Entries Categorized as 'Books'

Teaching Creativity

June 1, 2015

Tina Seelig teaches creativity and innovation at Stanford. She has a new book out on the topic called Insight Out. She answered questions about the book recently and gave this answer (I’ve reformatted it into bullet points for clarity):


The model I present in Insight Out describes a series of steps from ideas to actions. Each step requires more effort than the one before.

  • Imagination requires engaging and envisioning what might be different.
  • Creativity is applying your imagination to solve a problem. This requires motivation and experimentation.
  • Innovation is applying creativity to come up with unique solutions. This requires focus and reframing. And,
  • entrepreneurship is applying innovations to bring the to the world. This requires persistence and inspiring others.

–Tina Seelig on Reddit.com.

In response to a question about testing students:

  • I don’t test my students. In fact, I tell them to never ask about their course grade. :)

    I want the students to be internally motivated. I tell them that I expect them to put as much work into the course as I do, and that they should “never miss an opportunity to be fabulous.” Guess what? It works! They are waiting for someone to give them this freedom to tap into their own motivation, not respond to an external motivation.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2015. Teaching Creativity, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

On the Origin of Species

September 16, 2012

Perhaps the key reason for the profound influence of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” is that it’s such a well written and well reasoned argument based on years of study. It is a wonderful example of how science should be done, and how it should be presented. In the past I’ve had my middle schoolers try to translate sections of Darwin’s writing into plainer, more modern English, with some very good results. They pick up a lot of vocabulary, and are introduced to longer, more complex sentences that are, however, clearly written.

Diagram and notes on the bird species P.Nanus from The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, Part 3: Birds by J. Gould and G.R. Gray (edited by C.Darwin). Image via Darwin Online.

The text of “On the Origin of Species” is available for free from the Gutenberg library. Images of the original document can be found (also for free) at the UK website, Darwin Online (which also includes the Darwin’s annotated copy). Darwin Online also hosts lot of Darwin’s other works, as well as notes of the other scientists on The Beagle, among which is included some wonderful scientific diagrams.

This year, I’m going to have the middle schoolers read the introduction, while the honors environmental science students will read selected chapters and present to the class — this will be their off-block assignment.

Diagram of the fish Cofsyphus Darwini by L. Jenyns in The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, Part 4: Fish (edited by C.Darwin). Image via Darwin Online.. .

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2012. On the Origin of Species, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Teaching as an Apprenticeship

August 15, 2012

I’ve always favored an apprenticeship (epistemological) model for teaching. Not so much learning facts, but learning how people with long experience in an area approach problems to be solved. So to have students do what scientists do (or historians for that matter), and to model how these experts think.

David Brook’s, The Social Animal, expresses this philosophy in a more narrative form:

Of course, Ms. Taylor wanted to impart knowledge, the sort of stuff that shows up on tests. But within weeks, students forget 90 percent of the knowledge they learn in class anyway. The only point of being a teacher is to do more than impart facts; it’s to shape the way students perceive the world, to help a student absorb the rules of a discipline. …

She didn’t so much teach them as apprentice them. Much unconscious learning is done through immitation. She exhibited ways of thinking through a problem and then hoped her students participated along with her.

She forced them to make mistakes. …

She tried to get students to interrogate their own unconscious opinions. …

She also forced them to work. …

— Brooks, D., 2012: The Social Animal.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2012. Teaching as an Apprenticeship, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

What Causes Autism?

April 18, 2012

Martha Herbert argues that diet and environmental toxins play a significant role in creating autism in an interview with Anne Strainchamps on To the Best Of Our Knowledge.

After much thought, I have come to the formulation that autism may be most comprehensively understood and helped through an inclusive whole-body systems approach, where genes and environment are understood to interplay.

— from Martha Herbert’s Website.

Herbert is the author of The Autism Revolution, and her website also hosts her scientific publications.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2012. What Causes Autism?, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Foraging for Food

April 15, 2012

The Splendid Table has an enticing interview with Hank Shaw who just wrote a book on foraging for food in the woods and how to cook what you find. The book’s called, “Hunt, Gather, Cook“.

Shaw’s website is full of details about his adventures in foraging, as well as a lot of recipes — including some excellent photographs of the work in progress.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2012. Foraging for Food, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Discovering the Discworld: Where to Start With Terry Pratchett

November 14, 2011

Rowan Kaiser asserts that Mort‘s the best place to start to discover the wonderful novels of Terry Pratchett.

the Discworld books combine silliness, satire, philosophy, and strong characterization to create a unique, often wonderful tone that’s more than capable of supporting a series with so many installments. But the number of installments can seem overwhelming, especially given that while the books have standalone narratives, they also have consistent sets of characters who develop over the course of the series, leading to an apparently complicated web of a few different, occasionally overlapping series-within-a-series.

