Questions or ideas for the community

Use this thread to post questions you may have for the Hancock County Regional Teacher Community. Are you struggling with an idea? Need some advice? Want to run an idea by the group and get some feedback? This is the place to go.


Maine's Project Learning Tree is having a gathering on February 2 & 3 at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro. You'll receive 12 contact hours for attending. Here are some details about the 2-days:

Learn about:

· New partnership between National PLT and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program.

· New Early Childhood through Middle School instructional models, including e-units and on-line courses.

· New workshop delivery methods and addressing on-line learning

· Opportunity to create supplemental Maine facts for generic e-units

· Updates: Forest Inventory Growth (FIG) website.

· New Maine graduation requirements and standards based connections to PLT.

There will be presentations by Jackie Stallard, National PLT; Pat Sirois, MESFI; Kevin Doran, Maine Forest Service; Tim Surrette, UMaine at Augusta; Shari Templeton, Department of Education; Olivia Griset, MEEA President.

Time: Registration at 1:45 p.m. Program begins at 2:30 on February 2. We’ll conclude no later than 4:00 p.m. on February 3, 2018

Cost: $25 Registration fee includes one overnight, 12 contact hours, dinner on Friday plus breakfast and lunch on Saturday. All made possible with a grant from National Project Learning Tree

Limited space so be sure to sign up today or no later than January 24, 2018.

Download the registration at:

I just read an article in Physics Today 71, 38 (2018);
Introductory physics labs: WE CAN DO BETTER.

This was mostly about college level courses, but it seems that it could apply to any science course. The authors found that labs do not enhance student learning of the content. Labs are more effective in teaching experimental practices. It also pointed out that if students are given a lab that is all set up so that all they need to do is follow the directions and take measurements, then they do not get much out of it. They are more likely to learn how to think like a scientist and how to do all of the processes of scientific experimentation if they are given a problem to solve and they have to run tests and look at their own results to figure out if the tests are working and what changes they need to make. This takes more time than cookbook labs, but interviewed students were not as frustrated when they did not get expected results ( as they would be from a cookbook lab) and could look at their work and make adjustments to their tests or ideas.

I think middle school students would be more excited about a science class where they were in charge of solving a problem themselves. Now the trick is to find the balance between getting them the content they need and the time to run authentic science experiments.

Very cool findings -

Good Afternoon! I posted my journal reflection below..just to let you all know what I was up to..In my reflection, I mention maple syrup collection. If anyone is interested in doing this - I'm happy to talk with you. It's super simple and requires very little in the way of supplies. Tracking maple sap production is a great way to bring climate change science to life (I hope..)..We'll be tapping our mother Maple tree in a few weeks if anyone is interested!


Nov/Dec/January Reflection
With a long absence in November and December, I am sad to say that not much inquiry took place. Our caddisfly project went on hiatus - but we are back! I have revamped how this looks, and have a small, dedicated, group working on writing up the results from the Caddisfly project in hopes of submission to Findings. Other students, not working directly on that, will choose to work on a project around our maple sap collection or on a project that is tracking the salinity of our stream and its connection to road salt.
In preparation for trying to submit to the online journal, Findings, we peer reviewed possible submssions from another school today. WOW!!! This is one of the best exercises I have done this year to engage all my students. It was amazing to see how each students pulled apart the rubric/submission guidelines, and went through the peer’s article with a fine-toothed comb. The benefits will be, in my opinion, two-fold. First of all - this is clearly going to elevate their writing. The second benefit was a conversation that evolved from the process. A student mentioned that I am always talking about “peer-reviewed” sources for their research, but they had no idea what peer reviewed really meant. They could now see that a scientists would submit to other scientists (their “peers”), and be put through rigorous paces in order to be published. None of this, I suppose, is revolutionary. Teachers use models all the time to elevate a student’s work..but this use of a model was not contrived. This was a task that needed to be done for a purpose beyond themselves. The piece we all struggle with - the engagement - was provided by the context. It was great way to pass a frigid, January, morning.

This makes me so excited! In case folks are wondering what Findings is, here is the link -

Also, if you haven't poked around on this site from the UMaine Climate Change Institute, many of you may find it to be a useful resource -

Thanks for this great post, Rhonda. Looking forward to hearing more updates from everyone.

If you are interested in getting some more training around identifying aquatic plants, there is a Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program Invasive Plant Patrol 101 Workshop open to Vital Signs teachers happening next week on August 23rd from 10 am - 4 pm. It will be held at the VLMP Center for Citizen Lake Science, 24 Maple Hill Road in Auburn. Sign up here if you want to join in -

One more thing! Tanya was wondering about is what I responded to her in an email..please add any of your own ideas/suggestions!

At this point, my kids use their own cellphones. They are older than yours (7th and 8th) and nearly ALL have phones. We also have mini I-pads that we borrow from the library (and sneak our librarian is really picky about those things). GMRI has had digital cameras to loan out in the past - so Molly would be the go to on that one. When I started, I had one camera per group (and each group was 3 to 4). Now -all the kids get in on the act, and they choose the best photo from their group.

