Friday, August 31, 2007

One Fast Day

Somewhere I think I am missing a couple of hours. Today went by so fast. Part of that is that our morning was taken up with spelling test, Spanish, and Type to Learn. We worked on a problem solving activity for math that is really challenging. The big hint is to start with yellow and work from there. It was really funny, Mr. Eltiste and I got into a big debate (we are always on different sides of everything) about whether or not another answer would work. We still don’t agree. I think that there is only one correct answer, he things there are two possible correct answers. I might post more of this discussion later, after the papers are turned in. We also spent the afternoon working on latitude and longitude. I think the kids are finally getting the hang of it. It would be nice if we had better desk maps because those really help when the kids can draw the lines and look for where they intersect.

I hope everyone has a great long weekend. I will be traveling to Iowa on Sunday to go to a Pig Roast. I have gone to it almost every year for the last 32 years. I am only 31. My mom actually went the year she was pregnant with me. I am there measuring stick to remember how many years they have had it because that was the first year. Enjoy the extra day off.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Loads of Visitors!

We had a lot of different people in the room today. We have a student from William Jewell College, Mr. Walrond, that will be with us on Thursdays for the next 7 weeks. He is completing a requirement for one of his classes. I think he is a really great guy and has a lot to offer to the kids. I am anxious to see what kinds of lessons he comes up with. He will be teaching just a few lessons in his time at Manor Hill.

We also had some visitors from Leavenworth schools that watched a math lesson today. Leavenworth is implementing Everyday Math for the first time. It is always fun to talk to teachers from different school districts.

We finished up our science experiment page today as well as spent some time working on longitude and latitude. We used professional football teams to help us with this. Students had to find the cities from some pro football teams. It was funny, one of the kids came up to me and asked if they could find their favorite team and find the latitude and longitude for them. Absolutely, so the next kid asked if they had to keep it to pro football. No way, you can look up any team you want! They were totally excited when I told them they could find as many others as they wanted. Who am I to argue when the kids want to do more practice on something.

Don’t forget that Parent Information Evening is tonight!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't Forge the Slow Buffalo!

We had a great discussion today about the scientific method. We talked about each of the five steps (see below) and what they mean to an experiment and to real scientists. We also related a lot of it back to experiments that I will be taking on the zero gravity flight in October. Then we did something that turned out really cool. We designed a page to use this year for experiments. We have some software here at school that allows us to do graphic organizers. We did a brainstorm about each of the different parts and what we thought should be included. I had a few ideas going in but the kids just blew me away with some of the stuff they came up with. So we got about ¾ of the way done. We still have to come up with a way to grade it and a way to communicate our results. I can’t wait to see what the kids come up with for that. The nice thing about this is that the kids really did help build their assignment and they know that it is open. If they see something after we do our first experiment with it that they don’t like, we can change it.

Scientific Method
1. Observe and ask questions
2. Form a hypothesis
3. Plan the experiment
4. Conduct the experiment
5. Draw conclusions and communicate results.

Another fun discussion we had in the middle of the scientific method lesson was about buffalo. Someone asked about kids getting ahead of others during the planning phase of the experiment. Great thought, if a kid is lost, they aren’t going to get anything out of the experiment. So we talked about how a herd of buffalo is only as fast as the slowest buffalo and that the other buffalo need to help protect the slow one. We also talked about how everyone will be the slow buffalo every once in a while depending on background knowledge and experience with different concepts. I think the kids really got it and liked the idea of some people being fast buffalo on some things and not others. So our new class slogan is “Don’t forget the slow buffalo.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Latitude and Longitude

Every year I am amazed at how easy it is to teach latitude and longitude and how hard it is for the kids to actually use. We started learning about it today and did a bunch of practice together but when the kids went out on their own (actually with partners) they really struggled. We will be working on this concept for the next three days. The way I showed the kids to remember is that latitude is like climbing a ladder and longitude lines are really loooooong. Tomorrow we will be doing more activities and we will be using a different set of desk maps to help us. I hope that the kids remembered to take their social studies books home since we don’t send the desk maps.

In math square numbers were the topic for the day. It seemed like the kids picked up on it really quickly, which is good because that is a huge foundation for some of the stuff we will do later. Exponents are easily confused by the kids, they often think that they just multiply the base number times the exponent. This is incorrect. You actually take the base number times itself the number of times that the exponent says. For square numbers this isn’t too hard to remember but when we get into bigger exponents it gets tough.

Another big topic of discussion today was turning work in. It seems like today and yesterday we have had a lot of no name work, or worked turned in without being completed or without attaching evaluation forms. Much of this is just beginning of the year mistakes so I’m not too worried about it. If it continues next week, then I will become more concerned. I am firmly convinced that students that turn in all their work will do very will in fifth grade. Those that have a lot of missing assignments have low grades. A zero in the grade book really hurts a grade. I will be going over how grading works on Thursday night at Parent Information Evening. If I haven’t mentioned it, Parent Information Evening is on Thursday night. I highly encourage everyone to come that night.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Prime numbers and the Sieve of Eratoshthanese were the focus of math today. While we learned last week about what prime numbers are (ask your kid if you don’t remember) today we looked at a cool way to figure out the prime numbers between 1 and 100. The funny thing about this is that it was created in the 3rd Century BC by the same mathematician that figured out the circumference of the earth. I have taught a similar lesson to this for the last seven years and only this summer did I learn that I had kind of been doing it wrong. Not really wrong, but the way I taught it today was much better and amazingly enough, I think the kids understood it better. We also played a game in class called BUZZ. Basically you just count from 1 to 100 in a circle but whenever you get to a prime number you don’t say the number, you just say “buzz.” The kids enjoyed it and it helped us remember our prime numbers. One of the things I was most encouraged with was that many of the kids said that they were using divisibility rules and patters to determine if they had a composite number or if they had to say buzz. That is exactly what I want them doing. I can’t remember all the prime numbers between 1 and 100 but I can figure them out.

