Education Revelation

I am a huge fan of the Phet lab simulations.  I find that they are a great way to model real world situations and give students the ability to explore areas such as those with glaciers, digitally since it is virtually impossible for teachers to take such awesome field trips.  This lab is a compilation of other labs that I have found both on Phet and around the internet.  This Earth Science lab also allows students to use Google to find information about about glacial landforms and how they deposit their sediments.

Phet Glacier Science Lab

Materials required:

  • Access to the internet and computers.
  • The Phet lab is Java based so make sure your class computers can handle it before trying this lab.

Time to take for the lab:

  • This lab took about two days and spilled over into a third day, which was fine because on the third day while students who were not finished with the lab continued to work, those that had finished early watched the documentary, "Chasing Ice" which is really good video about filmers that recorded glaciers retreating over three years.  They also got to see and record the largest glacial calving event every recorded.  Very interesting and highly recommended.  There is one "F" word in the film, but I know where it is at and just skip one minute of the film.

Lab procedures:

  • I first discussed glaciers on day one.  What are they, what students might already know about them.  In fact I discoverd that most of my students did not know the difference between glaciers and icebergs.  I discussed with them the formation process of glaciers, types of glaciers (alpine and continental), and showed satellite images of glaciers.
  • Once I was satified that my students had a basic understanding of glaciers, gave them this link. .  This is the link to a shared Google document that has the lab instructions, lab worksheet, and directions.  Students were then able to create a copy of the document and share it back with me, so that I could grade their work later.
  • I did let me students partner up for this assigment.  I gave them instructions that they could divide and conquer the Google research section, but that they were to work on the lab portion of the assignment together.  One of them with a computer opened to the Google doc and the other one opened to the Phet lab, whose link is also found on the Google doc.
  • The instruction on the document are pretty self explanitory and very step by step, so as a teacher this allowed me to move around and give feedback or help where needed.

Teacher Reflection:

  • The lab went very well.  My students were able to understand the concept and for the most part work independently or together.  Like many science labs and other school activities, I did have some students who let their partner do most of the work.  I am still debating whether it was any better to let them work in partnerships or to have them do it themselves next year.

If you have any comments or would like to help make this lab better, then please register for an account for free.  There are many other shared resources for teachers.



One of my goals in the last couple of years is to incorporate more math into my Earth Science course.  This lab allows students to explore the angle of repose, or the angle at which a consolidated slope can get before it becomes dangerously close to some sort of mass movement/wasting event.  Students are going to explore the angle at which a particular sediment, mostly sand, will begin to slide down slope.  Here is a copy of the angle of repose lab sheet that students used to help them explore this concept.

angle of repose lab

The materials that you are going to need as a teacher are:

  • cups, I used graduated beakers so that students could document exacly how much sand they ended up using.
  • sand, I just "borrowed" a sand bag that our school was using to keep the halls from flooding.  Don't worry, I did it after the monsoon season for our area.
  • large trays, I used lab trays, but last year I just used pizza boxes and those worked well if you don't have the lab trays.  Just know that it was a little messier with the pizza boxes.  Students can also just use tables or desks, but having a tray will contain the sand better so you don't get it all over your floor.
  • rulers, preferably 2 rulers for each group.

Teacher Procedure:

  • The first thing I did was actually explain what the angle of repose is.
  • Next I taught them a little trigonometry.  They used the inverse tangent formula to find the angle.  Angle of repose=Tan-1(h/r)
  • I then passed out the Angle of Repose lab sheet which really helps them perform the lab correctly.

Things we discovered as a class to make this lab better.

