Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Hazel Effect, or A Bar Set High: Meet Lisa!

An Inquiry-Based Approach to Reading about and Engaging with Science

Allow me to introduce Lisa, science reporter fantastique!  Needless to say, our Lisa wants to be a TV news anchor.  Her video is used with permission:

The school where I work when I am not the School District's teacher-librarian mentor is not at the top of the city's academic rankings; we are fairly consistent in our performance with a number of secondary schools on the East Side of the city.  You would never know this if you judged our school by the results of a Google search of Chemistry 12 inquiry youtube because what you find are a plethora of erudite young "scientists" who, when advised NOT to use scholarly journals for the assignment because they are too hard and written for a very particular research community -- well, they simply ignored the warning.  In fact, these students were very clear: they wanted to do exactly what Hazel had done!  The key to their success seemed paradoxically to be to say, "Don't do this!  It's really hard!"

You may remember my blog post that featured Hazel and her brilliant chat about US FDA research to remove the allergenic properties of peanut butter in order to enable her peanut-deprived teacher, the "unfortunate Mr Leung," to experience the joy of a daily PB sandwich.  This amazingly well-informed, scripted, and presented "science chat" has had a mini-viral impact within and beyond our Vancouver secondary schools.  Hazel's video is used, with permission, as an exemplar and has spurred others to create similar chats.  We have even had the opportunity to share "said" remarkable video with a national audience (The National Reading Summit, Vancouver, May 2012) at the invitation of BC's new Reading Superintendent Maureen Dockendorf.  

Hazel is a powerful exemplar for the use of models to set the bar for learning.  She loved coming to help this year's Chemistry 12 class engage with this assignment: use an academic database to find a current magazine or journal article that explores a new development in chemistry (or biology or psychology or other senior academic disciplines) and prepare a three-minute talk using a Web 2.0 presentation tool to be shared with classmates.  The point is, beyond offering opportunities for students to become more scientifically literate, they need more chances to be able to find, read, engage with, practice, and talk about content-area themes or topics with polish and enthusiasm.

Our Lisa is another brilliant bar-setter!  

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