–Kaiser (2011): Gateways To Geekery: Terry Pratchett novels in The Onion’s A.V. Club.

My recommendation would be one of her runner-up gateways — either Guards! Guards! or Wyrd Sisters — but she makes good points. Her third runner-up, Small Gods, which is one of the stand-alone novels is one of my favorites, and was my first Pratchett book. And it got me hooked.

Pratchett’s work is intelligent fantasy, in that it’s a lot like the hard science fiction I prefer. It sets up the rules of its universe and then follows them to their logical conclusions, no matter how absurd.

I often wonder how these books would appeal to adolescents since there’s a distinct possibility that much of the quite enjoyable satire would pass over their heads. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents won the Carnegie Medal for children/young adults, but while it retains Pratchett’s characteristic style and humor, it was written for a younger demographic, unlike most of his other books. I did get one student to read Small Gods, and her response, with a grimace was, “It made me think“.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2011. Discovering the Discworld: Where to Start With Terry Pratchett, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Adolescents Versus Their Brains

August 15, 2011

The part of the brain responsible for logic and reasoning is slow to develop compared to the rest during our adolescence. As a result, adolescents are driven way too much by their emotions and instincts. This means that a lot of the time someone else, teachers and parents usually, have to provide that rationality for them, and help them develop those thinking skills for themselves.

That, at least, was my take-home message after reading David Walsh’s excellent book Why Do They Act That Way. He does an excellent job explaining how the brain develops during adolescence, how it affects the way teenagers behave, and some of the best approaches to dealing with it.

There are a lot of excellent details about how brain development interacts with hormones to create many of the behaviors we find typical of teenagers. Since puberty proceeds differently for girls and boys, Walsh also highlights the differences in the timing of development, and the contrasting results of the different hormones released.

Yet, he also recognizes that adolescent behavior is not solely the result of biology. The effects of neurological and hormonal changes are amplified in industrial societies where kids spend less time with parents, and more time with peers, than in non-WIERD cultures (see The Myth of Adolescent Angst) which leads into his approach to dealing with teens.

To address this unfortunate combination of nature and culture, Walsh advocates a structured approach to parenting, where rules are clear, reasonable, and enforced. This, however, needs to be balanced with the need to keep lines of communication open, which is not an easy trick. Teenagers will want to push you away, but it’s necessary to keep connected to them anyway.

He also emphasizes the need for mentoring good behavior and rational thinking, because, as we’ve seen before, while the developing pre-frontal cortex provides the capacity for formal thinking, it needs practice and training to work well. And, after all, two of the key things we ultimately look for in adults are self-control and the ability to think rationally.

This book is an extremely useful read for parents and teachers (though the first chapter is a bit slow for the impatient). It does a great job of explaining how biology affects behavior, and how to deal with them. I particularly like fact that Walsh has found that teens find it useful to know all this biology stuff too, and it affects how they behave.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2011. Adolescents Versus Their Brains, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

Guide to Using a Microscope

August 11, 2011

Sitting innocuously on the clearance table at a Barnes & Noble (in Cedar Rapid, Iowa actually) was a copy of Georg Stehli’s The Microscope and How to Use It.

At 75% off it was less than $3, which is quite a steal for a guide to what I found to be the most fascinating piece of scientific equipment for my middle schoolers. One of their first natural world lessons was on how to use the microscope. In the classroom there was always one sitting on the shelf, protected by its translucent plastic cover, but easily accessible.

I also took one everywhere, including to the cabins on our immersion trips, which is where they discovered the crystalline structure of salt and sugar grains, and the microfossils at Coon Creek.

And, interestingly enough, my microscopy posts are some of the most popular posts on this blog (the onion cell is regularly in the top ten).

The Microscope and how to use it by Georg Stehli.

Apart from the basics of how to use a microscope, Stehli’s book goes into simple sample preparations and preservation for almost everything you’re likely to encounter in the curriculum, in the classroom, and in the back yard. Though neither crystal structure nor microfossils are covered, the techniques for looking a the hard parts of biological specimens are applicable.

I would have loved to have had a copy of this last year when I was trying to figure out which were the best dyes to use for some of the odder samples my students came up with, and how to make them into permanent slides. It’s not easy to find this kind of broad reference online.

Citing this post: Urbano, L., 2011. Guide to Using a Microscope, Retrieved February 23rd, 2018, from Montessori Muddle: http://MontessoriMuddle.org/ .
Attribution (Curator's Code ): Via: Montessori Muddle; Hat tip: Montessori Muddle.

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