Monday, April 04, 2011

ExploratoRio is coming (and I may try something new)

UPDATE: ExploratoRio evening program has been bumped up. It will run from 6:30pm to 8:00pm. 
It seemed so far off when we began preparations six weeks ago, but April 6 is rapidly approaching. That's the date of Open House, so that's the date of ExploratoRio 2011.

Student exhibitors have been building and researching their exhibits. Elementary class hosts have booked every visitation slot on the schedule; we should have young explorers visiting from 8:30am to 12:30pm.

I spent a few hours in the classroom over the weekend to beat back the entropy of of the school year. I was also inspired to develop a new "snack." Over the years I have developed a handful of ExploratoRio Science Snacks for students to choose from, in addition to the Exploratorium Science Snacks published in Square Wheels and the original Exploratorium Science Snackbook.

My new snack is "Wristbandits," inspired by the recent renaming of Sacramento's ARCO Arena to Power Balance Pavilion. Earlier this year, I developed an in-class lesson exposing the pseudo-scientific hoax that the highly-popular wristbands (with or without holograms) represent.

With the onset of ExploratoRio, I thought it would be nice to have an exhibit exposing the methodology of the fraudulent demonstrations used to promote the bracelets. Once I was struck with an appropriate title, it was on.

All I need now is to draft some student exhibitors to present it. In any case, we set up tomorrow after school, clearing the room from 3-5pm and installing the exhibits from 5-6pm. ExploratoRio runs from 7:50am-12:30pm and 7:00pm-8:30pm 6:30pm-8:00pm Wednesday. By 10:00pm 9:00pm Wednesday, it will be as if nothing ever happened: the classroom will be a classroom again, ready for regular use on Thursday morning.


Jonathan Hanna said...

I have another one for you regarding the "Wristbandits." My school has invested money in peppermint scented pencils for our CST exams. Our admin claims "research shows" that students do better on tests with these pencils.

Dean Baird said...

Hey Jonathan, that's unfortunate. Our list of suggestions this year included encouraging students to chew gum.

My response is always to be kind and tactful as I request references.

"As a student of science, I'm always eager to learn. Can you provide me a link to the research supporting the claim that ____ will improve student testing performance? I tried to find such support, but failed. The only things I could find were dismissals of such claims as unsupported 'wive's tales' or urban legends. Please set me straight."

It's a bit of a Columbo angle, but I think it's wise to inquire from a position of a curious student. But to also include that the whole business is hogwash.

The response I got this year was a retreat in the form of, "oh, that was just a bit of light-heartedness, not to be taken seriously." An objective examination of the suggestions list would contradict that assessment, but OK.

I was certain to provide a link to my post, "Peppermint Party" elsewhere on this blog. The hope is that no other such nonsense will appear in future administrative missives.

In the event that they do, stepping it up might be called for. One option is to "reply to all" (instead of "reply") on the Columbo-esque inquiry/debunk. Be prepared for colleagues to defend unsupported claims, and to be called out as a killjoy curmudgeon incapable of appreciating the benefits of the placebo effect. The argument is that it's OK to lie to students if doing so produces an increase in standardized test performance.

Testing makes people crazy.