Thursday, November 11, 2010

Annual Play With Fire Day

Monday through Friday I tend a garden completely different than the one that surrounds my house. I spend the day with 150 sixth graders exploring the weird and often wacky world of science. None of my students are weeds; they are all roses, some just a bit thornier than others. They arrive in September excited to be in middle school but with minds already dulled by five years of worksheets. And then we race gerbils and measure the distances covered using meters, not feet, we chew chew gum to see how much mass is lost, and shake our butts to dance music for three minutes when we've been sitting too long. Hopefully, every day my garden will bloom and grow, roots shooting deep into mushy brain cells. They pepper me with questions, their filterless thoughts erupting from their mouths like cognitive popcorn. On Wednesday, I climbed to my favorite platform, giving a quick sermon on the importance of independent thinking as opposed to filling in blanks or bubbles. A student in my public, separation-of-church-and-state school yelled, "Amen!" and I giggled.

Tomorrow is my annual Play with Fire Day. To teach the concepts of density in the atmosphere, I light a piece of paper on fire, slip it into a milk bottle, plop an egg on top, and watch it forced into the bottle by the change in air pressure. I didn't create this demonstration but wish I had. My students watch in rapt silence. I always wear short sleeves and joke about how I hope I don't set myself on fire this year. I station a kid next to the fire extinguisher and ask him/her seriously if they know how to use it. The entire demo only takes a few minutes and after the egg sinks into the bottle with a smelly, smoky plop, the class erupts in cheers and the students yell, "Do it again!" Just an egg, a match, some paper, and a milk bottle. The roses burst into bloom and grow taller and stronger. Am I a teacher? No, just a gardener.

16 comments:

  1. Like I said before, I knew you were a cool teacher! Those kids are so blessed to have such a talented, creative and excited teacher! I wish you lived in Austin when my kids were in 6th grade! And I love your description that some were a little thornier than others! AMEN to that!

    ReplyDelete
  2. What lucky students you have! My daughter is a 7th grader now, but I know she would've thrived in a sixth grade class like yours.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You will grow beautiful roses in your garden because you know how to nourish and tend them and so obviously enjoy teaching.
    I love the popcorn metaphor too. I'm sure it's very accurate at times.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You sound like the perfect person to make science exciting and non-geeky for your kids. Wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was laughing as I read your post!
    Sounds like you are a great teacher and you make learning meaningful for them. We need more teachers like you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Very nice post! I always loved doing this kind of experiments with my parents when I was a kid. I am completely sure your students love it.
    You sure are a great teacher.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I loved this post- you painted the scene so perfectly, that I felt like I was standing among the roses, just waiting for the egg to pop down into the bottle! I wish I had been there because I would have cheered with them. Such lucky little roses to have such an enthusiastic teacher! Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for the kind words! Class today was a blast!! We also did another demo that was fun, too. In my last class, the egg hit the bottom of the bottom with a boom! and one kid's jaw dropped open. Good times! :0)

    ReplyDelete
  9. That sounds like such a fun experiment! The kids must love it.

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.
    How do you get water out of the rain barrel? I'm not embarrassed about having rain barrels, I'm embarrassed about how I get the water out. I fill a dozen Arizona Tea Gallon bottles. I always think the neighbors must think I'm weird wheeling around all these bottles around my yard. See photo here:
    http://nycgardening.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-to-water-garden-with-rain-barrel.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ahhhh....this makes me smile...especially that "some are thornier than others:)". You got that right. High school is my other garden and sometimes, I'd like to trim them to the ground:) It's really a fun profession and perhaps a bit difficult living off of the salary at times, but I can't imagine what else I would do....this is something that makes me smile in the morning as I head to work...it's not a job but a hobby. Your kids are extremely lucky to have someone who has a sense of humor and loves their field. So questions about being near the border of Canada....Is it anything like being near the border of Mexico?:) I've heard about those crazy Canadians....and I've seen some in action...they sure know how to party:) Hoping you are enjoying your weekend.:)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Rohrerbot - It's been years since I lived near Canada and no longer feel the need to say 'eh?' after every sentence! But my current locale between DC and rural VA is one of the strangest ever! Do we talk about politics or goin' huntin'? Ummm... neither!!! Loved your comment about trimming them to the ground. :0) Hats off to you for teaching high school. 6th graders are sooo much easier.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a fabulous post, TS. "Cognitive popcorn" . . . you're too clever. I'm going to post this on my face book, as there are quite a few of my family members and friends who are studying to become teachers. Your love for your craft and the children is so evident and simply charming!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank for the kindness, KJ! Teaching is either a calling or the job someone does before leaving to do something else. I'm in it for the long haul! :0)

    ReplyDelete
  14. You sound like a fantastic teacher and gardener too!

    ReplyDelete
  15. How lovely! If I was a student in your class, I'm sure I'd be one of the ones with my mouth wide open, ha! Sounds like you're doing a wonderful job for your little roses.

    ReplyDelete
  16. For some reason, however much I tried, I couldn't make the comments open when I first read this post. I so much wanted to say how I wished we had teachers like this round where I live.

    Esther

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting my blog! Feel free to comment on the posts or photos.