Day 175: Ancient Technology – Slide Projector


“Oh my gosh. Mr. Whiteley, what is this and do you know how to use it?” I got that a lot when I busted out the slides to show my students photos of my college research in Central America and Utah, my graduate work at UNM in Albuquerque (and of course some balloon fiesta photos), and my semester in Granada, Spain in 1980. I am 19 to 22 in most of the photos and have to apologize for the fashions (although the Ray-Ban Aviators are very chic). They were a bit surprised to find that I had done such interesting things.

Day 173: Welcome to Jeopardy

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With 15 minutes to spare on a Friday I decided to share my love of Jeopardy and tell the students about the current run of Julia Collins (19 wins and counting). Some had never seen the show and few knew how it worked. They loved it and tried to beat me and the contestants to some of the answers. I think I may do this once a week in advisory next year. To girls who feel like they need to dumb themselves down, she offers this piece of advice: “If someone doesn’t like you because you’re smart, that’s their problem.”

Day 170: Class of 2014

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Graduation is on 5/29 and today (5/27) was the last full day for seniors. We are one of the few places where the students get their senior prank approved by the administration. Last year the Class of 2013 parked two cars in the lobby and surrounded them by 2013 cups of water. This year they plastic wrapped the breezeway, and strung string across the walkway. Some seniors grilled in the parking lot at lunch. Good kids!

Day 165: Senior Quilt

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Not a busy day as most of the senior stayed home. Saturday was the prom and the post prom ended at 6 am on Sunday. We knew today was a planned skip day. Ironically, they senior quilt is on display. We had one building for K-1 for many years and the teachers put together a quilt made of 200 student drawn images done when the kids were in 1st grade. It is heartwarming to see how innocent they used to be and how universal the drawing seem to be. My favorite the one by Ryan who clearly remembered his planetarium visit!

Day 163: Four Diamonds Field Trip


Today I took 5 (of the nicest students) student council members to Hershey PA to tour the PSU-Hershey Medical Center and meet with the Four Diamonds staff. The photo is taken on the 3rd floor of the new children’s hospital. They have a roof garden so patients can get outside easily. We toured the labs and the patient floor and even met with a courageous 18 year old who has been battling cancer for six years. What an inspiration she was! We have renewed enthusiasm for miniTHON 2015 and have a better idea where the money goes and what we support. It was an uplifting day.

Day 156: Unknown Sand Lab


Today we (IS II students and I) reviewed the procedures for a multi-day lab where they collect qualitative and quantitative data on 8 unknown sand samples. They describe the samples and determine grain size, settling velocity, roundness, luster, and the terrigenous vs biogenous component. I then give them descriptions and they have to match their samples with the correct locations. This year the sands are from Bermuda, Galapagos Islands, Daytona Beach, Miami, Uruguay, San Diego, Maui, and Costa Rica. There is great detective work and students always enjoy seeing the sand under magnification.

Day 143: Earthquake Apps

I was excited to show my classes my seismometer app (iseismometer)


and one of my students was just as excited to show me that she had downloaded an earthquake alert app (QuakeFeed). It fit in perfectly with out discussion today of where earthquakes and volcanoes tend to be located and the recent quakes in the Soloman Islands.

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Day 142: Student Elections in 2014


Not too long ago we still used paper ballots. As student council adviser this was always a chore to layout, copy, distribute, collect, and tabulate, etc. The smartest thing I ever did with our elections was to purchase online voting ability via Voting4Schools.

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For about $200 a year, we can set up as many elections/polls as we want. We have had students vote for homecoming court, agenda covers, and the eight separate student council elections. The software is easy to use, student photos can easily be attached to their names, and voting can be done from any device that can access the internet (including an app for student smartphones), and the tabulation is done by the software. We can also allow for voting for windows of time that we determine. Some campaign posters even contain links and QR codes for easy voting access. The link is also placed on the school’s website. Campaign posters get more clever each year and the student are more and more adept at creating fun and imaginative visuals.


Day 139: Moon Mistake

Screen shot 2014-04-08 at 9.11.24 AMLast weekend I caught the short Sky and Telescope feature that often runs on PBS when a program ends before the hour. Tony Flanders is the host and he always does such a nice job of highlighting what is in the sky that week or the next. This past week, the program’s feature was the upcoming total lunar eclipse of April 15th. I was struck by a small error (or at least I thought it was) in an animation that showed the Moon’s orbit. Could it be that they showed the Moon orbiting clockwise from a north polar view at the 2:45 mark? I emailed Sky and Telescope and this morning received a reply from Tony Farmer that reads, “You mean at 2:45, I presume. You’re right; if north is up, the Moon goes around counterclockwise, not clockwise as shown. My assistant has excellent animation skills but not much of a head for astronomy; he often makes errors like this. Usually I catch them, but I guess I missed this one.” My reply“Thanks for the confirmation! My HS astronomy students have been waiting with bated breath for a reply to my email. You are quite gracious in your answer and that allows me to share it with them and also show how adults constructively communicate via social media, etc. We here in PA are hoping for a clear morning on April 15th as you are I am sure.”