The smiles and greetings of familiar friends passed between participants of the Summer Institute as we began the morning of our last day. Housekeeping, coffee, muffins and fruit salad finished, we took a moment to take a group photo.
We jumped into our day with a Paideia seminar, facilitated by Dr. Mangrum. A Paideia seminar is the focused study of a text in which the analysis of the text by the group is facilitated. It is a Socratic circle. Our activator was to draw a favorite day and describe what we remember about the weather on that day. The text selected for the seminar was the Beaufort Wind Scale. The seminar started with the inspectional read, a round robin of reading the appearance of wind effects for each force level. “…Force 4, on water, small waves (1-4 ft.) becoming longer, numerous whitecaps, on land, dust, leaves, and loose paper lifted, small tree branches move…Force 9, on water, high waves (20 ft.) with overhanging crests, sea white…” During the analytical read participants acted out the scale. A moderate breeze took on the motions of a curtsy while a big exhaled breath characterized a strong breeze. Flailing arms brought laughter to the group as the whole body movement intended to depict gale winds, arms sweeping, knees bending, a portrayal of stumbling pedestrians. These movements were built upon by the next team of actors, mimicking a hurricane with animated staggering, falling into each other, shouting and papers flying though the air like confetti.
During the seminar we thought about an adjective or word that might describe the creator of the Beaufort Wind Scale. We found him to be creative because “he could put all this together”. Observant was mentioned numerous times because of how detail oriented the scale is. Scientific since “he knows and is educated about the weather and studies weather patterns.” Others found him to be analytical, knowledgeable, adventurous, “someone had to collect the data”, organized, patient, and informative, “so now I know what to look for when I go to the beach”.
When asked which of the columns in this scale are the most valuable and why the discussion became animated and moved quickly. Paideia seminars have a marvelous way of encouraging a group to listen and then build on each other’s thinking. “I think if I was a ship captain I would need to know the knowledge (in the first 3 columns),” began one teacher. Another jumped in with “Classification because you need to know the vocabulary like gale.” “I agree…because I think the classification helps you understand more about the weather.” “I agree… that classification is most important, although I would need to be exposed to the information that is important. Knowing the details helps.” When one looks at the Beaufort Wind Scale the appearance describe the type of wind on both land and water, “Piggybacking on…. I think the description of the appearance is important. Without the appearances the explanation would be hard to understand,” added another teacher. “Without the appearance I would not understand the first columns.” “I wonder if you are a sailor if you are more interested in what is happening on the water? Maybe if you’re a farmer you would be more interested in the appearances on land.” “Or if you’re a 4th grade teacher at the beach!” someone quipped. The question “Why did Beaufort choose 12 forces” was then posed. The analysis began with “A gentle breeze to a violent storm there is too much difference.” “I wonder if the measurement of the unit dozen is important because it is an old system has something to do with the choice of 12.” One participant building on this thought interjected, “I was thinking the same thing because our calendar is divided into 12 months.” What science skills did we think were imbedded in this chart? Force and motion, measurement and data, geology, and renewable energy we felt were all represented. By the end of the seminar we agreed this was a wonderful text to introduce in the classroom as a seminar for a variety of reasons. It addresses many science standards. It can be easily integrated into language arts, math, and engineering units like Catching the Wind which investigates air, weather and mechanical engineering. We were left with the awestruck thought that this scale is over 200 hundred years old and still in use.
At the end of the day and the end of the Summer Institute we all gathered to reflect on what we learned, what we felt was most important to hold onto, the community we grew into and the community we can now lean on as we take engineering back to our schools and classrooms. Refrains of I can tell we are going to be friends, Hands up, Diamond in the rough set the tone for the slide show of photos, Dr. Carlone painstakingly put together that captured the fun, thoughtfulness, power and empowerment, collaboration and commitment of our teachers. Images played of successful towers, focused listening, engrossed learning, broad smiles, pride, joy delight, discovery, teamwork, collaboration and wonder to I get a good feeling.
Walking in our student’s shoes and learning our way through the engineering design process we “got a good feeling”. We revisited from the seat of the discoverer, data collection, putting our heads together and engaging in collaborative problem solving. We finished our day and Institute laughing, remembering, celebrating, and creating. As we all hugged, clapped and some got teary-eyed, Dr. Carlone said goodbye, “We can’t wait to see where this takes you. You are now part of the UNCG STEM TLC team.”