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Envisioning Their Future
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“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Over the past  month, Wildwood 9th graders have been creating a Class of 2015 time capsule. The advisory project presents each student with a unique opportunity to envision their dreams for the future.

Students are tasked with crafting a message to their future selves, as individuals and as a class. The goal is to creatively capture their hopes and dreams, and the emphasis is entirely on the creative. Students can express their wishes in any visual art form, via music, through creative writing, performing arts, or videography.

While their 10th grade peers are busy preparing for Gateway presentations later this month, the 9th graders are engaged in answering essential questions as they construct their time capsule messages, including: Who am I now/Who will I be at the end of 12th grade? and How will the Class of 2015 leave its mark on Wildwood?

Ninth graders (left to right), Sonali B., Maya H., Sarah S-M., and Gleeza F., write their poems

Maya H. is one of several 9th grade girls who chose poetry. “I’m writing a poem called ‘Searching,’” she says. “It’s about how these three high school years really are the time to start to figure out who you are, and who you really want to be.”  Her friend, Sarah S-M., described how her poem’s structure relates to the project. “Each stanza begins with the same three lines related to a theme,” she tells me, “’I was…’ describes who I was in elementary school, ‘I am…’ is about me now, and ‘I will be…’ is about my future—when I graduate.”

Ninth grader, Charlotte V., shows off the visual side of her postcard

In the visual arts room, several other students are engaged in the intricate work of  constructing multi-layered mixed media projects out of construction paper, cut-out photos and images, markers and text. “This is a postcard to my future self,” says 9th grader Charlotte V. “On one side I put out pictures of people and styles that are popular today and on the other, I’m writing a message to myself as a 12th grader about what I hope to be like by then.”

The performing arts group takes a break from their time capsule work

Ninth graders who chose to create a performance piece are now busy choosing dialogue by selecting phrases and words from letters they wrote to their future selves last week. The students read aloud, choosing the words that appeal the most to them. “Fly into life like a bird, my friend,” one student reads. “Relax, everything will be ok,” says another.  Once students have chosen their favorite phrases, teacher Melissa Bales explains, “you’ll get a chance to act these out as a group, and we’ll tape it for you to see when you’re seniors.”

I found the project inspiring, and instructive. I saw students engaged in process, and maybe not entirely aware of the deep work they were accomplishing as they use music, paper, paint and words in constructing blueprints for their future selves. That depth will be revealed, no doubt, when the Class of 2015 opens its class time capsule three years in the future and these students catch a glimpse of their past selves.

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What’s on Deck? Wooly Pockets!
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When middle school science teacher, Deborah Orlik, told me that her 8th grade environmental science class would be planting a vegetable garden on Wildwood’s deck, I didn’t know what to expect. The middle/upper school deck could definitely use a verdant makeover, now mostly a scattering of lunch tables and faculty parking spaces.

As I walked out onto the deck I saw Orlik’s students gathered around what looked, from a distance, like a giant, mobile blackboard. But upon closer inspection I saw the students were hard at work with something I’d never seen before- a vertical garden. Some students were grabbing handfuls of dirt, others held small green plants and placed them inside felt pockets all along the face of the vertical garden.

Sophia H. fills a Wooly Pocket

“They’re called Wooly Pockets,” says Orlik, “and they’re perfect for urban gardens because they take up so little ground space.”

Orlik also told me the deck garden activity is an essential part of her students’ work on a larger project on sustainable cities. “The project requires both investigation and planning for the needs of environmentally sustainable cities in the future,” says Orlik. “We’re focusing our studies on water, food, and energy.” The students will then collaborate to build their own three-dimensional city models which address these three areas of need.  “Today,” Orlik says, “we’re learning how vertical gardening can help urban residents make the best use of their available space.”

Sohpia H. and David O. enjoy a break in the work as Grace K. and others look on

In planting the Wooly Pockets, Orlik’s 8th graders get the opportunity to gain some gardening know-how and skills.

“We’re planting squash, strawberries and mint,” 8th grader, Julia H., tells me. “We need to know which plants grow best under different conditions because we need to have a plan of how to grow food in our city.”

“And,” she adds, “this is way better than learning about gardening in any book.”

Julia H. inspects the greenery

Her classmate, Ally P., connects this class activity with her experience gardening with her grandmother.  “I’m used to planting flowers, especially impatiens,” she says. “I’m learning that vegetables and herbs need to be much more widely spaced than flowers in order to survive.”

