Sooo … What Happened?

My 5th grade class sent up a high altitude balloon … well actually, Dr. Eric Wang from the University of Nevada, Reno, Mechanical Engineering Department and the NevadaSat program sent up a high altitude balloon from our playground with 2 payloads my class designed.

One of our payloads held 3 party balloons and a bag of Cheetos (a class favorite) to find out what effect air pressure would have on them. My students wrote up the experiment on their blogs and we put up a post on the teacher part of our blog soliciting others’ hypotheses of what would happen.


So what did happen? The balloon blown up to only about 1/4 size – green, was stretched almost to it’s breaking point:

The blue balloon which was inflated to about half size expanded so much in the low pressure of high altitude that it managed to intrude into the view of the camera mounted on the side of the payload at about 80,000 feet until it burst.

The orange balloon filled to full, more or less, pictured below at a fairly low altitude, burst first:

Here is a shot that shows the orange and blue balloons burst, and the green balloon expanding:

A great shot of Lake Tahoe from above 80,000 feet … just for fun:

And a couple of shots of the payload back in our classroom after recovery:

And here are links to almost all our photos:

These taken by my students of pre-launch and launch.

From our main camera payload (it is the payload with the balloons and chip bag on top):

And from the camera that was supposed to be trained directly on the payload with the balloons on top … but we seem to have had somewhat poor aim (but they are WAY cool anyhow!)

My students will be writing this up on their own blogs as well! Wait until you find out the story about where our balloon landed! But you’ll have to read my students’ blog posts about that next week to find out!

Learning is messy!!! (and a blast!)

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What Do You Think Will Happen?

If you are a teacher here is a simple science / blogging project your students (or just you) can participate in. If you are NOT a teacher, participate yourself (it’s simple) or have your own children participate. We are sending up a high altitude balloon 100,000 feet. We are going to attach a green balloon, a blue balloon, an orange balloon and a Cheetos bag on one of our payloads. The orange one is full of air, the blue one is half full, and the green party balloon is filled about ¼ of the way with air. We are also attaching a Cheetos bag – snack size on the top of the payload. Next, we will send the payload up over 100,000 feet on a high altitude balloon. What do you think will happen to the balloons and chip bag? Leave a comment by following the link below or one of the student posts telling what you think will happen to each balloon and the chip bag. What effect will going up almost 20 miles high have? We will post photos later on our class blog to show what happened. LEAVE YOUR ANSWER (HYPOTHESIS) here by clicking on the “ADD A COMMENT” tab after the photos.

Here is a link to the photos one of our cameras took – one of the lakes you see is Lake Tahoe, the other is Pyramid Lake.

Learning is messy!

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What if you come for a shuttle launch and the shuttle doesn’t launch?

A waste of time? Hardly. My trip made people where I’m from more aware of the what school could become. Our local paper did a short article, and although I was supposed to Skype in an interview (the usual “convention effect” bogged the internet to a crawl) I did do a phone interview with a TV station as well. Even before I left on my trip I was asked by teachers and parents to explain what I was doing and what educational impact it could possibly make … so I had those conversations too.

Most importantly I connected with my students and other classrooms, and shared what was going on. It could have been much better. I could have streamed video of some of the events and provided virtual tours of what I saw. I had planned to Skype as well. But between not having someone at my school that could assist on that end, and my concern about bandwidth at an event attended by mega-geeks with big cameras requiring huge file downloads, I knew that would be problematic. That didn’t matter. Through Flickr and our class blog, and wikis to a lesser extent, I connected and assigned writings and research and have a backlog of lesson ideas for science (Spiders In Space! Oh my!) and creative writing and more. When I return to class on Monday we can follow through and expand on what was started.

I might mention that my students are just a bit excited and motivated about the entire experience. Coming into class in the morning to see what I had already left for them on their blogs. To open up Flickr and view the photos I’d posted and continually updated. And then finding out online about things I was seeing and they were seeing pictures of often within minutes of me taking them. Monday I can add the stories behind the pictures and my postings, and in doing so I will be as excited as they are and we will get each other fired up to learn even more.

Tweetup attendees heard from astronauts that have flown on the shuttle. Had the “Spiders In Space” experiment shared with us by the scientist leading the program. The NASA meteorologist explained the weather patterns that effect spaceflight, and on and on.

