Posts Tagged ‘Juab High School’


Students preparing for an acid-base titration

My last post told about our school’s trip to Moab in March and about the discovery of uranium in that area by Charlie Steen. Since then I have not been as active on this blog because I have been spending much of my spare time finding and applying for grants and now preparing for my fall classes. The last term in chemistry was also fairly hectic as we went through several units, including acids/bases, electrochemistry, and thermochemistry.

Titration equivalence point

Finding the equivalence point in an acid-base titration

The grant game isn’t a very fun one to play. There are many losers and only a few winners, and a great deal of effort is required for what is often no reward at all. Unfortunately, as science teachers, we know that to do the engaging, exciting hands-on activities that are the hallmark of good teaching, we often need funds well beyond what our school districts can provide. During difficult financial times, when district budgets and state tax revenues are shrinking, more and more of us are applying for ever scarcer opportunities. So it becomes a numbers game; the more grants you apply to, the more your odds of success for a few of them. Sometimes you luck out.

During the period between March and May, when classes ended for the year, I applied to three grants. Two I haven’t heard back from yet (the Dreyfus grant program and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching [PAEMST]) but one, the McCartney-Dressman Grant, sent me a form e-mail last week saying we had not been selected. There were over 400 applications. In many cases, including this one, grant monies have stipulations such as requiring the schools to have a high number of underrepresented students, which means having a certain percentage of students with minority status, or classified as poor by the percentage applying for free or reduced lunches, or by being in an urban or rural geographical area. Walden School is located in Provo, Utah, which is not rural or urban, and although some of our students are on free or reduced lunches, the percentage isn’t particularly high. In other words, we’re not considered underrepresented. I knew that going in, but decided to try anyway.

For the PAEMST program, this is the first year in 15 that I have qualified. To apply, one has to be a science or math teacher (at least 50% load) in a public or private school and the application process is pretty intimidating. I went to a presentation at the Utah Science Teachers Association conference this last February, and found that in addition to a lengthy essay with supplemental exhibits, one has to also provide a 45 minute video of teaching that has no breaks in it – just one continuous lesson. This is harder than you might think, even for a video professional like myself (maybe especially for me) because I want good quality video as well as good quality teaching. I filmed my chemistry classes on two different days doing activities – one was testing Charles Law that gases expand when heated by having them measure the diameter of balloons as they were dipped in water of different temperatures. That video looked good and had some good comments by the students, but as I moved the camera the video started and stopped on its own, so I couldn’t use it.

Molarity problems

One of the requirements of the PAEMST application: Provide proof of student learning

Then I videotaped my students doing a lab testing the voltages between different metal electrodes. Not as interesting, perhaps, but it went well enough. I got some nice letters of recommendation from a student, a fellow teacher, and my school’s director, wrote up the essay, created a ten-page supplement document, and sent all of this off by the deadline in May. Now the people in Utah have to decide which applications to send on to the national selection committee, and we won’t find out if we’ve won until next May (a whole year). Then in December, 2012, if I’m selected, I get a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet President Obama (maybe – sometimes the president doesn’t show up to present the award named after him) and receive a check for $10,000. Yes, it’s quite a process and if I don’t make it (I don’t know how many actually finished applications – probably ten or so) then I have to wait for two years (2013) before I can apply again as they alternate high school and elementary teachers. Each state gets one math teacher and one science teacher per year (although sometimes the national committee doesn’t select anyone from a state if they feel none qualify).

Charles law lab

Results of the Charles Law lab

As I was looking over the list of previous Utah awardees, I came across the name of a teacher I used to teach with at Juab High School. Janet Sutorius is an excellent math teacher who has also participated in the NASA Educator Workshop program at Dreyden Field Research Center at Edwards Airforce Base. Even after I left Juab HS, I did a workshop presentation with Janet on NASA educational programs at a state conference. Here is a nice article about Janet as an alumnus of Brigham Young University: Janet Sutorius Presidential Award. Other past awardees I know include Duane Merrill (I learned how to teach conceptual physics from him), Ron Cefalo, and others. These are all excellent teachers and role models for me.

The fact that I’ve been out in the wilderness teaching multimedia for ten years means I haven’t been in the spotlight for science teaching (even though I was doing all the NASA stuff). I was actually better known outside of Utah than inside. I did present at the USTA conference frequently, including this year. Many of the people I worked with as a NASA/JPL Solar System Educator had been Presidential Awardees, and when I asked about the program they all said I should apply. But I had to be an official science teacher before that could happen, and this year is the first time since Juab High School. I think I have a strong application – I’ve certainly done more on the national level for teacher professional development that anyone else I know in Utah, but that is just one dimension they look at. I think my content knowledge is excellent, and I’m strong on the other dimensions as well. Anyway, win or lose, I have tried. There have been many times in the past when I have applied for similar programs and thought I could never be selected but was. Maybe this will be one of those times. I just wish I didn’t have to wait so long to find out!