Orlik says creating the garden is great example of inquiry-based learning. “This is an emphasis in all of the middle and upper school science courses this year,” she says. “Students learn science best when their curiosities are piqued and they seek explanations themselves- it parallels what scientists actually do in their fields.”

Next stop, Orlik’s students will study waste management and energy issues facing cities in the 21st Century. Wildwood classrooms always anticipates what’s next.

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Discovering California History
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Colleen McGee’s morning message to her 4th grade class set the stage for the day’s social studies lesson: “Good morning, Rancheros!”  Today, Colleen, along with associate teacher Carolyn Peralta, will lead their 4th graders through a persuasive writing exercise set in early 19th Century California- Mexican California, that is.  Their students will be writing letters to the Mexican Governor of Alta California, so that he may grant them a rancho, a tract of land on which to raise cattle, crops and a family.

Colleen McGee and her students generate ideas before writing

To get them started, McGee generates some guidelines along with her students for their written petitions.  Students agree that, in order to get their rancho, they need to explain to the Governor where their desired land is located, along with why they feel that they deserve the land. “And finally,” McGee tells her students, “don’t forget to flatter the Governor.” Fourth grader Jude M. raises her hand and asks, “Does that mean we should butter him up?”  “Exactly,” says McGee.

Mission mosaic

For 4th graders across the state, studying California history is a right of passage.  Likewise, Wildwood 4th graders investigate state history from the arrival of the first aboriginal settlers, through the Spanish conquest and mission period, up to the Gold Rush and Chinese immigration. At Wildwood, however, the study of California history is lively, insightful, and inter-disciplinary.  For example, Colleen’s students enhance their artistic skills by designing and constructing mosaics to portray the various Spanish missions.

Christian B. and Chloe S. craft their petitions

What’s more, all Wildwood students hone their writing skills while studying state history.  “Most of our social studies curriculum is writing-based,” says McGee.  In addition to persuasive writing, Wildwood 4th graders infuse their California history studies with short story writing, poetry, and journalism.  All of this culminates in the “Voices of the West” project, where students create a portfolio of their best work set against the backdrop of California’s past. 

Jude M. contemplates her rancho

As McGee’s students settle into their writing, I check on their progress. Some of the students tell me the names of their ranchos. “Mine’s called Rancho Garcia Dominguez,” says Ryan B. “I’ve called mine Rancho Santa Margarita,” says Christian B., “because I know that there actually was one.”

The other students also work intently, crafting their arguments and imagining their lives in old California, all the while, perfecting their writing skills. If I were governor, I’d be greatly impressed and persuaded. And I’m sure that I’d grant them all their ranchos.

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Physics First, Designed to Last
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“Can I get some volunteers to hold lasers?  We’re going to see sound by making our own laser show.”

On the day I visit Andrew Lappin’s ninth grade conceptual physics class I immediately know that it’s not like anything I remembered from high school.  There are no dry textbook readings or worksheets. No dated filmstrips from the 1970s. No, this is Wildwood upper school’s new introductory science class and it’s definitely captured my attention.

Ninth grade students look at Lappin’s $10 laser show “projector”

To help his students conduct their laser show, Lappin has constructed a makeshift speaker system inside a cardboard box, connected to a stereo receiver. Two rubber membranes cover the speakers on which Lappin has glued small plastic mirrors, which are aimed at a blank whiteboard.

“By the way,” Lappin tells his students, “you can make one of these at home for less than $10.”

“Seeing” sound

The room goes dark and the students point their colored, single-beam lasers at the mirrors. Lappin cranks The Beastie Boys and the show begins. Laser lights begin to dance on the whiteboard, in sync with the drums and bass.  The students are amazed.  Who thought physics could be this awesome?

Homemade laser show

In its inaugural year at Wildwood upper school, conceptual physics follows a trend in science education known as Physics First. The premise is that physics is the most essential of all sciences; the foundation upon which biology and chemistry are built. Additionally, Lappin’s class is designed to reinforce Wildwood’s algebra course, which most ninth graders also take. “After seeing and discussing something like this laser show” Lappin tells me, “students study the math behind the concepts.”

“But,” he adds, “they need to grasp the concepts first.”