I also want to take a minute to plug the upcoming Parent Information Evening. It starts at 6:00 on Thursday night. There are two sessions for parents that have more than one kid. Please try to make it to one of the sessions. I will be going over a lot of the classroom procedures and answering any questions that you might have. It really is my only opportunity to explain how I, and 5th grade does some things in person. I hope to have a big turn out on Thursday. As an added bonus, I will have the sign up for parent teacher conferences that night. If you want a prime spot, come to Parent Information Evening to get your choice of times. After that, I will probably just be assigning slots.

I had a parent mention that she liked the blog because it led to better conversations at home about what happened at school. That is awesome. If you have any insights about the blog or web site or how I can make them better, or more useful please let me know. Here are a couple of questions your could ask your child about tonight.
  • Who is the fastest person in Room 42? Hint, he is tall and has spikey hair and wears a teachers ID badge.
  • How do you figure out speed? This ties into the first question.
  • How is your handwriting? And what is the format of the handwriting assignment.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Parabolas in St. Louis

I just got back in town from St. Louis. This was really a baseball weekend. The Royals and Cardinals both won and were both good games. I got to go to the Cardinals game because my wife pulled a certificate out of a pack of baseball cards for free tickets to any major league team we wanted to go to. The bad thing was we couldn’t pick the date so we decided on St. Louis and it actually worked out that we could go to the game. The reason I am writing about the game is that while we were walking around the stadium (This was my first trip to the new stadium and it is awesome! I hope that some of the renovation to Kauffman Stadium are similar.) and noticed a giant parabola outside the ball park. The reason I talk about this is that the microgravity flight in October will be flying parabolas. So I thought I would post a picture of what a parabola is. I’m of course talking about the St. Louis Arch. When I am weightless in October I will actually be weightless at the top of the parabola (arch). I’ve drawn some arrows on the picture. These arrows show where the weightlessness occurs. I’ve also included a couple other pictures just because I thought they were cool. The first is of me with Fredbird, the Cardinals mascot and the other is of me with the World Series trophy. That is the first time I have ever gotten to touch a world series trophy. Also, notice that I am wearing a Royals hat!

The other thing that I wanted to mention was something that I heard my cousin say this weekend. She is a registered nurse and has worked at several different jobs including a hospital, and an outpatient surgery center. She is now working with adults with mental handicaps. She really liked her old job and when someone asked her why she had left she said, “I just wasn’t learning anything new.” I thought this was an awesome statement. What a great reason to change jobs. She has a family and is very busy with them but she changed jobs because she wasn’t learning anything new in her old job. How powerful a statement about learning is that?!? That is one of the reasons why I love my job. I am always learning something new. Sometimes it is from the kids and sometimes it is on my own. There is never a lack of opportunities to learn. One of my favorite baseball players of all time was Dan Quisenberry. He was a relief pitcher for the Royals and he pitched submarine style. I also pitched like that when I was in college. I got a chance to meet him and asked him for advice and he took the time to give me a mini pitching lesson in the middle of a book store (he was there for a book signing. He was also a poet). He had a quote that I think completely applies to me. He said about playing baseball, “everyday was like Christmas. I didn’t always like the presents but I loved opening the packages.” I never know what is going to happen each day at school, no matter how prepared or planned I am, something interesting or unplanned happens. That is why I love my job.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Grade Reports and Friday Folders

I thought I would post a little early today since I am going to the Royals game tonight. Let’s hope for no rain tonight. Anyway, I wanted to go kind of in-depth into some information about the grade reports and Friday Folders that will be coming home today.

First, grade reports, each week the kids will be brining home a grade report that shows where their current grades are. This week only four subjects are listed because we don’t have any reading grades in the grade book yet. These reports also list any missing assignments. A missing assignment might be something that wasn’t turned in on time, didn’t have a name on it, or a student was absent. If an assignment is listed as missing, students have until Monday to get it turned in. If it is not turned in at that time, it goes into the grade book as a permanent zero that cannot be made up. Zeros kill grades! Students will get their grade reports in time to get whatever they need to make up these missing assignments. This week, I think, there were only two missing assignments listed for the entire class. Absences will be handled differently on a case by case basis. If missing work is turned in by Monday, I will grade it for full credit. If I have confused you, don’t worry about it. I will be going over this much more at Parent Information Evening on August 30th. The last thing I want to mention about the grade reports is that they need to be signed each week and brought back to school on Monday. You can see what the grade report will look like by going to:

Friday Folders also come home today. In the folder you will find many different things. First, you will find all of the graded work from the week. You will also find the newsletter and any notes from the office. This week there is a lunch calendar, reminder about Parent Information Evening, and several other notes. Behind the notes you will see a section that lists the date and the number of behavior marks for the week past. This is the number of times that the kids signed their chart. Please look at this number and discuss it with your child. They should know why they signed their chart. With this, like the grade report, please sign and return it to school on Monday.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to email me at:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

First Quarter Officers

Officer elections were held today. Congratulations to each of our new officers. They are:
President: Brittany
Vice President: Charlie
Secretary: Logan
Treasurer: Hadie

Officers have very specific jobs that they do around the classroom. Really, I feel lost at the beginning of the year before we elect officers. Tomorrow they will be busy putting together Friday folders.

