HAPS Conference Wrap-up

Hello HAPSters!

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It was such a pleasure to meet some of you at the HAPS Conference in Vegas! I’d say it was it a definite success (for me, at least); I had a great time! By far, the HAPS organization is one of the friendliest, most knowledgeable, and distinguished organizations I have encountered, and I feel really honored to have been able to attend the conference and collaborate with you all!

I greatly appreciate those of you who attended my workshop! We came up with some great ideas for how HAPS can help high school teachers be more successful, especially in their first year(s), and I’m really looking forward to seeing those ideas implemented (which has already begun)! There is now a Committee for High School Teachers and we have already started chatting and brainstorming about all the directions and

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opportunities our connections with HAPS will take us! Be on the lookout in the near future for more information about how you can help kick-start our group and collaborate with us!

On a separate note, it is with great joy (and maybe just a tinge of sadness) that I tell you it is my LAST week of school! The HAPS Conference was an awesome taste of summer, and now it’s almost here in full force! While I will be teaching summer school, Anatomy and Physiology is not being offered over the summer, so I will be taking a break from blogging for the summer. But not to worry, I’m sure that is not the last you will be seeing/hearing of me! Ha! 🙂

Thank you for reading my blogs and taking an interest in a little ol’ high school teacher in Texas! I look forward to continuing to work with you all in the future and am so excited about the connections I’ve made and knowledge I’ve gained through my first year teaching and through this awesome organization!

6 Days and Counting!

Is anyone else as excited and anxious as I am for the HAPS Annual Conference?! My presentation is almost all squared away, and I get more excited by the day to meet all of you and have a chance to engage in some interesting and fruitful conversations. I hope we can use this week’s post to get each other energized and share some tips for the Conference!420-las-vegas-welcome-sign.imgcache.rev1343400150596

So, HAPS Veterans, tell us…

1. What can we expect from the Conference??

2. Have you had a chance to look over the schedule? What workshops or seminars have you added to your “MUST SEE” list?

3. Will you be presenting? When? Where? Who should go?

4. What are you most looking forward to?

I’ll start the discussion by answering a few of my own questions! 🙂

1. This is my first HAPS Conference! It will also be my first time in Vegas… So if you’re familiar with the area and see me, feel free to scoop me up and show me around!

2. Unfortunately, I will not be able to stay the whole week, but Tuesday alone has plenty of workshops I’m thrilled to attend… Especially the POGIL Workshops to see what activities Murray Jensen and his team will be presenting. I am also really interested in the “Mythbusters of A&P” by Ken Saladin (sounds really neat and helpful!), “Moving A&P Outside of the Classroom” by Sarah Straud (I think I could definitely apply some of these strategies and activities in my own classroom), and the “Case Study Approach to Teaching of Physiology” by Chaya Gopalan. Can’t wait to see what you all have in store for us!

… Speaking of not being able to attend the full Conference… Is there any way to still find out what was discussed during other workshops? Will there be posts, forums, or documents uploaded to the HAPS website or Conference app when it’s all said and done so we can keep the conversations going or see what we missed?

3. I will be presenting on Tuesday, from 9:30-10:30 in DA 110. Anyone who is interested in learning more about my experiences, challenges, and successes of being a High School A&P teacher should attend. I really hope we can collaborate together to strengthen the connections between high school teachers and our university counterparts (you)! 🙂

4. And here’s how I figure out why very general questions don’t always work… There are too many things I’m excited about to decide on just one!

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing you at the Conference!

Conference Preparations!

The HAPS Conference is quickly approaching and I am anxiously awaiting its arrival. I downloaded the app and have started to make note of the presentations and workshops I’d like to attend. If you haven’t downloaded the app yet, go get it from the Apple app store/Android Marketplace (it’s awesome!)

