happy multiethnic children discussing structure of primitive organism

Genius Hour Teacher Planner

I am gearing up to do some professional development sessions on Genius Hour this summer, and realized that it might be helpful to have a one-pager for teachers to refer to as they begin planning to do Genius Hour with their students. Genius Hour can come in many forms, depending on your situation, so I thought it might be helpful to have a way to look at the “Big Picture” before designing the details. Most of the planning sheets that I see when I do searches are for the students, but I’d love for you to let me know if you have seen any that are for teachers. I am in the process of updating my Genius Hour resources, including the digital ones, and will let you know when the new and improved page is posted. In the meantime, if you are thinking of doing Genius Hour next school year, feel free to download this planner. Let me know if you see anything that needs to be tweaked! Also, if you are interested in me doing a professional development for your school or district on Genius Hour, Design Thinking, Coding, or Maker Education, please e-mail me at engagetheirminds@gmail.com!

Access the PDF for this page here


I confess that I never heard of Juneteenth until I moved to Texas. Even then, it took years before I realized it was an actual historical event, not just a fun portmanteau. To learn more about Juneteenth, which is now a Federal holiday, you can read this article from Learning for Justice. Another good resource is this article from The Kid Should See This about the Google Doodle for Juneteenth, which includes a video and narration by LeVar Burton. For a teaching resource (if you happen to be in school still, or want to bookmark it for next school year) this page from PBS has good discussion questions and video links while also bringing up the reasons some anti-racists may not be in favor of Juneteenth as a national holiday. For information about the symbolism of the Juneteenth flag, pictured below, see this page.

This resource will be added to my Anti-Racist Wakelet. You can currently find more than 45 other resources at that link.

Image by Wynn Pointaux from Pixabay

Reimagine, Recreate, Restore

The beautiful poem, “Reimagine, Recreate, Restore” was written and performed by Jordan Sanchez for World Environment Day this month. You can’t help but feel inspired to get up each day and do something positive to preserve our beautiful world. I will be adding this to my poetry Wakelet, which also includes this blog post on Spoken Word poetry. To learn more about Jordan Sanchez, visit her website where you can also find other examples of her incredible work.

Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay

My Dog Can’t Do Any Math

So I have this friend who is about to adopt a dog and its foster mom said that it’s a great dog and it even knows how to “perimeter poop.” And I said, “OMG how do you train a dog to perimeter poop?!!!!!” And she said, “I was going to ask you!” Because I have three dogs. But sadly, none of them perimeter poop because I never knew that concept existed — so I guess you could say that they just “area poop.” You’re probably wondering why I am telling you this. Basically because I initially regretted that I never taught my dogs to perimeter poop but then I started regretting that I’m not in the classroom anymore because this could definitely be turned into the kind of math word problem my students would have thoroughly enjoyed. Once a teacher, always a teacher. And then I got philosophical as I realized that this was a classic example of someone having a lot of experience (me: having owned countless dogs) learning from someone new (her: adopting her family’s first dog ever) and that’s the lesson I should impart to you – that no matter how much you think you know about a topic it’s not as impressive as a dog that can defecate with geometric precision.

And since this blog is more about sharing resources, really, than about random thoughts about my inadequacies as a teacher of children and/or canines, here is a math resource on gorilla poop (I couldn’t find one on dogs) from the Lincoln Park Zoo. Or you can watch the video below of Maggie, the Jack Russell who supposedly does math (I think there’s some conspiring going one between Maggie and the owner). I like how one of the young students says in bewilderment, “My dog can’t do any math!”

If you want some more math resources, try my Wakelet of Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep.

The dog who poops on our sidewalk – you know, where we walk

Revisiting Makey Makey

I’ve written a lot about Makey Makey in the past, including recommending it in my “Gifts for the Gifted” series in 2014. (See all of my past recommendations here.) I recently visited their website, and noticed that there is a now a nice layout of lesson plans to use with this versatile tool. Some other ways I’ve seen people use it are as a Book Tasting tool and an Exit Ticket Data Tracker. My students used it for interactive onomatopoeia in one instance, and as a game controller for their Scratch games in our game design unit. There are plenty of ways to get creative with Makey Makey, and it’s very user-friendly. If you are considering integrating more Design Thinking into your classroom, a Makey Makey is an inexpensive way to encourage innovation and experimentation with your students!

image from Josh Burker on Flickr

Thoughts on Critical Race Theory

When news about the teaching of Critical Race Theory becoming a “hot-button” topic started trickling into my social media feeds, I knew I needed to do some research. I had never heard of CRT, and I suspect the issue may even be new to many history teachers. That’s why I thought I would include a few links on the topic in this week’s anti-racist post. I did my best to look for different perspectives on CRT because I think it’s important to understand why people support it as well as why people would like to ban it. The first thing I noticed was, well, there are a lot of words in any article I look for a definition. So, as often happens, I think that people are trying to simplify something that is quite complicated.

The first thing those of us new to the term need to know is that, “CRT is not itself a substantive course or workshop; it is a practice. It is an approach or lens through which an educator can help students examine the role of race and racism in American society,” as Janel George writes in this article for EdWeek. George goes on to explain, “In the K-12 classroom, CRT can be an approach to help students understand how racism has endured past the civil rights era through systems, laws, and policies—and how those same systems, laws, and policies can be transformed.”

What, then, is the threat of Critical Race Theory, according to its opponents? Some people believe that it vilifies White people, and some Black adversaries believe that it actually promotes racism. “I don’t know about you, but telling my child or any child that they are in a permanent oppressed status in America because they are Black is racist – and saying that White people are automatically above me, my children, or any child is racist as well,” stated Keisha King to the Florida Board of Education, according to this article by Sam Dorman of Fox News.

Polarizing attitudes like these generate anger on all sides. I even felt enraged before I knew anything about Critical Race Theory. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for teachers to find themselves in the middle of these battles, and then put into the precarious position of dealing with controversial issues in the classroom. In this NPR interview with Scott Simon, Julian Haynter, a professor at the University of Richmond, advises, “That racial reconciliation is not a zero-sum game, that we can tell a more complete story of American history without making people feel guilty or being made to feel guilty.”

In the Twitter thread below, you can read some other valid points, made by author and historian Justin Hart (@foredoma74):

It seems that many people are forgetting that teachers are practiced in giving information while we remain neutral. I’ve had students discuss and question me about: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, gun control, and hunting many times over the years, and have never revealed my very strong feelings about any of these issues. We give them the facts and tools to make their own decisions. Though there may be some unprofessional educators out there who “indoctrinate” students, the vast majority of us recognize the value of diverse perspectives and values. More importantly, we want all of our students to feel safe and treasured, so the better educated we are, the better we can help them.

As someone who was never taught about the Tulsa Massacre, Jim Crow laws, or Japanese Internment camps during my K-12 years, I am an advocate for giving our students a complete picture of our past so we can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and do better in the future. Learning for Justice has curriculum materials for “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” here. And Edutopia has a very helpful article by Hedreich Nichols for “Productive Classroom Debates on Sensitive Topics.”

Skipping over the difficult parts of our history, where we were anything but heroic and benevolent, will continue to weaken us as a nation, and contribute to destroying us from within.

This post will be added to my collection of Anti-Racism resources here.

Tower of Reconciliation, Tulsa, Image by redkudu from Pixabay