Monday, August 26, 2013

Guest Blogger: Heal the Bay Blog by Kurt

Link to Kurt, and SMASH's, Teaching Philosophy: Leaving to Learn!

All That Glitters: An NSF/College of Exploration/NGS Collaboration Featuring Kurt.

Team Steelhead: Link to Award Winning Science Action Team (SAT) Science Team

Inquiry Project Teaching Plan (Santa Monica Alternative Schoolhouse)

Three Project Inquiry Science Learning Plan
When we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work and when we no longer know
which way to go we have begun our real journey.  The mind that is not baffled is not employed.  The
impeded stream is the one that sings.
Wendell Berry

Teacher Guided Investigation (TGIs): Our science-teaching program will continue to emphasize direct experience of inquiry and experimentation in the natural world outside of the classroom. Students will begin the year by developing a testable question that will investigate the near coastal ocean and sandy shore environment in which we all live. After identifying a significant topic they will design and perform either an experiment or a descriptive investigation. Small groups of students (3/group) will choose personally interesting topics from a menu of marine science topics; meanwhile, I will be modeling and directing the inquiry processes by performing an investigation of my own alongside them. 7th graders will examine physical or chemical processes and SMASHing seniors will apply themselves to one of the six unifying principles of marine biology in an effort to increase their readiness for high school biology learning.
Timing: This project runs from late Sept and concludes in January.
Place-Based Stewardship Action Project (PSAPs): As the holiday season draws to a close and we are all feeling full of love we will turn our attention directly to caring for our planet. Student Action Teams (SATs) will select a local, regional, or globally important place to nurture and find a way to positively influence the place. Teacher directed research into Regional Biogeograhy and environmental sustainability shall play a significant supporting role in the project; however, the intent of this project is to help kids learn how to translate good intentions into meaningful action. In each case students will have to learn the natural history of their selected place, research local organizations, and define the issues carefully before acting, but the continued emphasis will be on the ultimate effectiveness of the action. We shall use local university partners (USC/UCLA), NGOs, and parents to guide/aid us in this work and learning how to collaborate effectively outside of the school environment is a critical piece of the intended learning objective. Students will have the option of continuing this work into the third trimester contingent on the quality of their learning and service.
Timing: Scheduled for Feb through April. Particularly motivated learners may need to begin working earlier then this to match scheduled events of our partners. USC’s Quick-Science Project, for example, will begin before the holidays with dates to be determined.
Student Interest Based Inquiry Investigation (SIBIs): Following spring break we begin a new investigation cycle that will be entirely student generated with coaching from teachers, alumni tutors, and mentors from local colleges. These individual investigations may be experimental in nature, research based, or a data mining experience, but will have to examine significant matters drawn from life science, Planned-Parenthood, or teen topics. The topic may involve any class here at SMASH, be thematically linked to other class work, or be something completely to academics.
Evaluation: Students will keep a working portfolio that will go home weekly for parent check and signature.  Individual learners/peers or an adult will review them bi-weekly. Activities and investigations will be photo/video documented and made available to parents. As a high school prep strategy, students will occasionally take quizzes and tests. No grades will result as this practice is a learning exercise meant to teach the pragmatic skill of test taking!  Weekly progress reports/reflections will be written by each learner and sent home on Friday.
Persistence is the twin sister of excellence.
One is a matter of quality, the other, a matter of time.
Marabel Morgan,
The Electric Woman

Project Based Learning

SMASHing Experience Project
(Also known as the Senior Exit Project)

Project Goal: This culminating project is an opportunity for SMASHing seniors to deploy effective habits of mind and heart in pursuit of producing knowledge and skills; simply put, we wish to observe how they produce knowledge, act on significant ideas, and behave when the answer to a problem/opportunity is not immediately known. The project is a final opportunity to celebrate SMASH’s unique brand of voice and choice learning.

Project Description: The project has three components reflecting SMASHing Learning Expectations in the social curriculum, high demand academics, and with respect to project-based learning. Students will:
1.    Perform an “Individual Learning Endeavour (ILE).” This part of the project will demonstrate student performance under challenging conditions that require strategic reasoning, perseverance, creativity, and time management skills. Students will choose from any significant area of human achievement and act to develop a new skill related to their area of interest. Students will produce evidence of two hours of off-site learning effort/weekly. Learning logs and parent signatures will be required.
2.    Students will work in 3 person Collaborative Service Teams (CSTs) to perform a service to the SMASH community. Examples of this service work may include mentoring younger students, physical improvements to our shared space, or developing new learning opportunities for your younger brothers and sisters. Photo or video documentation of these activities will serve as the evidence of learning. This work will happen primarily during school hours, but will also require after school effort.
3.    Individuals will develop and present a “Learning Defense and Celebration.” Individual students will comprehensively examine their SMASH experience and present their findings to a group of parents, teachers, and younger SMASHites. Students will develop themes reflecting their personalized experiences; however and critically, examples/activities must be drawn from all academic subject areas. Organized and diligent students will have adequate time to perform most of these tasks during class time.

Evaluation of the Learning Defense and Project Materials
Students will be evaluated using existing SMART guidelines. 

Specifically, they will be asked to speak with clarity, precision, and frequent citing of specific examples.
Measurable outcomes will need to be identified, measured, and discussed during all activities related to the exit project. Special emphasis will be placed upon the effectiveness of the activity they choose to have the group perform during the final presentation.
Accurate information, whatever the subject at hand, is of particular importance in high demand academic environments.
Reliability will be measured by of how frequently and effectively students self advocate for themselves.
Timely action to turn in work and meet deadlines will be measured weekly (20%/Week)

Text, email, or visit! Do whatever it takes to understand the project. I would love to help…

Sailor Takes Leave: Kurt Leaves SMASH

 To sailors, the phrase “homeport” captures diverse meanings: comfort, friends, safety, or simply the place where he rests his heart. To me SMASH is a “home port,” a workplace that elevates mere work to a labor of love alongside stellar partners, vibrant students, and hard working families. While in port at SMASH, I have found joy in lasting measure and a gratifying sense of worth in exploring the world alongside our beloved young adolescents. Warmed by this environment, my heart expanded from the almond sized shell of my earlier years into a cornucopia replete with marvelous kids, stimulating relationships, and the fruits of hard work. Like any sailor in a fine port, I have found great friends to spend time with, engaging projects to explore, and just enough minor trouble to keep things interesting.  The years have thundered past as I grew ever more comfortable, increasingly more secure, and ever more tied to the people here in my “home port.”
Sailors also know the sublime pleasure of setting a new course, leaving the safe confines of port, and slipping free of land bound for the restive comfort of “wine dark seas.” It is in this happy situation that I now find myself; poised to depart my homeport (SMASH) and outward bound for new places, challenges, and adventures.  As I take my leave of full time teaching this June, I am unsure of my next destination, but equally sure that I am returning home. In closing, I want to thank you for sharing your marvelous children with me. Without them in the world, I would feel incomplete.
Thanks again, Kurt. 

With these words I took my leave of a much loved community, deeply appreciated job security, and the finest collection of teenagers in the United States.