Game, Set, Match.

When I worked in an alternative school we played games a lot. They just calmed everyone down and gave the room a better vibe. Occasionally, we also used them to reinforce concepts learned in class, here are some of the games we used to play and some I took with me.

  1. Periodic table battleship…woo, woo! So I wasn’t the first one to think of this but I like to think I made it more educational and relevant to what we see here. Most teachers use the atomic numbers, the document I posted uses rows and number of valence electrons like row 2, 8 valence electrons. We used the outer shell electron configuration to dial in our shots fired so rather than just saying “10” for neon, they would have to say 2s2, 2p6 and it was a relatively fun way to get students speaking the language.
  2. Although this next game is not educational it was a good moral booster on those tough days when everyone just wanted to go home. It’s called Irish Fairytale and the guy in my Play to Learn, Learn to Play post  taught me this, too. That is not the real name or else Google would have definitely found it, but it goes like this. With a group, two people leave the room. They only know that the group is creating a story and they have to ask questions when they’re allowed back in the room to guess the story. The group just comes up with a title and the two questioners end up creating the story asking yes or no questions. They end up fabricating this elaborate tale from the group answering their questions in no, no, no, yes order. Eventually, they ask questions that contradict their story and they know somethings up. We have them ask the same question 4 times so they see the pattern of answers. AMAZING GAME…but you can only play once with one whole group.
  3. I was reading about Katie’s marble game which sounds a lot like one of the STEM activities we would do to discuss pollinators (bees, etc.)! Students needed to pick up marbles in Katie’s version, but in the STEM version we have to transfer pollen from one area to another. Very cool!
  4. In physics, we use a lot of the PHET simulations in our coursework. Some of these simulations simply provide a sort of virtual lab but others are games. I am a fan of Electric Field Hockey where students use like and opposite charges to propel and attract a particle it the right direction to score a goal. If you play you might not stop.
  5. The last game I would like to highlight is Turd the Target and Turd the Target II located on The Physics Classroom. At first my students think I am joking, but no, you are actually doing physics calculations in order to land a “bird’s” poop in a container as it flies. They all think it’s so strange when they first play but talking to students years later it’s one of those things they remember from my class (good thing??).

Play to Learn. Learn to Play

Show us the ways you played and then tell us what playing leads you to think about and wonder about in relation to connected learning and equity.

Ultimate Frisbee….it’s a game you might not have heard of but for me it embodies the mentality of “play”.

First, for those who aren’t in the know, Ultimate is like a mixture of soccer, football, and a Frisbee toss on the beach. See for yourself… For me learning to play Ultimate was finally breaking into my play mentality. One of my colleagues played Ultimate in college and ran an afterschool club in the school I was working at. I was in my second year of teaching and I really looked up to this guy because he just had “it”. Now I realize he had a play mentality! There was nothing he wasn’t willing to do and make a game out of at the same time; I was borderline opposite of this.

Eventually, I asked if I could coach his Ultimate team with him and doing that meant learning to play. I spent the next two years coaching and playing with the team and it was way too much fun to get paid. By learning and playing this new sport I became a lot more confident. I was putting myself in situations I never thought I’d get myself into like planning tournaments, organizing events at school, even in my classroom I was bringing in professionals from the outside to talk science with my students. I was and still am, because of my experience with Ultimate, open-minded to any possibilities. Basically, with life and Ultimate, you have to learn to play and play to learn simultaneously.

For this week I decided to  play a real nail-biter: 3rd World Farmer. Like the name implies, the game was difficult to win. Eventually, I prevailed. Basically, you start out in this game with $50 and a family of four on a farm with nothing but a hut and a few plots of land. You can decide to send your two kids to school for $30 each and lose three-quarters the mount of work they are able to do, or let them go uneducated and lose points in the end. Then there is health, each member has health that correlated to how much work they are able to accomplish…Western medicine is expensive…so keeping health high (and work ability) is a dicey maneuver.

Then you actually have to make money past your first turn (each turn is a year)! There are 36 plots of land used for corn, wheat, cotton, or peanuts (the cost of each varies but increases from corn to peanuts). There are another 12 plots to build shelters for animals and store your tools which also increase the amount you can harvest. Assuming that you have enough money to plant a crop that year you could lose everything with the various disasters that come with each turn…you’re raided by guerilla forces, a civil war destroys all your shelters, the harvest was devastated by drought, the national back crashes, your family members die from disease, etc.

This game was highly addictive though. I needed to be successful, I played constantly until I had a dynasty of wealthy 3rd world farmers.

In relation to equity and connected learning I could not agree more with Mitch Resnick, who reviewed the 4P’s of creativity. Play is definitely a mindset, but it doesn’t come on its own. I am wondering how gaming can contribute to equity. Is gaming the ladder beneath the students feet? Can a student who uses gaming have an equal chance at success as a more traditional student? These are things I am definitely going to have to think more about.

Six-Letter Saturday (EQUITY)

After reading, watching, and listening for more than a few hours I feel like I have a fairly decent grasp of equity. Here are some interesting finds relating science and equity.