Being part of the Tweetup also grants you access through your “semi” press badge through guard gates to places most visitors only see from afar. The air-conditioned tent they had set up for us was maybe 100 meters from here:

The Vehicle Assembly Building where the parts of the space shuttle are put together. We got access inside. Besides being amazed at the vastness of the place, you could just grab a glimpse of the Atlantis Shuttle that will launch (the last shuttle launch) scheduled for later this summer where it is being held in place as it is being readied for it’s last trip.

Of course I’m disappointed in not experiencing the launch (there is one more … Hmmm), but this was far from a wasted trip! It was just another messy learning experience!

Learning is messy!

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Link To High Hopes 2 Project

If you ended up here to leave your “High Hope” for the world to go up over 100,000 feet on a high altitude balloon. CLICK HERE.

To see video of last year’s launch CLICK HERE. (note this video is yet to be narrated, but is still way cool to watch)

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On My Way – NASA Tweetup/sts-134-launch

I’m writing quickly from the airport in Salt Lake City, Utah. I’m soon to catch the second in a trilogy of flights that will end in Orlando, Florida, at 6:00am Thursday morning (how much sleep will I get???), and from there I will rush out to Cape Canaveral to be one of many lucky folks chosen by NASA to be part of their “Tweet-up” for the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. I haven’t written much about this here because I was never sure I was REALLY going to make the trip until the last few days. Things fell into place mainly because friends would not allow me to not go.

My school district has frozen all budgets, so even though this trip has huge educational possibilities there were just no funds available. But my colleagues at Powerful Learning Practice passed the hat (Thanks a ton guys!!!) and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach used her precious air-miles to cover my flight – a true angel! An anonymous contributor also kicked in and by that time I couldn’t say no.

I’ve spent the last few school days preparing my students to work through their blogs and Flickr and more to participate with me as much as possible … I would have Skyped with them or even Streamed video out, but no one at my school could help support that, and non of the substitutes I know that could pull that off were available. So we will be working together some now … but much more when I’m back. As Dr. Cannon at the University of Nevada, Reno always says, “activity before content!”

In addition, when I get back we launch a high altitude balloon … well really 3 at once … 2 using hydrogen gas and 1 (at my school) using helium. We are going to coordinate the launches so they are simutaneous. We are printing out the “High Hopes” people are sending us on “fortune cookie size” strips of paper and sticking them inside the balloons so when the balloon bursts the worlds “high hopes” will flutter down and become one with the Earth (it’s all very symbolic – and we are using a paper that will degrade very quickly). Well they are calling my flight … on to Los Angeles!

Learning is messy!

Posted in Brian Crosby, Education, Field Trips, Messy Learning, Student Access, Teacher Access, Technology, Twitter, Uncategorized, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment

High Hopes Balloon Project 2

Next Wednesday, May 4, 2011, my students will be part of a 3 balloon launch from 2 elementary schools. The photo above was taken from about 107,000 feet a year ago during our last launch. Like last year, along with various science data we are collecting, we are sending our “high hopes” for the world up high. With the various strife happening in the world presently this seems like a timely project! Follow this link to add your High Hopes as a comment. Alternately you can leave your “High Hope” as a Tweet – just use this hashtag – #HHBalloon We will print them out and they will all become High Hopes as passengers on our balloons!


Learning is messy!

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My Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch Adventure UPDATE

Not that I didn’t know what I was getting into. I mean everyone, um … most people, uh … many of us know that any kind of space mission is at the mercy of the weather, technical issues, and more – and any or all of these can change the schedule. So being on the other side of the country and trying to make flight and hotel reservations that are required to be “soft” and “flexible” (according to the email NASA – that’s right … I get emails straight from NASA now) is an adventure all in itself.

One of the issues of being an elementary teacher is what you have going on in class at any time … as well as what is happening with your family … and just up and leaving for 3 or 4 days. So things were stacking up against the original date for launch and my ability to make it … but today (and I had some “inside information” that only hundreds of thousands of people were privy to, that there would be a launch date change today – sorry I was sworn to secrecy), so things are still not for sure (although I have gotten “some” funding) at least the current date according to NASA (did I mention I get emails right from the actual NASA??? – I do):

“As we noted in the details email you received, numerous factors can cause a scheduled launch date to change, and the targeted launch date for space shuttle Endeavour’s STS-134 mission to the International Space Station has been changed. The new targeted lift off is 3:47 p.m. EDT on Friday, April 29.Endeavor’s launch date will not be scheduled officially until after the Flight Readiness Review, which is now re-scheduled for April 19.