If you look through the presentation options, you will see that, yes, yours truly will be presenting Tuesday morning! 🙂 I am really looking forward to chatting and meeting with you! That being said, this year is full of a lot of “firsts” for me, and this will be my first professional presentation of this calibre. I am sure most of you are very well accustomed to presenting to your colleagues and superiors and am hopeful you have a mental checklist or tips you could share! While I am very familiar with presenting to a group of high school students, I’m afraid my typical engagement and reinforcement tactics may not work on the HAPS audience! (But I could be wrong… How do you feel about stamps, stickers, and perhaps mildly inappropriate jokes?) 🙂

My students will be giving their final presentations shortly after I return from the conference so while this is definitely going to be a learning experience for me, I’m excited to turn it into a teachable moment in which I can share my preparation tips and strategies for giving an important presentation. So, what kinds of things do you look for in a “stellar” presentation? How do you prepare for an important presentation, or what would you recommend to your students? What kinds of questions should I prepare for? And lastly, I would like to include my students as much as possible in this experience (because after all, they’re the reason I’m here), so is there any information or questions you’d be interested in knowing about them before the conference or during my presentation? I plan to chat with them a bit this week about the conference and get their perspective and ideas.

And as this week comes to end, let me be the last to say, HAPPY TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK! You are greatly appreciated for all that you do! Some of my most memorable and formative moments happened with and because of my college professors, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I hope you all received the recognition you deserve, and again, thank you!

Science Conference Success

As expected, the NSTA Conference was delightful! My fellow teachers and I gathered lots of resources, great ideas, and some exciting news! I also had the pleasure of running into a few fellow HAPS members and hopefully helped convince a couple other teachers to join in on all our fun! I love chatting with new people, sharing ideas, and brainstorming together, so I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to make some new connections. 

As for our exciting news… with the new bond that was passed for Houston ISD, there is a rumor we will now have a 1:1 student to computer ratio, with a possibility that my school, Chavez HS, will be one of the pilot schools next year! That being said, I feel the need to prepare myself now for this possibility. It sounds like a great idea on paper, but I question whether I am really ready for the challenge. What experience do you have with student laptops/tablets in the classroom? How do you think they can most effectively be utilized in a high school A&P class? 

Perfect Timing


As far as I can tell, this is a very bittersweet time of year, anxiously awaited (and dreaded) by students and teachers alike… Testing season is upon us!

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel: only a couple more weeks of lessons and reviews, and yet so much to cover! And in the midst of all this anxious perseverance, the Conferences and workshops are just beginning!

This week, the other Chavez HS science teachers and I will be venturing to San Antonio for the NSTA Conference (Thanks Chavez HS and HISD!!!).home_banner_img

I’ve already downloaded the app and started planning my attack for all the awesome workshops and seminars! We really can’t wait! Conferences are always a great way to re-energize and get some fresh, creative ideas. And now is the perfect time – with all the reviewing and hectic tutoring schedules, new approaches and a renewed excitement is essential. NSTA must have read our minds! 🙂 The only way we can effectively gear our students up and motivate them to succeed is if we, the teachers, are geared up, full of positivity, and have a well-stocked toolkit of ideas to keep things engaging and rigorous! I’m really looking forward to collaborating with other science teachers and putting some new practices into play in my classroom upon our return.

Will anyone else be at the NSTA Conference? Hope to see some of you there! Let the fun begin!

Thanks, CIS!

Spring break ended last week and we were all back to school. I tried to lessen the blow by doing some fun activities and trying to get the kids thinking about our next system:  the digestive system.

We tried an activity that I received from a teacher in the College in the Schools (CIS) program at the University of Minnesota (big shout out to Murray Jensen and Jeff Adams!) called “Inside vs. Outside the Body”. It was an awesome inquiry/POGIL lesson that really got the kids thinking and coming up with great questions about what it means to be “inside” the body and what exactly that barrier is between inside/outside. I have never before had such interesting conversations as I did with my students that day. The discussion really flows because, especially with high school students, they’re so interested in their bodies (most notably in terms of reproduction), and aren’t afraid to ask any questions they have. It was so cool! This may be cruel of me, but I love to watch them think so hard they start to confuse themselves and then have to work their way out of the corner they’ve been backed into! 🙂 But, I know it’s for their own good, and they’re so much smarter and intuitive than they think, and activities like this really help to prove that.

I wasn’t sure if this activity was a better introductory activity for the beginning of the year or if it would work with a system, but it worked out wonderfully for my students and I will definitely refer back to it often with them, as it can easily be applied to any system. (Although hopefully with a bit more trial and error, I’ll be making steps away from a system to system approach…)

So, thank you CIS teachers for putting together awesome lessons!!! I’d love to test out more, and I’m really hoping to make it to your POGIL workshop!

For those of you unfamiliar with the CIS Program, here’s a link to their website!