We started a new routine today for turning in some of our morning work including math box checks, spelling morning works and take home tasks. I think we will really start using our new system in earnest next week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Safety and Online Assessments

Today we took an online communication arts assessment. I don’t know a whole lot about it yet but it sounds really cool. Basically each kid works at their own level and after this initial assessment we will be able to have the kids focusing on the GLE’s, (Grade Level Expectations from the state) that they need help with.

We also had a big discussion about how we are going to handle science experiments this year and making sure that everyone is doing what they supposed to. Tomorrow we will be doing a couple small experiments and talking about safety. We discussed safety some today but we will hit it big time in the future and each time we do an experiment.

Today was our library check out day and I absolutely love being able to go down to the library and just relax and read. I could have only scheduled a 15 minute time but I went ahead and scheduled 30 so we could have some time to just read. I’m reading Harry Potter right now and even though I just started it last week, I am hooked. During my travels this summer, I have seen a lot of people reading it and talking about it. The funny thing is that none of them were kids, they were all adults.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Another Busy Day

It seems like every day at this time of year is a struggle to get everything in that I planned. We did get most of it done today. The day started with learning our timed test routine that we will be using the rest of the year and catching up on some odds and ends from yesterday. We also took our first Challenge pretest of the year. Mrs. Whalley should have them graded and the results back next week.

We did have an opportunity today to watch the Space Shuttle Endeavor land at Kennedy Space Center. It worked out great that it landed a few minutes after we got back from specials. We were all amazed at how fast it is going when it lands (250 mph). It was really cool to get to watch the landing today in class when I got to watch the launch in person.

We have had a few chart signers already this week. I think it is mainly the kids seeing where the boundaries are. I’m not worried about a kid signing their chart once. We all make mistakes. I get concerned when they have to sign it over and over for the same thing. So far, I have not seen that. I think that this is going to be a year, both academically and behaviorally.
Also, we ran into a few bumps today with turning assignments in on time. There were a lot of kids today that were either missing an assignment, forgot to do part of an assignment, or didn’t put their name on their paper. We had a lot of workers today at recess. We reviewed the expectations again and talked about looking at the assignment book page each night to make sure that they have everything done. The first few weeks are always a learning process, especially for the responsibility piece of being a fifth grader. I think tomorrow will be better.

Funny note for the day. I told a joke today and there was complete silence for probably five seconds before the kids got it and started to laugh. Ask them to tell you the duck joke.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back from Colorado

Luckily there were no flight delays coming home from Colorado Springs so even though I was tired from all the travels today was a really good day. Our morning time is starting to come together. This is a big week in that many of the routines we do all year long are just starting this week. This includes weekly math, take home tasks, and morning work.
This year I am doing spelling as morning work. I think I am really going to like doing it that way. Each day the kids will have one or two spelling related tasks to complete when they come into the room. On Friday this will be slightly different in that they will actually begin to work on their skill portion of the spelling test.
Take Home Tasks have been a struggle for me in the past. Every year we have done them I have required parents to sign them. They are designed to be done with an adult. This has caused some problems. A lot of times they would come back not signed and even more disheartening was that I felt like, especially later in the year, that parents were just signing them and not even looking at it with their kids. So today in class we talked about this and as a class came up with a new way of handeling these. The Take Home Task will be assigned on Monday and will be due on Thursday. Many of the skills on the Take Home Task are exactly what will be on the test. We are going to check them as a class on Thursday so that the kids know if they made errors and how to correct them. Then they should be well prepared for the spelling test on Friday. As far as signatures go, we discussed that I still want the parents to sign them but that it is not required. I only want parents to sign them if they actually work together on it. If they are signed and worked together, the kids get one point of extra credit.
We started science today with an experiment that is very similar to one that I will be doing while on the Zero G flight. It involved mixing oil and water. We are letting it set tonight to see if it separates even more. I think the results of this experiment in zero gravity will really surprise the kids.
We didn’t get as far today in Social Studies as I wanted. We only briefly touched on the Cardinal directions. (You know, that is what you get if you ask Albert Pujols how to get to the stadium . . . Cardinal directions . . . HA HA).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Colorado Springs - Finally and Microgravity Class

I finally made it to Colorado Springs at about midnight last night. I am staying with a good friend that I met in class this summer through the Space Foundation. My flight to Dallas was delayed until 8:40. My connecting flight to Colorado Springs left Dallas at 8:20 so I got transferred to a flight on a different airline that got me to Denver. I then had to rent a car and then had to drive the hour and a half to Colorado Springs. I finally got to Bobby’s house at about midnight.

