Look what arrived in my office this afternoon! One of the middle schools in our district is providing a summer school class that combines hands-on science, language arts, and technology. Working with the organic farm adjacent to the campus the group of students at this school will be working on a very nifty project called Project Growth. Once their external site is up, I’ll post a link.
As part of the summer school project, the teachers were able to order a class set of science probeware. After doing a little investigating via Twitter and emailing my neighborhood schools I helped them order 7 sets the PASCO SPARK Science system. Being a science teacher who loves technology and someone who always wanted these for my students, I could hardly wait for their arrival. To be completely honest I was sold when I visited one of the junior highs in my neighborhood and saw 8th graders riding skateboards down the hallway with probeware motion sensors in their hands. The students were trying to figure out what you actually had to do to create a linear relationship between velocity and time. By looking at the graph on the display they quickly figured out you had to increase your velocity at a constant rate and discovered the concept of constant acceleration. Every single student in that class was engaged, connecting the content to real life, and most importantly hooked on science. One kid said, “I feel like Adam and Jamie (from the Mythbusters).”
With in moments of the boxes arriving in my office, I had a SPARK open and was using the first probe I could find buried in the packing peanuts – a heart rate sensor. The SPARK was amazingly easy to use! Without even taking a look at the manual, I was measuring and graphing my heart rate in a matter of seconds. The touch screen is very intuitive and the built-in labs are very easy to follow. I also like how the labs have built in review questions. You can tell some phenomenal teachers were on the design committee for the SPARK. To get a sense of what the SPARK is like check out these videos
PASCO SPARK Video Tour Website (click on the videos on the page)
Tomorrow is the last day of school and I’m delivering the units to the teacher who will be using them. I have a feeling she’ll be leaving school later than she thinks and probably with a SPARK to play with during her one week off. I can’t wait to visit the summer school program in a couple of weeks to see what the students think. Every math and science classroom should come standard with one of these!