Modeling Respiration

As we have moved on to the respiratory system, I really felt strongly about building some kind of simple, hands-on model that the students could use to visualize respiration. To build our models, we used empty water bottles, balloons, straws, and clay (with a limited budget and no lab space, activities like this are wonderful!) The students really enjoyed it and were quite proud of their models.

The process of then writing an explanation to go along with the model definitely helped to solidify the main, general points of respiration and the changes that occur within the body. I was very impressed with some of my students’ insight and detailed explanations! For being such a simple model and activity, I think it was a very successful and helpful visual tool. I know there is always room for improvement, and would love your feedback about this model. Do you see anything that could potentially be misleading or inaccurate?


Also, in our discussions of how and why breathing occurs, some of my students really struggled with the idea of air pressure (atmospheric pressure and air pressure in the thoracic cavity). What is the most straight-forward/simple explanation you can think of to describe this process? When I stepped back to think about it, there really is a lot of foundational knowledge required to understand “air pressure” and without first having a refresher over chemistry and physics (atoms, particles, vacuums and the space between particles, pressure, etc), I had a hard time coming up with a simple, yet accurate enough explanation.

Final Exams

I have successfully made it to my first spring break as a teacher! I’ve often joked throughout this year that I think I’ve worked harder and learned more as a teacher than I ever did in college or high school, which also makes my breaks and time off that much sweeter!book-sunglasses-beach_h5281

I am, however, hoping to use this time off to my advantage and finish up my lesson plans for the rest of the year (but at least this type of work can be done poolside!). When I consider TAKS testing, senior class festivities, and STAAR testing, it feels as though the year is almost over! The one thing I am still deciding about is the type of final exam to administer to my Anatomy and Physiology students. We have covered so much content that a written exam would certainly make sense. But since I have so much free reign with my A&P class, I would much rather stay true to my teaching philosophy and my vision for our A&P program, and allow the students a chance to showcase their creativity, critical thinking skills, and what they have learned throughout the year through some kind of project, experiment, or research.

I am consistently trying to prepare my students for the kinds of labs and projects they will experience in college, but am struggling to narrow the multitude of options to something feasible in a high school classroom. With that in mind, what kind of culminating projects have you done with your students, or do you think would be successful for high schoolers? Do you think a “final project,” as opposed to a written exam, will better prepare them and help them to develop the types of process and problem solving skills they will need in college?

Exciting Opportunities!

A couple of weeks ago I received an email from someone in the Educational Outreach Center at a local medical school. They have designed a unit on the cardiovascular system and cardiovascular health and hope to eventually take it public, free for everyone, on the web. Before they do that, they are trying to test the efficacy of their unit through a field test in over 60 classrooms throughout the Houston area. I applied to be a part of the field study, was accepted, and am beginning to implement my “assignments” in the classroom. I’m excited to see how it works out and to be a part of this!

After going to the orientation meeting for the field study, I was surprised that I didn’t know how many opportunities like this are available. If there’s anything you’re interested in, curious about, or would like to see how it would go over in a high school classroom, please let me know! I’m more than happy to adjust my schedule and test things out with my students. That’s what the first year of teaching is all about anyway, right? 🙂 I’m lucky that my Anatomy students are such a flexible group of kids who really take anything I throw at them in stride.  I love being involved in something that really encourages me to think and work outside of the box, and the students think it’s awesome that they’re involved with a medical school and “cutting-edge” lessons. If there are any other similar programs or professional development opportunities available in the Houston area, I’d love to know about them!

Students tested the effects of exercise on their heart rate
Students tested the effects of exercise on their heart rate

College Readiness

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my driving forces as a high school teacher is to address and reconstruct my students’ misconceptions. What misconceptions do you find that your students have most often? How do you address them: do you find it’s best to correct them immediately, or let the students struggle with their prior thoughts before they eventually get their “ah-ha” moment?

Similarly, I certainly feel the frustration of my students seemingly not having the necessary requisite knowledge to take Anatomy and Physiology. I do not want to do my students a disservice by not addressing their misconceptions at the appropriate time or not allowing them to build the foundation they will need for college courses. So what things do you wish your students knew before they get to you? What do you find your students are lacking most often? I know many high school students do not have the advantage of taking an Anatomy and Physiology course before entering college, so how can I, as a high school teacher, better prepare my students for you? What kinds of knowledge or information do you think gives students a “leg up” in college?