All of the trouble was way worth it. Even though the microgravity flight isn’t for two months, the class was amazing. When we walked in we had to fill out a bunch of paperwork and then try on a flight suit. After we got the flight suit on we had our picture taken. There were a ton of cameras there and a bunch of video cameras. I don’t know what all they will do with the video but I hope that I get a copy of it. We had to give back the space suits for now but in October we will get our own to keep. Woo Hoo! Guess what I will probably be wearing to school on October 22.

Once class started, they showed us a video of a previous flight. It was really cool to see a bunch of teachers floating around crashing into each other. And they do crash into each other. They told us that this is the second year of this program. The official title is Weightless flights of discovery. They are sponsored by Northrup Grumman. A company called Zero G actually flies the airplane. We watched a really cool video about what all they do and how math and science are important. One of the guys teaching our class has actually designed experiments that have flown on the space shuttle and the space station.

After our opening where they did a really good job of just blowing us away with shock and awe about what we are going to be doing they got into the details of the flight. Probably the coolest analogy that we heard today was that the flight was like the General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard. Basically from the time the car leaves the ramp until it hits the ground it is weightless. The flight is basically the same thing. We will fly in a parabola and from the inflection point (I didn’t know what this was either, from what I understand it is the point where you are not going up any more and starting to level off and start down.) you are weightless. We will fly 15 parabolas and 12 of them will be weightless.

Then the last part of the day was designing our experiments. I am in a group of 4. There are two elementary teachers, one high school science teacher and a curriculum analyst from the Space Foundation. Although we have a wide range of people in the group, I think it will be a really good mix. Our first experiment is a Cartesian diver. Kim, our high school teacher is doing this one. I’m not exactly sure what this is. I think it is a weight that sinks or floats depending on the pressure. She is also going to be holding a bottle with oil and water to see how they separate in weightlessness. Bobby is doing an experiment about mass and weight. Basically he will be standing on a scale for the zero G portion of the flight and also during the bottom of the parabola where we will be pulling 1.8 Gs. My experiment is on Newton’s Laws. I am bringing tennis balls and am going to float one and then hit it with another. This will show that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I am excited that we get to bring cameras and video cameras. The whole experience so far has been awesome. It is going to be a long wait until October 20th. Now I just hope that I can make it back to Kansas City tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane . . . Maybe

Here I am again, setting at an airport waiting for a flight. I’m starting to get a little worried. It is sounding like there is some weather in Dallas that is not favorable. I am flying through Dallas and from there on to Colorado Springs. I only have 40 minutes to catch my flight from Dallas so I am really hoping that my flight is on time, otherwise I might be stuck in Dallas tonight. I am flying to Colorado Springs for a training class tomorrow for the microgravity flight in October. I’m not sure what the training class will be like but it should be fun. I know that I am getting fitted for a flight suit. Hopefuly I will get to keep it but I’m not sure.

Class today went really fast. I love it when the day goes fast because that means we were really working hard and getting into what we were doing. Today we played another game. This time we worked on the four types of sentences. This seemed to be pretty hard for some of the kids. I don’t think the concept was too hard, I think the names of the types of sentences was difficult. (Interrogative, Declarative, Exclamatory, and Imperative) I am thinking that next week I will do another activity with this. I have done an activity in the past where the kids made comic strips using each of the four kinds of sentences. I think I will probably use that again next week.

We also studied arrays today. The kids picked this up really quickly. This was a really good thing because it is a building block to what we are doing next week and really the rest of the year. One of my concerns each year is students that are new to the district that have not had Everyday Math before. Some of the concepts that we cover are really higher level and many districts that don’t have this program do not cover them. I have been really happy. The kids new to the district have been picking up the math really well and haven’t seemed to be struggling.

We also went over more procedures today. I think I am actually close to getting my entire list crossed off. I’m really excited to start next week when we actually have a kind of normal schedule where we cover all of the subjects.

If you are reading this and did not get an email today with the link to the weekly newsletter in it, please email me so that I can add you to the mailing list. If grandparents, or friends, or others want to be added to the list, that is not a big deal, just let me know.

Flight Update: I’m still at the airport and my flights have been delayed. I’m still hoping to get to Colorado Springs sometime tonight. It is looking like I might have to fly into Denver and then drive an hour and a half to Colorado Springs. Keep your fingers crossed that I actually get to go.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The First Day of School

Today was the first day of school and it was awesome. I know that the kids get nervous about the first day and so do the teachers. If you ask most teachers they all have a back to school dream (or nightmare) sometime before school starts. Mine this year was odd. It definitely wasn’t a nightmare but it was weird. In my dream there were three teachers and we each had a class but we were told we all had to teach in one room with only enough chairs for one class.
The day itself was great. We got a lot done today. We got through our first math lesson which was a scavenger hunt through the student reference book. We also had time to play an English game on sentences and fragments. The game was fun and all of the kids really caught the hang of how we play them. I plan on playing a ton of games this year. Sometime later I will explain how these games are played.
The biggest part of today was spent on going over procedures and expectations. I literally have a list that fills up an entire page in my plan book of expectations. What I have found is that the more time you spend on these things now, the less you have to deal with issues later.
I also got to show the kids the video of the space shuttle launch. What a cool experience. The entire class was on the edge of their seats. This was the first time I had listened to the video with a good sound system. I was amazed at how loud it was on the video. I did hold it together telling the kids about it today. I hope that the excitement I felt down there and the enthusiasm I had when talking about it really came through.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Random Thoughts

It still doesn’t feel real that we actually got to see the launch. It completely seemed like it was in slow motion. Today was the most tired I have been on the entire trip. We were able to sleep in some and we took one of our group back to the airport. Otherwise, today we have completely laid around the hotel.

