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Blended Bites Blog

Teaching, it's all about the sidelines: Lessons from an egg

Jessica Anderson

The last week I've spent time observing my physics students' brains turning a little more than normal. I've listened to some great brainstorming, problem solving, and a lot of frustration. And honestly, I've loved every moment of it!

The truth is teaching is not really about "teaching." It's really about facilitating learning from the sidelines. And when I say sidelines, I'm referring to the very back row. Of course, I find myself shouting my questions in response to their questions a little louder, but in my opinion it's worth the hoarse voice. 

I'm a lover of inquiry, problem-based learning, and I like it even more when it's a challenge and has high stakes. 

This week my physics students have been working on protecting some very fragile passengers. Believe me, they need protecting. We let gravity do it's job from 3 meters up and the result wasn't pretty.  What did it prove? The passenger does need protecting and all the hard work is necessary to be successful during this project. 

Even though my room has turned into a factory of mess, they've had fun creating padded flights for these fragile calcium carbonate covered membrane albumen yolks. 

During the process, they planned three designs, calculated cost, and determined whether their feeble friends would be flying first class or coach. They've spent time bargaining shells (our form of money--total of 4000) and trying to out think me to keep more of their chicken fence. They've done a test with hard-boiled and soon will be entering the world of raw. And from what I've observed, they're nervous...

Are they really that worried about their yellow eye? Yes! Their faces cringe, I've heard "I don't want to drop it," "what if it doesn't hit the target?," "ten meters is high," and when it's time to drop they watch with fear.  After the drop, they nervously remove their cackleberry, but as quickly as possible in order to beat the 1 min. time removal. And they say a little prayer that the yellow eye has survived (at this moment survived is up for debate...).

So what's so fun about this? It's really seeing the joy of accomplishment on my students' faces when their eggs survive, and hearing their plans of action when their eggs crack and scramble. The thing is science is a work in progress and not everything is always going to go perfectly. Students, especially my honors students,  need to see and experience this. 

Honestly, as a teacher I strongly believe that more learning comes from prototyping, collaborative problem-solving, and most of all failure. And lastly, but  most importantly, when teaching is done from the sidelines where eggs are more likely to scramble, 'ssssss.' 

**UPDATE: Only 3 out of 17 eggs scrambled :)