Time to Check In

There have been a fair share of issues so far this year, and those were made very aware to us over the past week with parent teacher conferences and other communication from parents and students. So today during lunch I decided that we were going to start class by having a bit of a reality check and refocusing on our goals and the goals for this program.

We posted 8 sheets of paper with various prompts around the room and instructed students to spend 5-10 minutes writing a response on each one. I’ve shared the responses for three of the prompts below.

When I have an issue with Canvas (learning management system) or course material, I can…

  • try and solve the problem myself
  • talk to a teacher/ask the teacher for help/email my teacher
  • talk to my parents
  • communicate with others
  • google

Not so helpful but still semi-serious responses included:

  • wait and procrastinate, then complain to my teacher
  • blame it on technology
  • have a panic attack

When I have an issue with my group or someone in Pathways, I can…

  • talk with the teachers
  • talk with my group to resolve the problem
  • ignore them
  • get over it
  • talk to the group member in question

Not so helpful but still semi-serious responses included:

  • yell at the person
  • call them out

Jobs that require working on teams in some capacity include…

  • actors and actresses
  • people in doctor’s offices
  • business partners
  • law firms
  • teaching
  • engineering
  • pilots
  • designers
  • surgeons
  • coding
  • making movies
  • military
  • sports
  • scientists
  • construction
  • mechanics
  • assembly line workers

This gave us the space to hold the conversation about becoming self-advocates (“I’m sure your parents are great but we don’t teach them, we teach you! So you should be emailing or asking questions when you come in!) as well as a reminder that jobs across all career pathways are going to involve group work, so it’s important for us now, in high school, to gain the skills to be good group members (“Who wants to be 45 and working in an office and still picking up the slack on a project? Do you think you’ll enjoy working unpaid overtime because you procrastinated?”)

The rest of the day went well. Most of the time these kids are great. It’s important though, as freshmen and students in a pilot program, for us to have these conversations periodically so nothing blows up.


Carnival Rides

The Pathways Project is off to a fabulous start. Both the Physics by Design and Humanities by Design courses are hard at work on their projects, and (most of) the projects are great.

Yesterday the students presented their second projects in Physics by Design – a small carnival ride. Small carnival rides are rides like the Tilt-A-Whirl, Ferris Wheel, and Merry-Go-Round.

Each presentation is supposed to sell their ride to our fictional amusement park. So the groups started off by introducing their rides and talking about their designs. You can see one group’s design process  for their hover bumper cars below.


Some groups included a story for their rides or the history of their rides.


All groups created scale drawings of their rides within the first two weeks of this unit. Some groups created scale drawings using paper and pencil while others branched out on their own to create digital models using free online design software. The awesome thing was that as soon as one group began creating theirs online, six other groups of varied abilities created 3D models online as well. We did have a lot of groups switch between Imperial and Metric systems which was a little frustrating at times but I think they worked it out in the end.


Each group also created free body diagrams, labeling each of the forces being enacted on different parts of their ride.


Since the presentations were basically a sales pitch, their conclusions needed to include why they wanted their rides in the park. Many of the groups also included safety considerations without being explicitly instructed to do so.


My favorite thing about teaching this course so far is watching the students of different math levels interact with each other and grow at different paces. We have students who failed 8th grade math last year, students who are going to finish Algebra 2 in a semester, and everyone in between. During this unit we introduced the basic trig functions and some of the Algebra 1 students picked up on it immediately while some of the Geometry students are still struggling with understanding them. We had Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2 students being remediated on solving distance/velocity/time word problems while the other half of students (still Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2) went into solving systems of equations word problems using a variety of methods.

This is such a change of pace from the collaborative courses I have taught the past two years, even though this is still technically a collaborative class. There are still loads of classroom management issues, interpersonal issues among the students, and students who are struggling to keep up with the work, but overall this has so far been a success.

I am really excited to start roller coasters. The students are excited to start roller coasters. These next five and a half weeks will probably be long but I can’t wait for our next set of presentations!

Project 1 – Carnival Game

This past week our students finished up the first part of their first project in our physics/math project-based learning course. Our first unit has been mostly about measurements and data analysis, so students created carnival games and then we hosted a carnival at a football game last week. They collected data at the carnival and are going to analyze it, write a report, and give a presentation this week.

I didn’t get any pictures of the actual carnival due to being the adult-in-charge for the first part of it, but the day before the carnival we were able to have one of our self-contained classroom come visit and play the games with us. Some pictures of that are below!

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What I loved most about this was the interactions. The games weren’t the best and we were loud and everyone else near us probably hated us during this time but everyone was having so much fun. The self-contained students obviously don’t get to be out with the rest of the students very often, and the regular students got a great opportunity to learn patience, encouragement, and how to better explain the rules of their games.

This has been the highlight of the year so far. We’ll see what, if anything, will top it.