We all bought newspapers today that had stories about the launch, and I have already gotten emails from the Space Foundation and NASA about some of the experiments and lessons that Barbara Morgan is teaching. One that I am really interested in involves basil seeds. If your class works through one of three modules, it will get a package of basil seeds that are currently up on the shuttle. I am pretty sure that I will be working on one of those modules with my class.

I also got an update about the microgravity flight in October. I fly to Colorado Springs next weekend for the training class. There are five of us staying together on this trip and four of us are on the same microgravity flight. We have to design an experiment to do while we are weightless. I’m leaning towards doing something with Newton’s Laws.

One of the down sides of our tour of Kennedy Space Center is that we didn’t get to spend very much time at the actual visitor’s complex. Tomorrow we are going back out there and we are going to Astronaut Hall of Fame and the KSC visitor’s complex. It will be nice to actually be able to take our time as we go through the museum.

Funny story for the day. We are going to go walk around Downtown Disney tonight so we bought a frozen lasagna to eat before we go. We have an oven that isn’t real good, I think it an easy bake brand oven. We’ve had it in for two hours and it is still frozen in the middle so we are eating just the edges because that is the only part that is hot.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Launch Day

I know that I am repeating myself when I say this but there is no word in the English language that describes what I experienced today. I say experienced because you don’t watch a space shuttle launch, you experience it. I actually think it is more of a woo hoo kind of sound that I can’t spell but it is a cross between a Homer Simpson woo hoo a deep belly laugh. Today was a whirlwind that ended way too quickly. I will try to tell everything that happened to the best of my memory, I’m sure there will be updates later because it is 10:30 and I am basically running on 8 hours of sleep over the last two days and adrenaline.

We met up with our group today at about 3:00. We were running a little behind but we loaded up and headed to the cape. It was a little scary because Chuck our guide gave us a big safety briefing. Security was incredible. They actually checked our bus as it left Kennedy space center to come pick us up and they actually put stickers over the storage bins on the bus to show they had been searched. We saw at least four Blackhawk helicoptors flying over and Chuck told us that there were special forces in the swamps.

Once we got close to Kennedy Space Center, there were people everywhere, along the roads, in boats, everywhere. We were at the Saturn V center which has a huge set of bleachers next to it and three count down clocks. When we first got there, we took pictures with the count down clock. You can’t really see it but the launch pad is in the background.

We had about two hours before the launch so we went into the Saturn V center and started looking around. We met so many cool people. The first person that we saw Mark Fossom, and astronaut. We talked to him and got some pictures, then we saw Suri Williams. She was the astronaut that just broke the record for the longest stay in space. She was on the space station for 192 days. She was really cool and talked to us for a while. Next we saw Raymond Simon, the Deputy Secretary of Education. He was really cool and talked to us for quite a while. When we got ready to walk off, he stopped us and said he wanted to give us a business card. When he handed them to us he said, and I’m not joking about this, “If you guys are ever in Washington D.C. and need bail money, give me a call.” The last person that we talked to was Jim Kennedy, the former director of Kennedy Space Center. He was really cool and talked to us for probably 10 minutes.

When we got to about 45 minutes before launch we went out to scope out a spot to watch. We knew we didn’t want to watch from the bleachers so we walked down to the very front of a little grassy area right next to the water and probably as close as we could get to the launch pad from where we were. Then the waiting game began. The clock stopped at 9 minutes. Finally, they started the countdown. At 5 minutes to go they sang the national anthem. (I will be really honest with you, as I set here in traffic - stopped on the highway 4 hours after the launch – that I am getting choked up writing this) When they got done with that I started getting really excited. I had two audio recorders that I started, then I turned on my camera and video camera. I wanted to take a couple pictures but mainly watch the launch. I set my camera to take three pictures in a row. I got one awesome one. Then I put the camera down and watched the launch. I held the video camera and it may or may not have been on the shuttle, I wasn’t watching the camera.

The steam started rolling out and the shuttle climbed up sooo slowly. It really looked like it was in slow motion. When you first saw the smoke and the shuttle, it was completely silent. Then once the shuttle was a good way off the launch pad, you started to hear it. Then about 20 seconds later you started to feel it. The ground vibrated under your feet. It was not nearly as intense as I thought it would be at that point. I was surprised. Then, when the shuttle got up to about three miles, the boosters were turned in a way that they faced back to us. Then everything started shaking. You could feel it all though your body. This is the part that watching it on TV just does not do justice to. The sights, the sounds, and the feelings made this an absolute highlight of my life. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I have a tear rolling down my cheek now as I write this and I have absolutely no idea how I will ever be able to tell my students about this without crying. But you know what, I don’t care. That is how powerful this was.

I also thought of my dad a lot today. He was the one that got me interested in space. When I was in second grade I got a book order and ordered a poster of the space shuttle. When it came in we went and made a picture frame for it. It hung in my room for years and to this day it still hangs in my parents’ house. So, thanks Dad!