E) Honestly, I thought I had read this book from cover to cover…I guess not! I found a chapter in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012) that is about Equity and Diversity in Science and Engineering Education. Definitely going to fix my peepers on this chapter within the next few days.

Q) I actually found the chapter listed above on  and this pamphlet seems to be full of links to sites concerning equity in science ed.

U) All these links got me thinking about that the National Science Teacher’s Association had to say about equity. They are aware of equity since one of their mission statements is about gender equity. This is a big deal in science. There’s a major, valid concern that science is taught to the advantage of the male gender. In a preliminary book and article search there are several resources available.

I) Ever since I found out about I have been noticing how widespread its use is! Women are underrepresented in STEM careers.

T) NAPE – National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity have a page dedicated to equity in STEM careers and how to retain students in these STEM courses. This site does require a login. However, I thought it was fascinating that they had coursework and trainings available. Including this one that is about micromessages…using body-language and subtle gestures that either encourage or discourage students in your classroom.

Y) This last link just happens to be about The YMCA and lands on the “Y” in equity…fun! I was curious how the YMCA was promoting equity and STEM and it seems like a pretty legitimate operation. They have infographics and everything! I’m just wondering why Alaska and Arizona aren’t included on the map of the Y’s equity efforts. Check it out.


  1. Who knew that by looking for a picture to represent my blog that I would stumble upon this little gem! If you can make it through the article while Forbes plays unrelated videos and crowds the screen with other articles and advertisements, congratulations. This article is actually really interesting and explains how learning in business is related to innovation. One quote I really enjoy is, “fail first”. 
  2. I was thinking during our readings how much I really disliked school when I was younger. I look through that lens because I wonder if I could have loved it if school were application based rather than straight-up lecture. I found this blog and I think it can inform our thinking through a different lens. *FYI: you only need to read the last two pargaraghs.
  3. As if I needed an actual article to tell me that reading was a precursor to all other skills, I found one on science specifically. It’s an easy read, and is pretty interesting.
  4. Holy, annotation! I think I just hit the annotated science literature mother-load. I am already familiar with the work of AAAS, but have never seen this. Check this out!
  5. Speaking of literacy, I thought I would share this website for the STEM people out there. This website is awesome for incorporating real-world application into the classroom (yes, there’s math articles, too!).

Writing in public…

At first, using marginal syllabus seemed a little intimidating, I had never heard of it, and I just figured that only the most super-witty intellectuals were going to have annotations. However, as the program promotes, it is open to everyone! I actually enjoyed reading the different points of view of others who had read and processed the same words that I was reading. This is such an interesting concept…to read and comment on a paper with others whom you have no other relations or commonalities.

This is really the first example, I’ve witnessed, of connected learning breeding equity. How is it equitable for all to comment on a paper? Easy, the answer is in the statement. Literally everyone can read, post, and reply to any literature posted. For me, this embodies equal exposure to educational resources for all.

As I read through the postings I realized that I was exposed to the point of view of an infinite number of individuals who were each interpreting the readings through their own lens. What I found interesting was that, at least in Dewey’s paper, most of the annotations were towards the top. I annotated my own version in a word doc and found that a lot of the areas I was highlighting were not commented on. I am imagining using this in my classroom for articles, rather than a discussion through Canvas. Because rather than answer a direct question from discussion you get to read a students ideas as they read…in real time! Overall, very cool.



Adolescent Interests…where do I begin?

As far back as I can remember, I have had many, many, interests. I’m just into everything. I love to learn how to do things.

What I’ve noticed is that my interests go through cycles. When I was very young my grandpop and uncles would take me fishing at the beach. Fishing eventually cycled out of my primary interest and I moved on to the next interest. Presently, about 15 years later, I am cycling back around to saltwater fishing. By allowing time to pass it allowed me to take on a renewed interest that was fresh, not forced.

I am interested again. I started reading a lot of books, watched a few videos, and talked with my uncles and brothers. I was gathering information from all my sources and cross-checking it in my mind. I have done this same cyclic routine with all of my interests.

I am trying to make several points here. One, interests come in cycles, sometimes with a frequency of a decade or more. Two, I gathered information about my interest in several ways, but through reliable methods, like books, first, always. Then I bounce that information off other people. Sometimes people with similar interests are biased or superstitious about things and this can be misleading and confusing for beginning learners.

Fishing is a perfect example: where and when fish are biting usually begins with a simple statement, such as, fish bite best before sundown. From that point forward all your brain is trying to do is reinforce that concept because you think it’s true. It might be true, but until you have unbiased data you will never know.

Third point, becoming a well-rounded learner stems from having well-rounded interests. Some, dare I say a lot, of people just aren’t interested in anything. Could having an interesting mentor or social network help these people vary their interests? Not sure. Would it eventually come naturally? Also, not sure.

Lastly, I’ll just end with an idea…could teachers already be the ultimate social network? Could schools already be the most well-rounded network of reliable information? Should we trust that our interests will naturally form a well-rounded individual, or will students pigeon-hole themselves with statements like: fish bite best at sundown?