  • To measure the radius of the sand pile, students found it easier to lay one of the ruler on the tray first, and then pour the sand on the center of the ruler, at about 15 cm.  They could then take the difference between one side of the sand pile and the other to find the diameter.  Finally they could then divide the diameter by 2 in order to get the radius.
    • Angle of repose lab
  • Take some time as a teacher to teach students how to use their calculator to get the inverse tangent.  It is amazing how many high school students still do not know how to use the 2nd function key.
  • If you don't have scientific calculators and some of my students didn't, then they can just go to and long click the tangent button until it says "atan" which is the same as the inverse tangent.
  • Before students begin the Angle of Repose lab, make sure that you let them know to be careful not to bump their desk or a neighbors table as that will cause artificial landslides.
  • Students discovered that one of the easier methods of measuring the height of their sand pile was to take the second ruler and stand it up vertically while gently placing or holding a pencil slightly above the pile trying their best not to cause an artificial landslide.
  • Let students know also well in advance that they shouldn't put their materials away prematurely as some of the lab follow up questions require them to have a sand pile.
  • Due to the lack of aweome scientific equipment, some of their angles were off.  Have them take all 4 trials and get an average as that should help show the what their angle of repose is most likely to be.
  • In science you of course are going to use the metric system side of the ruler.  I didn't let my students know this year, but will next year that they should be using milimeters instead of centimeters.  I think their angles of repose will be more accurate if they are not rounding off centimeters to halves and quarters and instead using the milimeter mark.

Time: 55 Minutes

  • I only had 2 class where students weren't quite able to finish the lab before the bell rang.  I went ahead and gave them 10 minutes the next day.

If you have more information to add to this lab or other variables that you have to enhance it, please register for an account at


Learning for Life

By Jeremy Hatch, Principal-Taylor Elementary

Rural School Learning for Life

A parent unloads movable corral panels from the back of a large ranch truck and sets them up on the school playground in a circle. Later, that same corral will hold several calves that Ms. Ellsworth’s 1st grade students will be able to pet and feed as the parent explains the ins and outs of raising cattle and ranching. Other parents have come and talked about what it is like to be a business owner, nurse, stay-at-home mom or doctor. This is one more of the many ways that Taylor Elementary is preparing students to become lifelong learners and expose them to the many options that will be available to them as they progress through their school years and begin to look at careers and post-secondary options. Sometimes seeing, feeling and smelling experiences can change a child’s belief in their ability to learn, grow and achieve. They can learn that there are many avenues to success.

Just like any school these days, being a rural school has its challenges. Many students in rural districts do not have the same opportunities that students attending in larger more affluent school districts have. Living the rural lifestyle is a wonderful experience but it takes grit to make it in such circumstances. Because of the lack of opportunities available to students, our school has had to bring in hands on experiences in order for students to understand that there are options out there that they may not know about or would otherwise have exposure to.

The poverty gap continues to increases in our rural community. The poor economy, coupled with a lack of available jobs continues to squeeze families and individuals. Resources are scarce and new employment is unlikely to materialize as long as the future outlook continues to be bleak. As we read research, blogs and opinion articles, there is a growing consensus. Many of the jobs available for our students in the future don’t even exist yet. Most of these new jobs (when they are created) will require post-secondary education and training (Carnevale, Smith , & Strohl, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, 2013). In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that “Occupations that typically require a master’s degree for entry are projected to grow the fastest” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Education and Training Outlook for Occupations, 2012-2022, 2013). This, coupled with the statistic that the average college graduate will earn 77 percent more than the typical high school graduate (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Projections and Training Data, 2008-2009 Edition, 2008) makes it very clear, the students of today, especially in rural schools, will need post-secondary schooling or vocational training of some kind in order to be successful.  How do we get from here to there? By producing school experiences that focus on student learning, geared toward the larger goal of college and careers of the future.  Below is a list of 5 things that our school is doing to ensure our students are learning for life and preparing for their future.

1. Ensure high quality lessons are being taught each day.

To do this we use parents, community members, and especially each other to provide high quality lessons that afford students hands on, or first person experiences as much as possible. This takes time, patience and good community relationships but it is worth it.  We have found that many community members are more than happy to come in and share a part of their lives with us. We also have teacher coaches, teacher leaders and administration regularly check on classrooms and participate in the teaching/learning process. This helps us hold the students and each other accountable. With budgets shrinking, paying for professional development is getting harder and harder to do. We use the Professional Learning Community to make improvements and help each other deliver the highest quality lessons possible.