So, before delving into the math, the class begins a thoughtful discussion on the physics concepts behind what the students saw in the laser show. In case you’re wondering: Sound travels in waves. The waves coming out of the speakers, the students correctly hypothesized, altered the surrounding air, causing the rubber membranes and mirrors covering the speakers to vibrate.  Those vibrating mirrors distorted the laser lights, causing the light to “wiggle” and “dance” on the whiteboard.  So, indirectly, we see the sound.

Ninth grader Clem C. connects the discussion to a real-world phenomenon. “This reminds me,” she says,  “of how the windows shake when you play really loud music in the car.”  Other students nod their assent and make their own connections.  “I wonder if this has anything to do with the Doppler effect?” says fellow student, Thomas E., who then explains the phenomenon to his classmates.

Some conceptual physics math forumlas

“Making connections is one of the reasons we went to a Physics First curriculum,” Lappin later explained: “To help students recognize physics concepts in their everyday lives.” Another goal, Lappin added, is for students to carry forward this ability to make real-world connections in their biology and chemistry courses in tenth and eleventh grade, respectively. Finally, Lappin posited, is that, “because many concepts in these later courses have their roots in physics, our students will be strongly prepared for the other upper school sciences.”

Academics aside, I was hooked. The laser show and discussion got me thinking about the scientific phenomena all around me. I left conceptual physics class reminiscing about my own high school experiences and wishing that I had had teachers like Andrew to help me to discover the science all around us. This is clearly an advantage that these Wildwood students will take with them through the rest of upper school and beyond.

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Planting Seeds Across the Atlantic– Wildwood Goes to London
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I traveled alone, but I took Wildwood with me.

Last week I had the opportunity to take the best of Wildwood and its advisory program to coach the middle school faculty at The American School in London (ASL).

For years, Wildwood School has been nationally recognized for defining educational best practices with our advisory programs and professional development. We enjoy the many benefits of advisory and teacher-led workshops at home, and through the Wildwood Outreach Center, we’ve continually been exporting those practices to schools across California and nation for over ten years.  Now we are going global, responding to international demand for insights on how we do what we do.

Earlier this year, Outreach Center work took me to Mexico City’s American School Foundation to offer guidance to teachers there, followed by last week’s engagement in London.  As I’ve been so deeply immersed in sharing the Wildwood way, and explaining how it can work in a range of school settings, I feel motivated to pause and ‘lift the hood’, so to speak, and devote some time here to illuminating how we at Wildwood plan and design exceptional educational experiences for students at home and, now, around the world.

Creating meaningful learning experiences for our students begins with inspired Wildwood faculty.  Our culture supports constant conversation among colleagues about how to meet students’ needs, based on the Wildwood philosophy of teacher-as-coach. And, opportunities for specialized professional development are varied.  Wildwood strikes a balance between in-house, teacher-driven work, bringing in outside presenters and experts, and sending faculty to workshops and trainings focused on leading-edge best practices.  In recent years, faculty have integrated ideas from experts in their fields to positively influence our students’ use of technology in the middle and upper schools, while our elementary school language arts faculty attended summer trainings at Columbia University and adopted Writers Workshop strategies.  Wildwood’s collaborative culture then allows faculty to solidify this work by encouraging teachers to coach their peers in implementing new ideas in their classrooms.

My approach in working with the middle school faculty at the American School was similarly aimed at striking a balance between leveraging their in-house expertise and the insights I could offer. I was brought in to consult with them about advisory programs, which I understand from my years as a Wildwood advisor and my experience as a faculty facilitator. But I also brought with me the foundational Wildwood ethos of teacher-as-coach; I knew that this work needed to be driven by the American School teachers rather than me.

ASL’s goals were clear: they wanted help defining the goals of their nascent advisory program and wanted input on redesigning the program to meet those goals. In my two days of observations I saw that, among other things, ASL students weren’t consulted regarding what they felt their strengths, stretches and needs are during the advisory placement process. At Wildwood that is a crucial input to make sure student needs are best met.

I also advised the ASL faculty that school leaders should prioritize shrinking the size of their average advisory from 21 to at most 15 students. The more intimate, small group dynamic is a proven Wildwood practice.

The experiences most reminiscent of Wildwood during my time at ASL were when I facilitated faculty work.  In the Wildwood spirit, I designed and structured a full-day workshop with an advisory planning committee so as to coach the teachers to achieve their goals.  In the same way that a Wildwood elementary teacher coaches her students through the various strategies to solve a math problem, I guided the ASL teachers along their path to finding the solutions that work best for their students.  I offered advice, asked questions, inspired motivation, but I didn’t dictate answers. The result: A solid plan for a revamped advisory program for students in ASL’s middle school.  It’s vibrant and based on a solid foundation and, most importantly, the teachers felt they had created a new beginning for themselves.

