The Seven Sins

If you paint it GREEN, does it become environmentally sound.

Are there any products on the market that do not claim to to be GREEN?
Green plastic, Green water, Eco-cleaners, Organic Fruits, Recycled products.
Basically, GREEN has become the marketing boom of the new century. 

How do you tell which product is environmentally authentic?  Which companies have truly green policies.  What is the value to the environment of your purchasing power?

In my Environemntal Science class we explore the current trend of greenwashing by utilizing a website from TerraChoice, The Sins of Greenwashing.   

The website offers definitions and examples of each of the seven sins of the greenwashing trend, including vagueness, no proof, trade-offs, false labels, lesser of evils, irrelevance and outright fibbing. 
The site also provides annual reports of the environmental and greenwashing histories of the companies and products that are most guilty of these sins. 
The TerraChoice website include interactive games and reviews as well as links to social media and activists sites to encourage understanding and involvement.

I send my students out to find their own evidence of this greenwashing phenomenon.  Students are ask to take pictures of billboards, ads, products, packaging that evidence these seven sins. As part of the assignment thay must research the companies environmental history and current environemntal policies. Students must find a minimum of three examples and explain the how their photo evidence and the companies policies demonstrate and invalidate the products claims. 

Creating awareness is the first step in understanding.    

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


"Failing to Prepare, is Preparing to Fail."
                                                               - John Wooden -

How many times have you, as a teacher, heard a student make the claim that they studied for over three hours the night before and still didn't do well on the test?

Now we all know that studying a little bit over a longer period is the best method to learn material for the long haul. But, we also know that our students are champion procrastinators.  They spread themselves to thin with school work, clubs, sports, social activities. And we also know that most teenagers know that the world might end anytime so why study at all until you absolutely have to.

Knowing all of this, I put together a suggested study routine to assist our procrastinators, overschedulers and soothsayers, in their methods of study.  This study plan works on 30 minute session to maximize time and memory.  For most people our brains can only retain about a half hour of material at a time.  If we study for two hours straight we will remember the first fifteen minutes and the last fifteen minues of what we study and very little from the middle hour and a half.  Thereby wasting a good hour and a half of functional time.  Unless the brain is given the opportunity to shift gears and restart, the brain functions best in half hour increments.  (Think about television shows. 30 minute sitcoms. Hour long dramas with commercial breaks about 13 minutes apart.)   

I go over this study plan with each of my classes to help students understand the ways our brain works and to assist them in improving their study habits and to maximize their abilities to learn.

Study Smarter
not Harder!!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Life is Good - Playmakers

From the time I put on my first shirt and read the brief history of Bert and John Jacobs, I have been highly impressed with their philanthropic pursuits, their environmental policies and ultra simplistic but completely fulfiilling nature of the simple messages of the Life is Good Company.

Whether it is Jake suggesting to, "Do what you like, but like what you do", or the simple messages of Peace, Earth and Love. The Life is Good concepts are something that everyone should be reminded of daily. 

Recently, Life is Good developed a program called Playmakers designed to enhance play for children to assist in healing.  Healing of all types, physical, emotional, or social.  The You Tube video below provides a tremendous message about the power of play and all of our roles in providing these opportunities to those we love and those entrusted to our care.

Thank you Bert and John

Life is Good!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Become a Fine Weaver

"A weaver who has to direct and to interweave a great many little threads has no time to philosophize about it, rather, he is so absorbed in his work that he doesn't think, he acts: and it's nothing he can explain, he just feels how things should go."

                                                              - Vincent Van Gogh -

It takes a fine hand to gather thousands of different threads and weave them in an intricate tapestry that somehow becomes a piece of art for many to admire. Some who view it will be struck by the use of color, others will marvel at the detail of the image and still others may simply appreciate the whole picture.

This too, is our job as educators, to make connections of thousands of ideas into a lesson that may be understood by a variety of individuals.  Just as the tapestry will be appreciated on many different levels the students of each classroom will understand, appreciate and utilize the knowledge in a wide variety of ways.

It is our job as an educator to design lessons that will somehow strike a chord with as many students as possible within their classroom. As a teacher we must weave ourselves, our subject and our students in the fabric of learning.

Our capabilities are maximized as we create great understanding through connectedness. We must be able to take grand complex ideas and bring focus to the threads that we weave together within the image. But, we are also capable of taking what may seem like piles of unrelated ideas and manipulate them in to a single intricate coherent thought.

As educators we must utilize a variety of tools in order to complete this process: Socratic dialogues, collaborative problem solving, lecture, multi-media and technology.  However, the connectedness does not flow out of these methods but instead it flows out of the zeal, passion and heart that we as educators demonstrate in the process.

Good teachers become part of the fabric of the community of learning, joining both students and subject into a culture of learning within their classroom.


Friday, September 09, 2011

What Teachers Would Really Like to Tell Parents

Thank-you, Ron Clark, for saying what most of us would truly like to say. Specially for those of us who have witnessed the parents as friends of their children phenomenon that has become steadily more prevalent throughout the last decade.

The link below takes you to the article on CNN. com.  It is well worth your time to read and take to heart.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Mindset List - Beloit College

Each year Beloit College in Wisconsin posts The Mindset List to provide a insight into the world view mindset of the incoming freshman class. The post provides a parenthetical overview of the  history of the newly admitted class followed by a list of the "always have" or "never had" life experiences for this enterprising group of students entering college life.

To view the current Mindset List for the class of 2015, click the link below.

The list provides an opportunity for educators to hold up a mirror to themselves and their students and  realize how far removed from the world, lifestyles, environment, technology, teachers, schools, and classrooms that most of us experienced. 

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Aluminum Foil and Cupric Chloride Labette

The reaction between cupric chloride solution and aluminum foil is a very quick and simple labette to introduce a variety of topics in chemistry.

The reaction provides a very distinct set of observations that allow students to understand evidence that shows a chemical reaction is taking place.  The reaction gives off heat (exothermic reactions), obvious color changes, release of gas (bubbling and condensation), deterioration of the aluminum as it recombines.

The chemical activity is quite unique as there are several reactions taking place.   First the cupric chloride ionizes in the water producing the nice blue color from the copper inons in solution. Most aluminum foil has a layer of aluminum dioxide which reacts with chloride ion to liberate the oxygen and create aluminum chloride. The copper ion reacts with water to form copper hydroxide and release hydrogen. The bubbling is caused by the both hydrogen and oxygen gas which recombine to condense on the cooler surface of the mouth of the test tube. 

I have the students complete this labette multiple times throughout the year as a common thread tying together many different topics in the chemistry curriculum.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Living the Lasallian Mission

"It is not fair to ask of others what
you are not willing to do yourself." Eleanor Roosevelt

Emblazoned around our campus is the very Lasallian idea of Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve.

This phrase is a direct outcome of the Lasallian Core Principle of Concern for the Poor and Social Justice.

 To kick off this school year the Science Department Faculty got together at Union Station in Pasadena to cook and serve dinner to  75 members of the homeless community of Pasadena.  This is part of a monthly service opportunity at our school where students, faculty, staff, clubs and teams provide this meal on the fourth Tuesday of every month.

I would like to thank the members of my department and their spouses and children who volunteered their time and energy in living the mission of our school community.  I would especially like to thank the faculty members of our Student Life Service Team who organize this tremendous opportunity for our school to give back to our community.