Thursday, February 18, 2016

Alabama Day 2: Beach study and St. Pat's

Today was a very interesting day full of learning. My classroom observation was scheduled for 12:45, so I had a morning to fill. Thankfully, I know a local who knew right where to take me and helped fill me in even more on some of the local science and history.

Let me first say this, hurricanes are a huge part of life here. Every conversation I had with much depth to it included information about a hurricane or two or three...

First, there is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores, Alabama. It has experienced evacuations and damage due to hurricanes through the years. They work hard to protect the animals and rebuild. The ultimate goal is to move the zoo to a larger facility. For now, it remains a smaller zoo that brings pride to locals. It has been featured on Animal Planet as "The Little Zoo That Could." Take a look at the zoo here.

The beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama is beautiful. There is soft, sugar-like sand that feels wonderful between your toes and countless shells to observe and study. Did you know that you can see what's happening at the beach by viewing the webcams available? Take a look here.

Today, I saw a jellyfish that had washed ashore. I learned of a harmful algal bloom in the Gulf that harmed the local sealife. Then tonight, I discovered a place online where you can get updates on such algal blooms, known as Red Tide. NOAA has a page devoted to this for the Gulf of Mexico area here.

I observed and photographed a tar ball, a small clump of tar that had washed ashore. These can both be caused by local issues as well as occur naturally.

Large sand dollars (mostly broken into pieces) line the beach full of shells.

Rules for the beach have become stricter, limiting what visitors can take with them onto the beach. This now includes umbrellas. Locals are generally pleased with this since one summer, groups left behind a trash-lined beach including broken umbrellas and such. this reminded me of two recent issues in California: the July 4 littering in Lake Tahoe and the winter littering of broken sleds and trash in the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We owe it to ourselves, our children, the land, and our future to leave no trace. In this case, a sign promotes leaving only footprints.

A suggestion: please don't feed the seagulls.

I absorbed so much information and continue to process through it. Tonight, I set up class discussions in my Google Classroom for my seventh and eighth grade classes tomorrow. Both will look at two images, photographs I took in Gulf Shores today. One shows the tar ball and the other shows the Leave Only Footprints sign. The students will address questions posted with the images. Teacher without walls brings the beach to her students for a chance to use their Google tools and learn something about this region thus breaking down the walls of the classroom if only for a moment.

Now, I hope the Internet will cooperate. Today it caused some issues. I worked with my substitute, again long-distance, to try to work around it. I was thankful for her ability to think on her feet as well as for the chance to discuss the issue with her. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. If not, we will do what we do to work to make the best possible learning experience for the students.

After a learning adventure along the sand of the Gulf, I traveled back to St. Patrick's Catholic School where I had a chance to meet with the computer instructor and share ideas. I also met their very lovely principal, Sister Margaret who has served as the school's principal since it opened in 1979. I observed a third grade class and their computer time exercises. I got to see Spelling City in action. They also used a variety of typing exercises and demonstrated some great abilities. After the class ended, I heard more about the school's participation in a local technology fair and observed the trophies lining a wall. These students are award winning technology students. Bravo! This opportunity also allowed me to share some of our school's journey with GAFE and its implementation this year. In asking questions and sharing ideas, I was able to speak to a couple of teachers, some students, a parent, and the principal. This school has much in which to take pride. It was such a pleasure to see what they are doing and the magic they are creating with their integration of technology.

Here ends my Alabama adventure. Tomorrow, I am back on the road. I will use my journey back to the area closer to the airport and take in some more of the local science and history along the way. I plan to use the day wisely ahead of an early Saturday flight. There is so much processing yet to do and so many ideas to develop. Then lessons to write for next week and preparation to finalize for my upcoming presentations. The EdTechRoadtrip continues and a week from Saturday, you can catch me presenting two sessions at ETC! 2016 in Stanislaus County.

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