One of the things that we have all been talking about and that is that we are all completely ready to start school. This was unbelievable. I cannot wait to tell the stories, show the pictures, and relate this to my kids.

The last thought for tonight was that as we pulled into dinner 2 hours after the launch, you could still see the trail in the sky. It was all spread out and kind of glowing from the setting sun. What a perfect ending to an amazing day.


Talk about sleeping fast. We got to bed about 4:30 this morning. I got up about 8:30. Right now we are on the road heading to the launch. Our plan for today was to get on the road and head to our meeting spot. We have to meet at 3:30 to head over to Kennedy Space Center. We left at 11:00 and are already into huge traffic. We were told last night that they are expecting 14,000 people at Kennedy Space Center for the launch. Of those, only 500 got to go to the night viewing. Also, the 14,000 does not count all the people that will be watching the launch from all over Florida. I can only imagine what it is like along the beach, or anywhere within a hundred miles. I would guess that businesses just shut down around here at 6:30 so that everyone can step outside and watch the launch.

Weather is still good and NASA TV is saying that there are no technical problems. Keep your fingers crossed. It will launch at 5:36 Kansas City time

Night Viewing

Fuzzy picture I took of the shuttle I will post better ones tomorrow!
These are the teachers from the Space Foundation summer classes that have all met up here for the launch.

It is 3:00 in the morning as I write this. I am tired but exhilarated. We just got back from the night viewing The protective cover of the shuttle was off and it was completely lit up. There is not a word that describes this. We went to the same spot that we viewed it yesterday. Tonight was so completely different. We could see the lights from miles away and when you got up close, it looked even bigger than yesterday. We had a pair of binoculars with us and we could see amazing detail.

The mosquitoes were huge out there tonight but no one cared. I thought one of them was going to carry off my camera. My camera actually didn’t take great pictures of the shuttle, they all came out blurry but Steve, one of the guys with us got some awesome pictures. I will post some of them tomorrow when I get copies.

Another cool thing that happened while we were out there was that Astronaut, Chris Hadfield was out there and we were all able to get a picture with him. He was really nice. The time we were out there was entirely too short. It is funny, we were talking today that we drove an hour from the hotel and then it was a half hour ride from where we met the bus and then only a half hour for the viewing then another hour and a half to get back to the hotel. Earlier today we questioned if it was worth it. We were absolutely wrong! Yes, a half hour was way too short a time but man, was it worth it.

With astronaut Chris Hadfield

When we got back on the bus, Chuck, our tour guide pointed out to us that there was a large tower with a big flame at the top. As they put hydrogen into the tanks, they have to burn off whatever excess there is. I was so completely engrossed in the shuttle that I had not even notice it. There could have been an alligator next to me (yes, I saw one yesterday) and I would not have noticed him unless he asked me to take his picture.

Bobby, another teacher that I am down here with, and I were talking about the excitement that we have felt the last two days and that if we can convey that to our kids for just one minute to let them feel that, we have done our jobs and the trip has been worthwhile. I am truly struggling to put into words how powerful an experience this has been. It has honestly been very emotional. To get this close to something that I have followed since I was in second grade, studied, and taught is beyond explanation.

Tomorrow we have to be back at 3:00. We load up a bus and head out to our viewing site. I am really starting to get excited. We are looking right now that it is 80% chance for good weather. Woo Hoo! Tomorrow I will post more about where we are watching the launch from. Tonight, my brain is fried from lack of sleep.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


From where I am standing to the end of the building is how big the space station will be when it is complete.

Scaffolding and equipment around the space shuttle in the processing facility. The shuttle really is behind this.

Parts for future solid rocket boosters.

I just had a few minutes and wanted to post a couple more pictures from yesterday. Right now I am in a hotel waiting to get on the bus for the night viewing. It is one minute after midnight right now. It has been a long but fun day. The only NASA thing for today is the night viewing so we spent most of the day at the beach. I will post more about that later. Weather is still looking good for the launch tomorrow. It is scheduled for 6:36 Wednesday. That is at 5:36 Kansas City time.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Wow does not even describe today. Awesome, amazing, phenomenal, sweet, wow. Those are just a few words to describe today. Literally I am overwhelmed with the tour that we got today. What I will try to do is give a little run down of the tour and include some of the pictures. I took about 400 pictures today.

To start with, we had to get up at 4:30 in the morning. We are staying over an hour away and we had to meet up with our group at a hotel. When we got there, the first person that we saw was Carl Walz, an astronaut. He flew on four space shuttle missions and spent six months on the space station. It was awesome that during the tour if we had a question about something, we could just ask an astronaut. He was an amazingly nice guy and had some great stories. I recorded some of them, I will try to post some of them later.

Me with Carl Walz and his crew picture that was hanging on the wall of the Space Station Processing Facility.

Our first stop was in a little meeting building where we got welcomed by Bill Gerstenmeyer. He is the associate director of operations at Kennedy Space Center. He welcomed us and answered a few questions. The big question that everyone wanted to know was, “how does it look for the launch on Wednesday?” He said that we are at a 30% chance of a no go. That means a 70% chance of a go! Woo Hoo!