So things are looking up, but not a for sure … we are launching a couple of high altitude balloons around that time … probably not something to turn over to a sub … so I’m doing my best to make it happen.

Launching … er … Learning is messy!

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So Simple A Child Could Do It? Or, It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard To Be Good!

I’ve been part of some incredible, and even complicated projects that have utilized combinations of Google Docs, Wikis, Blogs and on and on (we’re part of one now – more on that another time) and have involved students across the country and around the world. But today we (a few of my fifth graders that came in during their lunch recess) did this incredible thing:

We Skyped for 5 minutes with Kathy Cassidy’s 1st grade class and shared what jobs (chores) we do around the house (I even got to share mine!). That was it. 5 minutes, during recess … and the 4 students that came in had smiles as big as the great outdoors … and want to leave comments on their new friends’ blog ASAP (so they would be writing because they want to … with 1st graders! … let it sink in).

AND if you knew the students (well 3 of the 4) that came in … you’d have to know my students real well … that was the biggest part of this story … not the students you would guess IF you knew my students well … the tough guys … the cool people that you would guess would think this was dumb. When everyone came back from recess, you’d never guess what they heard as they entered the door and what they feel left out about now – because these guys were all-stars with 1st graders!

5 Minutes during recess. Because it’s easy … and free … and important in ways so many just don’t get.

Learning is messy … and not always all that hard! : )

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Repost of TEDxDenverED

I’ve had a flurry of requests … well um …  several (3) readers that suggested I post a link to my TEDxDenverEd Talk Last summer – so here it is:

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Leaving Their Mark – Redux

At TEDxNYED, Alan November kicked off the event with his “TALK” – Who Owns The Learning? where he asks, “Are your students leaving a legacy?” It’s a very worthwhile 15 minutes. While watching him that day I thought back to this post on my blog from 2 years ago, because it was my exact point, my students were leaving a legacy.  As you read it, and perhaps follow some of the links, think about the work your students are doing:


The end of the school year is always tough. Lots still to do, lots of emotions, lots of memories. This one is tougher than most because not only are we closing in on the end of another school year, we are coming to the end of 3 years together. As I was reflecting upon this the other day it occurred to me just how large a legacy this class is leaving behind.

This has been my first experience in a 1:1 laptop classroom. It certainly isn’t all about the technology, but the technology really has leveraged what they have accomplished because it has connected them easily to so many and allowed them to share and archive those connections easily along the way.

It started in fourth grade when we began blogging and learning about being understood and being careful with language so it meant what we meant and was clear to the reader. Their blogs became a way to share their stories, but also what we did and learned and what we accomplished, and we accomplished a lot. When I broke the news to them in December of 2006 that we had a student that showed up on my attendance and that we had never seen her - but that there might be a way to include her in our classroom using Skype video-conferencing, they were intrigued and awed that we might do that. After our first experience we decided to share it with the world and in just a few short weeks the students had designed and produced a video that taught the world just how powerful these new tools can be.  Their video has been downloaded thousands and thousands of times. (Update – about a million times now)

Not only did we use Skype most days to include our classmate, we also began making connections with others. We were interviewed over Skype by Lee Baber’s class in Virginia about our experience and made connections with other classrooms about science and other topics.

We were very fortunate that our classroom was chosen to have a special guest. Grace Corrigan, the mother of Christa McAuliffe, the  “Teacher in Space” who died tragically when the space shuttle Challenger exploded during launch visited our room, and we Skyped out her visit to classrooms in Virginia and New York and they were able to take part in the question and answer period Grace agreed to.

To finish off that year we visited a local animal park, Animal Ark, and afterwards designed a wiki page to help further anyone’s learning about the animals there and included a lesson and video about designing your own animal.

In fifth grade as we continued to blog about our experiences, my students’ exploits became known to others and so we would get contacted by schools to participate with them – usually because they didn’t know of anyone else that knew how. One such experience was Skyping in George Mayo’s middle school class from Maryland. They had made some short videos and wanted us to watch them and give them feedback. It was easier for them to have us do this than the elementary school NEXT DOOR because they were at lunch when this class met and they couldn’t work out the details. We watched  and wrote our reactions to their videos and gave them feedback when we Skyped, and they asked us questions about including our classmate.

