The Classroom of Michael Pope, using SIMOC The Classroom of Michael Pope, using SIMOC

The year is 2020 blurring into 2021 and teaching as we know it has changed for now, perhaps forever. The demand to use technology and data has permeated past the filters of the monthly teacher faculty meetings and right into the classroom itself. With the Covid pandemic separating students from students and teachers from students, how can a STEM teacher find ways to connect during a time of literally a great disconnect? I check my emails and my eye catches sight of an email from Tyson Brown and my mind drifts to a past daydream of the red planet.

What kind of, “Good Trouble” I can get into with this interactive digital resource?

This year I am teaching 7th grade science. While the space portion of our studies is limited, Mars does pop up. The difference between this interactive, web based program and what I am currently using is just that. The program gives students the feel of, while conducting activities, being a real scientist or a science team monitoring—or actually living on the planet Mars. This connects well as an extension idea with the current curriculum activity Continue Your Exploration activity called “Destination Mars.” Especially now with the Mars Rover Perseverance set to land in less than a week.

Since my move from mathematics back to science this semester, most of my time has been spent learning the ins and outs of the new curriculum and the district expectations. Unfortunately, SIMOC was not the center piece that I had hoped for but served more as a way to support the core concept and the excitement around the Mars rover landing.

Presently, I have a small, core group of students who are working with the program, excited to make the connection to the current world-wide event next week. I think that after I get my foundation in the new curriculum I will bring in more students and then a class or two. Next year, I can see this being a portion of the third quarter lesson and all students can be involved.

When I initially previewed the program I liked the data streams and simulations it provided. It was what I was used to using and similar to the GAVRT program my students and I used many years ago. The student testing group was giddy with excitement. After I explained more about the data collection protocols and potential, they got even more excited. They were discussing the potential to have larger group sizes with the program and other food options.

The potential is definitely there and if I keep playing with it and asking more questions to my students, I am sure more constructive ideas will be forthcoming. The student take-away would have to be that science is fun and the research does not have to be boring and dull. The face of education has changed and the venue may be fluid, but one thing remains the same—students want to learn. Regardless of the fear of a pandemic and removal of the human connection via distance learning nothing can stop education. As long as there is a student hungry to explore and a longing thirst for knowledge, teachers will serve up a meal in the digital or analog world.

SIMOC proved to be a great tool in my classroom.