Read Full Post »

NSTA page 1

NSTA Presentation Page 1

I have completed my third day at the NSTA annual conference in Philadelphia and I’m tired . . . emotionally and physically. As the old Jerry Rafferty song went, “Winding my way down on Baker Street, I’m light in my head and dead on my feet, well another crazy day . . . .” I’ve pushed myself to the limits to make the most of this trip to Philadelphia by presenting The Elements Unearthed project this morning and by visiting the Exhibition Hall this afternoon and talking to everyone I can anywhere I can.

I arrived at 8:30 to my designated “room” in the rabbit warren of cubicles on the ground floor of the convention center. The rooms are divided by moveable partitions, and the sound of all the presenters just bounces off the ceiling so that it’s a bit of bedlam, especially if you’re trying to hear a soft-spoken petite lady speak when some guy is practically shouting next door. I was worried about people being able to hear the videos on my laptop speakers (I know my voice is loud enough). I contacted the AV people yesterday and arranged to have computer speakers placed in my room, which was great since my cubicle was also directly under two large industrial ceiling fans. Fortunately, they weren’t on this morning so I didn’t have to compete with them. I got myself all set up – my 17 inch MacBook Pro hooked up immediately and instantly showed on the projector, so all my worries and Plans B and C were unnecessary (I had some trouble getting it to work on a projector last summer). I didn’t have to lug my old laptop all the way across the country after all.

NSTA cement

Cement Example from NSTA Presentation

As 9:30 approached I became worried that no one would show up. No one was coming to my room, yet the session across the hall was packing them in – standing room only. Later I discovered it was a session on Edible Science. I guess science teachers are all hungry. I could only offer food for thought. But with two minutes to go, a professor from a college in St. Louis came in who’s doing science journalism with his science education students, so at least I had an audience. Then two more came in and as I started a few others trickled in, until I had about 12 attendees overall. Not a bad crowd. I’d told a lot of people over the last two days about my session, and none of them came, but at least they know about the project now.


Novatek Video Page from NSTA Presentation

The actual presentation went well. The computer speakers were better than nothing, but were a bit blown out and distorted. I went over by a few minutes, but I did have several attendees talk to me afterward and I think overall it went well. I said all that needed to be said, showcased what my students and I have done, and helped them see how to set up and maintain a large-scale project for a professional audience created by high school students.

Here’s a link to download an Adobe Acrobat .pdf  version of the Keynote presentation I gave (without video, of course):

NSTA Philly Presentation-David Black

I packed up after the presentation and crashed in a quiet corner of the convention center, then did my post about day two of the conference. I went to the Reading Terminal Market across the street, with its wonderful crazy mix of food stalls and produce stands, with everything from Thai to Greek to Philly cheesesteaks to Amish sausage sandwiches (which is what I had – with a Sasparilla to wash it down). I was heading back to the exhibitors’ hall when I ran into Kay Ferrari, who is over the JPL Solar System Educators Program (I ate dinner with her and the SSEP-ers last night) and we talked about her projects as a co-PI for some NASA astrobiology initiatives and the possibility of interviewing some of the scientists working on astrobiology experiments. I braved the hall and went from stall to stall, talking to anyone whose materials seemed to correspond to this project. I got some great leads, some possible leads, and some “Yeah OK thanks for stopping by” head nods. I did a preliminary interview with Clark County School District in Los Vegas (just in case).

NSTA other sites

Other Sites Visited Page from NSTA Presentation

The highlight came as I was talking to a business owner that creates interactive digital textbooks (you know from my iPad post what I think of these) when two men stopped and started joking with the owner about how their textbook needed to be interactive and if they were going to have an iPad version. I didn’t recognize one of them until the other pointed out who he was – no other than Paul Hewitt, author of the popular “Conceptual Physics” series of textbooks (which I taught from in my physics classes at Juab High School way back when. I spent a total of three weeks over three summers learning how to teach his materials). He’s as funny in person as he is on the videos I’ve seen. I stayed on the dealer floor until they literally were rolling up the carpet under my feet and the exhibitors were tearing down their displays. I got a few more contacts even so.

I then talked the ears off of a teacher from New Jersey who teaches in a small town school (yes, New Jersey does have small towns. There are even farms in New Jersey [that was for all the Utahns that think, as I used to, that every square centimeter of land is covered with asphalt east of the Mississippi]) and her experiences have been very similar to my experiences in Tioga High School in California and in Juab High School in Utah. Rural schools have a unique set of problems that aren’t fully appreciated by urban or suburban educators. It’s getting dark outside (it’s 7:14 here) and now I have what seems like a ton of materials, two computers, and two cameras to carry back to Darby. As I follow up on all these contacts, time will tell if this four-day marathon will be worth it. I think it will.

