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BSIE 2010: Session 27

Paul Grobstein's picture

Brain, Science, and Inquiry-Based Education
K-12 Summer Institute 2010



  Session 27

Mini Co-constructive Conversations/Inquiries

Picking up  from Wednesday

Paul gets the train running and then pulls the brake in the name of 'tabling conversations' until or for the forum.  Argh-----------frustrating! .... Geneva

I don't think I ever had a class where I had to derive an equation to solve the problem.  However, once we started the data collecting process, I felt very comfortable.  I enjoy manipulating numbers and plotting them.  Like many others, I had a diificult time (at first) with the rate of change.  Intuitively, I knew that the rate changed as the temperture changed.  Yet the first attempt to plot this was wrong.  Rebecca had to point out the the "x" axis should be the temperture data.  It took me awhile to understand but I eventually did ... I thought that I might incorporate the concept of rate of change (of temperature) into my Life Skills curriculum ... Regina

As a middle school student, I recall studying fractions.  I could compute all the basic functions by plugging numbers into a formulas and following patterns to solve the problems.  I recall doing this, but did not fully comprehend exaclty what I was doing.  During my first year of college,  I was able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions, but the difference was that I actually understood what I was doing and was able to see patterns ... A learner's ability to perform or 'shut down' may be directly related to expectations or lack of expectations of the teacher, and the relationship between teacher and student.  But there are those times when stories in the unconscious (given certain conditions) become conscious ... Mattie

many of us were frustrated because we were forced to think along these very narrow avenues of process and then expected to connect some of the small parts to a different set of values and make meaning. Many in the workshop experienced anxiety or irritation because the usefulness of that next course of action was not apparent.   A model to represent this narrow to large problem-solving approach might be similar to solving a large jigsaw puzzle that has no “finished” picture on the box cover. We work on clumps searching for related parts and then finding connections to other clumps that finally lead to a connection of every piece .... I’m trying to relate this to Sudoku and thinking that instead of running helter-skelter around the entire puzzles looking for connections, that we instead have better results if we look within single boxes and solve the connections to related rows ... Joyce

all students could better understand mathematical concepts if the story was broken down into pieces ... Jack

The idea of breaking down a larger story into smaller ideas and questions sounds like it would work if, after each step, the entire group paused to make sure everyone was understanding the material.  Then, students could work their way back up to the larger picture and the original question by first going through the smaller ones ("thinking up") ... Teal

I so agree, break it down to the students and then teach them the technical term ... Kim

The "Americanism" to out-do everyone else created this impulse to become intensely competitive, even if it was just with myself, that burnt me out because my conscious and subconscious just were not clicking.  I was saying to myself "it's ok and no one really expects you to get this" but inside I felt this almost burning feeling of agitation in my brain that seemed to be a self defeating notion saying "you should be able to get this.  Why can't you get this?"  That conflict ultimately lead to shutting down and a total disconnect.  I feel as thought this has really brought me closer to my students and will encourage much more reflection on my lessons in the future.  So my question then is what message are we really trying to convey to our students and the educational community.  "Are we trying to educate our children to be the best or are we trying to teach our children to be better?"  I feel these two messages are really in direct conflict with one another ... Keith

Changing the story - Susan

Moisture and decomposition - Jack

Learning from babies - Jessica

Doodle brain: doodling and daydreaming - Kate



Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Mini Conservations

I am sorry that I missed this exciting conservation and I have enjoyed reading your comments about your ideas if possible, could you post those general ideas on serendip.  Missing you all.

Mattie Davis's picture

Changing..., Learning...,Decomposing..., and Doodling....

Today four conductors/explorers accompanied our group on four separate scientific journeys.  Susan's was "Changing the Story", Jessica's was "Learning from Babies", Jack's was "Moisture and Decomposition", and Kate's was "Doodling and Daydreaming."  Common threads ran through each lesson:  1) All participants were actively engaged ;   2) Each lesson was interesting/thought provoking;  3)participants were encouraged to share  stories and  observations;  4)  There were no preset 'right  answers' ;  5)  No one arrived at a "one right answer";  and 6) at the end of each presentation, there remained the potential to extend each  lesson,  increase observations through the  process  of looping.   None of the stories were finite.   BRAVO!!!  to each conductor.

Paul Grobstein's picture

Co-constructive inquiry: what its all about

NICE summary of the desiderata of co-constructive inquiry.  Thanks a lot. 

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Baby Don't Cry!

Who threw the baby out with the diapers?!

Who knew that babies are born with morality and mathematical abilities already pre-wired inside?