At the end of my week at the American School in London, the middle school principal related to me why she felt my time with her faculty had been so positive: “They don’t like someone coming in and telling them what to do, and you didn’t. You guided their work, but you let them make it their own.”  As I reflected on the flight home to LA, I connected her words to what I know works best with students: help them make their learning their own.  This is my take-away, which will reinforce the work that I do with Wildwood faculty—as they make their teaching responsive to students’ needs and their classrooms fertile ground for learning.

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The power of words
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At Wildwood, words and relationships matter, and that’s clear even when you drop in on the K-1 Whale Pod and spend some time with our youngest students.

I arrived before class started and most students were already in the room, anticipating their day.  Some set up chairs at the four small, kid-sized tables.  Others check the day’s schedule to see when they’ll have science and time on the big yard.  Others were checking in with each other as a few parents lingered in the room, socializing and giving good-bye hugs.

Jeremy F. leads morning meeting in the Whale Pod

Everyday, the Whale Pod begins the school day with morning meeting.  Sitting on the floor rug, the eighteen students eagerly await the start. Jeremy F. is the meeting leader, which involves a lot of responsibility. First and foremost he gets to sit in the leader chair.  “Who has news?” Jeremy asks his classmate: eighteen hands go up.

“Morning meeting helps kids transition into the school day,” says Whale Pod head teacher, Sara Lev.  “It’s structured so that every student is recognized and, if he or she wants, allows every student’s voice to be heard.”

The news shared today includes; loose teeth, updates on grandparents who are on the mend, and casual invitations. One student, Max A., explains a new game that he’d like his classmates to try with him today on big yard.

Jeremy then chooses a green dinosaur-tipped pointer and leads the class through the morning message that Sara has written on the board; a message purposely embedded with grammar and punctuation mistakes for students to find and fix.  “Developing literacy skills is extremely important for emergent readers at this age,” Sara explains.

Jeremy F. reads the morning message

After Jeremy leads the class through attendance and the day’s schedule, Sara thanks him and finishes morning meeting with a fun round of freeze dance; the students have been sitting patiently for nearly twenty minutes after all.  Then, the Whale Pod is ready for Reading Workshop.

Today, Ryan Grant will lead the workshop.  Ryan, a student teacher from Antioch University, Los Angeles, has been with the Whale Pod since early January, being mentored by Sara Lev and the pod’s associate teacher, Alli Newell. Today, Ryan will lead the class in a lesson on poetry; specifically the power of poetic imagery.

Ryan reads a haiku aloud and asks the students to visualize the images that come to mind.  With all eyes shut, he shares a translation of a famous Japanese poet, Matsuo Bashō:

An old silent pond…

A frog jumps in the pond

Splash! All is silent again

Nita K.’s drawing

Smiles emerge the students’ faces and Ryan sets their work in motion, asking them to illustrate on paper, any images that the poem elicited for them.  Working at tables and on the floor, the students fill their papers with all manner of blue ponds, green frogs, and turbulent and peaceful waters.  When it’s time to come together in a circle and share, all students are eager to jump in and make a splash with their images.

Nita K., was very pleased with her picture’s simplicity as she shared with the class.  “It’s right when the frog jumps in,” she says, “right after it’s really loud and it’s about to get quiet again.”  Looking at Ryan, I can see the satisfaction on his face.  Nita had captured the power of poetic imagery- when words freeze a moment in time and the mind creates meaning, which can be conveyed and shared with others.

Connections start to grow here, and the Whale Pod day is structured to obliquely emphasize that what we say matters, and what we hear matters. At Wildwood, we believe understanding each other, and ideas, depends on close reading and strong relationships.

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An American Tale
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Here’s the scene: two sisters, Rosa and Donatella, meet in a barren field on a windy Sicilian winter’s day. The year is 1895, and Rosa has made a decision that will forever change both of their lives:

I must leave to live my American dream!”

“Oh, don’t leave, Rosa!”

“But I must. You’ll have to do without me, dear sister.  I’ll write to let you know how I find America so that, one day, you might join me.”

“Rosa, noooo!!”