Read Full Post »

If you have read the previous post you might be wondering what an Applied Technology College is doing creating a science history project. This post is to describe who we are and why we’re doing this.

MATC logo

MATC logo

 MATC Programs:

   Mountainland Applied Technology College (MATC) is one of nine regional campuses of the Utah College of Applied Technology (UCAT) and is part of the state’s post-secondary education system. Our mandate is to provide vocational, non-credit certificate programs such as Medical Assisting, Business, IT, Dental Assisting, and Cosmetology. The Media Design Technology program is set up to provide hands-on, project-based training to both high school and adult students in graphic design with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash, Premiere, and Director; 3D modeling and animation with Daz 3D Bryce and Carrara and Autodesk Maya; video production with Apple Final Cut Studio; and more. Students join the class in an open-entry, open-exit format and finish the program with the software, design, and project management skills they need to secure a job in media design.

Mountainland Applied Technology College

Mountainland Applied Technology College


MATC Students:

   In order to train them in project management and leadership, we have the students do at least one large-scale group project where they must follow the entire multimedia development process of idea formation, planning, design, content creation, editing, testing, and deploying their project. In the past groups have worked on many types of projects. In 2003-2004, MATC students were chosen by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to be part of the Mars Exploration Student Data Team project (MESDT) 


Students learned how to use the NASA Unix server to download up-to-date data on Mars’ weather conditions from the Mars Global Surveyor probe, then analyze that data to predict upcoming dust storms and cold fronts. Our students were the only group that was not a science class; instead of merely reporting on the weather, their task was to take the data and turn it into media that could be displayed and presented visually, such as how a December 2003 dust storm bloomed and spread over the surface. They downloaded accurate 3D altitude data of Mars and turned it into 3D animations of the rover landing sites.

Gusev Crater on Mars

Gusev Crater on Mars

Several students attended a final project symposium at Arizona State University to present their graphics and animations. This experience taught us the essential role of media designers in presenting scientific data and their place in the citizen science movement. As their instructor, I had the privilege of attending the 35th Annual Lunar and Planetary Sciences conference in Houston, Texas in 2004 to present how to get actual NASA data into the hands of students and what to have them do with it. 

AM to FM project:

   In the 2004-2005 school year we began work on a new project: to document and preserve the history of AM radio stations and disc jockeys in Utah during the 1960s and 1970s. We were approached by a local television producer to help film and edit a two-hour documentary to be aired on Utah’s main PBS station, KUED in Salt Lake City. We planned and researched the history of radio, then put together a radio reunion dinner in November, 2004 and invited all the former and current DJs we could find. 16 DJs attended as well as many local community members. We divided the DJs into groups by which stations they worked at and took them into side rooms with lights and cameras and interviewed them in the form of panel discussions. Then over the next two years we transcribed, captured, wrote scripts, edited, and tested the video until it was of sufficient quality to be broadcast by PBS. The final video, titled “AM to FM: Three Decades of Radio in Utah” aired on KUED twice in January, 2007 and again in July, complete with closed captioning. We also mastered the video into DVD format and sold enough copies to pay for much of the project costs.

AM to FM video segments

AM to FM video segments

   The program had excellent reviews, and we were able to collaborate with audio and video students at Utah Valley University and with professionals. MATC students worked on all stages of the project, from pre-production to filming to editing to marketing and gained invaluable professional experience along the way.

   Best of all, we preserved a slice of Utah’s history by digitizing old station air checks and jingles and scanning hundreds of music surveys and other documents. Our interviews of the DJs were marvelous, and one of them has already passed away since his interview. We have preserved a unique story that would have been lost forever. This experience has also given us the necessary expertise to lead an even more ambitious project: The Elements Unearthed.

AM to FM advertisement

AM to FM advertisement

 Qualifications of David V. Black: Early Teaching Career

   As the lead instructor for the Media Design program at MATC, I have 20 years of teaching experience at the high school and college levels. I began my teaching career with a teaching degree at San Jose State University in California in 1990 and began teaching that fall at a small start-up high school in the Sierra Nevada foothills called Tioga High School in Groveland, only 30 miles west of Yosemite National Park. We had only 40 students that first year, and I taught six different subjects including computer applications, world history, biology, and art. While there I developed courses in chemistry, Earth science, photography, and other subjects. I first learned how students can be motivated to learn a subject if they create their own content through a project my chemistry students completed on organic molecules using Hypercard, one of the first multimedia authoring programs. They were to put together a hypercard stack that would teach the other students about their assigned organic groups (such as esters or alkanes) using images, text, interactivity, and to even include a quiz or game at the end to test the audience’s knowledge. Students started asking to come in at lunch to the computer lab so they could work on the project – a level of motivation I had never seen before. Since then I have involved my students in activities that allow them to use inquiry in the classroom and share what they have learned with others.