As far as supplies - I have kits that include colored pencils and regular pencils, small rulers, hand lenses, Forest Trees of Maine field guide. For specific investigations, I generally make a folder with laminated ID cards of the species we are looking for AND any similar species (the Vital Signs cards tell you what similar species there they make it easy to seem like an expert). In that folder, I staple a small checklist that looks like this:

Did You:
Take Field Notes?
Make a Sketch?
Take a Photo of the Study Site
Evidence Photo 1
Evidence Photo 2
Evidence Photo 3

For WATER Investigations I also bring along 2 nets (they are not the best..and when I work with the UMaine professor this fall, he is going to make suggestions for better ones..I'll pass that along when I know what they should be), a Dissolved Oxygen Kit (available from GMRI), a pH Meter (again..available from GMRI), a salinity meter (you might have to order if you want one of these), thermometers (just old fashioned ones..they do a good job of reading water temp..and I have a gets lots of kids involved).

Good Morning, Hancock County!
I wanted to share a quick game GMRI used at an institute I attended last week. I'm planning on using it on my first day of school - as an icebreaker - though we used it to get people talking about data..and it was fun! I struggle to make data analysis this is a nice, simple, twist. If you download the directions, there are sample questions for data analysis as well as some simple icebreakers. If the directions don't make sense to you - let me know, and I'll try to make a video of me and my kiddos doing it.

Hope all is well in the community,


Discussing with my Island Institute Fellow my 2017-2108 situation (blended classrooms and looping with the same set of students) helped me to hit upon what I have NOT yet taught and therefore the theme for the next school year materialized: The Chemistry of Nature. Brainstorming with my Island Heritage Trust friend helped start a wonderful list of possible lesson topics. Beyond soil nitrate, phosphate, potassium and pH, there could be lessons and explorations on skunk cabbage and exothermic reactions; poison ivy - why it itches and how the “cures” work; the science of scent (skunk cabbage again, balsam, sweet fern); medicinal qualities of plants found on our Nature Trail; spruce gum and what makes sap sticky; maple trees, sap and syrup….the list is blossoming because I am not alone. Now I am thankful for my new GMRI network. Please brainstorm along with me, all your ideas are welcome and needed.

Good Afternoon! Today a small group of RTC members met in Deer Isle (thank you Mickie), to get caught up on what was missed in June. We looked for - and found! - Balsam Fir. In addition to going over the basics of the reflection journal, student surveys, and a quick overview of a Vital Signs investigation, we were able to browse Mickie's extensive collection of glassware and other lab supplies. Mickie has kindly offered these up for loan. The moral of the story? If you need a lab supply - just ask! Make a post to this forum, and between all of us - I have a feeling it will materialize. We were also joined by representatives from Blue Hill Heritage Trust, and the Island Land Trust. Forging partnerships with existing organizations in our area seems to be a theme that is materializing. If you are on the Blue Hill Peninsula - please reach out to Chrissy - she is wonderful!

As the year gets underway - remember to do your August reflection..and please, please, please, reach out to me, Molly, or the community in general with questions!



I am posting here because I am not remembering how to post in general. I think I can make the blue hill but I need to check with my husband.
1. I have been working on digestive system and having the students understand how the food is broken down. I have had the students look at mechanical vs chemical digestion. Enzymes are always a difficult concept but this year had them eat a cracker and then imagine eating steak. Had them visualize what happens in the mouth with the steak verus what is happening with the cracker. Now understanding that an enzyme does not split in half but certain enzymes break different things. Then making an AD poster how enzymes actual work.
2. Getting different Ideas, being exposed to different investigations and being able to communicate with other science teacher to establish a relationship so in the future we can maybe create trips to other classrooms to see what we can collaborate on.
3. Getting ideas for different research to make more of a full year science investigation that effect our area and our students.

I wanted to share a story of how the RTC is already working for some members. I think it's crazy important to share what works and what doesn't with each other as a way to continually refine what we do and what we can get out of this community. In that spirit, here is my first sharing! Earlier this week, Mickie Flores sent an email out to the community looking for help/ideas around the best methods to measure pH. Never have I been so excited to read an email about pH. I directed her to check with GMRI, as they often loan out the meters (which they did!). Problem solved. These simple issues are the things that can hold us back from innovating in our classroom and it's my goal that we can all reach out to the community often to help each other over the little and not so little hurdles.

I am so excited to have peers in science education who understand my goals and needs. I work on an island and I am geographically isolated; BUT I believe many of us work on an "island" and are similarly isolated where the school population and science educator population are limited. I'm celebrating this new network of people I can speak with and move forward with.

Excited about some of these investigations!




I'd like to be of this thread as well.


Following this thread!

Following this thread.