Rosa and Donatella are played by Wildwood 10th grader Talya C. and 9th grader Carly R. and the Scilian field is actually….a softball diamond at Stoner Park, a few blocks from Wildwood’s Middle and Upper Campus.

Talya and Carly, along with a third partner, 9th grader Kevin F., are students in Laura Forsythe’s Division Three visual arts elective. This is their response to an assignment: write and produce a short film that depicts an immigrant experience during the late 19th Century industrialization period in the U.S.

Talya C. and Carly R. act out their parting scene as Kevin F. films

“The arts connections are clear,” says Forsythe. “As part of their year-long visual arts elective, the students are practicing the elements of filmmaking. Right now most are in pre-production: storyboarding their ideas, identifying locations and creating a shooting schedule.”

On this day Talya, Carly, and Kevin are ahead of the curve as I join them on their filming excursion to Stoner Park. As they set up their tripod and video camera, the students reflect on the project’s deeper connection to their learning in other classes.

The film project, Kevin tells me, is designed to complement students’ recently completed Division Three humanities ‘Suitcase of Dreams’ history project. “We had to research the ‘push’ reasons,” says Kevin, “for why someone like Rosa would leave Italy during the time along with the ‘pull’ reasons for why she would come to the U.S. This is what we’re filming today.”

The film project also illuminates much of what Wildwood values about project based learning. Students are prompted to express and interpret aspects of what they are learning in both humanities and visual arts through storytelling and close collaboration with peers.

Future scenes, according to students, will include Rosa’s journey to America and the challenges she faces once she arrives. For now, the group prepares for their final shot of the day. Talya checks and reminds her partners of their lines, which she has stored….on her smartphone. Rosa and Donatella will soon be parted, but Rosa’s life in America is about to begin, with all the details provided by three Wildwood students.

Carly R. laments her “sister’s” emigration to the U.S. as Kevin F. films

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Which side are you on?
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Lulu V. begins her argument

Eighth grader Lulu V. steps up to the lectern and coolly scans her note cards. If she’s anxious, she doesn’t show it.  Standing just behind the microphone, Lulu passionately presents her position:  “Resolved: Lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.” Her carefully crafted rhetorical argument cites Supreme Court opinions and historical evidence. With her partners looking on, Lulu argues passionately for four minutes.  The debate is on.

Like all of her 7th and 8th grade peers in Division Two, Lulu’s part in the debate is the culmination of her work in a humanities class unit focusing on U.S. Constitutional history, with an emphasis on developing persuasive arguments.

With the guidance of teachers, Lauren Sekula, Don Smith, Sara Kaviar and Megen O’Keefe, students train for this formal debate intensively with writing, observing and analysis of how pros do it. “We analyzed the elements of persuasive speech by watching the recent Republican presidential debates,” says Sara Kaviar.  “The students see the effect that word choice, rhetorical style, and even body language can have on a debater’s effectiveness.”

In teams, students choose debate topics from a menu of authentic, present-day constitutional issues, including religious freedom, censorship, and gun control.  To hone their rhetorical skills, students first write persuasive essays that must include supporting evidence for their position, and anticipate and refute counter arguments. Each of these skills will enhance their oral presentation.

Skye E., Beckett H., and Zachary F. prepare for their debate

And the teachers make sure students are prepared to argue both sides of each case with equal agility, which often means defending positions that run counter to personal beliefs. The exercise requires some serious practice in the Habit of Perspective.  In Kaviar and O’Keefe’s class, 8th grader Gabe F. reflected on the benefits of that challenge. “Even though I don’t personally agree with what I’m arguing, getting ready for this debate has helped me to understand the depth of the other argument. I know that I’ll find myself in plenty of conversations and arguments in my life where that will help.”

Back in Sekula and Smith’s class, Lulu’s debate is coming to a close.  The students on both sides of the argument have done their best to persuade their peers, citing evidence and finding weaknesses in the other side’s positions.  Their fellow students in the class have been following along, taking notes.  After the final rebuttal, Sekula thanks the participants and gives them accolades for a job well done.

Applause and high fives abound.  Thanks to their thoughtful coaching and conversation with their peers, students on both sides of the debate had a new found confidence in presenting a strong argument and walked away with not only a richer knowledge of the topics debated but also a set of critical thinking skills that will serve them as they move through upper school, college, and their adult lives.

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Come out and play!
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At Wildwood, play is important, encouraged, and often, inspired.