Juab High School students

Juab High School students

   My second teaching position was at Juab High School in Nephi, Utah where I taught chemistry, physics, photography, earth science, and math classes. Chemistry and physics students researched the chemical elements, developed hypercard stacks to teach others of them, then developed demonstrations and short lesson plans to present to their classmates, who critiqued their teaching. They then had to revise their lessons and present them to their parents and the public at an annual back-to-school science night. The advanced Chemistry II and physics students took their lessons on the road once per month and presented them to classes at Nephi and Mona Elementary Schools. They would take the Van de Graaf generator and teach about static electricity, or electromagnets and teach concepts of magnetism. All their lessons were coordinated with the teachers at the schools to fit into their curricula at the appropriate time and level during the year. These programs were very well received by the elementary students, by the public, and by my students. Their general level of knowledge and enthusiasm were much higher than if they had merely learned by rote or even by lock-step labs.

NASA Educational Programs:

   I have also had the privilege of working with NASA as part of the NASA Educators Workshop (NEW) program in 1998. I was selected to attend a two-week all-expenses-paid workshop at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where I met project sciences, education and public outreach coordinators, and practiced NASA lesson materials which I brought back to my classroom. Wanting to stay involved in NASA educational programs, I applied to be a NASA/JPL Solar System Educator in 2000 and received additional training each year at JPL from project scientists and education specialists, then took back what I had learned and trained over 100 other teachers each year, for a total of about 500 teachers over four years of participation.

David Black in clean suit

David Black in clean suit


   In 2001 I was invited to a launch conference for educators at Cape Canaveral in Florida for the launch of the Mars 2001 Odyssey space probe. In 2002 I was selected to be the Educator Facilitator for the summer workshop (now called the NASA Explorer Schools program).


I helped with participant transportation, housing, meals, event planning, tours, and presenting lesson plans. I organized tours to Dryden Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, to the Deep Space Network complex at Goldstone in Fort Irwin, to the Mt. Wilson Observatory, and to Caltech for the 25 participants who were from around the country. The following two years I continued as Educator Facilitator, planning and leading three more workshops for JPL. Through these experiences I have gained expertise in inquiry-based learning and student-created content.

Mars topographic activity

Mars topographic activity

   Recently, I have published an article in the November, 2008 edition of SchoolArts Magazine entitled “Virtual Self-Expression” about how students at MATC are using 3D modeling to create artistic scenes. I try to blend many subject areas (art, architecture, history, physics, chemistry, geography, math, etc.) in with my multimedia courses, as I am a firm believer that courses and subjects should be integrated if we are ever to engage our students and prepare them for life.

Fellowship at the Chemical Heritage Foundation; Philadelphia, PA.

   This expertise will be used to good advantage for The Elements Unearthed. My passion for the physical sciences, for history, and my skills in media design will come together to build a worthy program that will involve students and the public from around the country, starting here in Utah. As part of the planning and background research for this project, I have been named as the Societe de Chimie Industrielle (American Section) Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia for 2008-09.


   As part of my fellowship, I will be in residence at CHF conducting research on the history of chemistry and the elements through the Greek and Medieval periods as well as creating accurate 3D models of laboratory equipment and re-creating the labs of alchemists and chemists to produce animations for the video podcasts. Ultimately this research will form the basis for the first segment of a six part mini-series that will compile the footage and interviews we create for the podcast episodes to tell the complete story of how the elements were unearthed and how we use them today.

Why do a project about the elements?

   The Elements Unearthed is the culmination of over 15 years of planning. As a teacher of chemistry, I have often wanted a comprehensive, in-depth source of information about where the elements come from, how they are mined, refined, etc. Next week we will go into more detail about the need and the audience for this project, but suffice it to say that the need is deep and critical; my students and I are in a unique position of knowledge and expertise to fulfill that need. Simply put, we will do this project because no one else can and because it is desperately needed. All of our past projects have prepared us to be in the right place and time with the right technology, knowledge, and skills to build an excellent program and to provide leadership and direction to the collaborating teams. All that remains now is to gain your support as participants or as funding agencies and a lot of hard work to make this plan a reality. This is not a pipe dream. We know how much work this will take, but it will be a worthwhile journey getting there and the benefits will be incalculable. 

Read Full Post »