Great job Jessica in digging up the dirt on new facts about innate behaviors and newborns. Why do we have to tread lightly when we suggest that babies may now have certain talents that they may not of had in previous generations, all because of changes to our genetic makeup? Jessica really got our juices flowing about babies and their behavior. I think it was one of the most interesting discussions that we had in the institute. I think that we influence our children while they are still in the womb. I know that there is a lot of documented research into this phenomenon. But I just wanted everyone to know that I believe that too! Let's keep this one going through our blogs.

joycetheriot's picture

Susan, Jack, Jessica and Kate

Susan, your passion for science literacy was apparent! I enjoyed your satisfaction in giving status to the overwhelming global mass of bacteria! I see a great sci-fi video there, an interesting project for the MS Bio classes? I think you hit your mark very well with the classification dilemma which had connections at least somewhere in the past to us all. The ATP section though quite interesting to me and very well delivered wasn't necessary after your first home run. All in all though a fabulous story!

Jack, I am still looking for fast moving spiders and millipedes on the floor. I think you need to ask your central question and then let the students have at it. Your charm and presence in the classroom will give the kids confidence to try out everything. Watch out for allergies is my only warning.

Jessica, your workshop brought forward so much interesting conversation and generated a great deal of thinking. Thank you for provoking our responses.

Kate, you know that I believe in the power of brain draining art! Perhaps next time start us off in the process at the beginning of the Intitute (with no real directions) then give us another sheet of paper after your workshop at the end of the institute. Would you predict that there would be significant differences? Hmmm.

RecycleJack Marine's picture


Thanks Joyce for the suggestions and vote of confidence. You are one of the most interesting people that I look forward to seeing every summer.

I think the lost organisms that got out of the bag are probably on their way upstairs by now towards Paul's office!

Geneva Tolliferreo's picture

3rd Thursday - AM: Susan and Jack, PM: Jessica and Kate

Atlantic Meridian

I appreciate the idea of 'solving the puzzle without knowing the picture'.  Thanks, Joyce.  This is a good title for a book.

Everyone should be the best you can be regarding the individual purpose God has uniquely created for and in you.

There should be no "F" Grade.  Kim, I agree.  Parental In-service is essential for all parties concerned, especially the child.

Susan:  Rarely do I eat Tuna, because I usually feel nauseated afterward.  However, I prefer albacore in water, by 3 Diamond.  Natural / organic, never farm raised.  Can't think of the other brand I prefer even more, right now.

Yes, I believe you have an obligation to share this information with your students.  You would do well to present this to your students just as you presented it to us.

Information > Awareness > Knowledge > Solutions > Successes.

Information is always a continuing conversation.

Good lesson!

Jack:  In order for you to know some of what your students know about a lesson you are introducing, you have to do a pre-assessment, formal / informal.  After discussing the dynamics of the lesson, assign your vocabulary list to be defined by the students.  Once that assignment has been collected for grading, give the students a list defining the terms for class.  Now you have a basis to transition to the interactive component of your lesson.  Always remember to formally close a lesson each day; even if you are coming back to it the next.  This has the potential to be a great lesson!

Pacific Meridian

Jessica:  Truthfully, the first term I thought of when  you said 'babies' was potential.  Right after that I thought of new, which was just the time you pointed to me for my response.  When you said 'incest' I thought of unGodly.  Between babies and incest you brought into the conversation 'morality', and I thought of generations...past, present, and future.  Good 'food for thought' lesson.

Kate:  This brought back great memories of my Dad, who was an artful and art filled Doodler.  It also reminded me of Michael B., a middle school classmate and an excellent Doodler; especially during class when it drove the Nuns (our teachers) bonkers.

This is a great lesson to begin the school year with, as it gets the students involved and on 'the same page' (pun intended).  To finish this the end of the school year, putting the puzzle together all year long, would be a proud culminating class activity for each student in the class.  I am going to do this with the adults I support in our program.  It provides an even playing field and an immediate sense of inclusion.  This was a fun way to end our day...thanks!

Paul doodled...yeah!

Regina Toscani's picture

Mini-Co-costructive Coversations

The 4 presenters did a great job.

Susan – Your love for Biology came shining through.  Your enthusiasm with your lesson was contagious.  The mega question of when to change a particular story is extremely important.  As teachers we need to be vigilant about presenting the least-wrong information.  Very good job!!

Jack- I love your willingness to try different approaches to teaching.  Your sense of humor helped to keep the lesson moving.  You have an abundance of ideas and you are eager to share them with your students.  Trust in yourself! Wonderful presentation.

Jessica- You were very well prepared for your mini-conversation.  I have to give you a lot of credit for being brave.  It could not have been easy to stand up in front of this group and lead us into a very stimulating discussion.  Molto Buono!!

Kate – Congratulations for incorporating your passion of doodling into an engrossing presentation.  Another avenue that you could explore is why some children need to doodle on their body.  Thank you for giving us a chance to unwind and be creative.  Fantastic lesson!!


RecycleJack Marine's picture

Susan - Fishing for Change

Susan, I enjoyed your constructive conversation about the dilemma of deciding what changes are important to implement, and which are not. I think the concept of ATP is very interesting. I find those synapses fascinating! Although we didn't have any hands-on experiencial learning during your presentation, it was motivating and prompted some interesting discussion.

What I hope most is that the amount of tuna people eat has no longterm adverse health aspects to their lifestyles.

Kim Fuller's picture

Believe in what you teach.