With Bill Gerstenmaier - Associate Administrator for Operations at NASA

Our next stop on the trip was the SSPF. You may be asking, what is the SSPF. It is the space station processing facility. It was amazing. We were walking right next to all of the components that will be going up to the space station. We saw the Japanese module as well as many others. We also saw a huge solar array that is going up. It was in a box that was probably 20 -40 feet long and only about 8 inches deep. The panels unfold. Carl Walz said that they unfold really easily but that they don’t always want to fold back up as easily.

Next up was one of the most amazing buildings I have ever been in. It was the space shuttle processing facility. Not only was the building amazing but the space shuttle Atlantis was inside. We literally walked underneath it. I could have reached up and touched it. It was hard to see because there was a lot of scaffolding and equipment around it. We walked all the way around it and saw the front landing gear. You could just catch glimpses of the flag and United States written on the side. This was also cool for me because this is the space shuttle that launched on June 8, the day before my wedding. I realize as I am writing this that words cannot do it justice. To be in the room and standing next to the shuttle was absolutely one of the coolest things I have ever done.

Me under the Space Shuttle Atlantis. You can see the front landing gear and the black shuttle tiles behind me.

When we got back on the bus they told us we were headed to view the Space Shuttle. Now you have to understand that Kennedy Space Center is huge. It is actually very deceiving. The buildings and launch pads are so big that things look closer than they are. As we are driving on the bus, we start to pull into the parking lot for the launch tower that is a long way away. I was there two years ago and it is so far away that you can’t really get a picture with the launch pad in the background. So I was starting to get really disappointed. It turns out that we were just driving through there to look at the crawler. It is enormous. Then we pulled back out onto the road and went past a check point and drove up to the fence that surrounds the launch pad. You cannot get any closer without working for NASA and then not many people get up there. You can’t see the actual space shuttle in the pictures. It is covered and won’t be uncovered until tomorrow night at the night viewing. I can’t wait for that.

As we were standing there taking pictures, I noticed that Mr. Walz was standing over by the bus. I walked over and asked him if I could get another picture with him with the shuttle in the background. How great of a backdrop is that for a picture with an astronaut!?!

And all of the stuff above was all done before lunch. We took the bus back to the visitors complex and the first thing we did was get in line to ride the new launch simulator. I don’t know what it is like to be on the space shuttle but this had to be close. They actually tilt you backwards like you are on the launch pad. The sound effects and movements are completely realistic. Even the pre-movie was awesome. When you leave the simulator, there is a long spiral walkway that goes around a picture of earth as it would look passing under the window of the space station or shuttle. As you walk around the walkway there are mini summaries of every space shuttle mission. It was really neat to walk around and look for Carl’s mission patches.

After a quick lunch (really bad and expensive by the way) we ran into the gift shop. This place is like the holy grail of space stuff. They literally have autographs and framed artwork on the wall for sale that go anywhere from $1000 to $10,000. They had a letter signed by John F. Kennedy and a big collage of autographs of test pilots including Neil Armstrong. Needless to say I didn’t buy any of that but I did get some cool stuff to bring back.

After lunch we loaded back up onto the bus and headed out to the Air Force side of the complex. There are a ton of launch pads there. We actually missed seeing the launch of the Phoenix on Saturday morning. That is the next Mars lander. That would have been cool to see. We actually saw at least two other rockets on launch pads. We also went to the launch sites for the first satellite, first manned mission to space, the rest of the Mercury missions, and the launch pad where all of the Apollo missions launched from. At that site we could actually walk around. It was really cool but also very somber. That is the pad where the Apollo I fire was. There were a couple very moving plaques there. From that launch pad you could see the launch complex where a Delta IV rocket was on the launch pad. The Saturn V rocket would have set on top of this concrete structure with the engines blasting through the hole in the top of it.

We saw a lot of wildlife, especially birds. We saw a few turtles, some vultures, a bald eagle nest, and we saw an alligator. It looked big. Then all too soon it was time to head back. The trip back to the hotel where we met up was really cool because Carl got on the microphone on the bus and told stories about being in space. I was actually smart enough to record some of them. I will try to post some of them when I get back home.

Right now we are driving back to the hotel. It was an amazing day. I can’t wait until tomorrow night for the night viewing. We drove out to the spot where it will be and it is really close and completely unobstructed view. I’m hoping to get tons of pictures.

That is all for now. I will be posting more later. Below are just some other random pictures that I thought were cool.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

It is the first leg of my flight and I have noticed a few things. First, our cruising altitude was 34,000 feet. I guess that is standard cruising altitude but what really struck me was the fact that in October I will be getting into an airplane flying to 35,000 ft. and then dropping so that I will be weightless. Thank goodness there are no windows on that flight. That would be pretty scary to see the ground racing up at you.

I wish I had brought some type of map along. I always enjoy looking at the scenery out the window but I never know where I am. There was a big river and a few really big lakes that I saw but I don’t know where they were. It would also be cool to have a GPS unit along. The one that I have shows the speed. I don’t know if it would work in an airplane but if it did, that would be really cool.