2. Plan to succeed together.

Using best teaching and planning practices, like providing common planning times for teachers, developing common assessments, collaboration, and providing reteach opportunities to students that may not have initially mastered concepts presented, all give students and teachers the opportunities to succeed. These opportunities should be provided within the school day to ensure they get done and don’t cause too much extra work for the student or the teacher. When we ask teachers and students to do things after or before school, we have found that our purpose and goal of “every student learning at a high level” seems to lose steam. We avoid this by planning these activities and requirements within the day. This doesn’t mean we don’t hold after school learning activities, it just means they are secondary to the in-school time we deem essential. We make it a priority to streamline and take advantage of every minute of every day.

3. Create a culture of questioning.

In order to effectively teach students to be learners for life, we have had to ask the right questions. “Depth of Knowledge” has been a buzz phrase for quite some time. However, we have found that the questions that are asked throughout the lesson aren’t widely planned or utilized in the classroom unless we purposely place those questions within the lesson. When teachers think about different depth of knowledge questions during the planning phase of the lesson, those questions are much more likely to be asked during the teaching phase. Proper questioning is a must when planning and teaching a lesson. Students begin to know and expect certain questions to be asked during each objective. They begin to develop the habits of looking and attacking objectives in more meaningful and deeper ways.  After students begin to learn proper questioning through modeling, we start to let them lead the discussion and give appropriate contributions to the lesson through their collaborative efforts and questioning abilities.  

4. Develop students abilities to problem solve together.

Gone should be the days of students (especially at the younger grades) always sitting in rows, keeping perfectly silent. Students that sit together in groups are more likely to help and assist each other in the learning process than those that are secluded. Very rarely will students be asked to work in seclusion while working in a career, so why ask them to do so now? Teach them early that two heads are better than one.  Working independently has its merit and is appropriate at times, especially when assessing students, but the learning phase of the lesson should have collaboration involved in some way.

5. Teachers should be Learners for Life too!

When I started teaching, it was the culture of the school for teachers to shut their doors and they rarely shared strategies or teaching practice ideas. I still see some of this happening in schools today. I started to become a more effective teacher when our district began mandating that teachers sit and collaborate with each other during common planning times. I was able to sit with veteran teachers and see how the masters do it. I didn’t adopt everything they did, but I took what worked for them and added my own flair. My skill level started to grow and so did student learning. When we ask students to be learners for life, we should hold ourselves to that standard as well. Be reflective in your practice. Be willing to share and change with each lesson if needs be.  Through this process we become the best us possible and the students benefit with increased learning.

In conclusion

There are many more ways to help students become learners for life, but these have become useful tools for our school in order to build students into independent, successful scholars. Teachers also need to look at becoming learners for life. One of the reasons I believe the Professional Learning Communities have gained so much momentum in the last 10 years, is that participation in a PLC lends itself to teacher’s improving their practice for the benefit of their students. Numerous studies and leading educators today back the PLC process because it simply works! Teachers collaborating to improve and learn new things about the way they teach and about how their students learn are critical in today’s ever changing educational expectations.  One final overarching idea that could be added to this list is to keep things in perspective. With all the mandates and the push for educational reform it is easy to forget what we are really doing and who we are really doing it for. Make every decision in school based on what is best for the child. If we place our focus on that, it is hard to go wrong.


Cram, is a relatively new website/mobile app, that will let teachers and students create digital flashcards.  Once the cards are created, students can play games that will help them memorize their vocabulary.  I am currently creating a set for my Spanish students.  Below is a quick demonstration on how to create your first set of flashcards.

  • The website address is:
  • After you register for an account just click on the
    • Create new Flashcards
  • Next give your flashcard set a title and a description.
    • Flashcard descripions
  • The really neat thing about is that you can also import csv files from your computer or from Google Docs.
    • Import Flashcards from Google Drive
  • You can also select which langauges you will be using for your flashcards.  This is great for language teachers like myself.
  • Now it time to create your flashcards.  Just type the word on the left and the definition on the right, or viceversa. 
    • Create flashcards
  • The flashcards have a WYSYWIG interface so that you can change font color, size and even add language symbols to which the arrows are pointing.
  • Once you are done with typing in the vocabulary and definitions, click the "Create Set" button.
  • There are several options in which students can study their flashcards.
  • They can use the memorize option to simple memorize the flashcards, test option to create multiple choice tests and my personal favorite are the two games that students can play.
  • You can also share the flashcards via email and print.
  • Finally your students can access your flashcards by iPhone, Smartphone, Tablets, and by computer.