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I found the compost interesting. I thought that I was going to be taught what it was and how to use it. I hope that Jack will gain the confidence that he needs to teach what it is that he knows. He knows science and he has a lot to offer. He has been given great advice just believe in what we talked about and go for what you know.

Keith Sgrillo's picture


Kate, this was a presentation that I think describes me.  I love to doodle during classes and find that not only does it help me to concentrate, but to relieve anxieties such as boredom and frustration; especially when I would draw funny pictures of the teachers who were aggravating me.  But I think the real important part is to be sure we are allowing students opportunities to express themselves in ways that define them.  We should be promoting individual expression of thought, but I think we also need to couple that with an explanation of how it relates to what it is we are teaching.  However, I recognize the need to also deformalize educational processes sometimes in order for there to be a release.  Sometimes we have to let go of the old to get the new.  In the words of the immortal Homer Simpson...


"Marge, you know what happens when I try to learn new things. I forget how to do old stuff.  Like the time I learned how to make my own wine, I forgot how to drive."


(Marge's reply)  Homer!  You were drunk. 



Keith Sgrillo's picture



I think you have really struck on a very controvercial topic that is related very closely to what goes on in educational planning.  I think the idea of morals depends on the intitutions who are defining what morals are on the macro level, and the individuals implementing them pick and choose what they want to bring to the classroom on the micro level.  If you are interested, there is some research out there on the actual physical structures of the buildings and how they show what moarls were surrounding education during the period they were built (e.g. inner city schools that look like prisons, 1970's schools that look like hospitals, and at present schools that look like office buildings).  Can you guess the message being sent or I should say, create your own stories about them?  Sorry I can't remember any specific articles or research papers, but I am sure you could find them on ERIC or Pro Quest...

Keith Sgrillo's picture


Great information. I really liked the idea of playing on the necessity vs. sufficiency "thing" we came up with.  I think you really hit on that and your metaquestion was very deep into really a simple everyday life situation of buying tuna.  But I think you really showed how to connect everyday issues that we give little consideration to into a relevant and complicated subject matter.  You made great connections and really seem very well versed in the topic.  I think your presentation was very well planned.  I would only caution that you should limit the amount of content on each slide when appropriate.  It can at times be a lot to read.  But it was all relevant and I will most definitely consdier the type of tuna I buy in future shopping endeavors. 

Keith Sgrillo's picture


Jack, I saw some great possibilities in this lesson.  I did get from this what I thought you wanted which was to see how water influences the rate of change in decomposition.  I also understand that you would have taught this with prior learning experiences.  I love the hands on and the topic you chose.  Very interesting.



Love the sense of humor

I like the hands on

You often pointed out how this will relate to things later on down the road (future lessons)

I thought the vocabulary was very applicable to the lesson



Be careful how much humor you use, may diminish the value students place on subject matter

Try not to answer your own questions.  Let students think first and give thier perspectives

Focus on what you are doing, to many of your own personal asides may confuse people.


Well done, and thanks for being brave and going on the first day.

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Starting Hard

This is exactly what I've been trying to tell you Keith. I have to start off very serious and rigid because I do have a tendancy to get too excited when I am teaching which allows students to not take me seriously and not respect me. Of course today I acted really silly because of the audience. But my goal will be to first, not be myself. Then I will very carefully let me and more of me out and into the classroom.

Thanks for your insight. You are an amazing person/educator and it probably translates into your parenting style too.


Brie Stark's picture

Keith's inquiry

I think Keith's inquiry is incredibly salient in everyday life.  What is the goal of education?  I've been fed many answers to this through middle-school, high school and college.  Some answers revolved around "bench marks" set by administration, some around "learning all you can know" and some around "exploring possibilities."  My favorite, of course, is exploring possibilities.  I always felt that learning all you can know" and the concept of teaching to a test put inhibitions on me.  I felt as if I was meant to 'only' learn certain things, as if there was a concrete barrier that I must eventually stop at once I approach it.  "Exploring possibilities," while vague, is the concept that sends me striving for greater aspirations, pushing myself and those around me.  While it is vague (and can be difficult to accept, given the fact that most institutions give a firm goal and 'brick wall'), it is worth really driving that message home to students at a younger age.  I think this was something that my parents always did, and it really helped me to explore outside of my boundaries throughout my education.  I was always given an option of doing something more than what I was asked and never penalized for this, which really helped my personality grow into an exploratory one.  I think this "exploration" is overlooked in most educational settings, and I think that this is a sore disappointment for the population who deserves to have nothing except vast space to explore.  No more brick walls.

Keith Sgrillo's picture


I love your idea of exploring possibilities.  I think that culture (especially rigid cultural curriculum) can really create a situation of....well....less creativity.  It is important to remove as much inhibition as possible in order to help students achieve their highest levels of potential in the proper context.  However, I do feel that we do need to also teach to a degree the appropriate times to inhibit one's self in order to achieve.  But the idea of exploring possibilities, I feel, can be done under both sets of circumstances. 


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