I was contacted by Skype about making a short film about our “Inclusion” experience. They sent a film crew to our classroom to shoot a mini documentary about how we did it. Even though our classmate was now with us in the classroom, they had her stay home one day and do school from her computer. They hung lights in our room and shot video all morning as we did what we usually do. They interviewed students and then packed up and shot in the afternoon from our classmate’s house. They produced 2 versions of the video. Here and here.

We continued to blog almost every day either writing new posts or reading and commenting on others. We built relationships with a number of classes around the world and to help keep track we began adding links to them on our class wiki page. Most of my students are second language learners and when we started blogging it would take most of them a week to edit a post into publishable quality. I don’t require my students to have zero errors on a piece before it publishes, but my students’ writing skills were very poor in general. They used poor English and grammar and punctuation was almost nonexistent in some students’ work. They left out the details that made meaning for the reader, and we won’t go into spelling. At first students would write their posts by hand on lined paper and edit them several times before word processing them. Next they would print them out in a large size, double spaced to have room for editing. Many students would have 5 or more copies of their story all marked up by me in 1:1 meetings with them before their work was “publishable.” That’s why it took a week. By the end of fourth grade about half the class would publish in 2 days. And by the middle of 5th grade some students were publishing the same day as the assignment was given, and almost all were publishing in 2 days. We killed a lot of trees the first year, and I (and they) felt bad about that, but the impact it had on their English, spelling, punctuation, style and more was worth it. And the students continue to write and write and write (but we don’t print very often anymore).

During fifth grade, I believe initially over Twitter, but then in email, a fifth grade teacher in New York, Lisa Parisi, mentioned to me how much she liked the comments my students left on her students’ blogs. I explained that we had really been working on the quality and substance of our comments, not just saying, “Nice post” or “I liked your post” but also explaining why. Our students began doing more reading and commenting on each others posts.

Lisa and I wanted our classes to do a project together and so the “Mysteries of Harris Burdick” writing project was bornThis book, written by Chris Van Allsburg, is the ultimate writing starter I’ve ever seen. After reading and discussing the book in class our students wrote collaborative stories using Google Docs so they could work at the same time on their stories even though they were thousands of miles apart. They even discussed things over Skype so they could meet their co-writers and have discussions about where their stories were going. Other teachers joined the project and paired their classes. The project won an award.

This year we participated in 2 projects that stressed being safe online. We talk about safety fairly often, pretty much anytime we use a new application – blogs, wikis, Flickr and so on and anytime it comes up in the news we tend to review the issues and what the people involved did right or wrong that caused or helped the problem that came up. We participated with a bunch of schools all over the world in the “7 Random Facts” project … sharing seven random facts about yourself without revealing any information that could identify you. By request we followed that up by participating with another class in another safety project where the students wrote vignettes about someone NOT being safe online and then wrote a moral to the story. We shared them in a Skype session with the other class. During this time students in my class shared that they had MySpace and other sites that they were really too young to have and that they had taken down inappropriate information about themselves.

The “Around the World with 80 Schools” project this year has been incredible in how it has made my students more aware of world geography as they met and talked with students on almost every continent.

Most recently we are finishing up our Reno Bike Project, project where we are helping a local non-profit organization that rehabilitates old bikes and sells them inexpensively, spread the word to get people to donate bikes to them. The Public Service Announcement and web pages they designed were just published and we are doing some other activities to help get word out.

I’ve left plenty out here to save space, but the point is these students have left a mark, a legacy that will survive their graduation to middle school and beyond. Not only have they done community service that effects their community, but they have participated globally and left the archive for others to ponder and I hope improve on. Most importantly they have vastly improved their writing, research, communication and numerous other skills along the way. They were only held back by my limitations and the limitations of the system.

I’ve learned at least as much as they have and I believe I’m a better teacher for it. I’m chomping at the bit to take what I’ve learned and share it with my new class. As of this writing I’m being moved down to 4th grade again to begin a roll up to 5th and hopefully sixth grade again. I’m really going to miss this class and I want them to know that and to know they have made more of a difference in this world than they realize. They can be proud!

Learning is messy!

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