At the Wildwood speedway pod students teamed up with partners: one sits on a colored, platform scooter and the other stands behind with hands on partner’s shoulders, ready to “drive” around the figure-8 Wildwood Speedway track. Fun, right? It’s also about the art of negotiation. Wildwood physical education teacher, Tyler Williams, says the Speedway includes a four-way intersection that requires thoughtful navigation. “You have to be safe and look both ways before you go through,” Williams tells the students. He cues the music and twenty students start their way around the track with smiles, laughs, and screams of joy.

Pod students prepare to “race”

The Wildwood Speedway is just one example of the purposeful play that our elementary physical education team designs for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. “The idea is to have fun,” says Williams, “but the kids are also practicing interpersonal skills, like cooperating and caring for others, and especially the Life Skill of common sense.” Williams stops the music, pausing the action, just as two groups of students get into a jam in the Speedway’s intersection.  Williams uses the opportunity to talk the students through strategies to avoid this problem again.

Like so many classes at Wildwood, P.E. is also a collaborative effort.  While one group of pod students are with Williams on the Speedway, fellow P.E. teachers Hasan Muhammad and Darren Pasco coach another group of pod students on the big yard through the finer points of jumping rope.  The students are in groups of three, two students holding the ends of a jump rope and at third poised to leap over.

Pasco tosses out a metaphor to help the kids visualize their jumps. “How do we build a house? We start with the first floor,” says Pasco, as students take their first leap over the held rope. The “house” gets progressively taller, as ropes go higher and students grunt and giggle in their efforts to make it over the rope.

Leaping over the “second floor”

Pasco explains the logic behind this seemingly simple game:  “One of our focuses with the kids at this age is on helping them to develop their gross motor skills.  We start with hopping on one and two legs.  Today you see we’re having the kids jump over a held rope and eventually they’ll learn to jump a spinning rope.” The simple joy of setting a physical challenge and meeting it, brings smiles to their faces- and to their teachers.  “The skills that our kids develop in the pods,” Pasco says, “are the ones that they will build upon as the curriculum moves more into team sports.”

Play more, learn more.  It’s something we understand at Wildwood.

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A Grant for Citizen Science
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How can students observe high energy cosmic events that are invisible to the naked eye? From a cell phone of course! It might be a tad more complicated than that, but students in Levi Simons’ Advanced Topics in Math and Science class are more than up for the challenge.

Levi is the recent recipient of and principal investigator for a grant from the American Physics Society (APS). He will use this grant to fund “The DECO Project”—a new initiative with Wildwood students.

Levi’s project DECO stands for Distributed Electronic Cosmic Ray Observatory. In a flurry of excitement, Levi explained a little bit about cosmic rays, “they’re mostly charged particles that hit the Earth’s atmosphere which then creates an electromagnetic shower of particles that falls to the ground.”

Cosmic ray diagram provided by Levi.

Apparently a cell phone camera can do more than snap a photo. The underlying camera sensor is sensitive to radiation that isn’t visible to humans. Because of this sensitivity, the DECO app was created by Levi and some others in his ongoing partnership with Stanford University to detect and measure the sort of high energy events that cause particle showers.

Levi shows me the DECO app running on one of the project's test phones!

The project will, through this new app, upload and store real data observations to a central system server for post-processing analysis. It is Levi’s hope as the DECO project progresses, that Wildwood students won’t be the only ones analyzing the incoming data. That’s where “citizen science” comes into play.

Citizen science is a relatively new term for volunteer or non-professional scientists involvement in collecting and/or analyzing data and that is distributed to the scientific community. Under Levi’s guidance, his classes are not only learning how to be a citizen scientist and what it means, but they are actually becoming citizen scientists!

“It’s really important to get students involved in gathering and organizing scientific data because by taking on these roles, we free up time for the grad students and professional scientists to analyze the data in ways we’re not yet qualified to do,” Wildwood senior Steven W. said. “It’s also great because we gain more experience for our resumes and find out if these sorts of sciences are paths we want to pursue down the road.”

For those of us whose high school science classes are long gone, it’s likely our experiences involved a teacher lecturing from a text book followed by an experiment they’d been teaching for years. In Levi’s classroom the tables are pushed together and students are working in small groups constantly bouncing ideas off of Levi and one another. There’s palpable energy as brainstorming and exploration abounds. It’s a room filled with peers—a gathering of citizen scientists guided by Levi—their enthusiastic coach.