January 2018 Reflection

Reflection for January

Scott Flynn, M. Ed.

Otte-Blair Middle School

Author Note

Scott Flynn, Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to A. Scott Flynn,
Department of Science, Otte-Blair Middle School, Blair, NE 68008.
Contact: scott.flynn@blairschools.org


Reflection for January

Animal Projects

This last month students had to create an Animal project as a culminating activity for our ecology unit. The students had to pick five animals, ranking them in order of choice from one to five and research. Next, the students had to do some preliminary research on each of their five choices. Each student was required to find two books about each of their five animals, then record three facts about each animal along with recording the books ISBN number. This was their first attempt at completing a research project in which the students could not simply copy and paste from a website. We made them site each source they acquired using EasyBib. We taught them how to use EasyBib, why we need to use it, so that the authors get their credit and how to properly format each citation.

As Smith (1998) states “the constructivist approach, we look not for what students can repeat, but for what they can generate, demonstrate and exhibit.” This project required students to generate data about their animal, then take that data and exhibit it in a presentation using any software of their choice.

At the beginning of this project, each student was given a rubric which showed them what was to be included in their presentation. The students were required to do a self-grade using the rubric.

According to Littky & Grabelle, (2004) “the real world is built around giving feedback and showing people what they need to do to improve.” The next step was to have each student do a peer review using the rubric as a guide. Each student needed to give feedback to their peers in which they stated items of strength, items that need further explanation and finally, items that they felt were missing from the project. The idea of peer feedback was similar to the feedback we received on our portfolio. I did have to do some modeling of how to give constructive feedback and after a few attempts, most students understood the process.

Finally, I gave a teacher grade on the project as each student presented to the class. A couple of interesting things about three levels of grading: First, most students completed the project and all of the elements required on the rubric. Second, students were stricter on their grading of peers than I was. Finally, each student demonstrated a passion for their animal that was demonstrated in the way each student presented their project. In looking back on this project and taking into account my advisory group discussion, I wonder if I should have let the students construct the rubric? The discussion we had in our groups lead me to think about next year having the students construct their own rubrics and then compare that rubric to the teachers before handing out. What would the students put on the rubric?

State Standards

Does the State really know how they are going to assess the new State Standards? No one really knows. We are in a period of transition, in which the schools have to make changes in what grade level each new standard is taught according to the curriculum. To me, this seems backward. It is like here are the standards, teach them but we don’t know how we are going to assess them. My guess is science is going to go to a text-dependent style of assessing. How else is the State going to assess model, develop and create?

Leonardo da Vinci

When I first started reading this book, I was thinking what in the world does this have to do with education? How is this going to help my instruction? What will my students think? What will my wife think? So here it goes. Leonardo got it right. I have read this book twice and each time I think of something else I would like to try! However, experience has taught me to start small, so the first thing I did was look at Sensazione of smell. I asked for a Scentsy pot for Christmas! Carrie looked at me and said “really?” I said “yes” I wanted to do an experiment on my students and have different aromas in the room each week. At first, the students didn’t even notice, but slowly, I started to hear, “Mr. Flynn it smells nice in here.” Or “Mr. Flynn are you baking cinnamon bread?” Now it is a game each week for them to guess which Scentsy wax I have in. I feel it has given my room a less institutional smell and I feel the students are more comfortable and open to learning as a result. For my lab next year, dealing with qualitative and quantitative descriptions, I am going to ask the students to use the categories of perfumes such as floral, minty, musky, ethereal, resinous, foul and acrid as Gelb (1998 p. 126) recommends in his book.

Wine Tasting

Fine wine is art you can drink. It is the liquid quintessence of the earth’s bounty; proof, as Benjamin Franklin observed, that “God loves us and loves to see us happy.” (Gelb, 1998 p. 129) I have never experienced a wine tasting and had no idea how to set one up. So, I asked for help from someone who just happens to manage a vineyard. Haley, my son, Jordon’s girlfriend. Haley manages Bella Terre wedding reception hall and vineyard. According to Gelb, (1998 p. 130) Organize your tasting around a theme. Bella Terre is modeled after several photos taken by John Scanlan of small villages in Italy. The wine theme was also based off of wines from Italy ranging from very dry wine to port. Haley did an amazing job, she paired each of the nine wines with a cheese, had water and crackers ready to clean the palette and soft light and great music playing in the background.

Before we began the tasting I read the following so we had the ground rule for the tasting.

We felt the bottle, listened to the cork’s exit from the bottle and felt the texture of the cork in our hands just as Gelb (1998 p.130) suggested. Next, we held the wine up to the light and gazed at the color. We tried to describe it to each other. Then, we swirled the wine around to release it volatile aromatics (Gelb, 1998 p. 131). I also learned how to look for the “legs” after swirling the wine. Who knew wine had legs? Next as instructed by Gelb, (1998) we plunged our noses into the glass and savored its smell. Again, we tried to describe it to each other as best we could. Finally, we drank. We would take a drink describe the textures, taste, and flavors of the wine. We describe the finish. The best part about this was the second tasting of the wine. We took another taste and followed it with the cheese Haley had paired with that wine. It was by far the strangest, the most unique thing I have ever experience in eating and drinking. The cheese totally changed the finish of the wine and the wine changed the taste of the cheese. I have never experienced anything like it. The interesting part about this Leonardo experience is the descriptions became better with each glass of wine! We are doing it again. Salud!



Gelb, M. J. (1998). How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

Littky, D., & Grabelle, S. (2004). The Big Picture: Education Is Everyone’s Business. (J. Houtz, Ed.) Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Smith, F. (1998). The Book of Learning and Forgetting. New York, New York: Teacher College Press.