One Best Thing: What small shift can you make?

When students connect to the History, in Space Science.

What small shift can you make?

Think of an assignment where your students produce a product of some sort - for example they have a google slides presentation or turn in a poster of factual information. For me, I am thinking of a project I used to have my students do, in google slides, to report factual information about an astronomer. I wanted students to know where space science is going, so I had them research where it all began. The results were boring. As a learning team, us physics teachers always complain about the quality of the products, yet, we never changed it up. 

Now that I am teaching space science as an elective (and we pulled this boring assignment from the physics curriculum), I thought to myself; I want to use that assignment, but something needs to change. With Diversity Equity and Inclusion of my students in mind, I made a small shift with this history assignment and the results were pure joy!

First, I asked my students about their family culture; languages spoken at home, foods they love, holiday traditions. I used for the questions and projected it on the screen, but any app or website to take a live poll will work. Answers were anonymous, so it made for an excellent entry point into getting to know each other better. 

Second, I had students engage in a “Divide and Slide”. We formed two long lines facing each other. Every student had a partner that they faced. I used a projected slide deck with more ice breaker and cultural questions. They had to practice “active listening”; one person talks for 30 seconds while the other actively listens, then switch. The SLIDE part happens next; one line shifts so everyone has a new partner (the end person runs around to the other end of their line.) 

Third, I provided a long list of astronomical history that stretched back to 3000 B.C. It included people and events from all parts of the globe and every culture. Students were given time to look at the list and discuss in small groups or pairs. I had them share out what jumped out from the list and why. They said things like “hey there are a few things here from Greece, I’m Greek, let’s choose one of these”. "I'm Mexican, let's pick something from the Mayans" and so many more.

Students were finding a cultural connection within themselves and their classmates first, which helped them to find a connection within the history of space science.

The new assignment was to make a Podcast. No more slide shows!  

Fourth, we listened to some podcasts. We paid attention to the theme music, the advertisements, the feel and cadence. Then I asked students, “what would your podcast sound like?”. 

I let them loose with the history. The room erupted with ideas! 

Fifth, we made the podcasts using Garage Band. Did you know there are actual Apollo 11 audio tracks in the toy box?!

I challenge you to MAKE A SMALL SHIFT. What small shift can you make in your classroom? HAVE YOU MADE A SMALL SHIFT? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

*Assignment I provided to students is attached. #ADEPhysics #D214



7 replies

November 19, 2023

I love this Katie!! I would love to share with our physics teachers! 😀

November 19, 2023

Absolutely! Let them know this: at my unconference for physics teachers, we decided to use #ADEPhysics (if they can see those on the forum) and also they should follow #iteachphysics on social - which I'm certain they already know. Thanks!

November 19, 2023

Wonderful showcase and “shift”! You have provided an idea that can jump across curriculums. The connection of content to student culture and experience is so important for engagement - which makes the learning stick! Thanks for the share and idea that can be applied across the curriculum.

November 19, 2023

Thank you! I was hoping that this write up did just that - reach cross curricular ideas. ✅

November 19, 2023

This is amazing Katie! Podcasting is a wonderful way for students to creatively reflect on their learning. Now I’m thinking of adding this as part of my coding class!

November 19, 2023

Fantastic! I would love to hear how it goes!

November 20, 2023

I love this for the use of GarageBand and podcasting, but especially for the time you spent setting this lesson up, emphasizing the cultural elements. By that small shift, you allowed students to identify with and connect with the content. Such a great way to pull those students into the lesson without them even realizing the purpose of your "Divide and Slide" activity.

Kudos for finding ways to transform the learning environment through your shift(s)!

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