Again, this is really fun way for students to practice their vocabulary words.

Be sure to check out other catagorized educational content and resources at

For those educators who use rubric to grade projects with, here is a new and simple rubric maker, Quick Rubric.  Quick Rubric is indeed quick.  It live up to its name.  Here is a quick demonstration and tutorial on how to use this simple rubric maker.


  • Change the column titles if you wish by just clicking on "Proficient," "Emerging," or "Beginning."
    • Rubric Columns


  • You can also add columns and rows by clicking the simple "Add Row" and "Add Column" buttons.
    • Rubric Maker add Rows and Columns


  • Change the rubric's row titles by simply clicking on them.


  • You can change the order of the rubric criteria by clicking the up and down arrows.
    • ​​Rubric Maker Row Order


  • Once you are finish just click the "Save Rubric" button.
    • Save Rubric Button


  • After you have saved your rubric, you will get 3 more buttons.  You can now view, print, copy or delete your rubric.
    • Print Copy and View Rubric Buttons

Your rubric is now ready to shared to your class.  Happy Rubric making.

For more educational resources, tech tips, and tutorials, visit:

Print Friendly is an excellent Google Chrome extension that allows you to take any webpage, discard text, images, and ads, and the create a printer and student friendly PDF file.

  1. Click on the following: Print Friendly
  2. Install the extension.
  3. Go to a web page that you want to print.
  4. Click on the Print Friendly extension button found at the top right of your Google Chrome browser.
  5. A pop up window will appear and you can select the different areas you would like to delete by just clicking on them.
  6. If you haven't noticed, any ad on the page has already been taken out.
  7. Once you have just the portions you want to copy for your students, just click the "PDF" button at the top.
  8. This will generate the PDF that you can now share via printed, Google Doc, or Email.
  9. Some other settings you might try to play with are the text size and removing all images at once.

NOTE:  This is a Google Chrome extension so it won't work in other browsers like Firefox or Internet Explorer.

There is a new tool from that allows students to generate a news headline image.  An example of what I am talking about is below.

Vesuvius News

Just send your students to this link:

All students need to do is fill out the following form and upload an image.

News Generator 1

After your students upload their images and fill out the form, their news report will be made.  They can then download or link to their image by clicking on the corresponding buttons.

News generator 2

I think with this program your students will get an opportunity to demonstrate their creative and comical side of themselves.


If a teacher assigns gives an assignment to students, the teacher should grade and give feedback to that assignment.  Students are smart and know which teachers grade carefully and which just give a grade.  I had a foreign exchange student live with us for a year.  When she first got to the US, she did everything perfect or as well as she could.  By the time she left, she completed her assignment only half-heartedly.  The main reason for this is that she had teacher who assigned grades instead of grading and giving feedback.  An example, would be that the very first assignment she turned in, she worked really hard on.  She show my family and I her project and was proud of her accomplishment.  The next day she turns in the assignment, the teacher looks at it and says, "It looks nice, good job," give her a 100% and puts it on the back table, never to be displayed or given feedback on.  She never saw it again.  

Now some students, this would bother, because they believe the grade is the end all be all and getting a 100% would make their day.  There are students however, that want feedback on their assignments.  If a student is given work to complete, the teacher should give feedback.  It is through feedback that a student can discover methods of completing better work.

I preface this post with the story above, because I just got done grading and giving feedback on 80 different 2 page research papers.  I assigned it, therefore I graded it.  I am not the best grammar or spelling guy.  I also believe that students' work ought to be original.  I don't have a budget to buy software that will check for plagiarism and check for errors in spelling and grammar.  While grading the papers, I came across an online proofreader tool called PaperRater.  Below is a quick tutorial and demonstration of what a teacher and a student can do with PaperRater.


