Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Notes from the 2017 Glacier Road Trip, Day Six

-Left early for Many Glacier, my favorite part of the Glacier National Park.  We arrived at 8 a.m. to lots of empty spaces.

-That didn’t last long.  Later in the afternoon they enforced the “One Car Out, One Car In” rule at Many Glacier (and Bowman Lake) due to massive traffic in Many Glacier. 

-If you come to Glacier National Park you must do the Iceberg Lake trail.  It’s a ten mile trail but the only real “up” is the first 1/3 of a mile.  Everything else is gradual.

-I’ve mentioned this in the past and it bears (pardon the pun) repeating; bear bells don’t work.  The rangers on this hike stated again that they are too high pitched and the sound doesn’t travel enough.  Stop wearing them.

-My wife and I both wear bear spray when we hike.  We have had two trail encounters with bears, both grizzlies.  One was from 20 years on the Hidden Lake Trail (solo grizz) and one was from about 40 yards on the Grinnell Glacier Trail (Mama and two cubs). 

-An adult and baby mountain goat were hanging out above Iceberg Lake and I watched them for about ten minutes or so.

-I twisted my right ankle about 2/3 of the way down the trail.  Sucker hit a rock buried in the dirt and turned right over it.  Ouch. 

-Parking was insane on the way out of Many Glacier.  I’ve never seen this many people in the area.

-10 mile day today.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

It’s a new thang

My classroom hasn’t changed a little, it has changed a lot.


After 16 years of rows I requested a new set of tables (which ended being desks) that would create a greater collaborative environment for my students.  The end result has been this, a set of six desks that come together to form a sort-of-table.  Our school’s Woodshop is investigating the viability of getting some kind of middle table for each pod with the utopia of having power run through the table being the utopian view. 

So how did I get here. 

I’m not one of those wanna-be progressives that insists that no learning takes place in rows (I’m looking at you teachers I met at CUE in Palm Springs) and that tables was the only way to go.  I needed to find evidence that it would not only work but work within my classroom.

About a quarter of my work is group based anyway and last year I really noticed that the room was cramped and fairly non-functional for multiple Chromebooks trying to work on assignments.  Desks could be moved but the time it took to move them and then put them back took away from actual instructional time.  I played around with moving desks into separate positions and found that the table style worked better anyway.

There is more and more Project/Problem Based Learning potential out there and with basketball done and my brain more refreshed, I think I’m ready to explore the potential.  I’ve pulled out the old Buck Institute binders and tried to incorporate a guided practice without a problem for most units.  It won’t be every unit at this point but changes are being made. 

My school sent me to the Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL) conference in San Francisco in July and I experienced two things; effective strategies for engaging and teaching English Language Learners (for a different post), and the effective use of groups for not just one lesson but for an entire unit.  A schema building format was created within those groups that opened my mind to something collaborative that wasn’t just kitschy, it was actually better. 

Finally, I’ve been doing this for sixteen years and I’m too comfortable and I want to find something different.  But I’m also pragmatic enough to realize that change for changes sake is not necessarily good so I want the change to be worth something.  So I’m ready to go forward.

What has been the result four weeks in?

-I have quite a bit more room in my classroom and I can get more access to more students.  The rows didn’t allow me to have a physical presence with a large amount of the class because the rows were too tight.  Now I can wander much easier and the middle of the classroom is fairly open. 

-You can see the projector so that is the front of the classroom but the concept of “front” is sort of gone.  This is ok in that more interaction exists within the tables and the focus becomes other students, not just me. 

-I have greater visibility in regards to cell phones.  The open format of the room allows me to have a greater view of violators, although cell phones seem less of a problem this year as opposed to last year.

-Student discussion and collaboration is better (obviously) and it makes it easier to see who is not engaged in group activities.

-Some students have to turn all the way around to watch the news.  Seems to be a minor inconvenience and no students have complained about doing it.

-Space between the students and the outer walls is less and it makes it a tad difficult to get to the doors from the outside. 

-My podium is where I do my paper attendance and I really have no place to put it.  I like the podium and want the podium but where does it go in my classroom, unknown.

The experiment shall continue and I’m overall satisfied with the results so far.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Notes from the 2017 Glacier Road Trip, Day Five

-Made it to Siyeh Bend for our hike to Piegan Pass pass around 8:30 in the morning.  By 9 there was limited parking.

-Dory was our ranger for the hike and she noted that grizzlies were hanging out in Siyeh Pass, about a mile and half from where we were hiking, and that it was always smart to be safe.

-The Piegan Pass trail was active but not busy.  The bear grass was on the entire trail to the treeline and Preston Park (near the treeline) was filled with wildflowers.  It’s an underappreciated location in Glacier.

-We saw Blackfoot, Jackson, and Piegan glaciers on the hike.  There are 26 glaciers in Glacier National Park.  There were 150 in the late 1800s.

-Between 2005 and 2015, the glaciers in the park lost over 10% of their ice mass.

-Qualifications to be a glacier?  Be at least 25 acres, be at least 100 feet thick, and be moving.

-We ended up turning around early due to an small injury to our party and only did a bit over six miles again today. 

-Too many people were in the park today. 

-We ended up hiking about six and a half miles today.