Go to:

  1. Copy and paste the text of the student's paper into the larger text box.  
  2. One part of the PaperRater that is unique is that you can paste your students' "Works Cited" page into the second text box.
  3. Select the education level of your student by using the dropdown arrows.  This is great to use, because the tool tries to determine your students level of writing.
  4. Next select the type of paper your students are writing.  There are many to choose from.
  5. I always use the "Originality detection" tool as well.  This will check for plagiarism and even give you the sources that it came from.  When you use the dropdown box you will notice that it says "Slower."  I didn't find the speed to be an issue at all.  It is quite quick.
  6. Leave the default of American English.  You can change it to British of course, if you are from England or your students are using British English.
  7. You will need to prove that you are not a robot by typing in the letters and numbers seen in the "Captcha."
  8. Check the "I have read and agree to the terms of use" box.
  9. Click the Get Report button.

You should play with this App if you haven't ever tried it before.  It is worth it.  Let your students know about the app as well.  They can see some of their error write away and correct them before turning it in. What I really like about it, is that it color codes spelling, grammar, and word choice options. Click on the highlighted areas for options.

The program will even give a grade.  Please do not use the grade in your gradebook though.  I find that it is very difficult to get an "A" if you do, and there are some very good student writers who write well.  The program just tries to take a guess based on originality, grammar, word choice, sentence structure, and vocabulary difficulty. 


In my High School biology class, we are learning about different biomes and ecosystems.  As part of that lesson we looked at pond water through microscopes so that students could see that ecosystems exist even in a single drop of water.  As we were looking for organisms, a student asked if he could take out his cell phone and take a picture of a worm he found.  In my class, using a cell phone is not an issue as long as it is being used at appropriate times and this was one of those times.  In fact, what a great idea!  I let him know that this was OK with me and wished him luck.  I also told him to let me know how it went.  I could not believe the image quality that he got with his smartphone.  Next thing I know, most students with hand held devices were trying to take pictures of the unseen world, so was their teacher.

From this point on, the interest skyrocketed as student tried their best to get the best picture of some of the amazing creatures that they found.  We came across an animal that we thought was a tardigrade or more commonly known as a waterbear.  Below is an video of the first one we found.  We found 6 in all.

One of the tardigrades that we found was dead.  Inside of it were, 8 round circular objects. You can see them in the next picture. We hypothesized what they were.  Some thought they might be tumors, others thought they were cells, and some thought perhaps the tardigrad just had a bunch of food in it.  I didn't really know myself.  After a quick Google search we found out that they weren't cells, because tardigrades have about 50,000 of them.  So, I decided to post the image on Google+ in a Biology community.  It wasn't more than an hour before we got a response that they were eggs.  Who would have thought that 8 eggs of that size could fit inside a waterbear.  Of course the class joked that it was probably those eggs that caused its demise.

Tardigrade Waterbear

The nice thing about using cameras from cell phones or other mobile devices was that once you have an image, you can then zoom in to get a much closer look.  It is no longer looking a a tiny view but a view that can be projected and then discussed.

The problem with using the cameras as you can see from the video is that it is extremely difficult to get it at the right distance without moving the camera every time you breath.  After doing some research there are some device holders that you can buy to solve this issue.  I don't know that we need to though as the students did just fine.  If I ever have the budget for the device holders I will get a few.  Students quickly learned to hold the camera for small amounts of time at the perfect distance to get the perfect picture.

In the end, the "look at a pond water ecosystem" could not have worked out better.  Technology integration is awesome.  Below are some other images we took.  Click on any of the images to see the complete Google Plus Album.

Microscopic Worm

Worm, don't know which type.

Water Cyclops with Eggs

Water Cyclops with Egg Sacks

Water Shrimp

Pond Shrimp

Have you ever had that "Ah Ha" moment, that you wish you could share with other educators quickly and efficiently?  Well, here at, Jason and I (Brian), have a combined 29 years of teaching experience, where we have endured the many shifts in educational philosophies, methods, and assessments.  In addition, we have experienced the visions and challenges of integrating technology in the classroom. In this blog, Educational Revelations, we would like to open a discourse with any and all educators about the pros and cons that we are all experiencing in education today as well as integrating practical classroom ideas.

We would like to invite all who are, or have been, in education to participate by sharing your views on a variety of topics or in other words sharing your own revelations in education.  

If you would like to be contribute to this blog, please use the "Contact us" button at the top to request an account.