I was setting next to a man on the flight that was reading Harry Potter and so far I have spotted three copies. What is really interesting about this is that they were all adults, I haven’t seen a single kid with a copy yet. I actually heard two adult men talking about it and how they both read it before they gave it to their kids to read. My wife is currently reading it. I plan to read it but I have a few others that I want to read first. The lady setting next to me on the flight from Houston to Orlando is reading Harry Potter. Her husband was flipping through the pages and she took it away from him because she didn’t want him to ruin the ending for her. I thought that was pretty funny. Also kind of cool that he is reading “Failure is Not an Option” by Gene Kranz, the flight controller from Apollo 13. I have ready this book and I know that it is good. I got a big chunk of my book Blogs of War read on the flight so far

As I type this right now, I am flying over the Gulf of Mexico. I actually know this because we have been flying over it for about ten minutes now. I took a couple of pictures out the window of the coast.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Getting Ready to Go

This is an exciting and overwhelming time of year to be a teacher. It is exciting because you are getting ready to start school. If you think just the kids are nervous, you are wrong. The teachers are as well. This will be my ninth first day of school and I still get nervous. It is also overwhelming because we have to not only go to a lot of meetings but also have to get the classroom ready. This is a daunting task that you typically don’t see unless you are a teacher. When I went into my classroom the other day to start getting things ready, there was a pile of desks, file cabinets, tables, and all of the other furniture for the room piled into the middle. It took several hours just to put the furniture back where it went. Even though it takes a lot of work to get the room ready to go, I like doing it. I get all kinds of ideas about new things to do as I set things up. Some are little, like how to do lunch count and others are bigger, like how want to do timed tests and check math boxes during the year.

Each year I try to pick a theme for the class. Usually it isn’t a while lot more than something to decorate a few bulletin boards with and clipart I put on nametags and on name plates I put in the hall. While I was in Colorado this summer, I came up with the idea to do a “mission patch’ theme. I actually came up with this idea before I knew I was going to Florida. I have actually designed a class mission patch which will be our class logo for the year.

On another note, I am finally packed for the trip. All the batteries are charge, memory chips are clean, every camera I own is packed and I even have some clothes to wear. I leave tomorrow morning and should be in Florida around 5:00 tomorrow evening. Then we start up bright and early on Monday morning. We have to be at Kennedy Space Center by 7:30. We are over an hour away and I will lose an hour going to Florida compared to Kansas City time. It will be an early morning but well worth it. At least now, we don’t have to stay until midnight. The night viewing has been moved to Tuesday. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Big Thank You!

One more thought that I wanted to post today. NASA is giving me a great opportunity by inviting me to the launch and taking care of things in Florida. The one thing that they are not providing is a way to get down to Florida, or a place to stay once I get there. Luckily there are five of us that are going that are splitting the cost of a rental car and the hotel rooms. The flight was expensive because it was booked at the last minute. Because it is going to cost a lot, I sent a few letters out to local businesses asking if they would be willing to help out financially. I got a response today from Ken Bohr at Shelter Insurance here in liberty. He made an extremely generous contribution to help pay for some of the costs. I would like to thank him and all the folks at Shelter Insurance for helping out. It is really great to know that people are willing to help, especially when it has to do with education.

Miles and Numbers

I’m starting to pack for the trip and really starting to get excited. Liberty has been really supportive and today I even borrowed a wireless card so that I can update the blog while I am in Florida. I did hear on the news today that the launch has been delayed a day. The official launch time is now set for Wednesday, August 8th. This actually works out okay. I got an email from NASA saying that our tour was still on for Monday and that the night viewing has been moved back to Tuesday. That works well. It was going to be a situation where we were at Kennedy Space Center from 7:30 in the morning until 5:00 at night and then had to be back at midnight. The one problem is that where we are staying is over an hour away. So now at least we will be able to get a little bit of sleep.

I had an idea for a post that I wanted to put on here that I thought would be pretty interesting. I was wondering the other day how many miles I had traveled this summer. The final total completely surprised me. The numbers are not exact. I used mapquest to get mileage totals so the flights will be a little less than the numbers I used and the actual driving miles will probably be more because I only counted the long drives, not the short ones. So here are the trips that I counted. First was to Florida and back for my honeymoon. (see picture below). The next trip was actually 9 mini trips to Warrensburg, Missouri for an elementary math academy. Next up was to Colorado Springs. From there we drove to Denver twice. When we got home from there, it was a trip to Springfield. Finally, I counted the flights to Orlando that I will be going on next week. The final total that I came up with was . . . 9,826 miles. Wow, I can’t believe that I have traveled almost 10,000 miles this summer.

While I was at it, I thought I would put a few more numbers up about this summer

Weddings – 1
Weeks in math academy – 3
Master’s Degree Credits Earned – 6
Hours in Class – 184
Math Problems Solved – Too Many to Count
Disney Characters Met – 42 (Yes, I actually made a list)
Autographs Gotten – Not as many as I would like (8 at a Sky Sox Game in Colorado Springs)
Highest Altitude - 14,110 ft – (not counting airplane flights, this was at Pikes Peak)

States Visited – 10 (Missouri, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Illinois, Iowa, and Colorado)
Pictures Taken – Lots (1600+ on my honeymoon, 800+ in Colorado, 1600+ taken by the photographer at the wedding, and I’m guessing a ton in Florida next week.)
Books Read – 4 (Deception Point by Dan Brown, Jimmy Carter’s Book, can’t remember the name right now, The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, and Blogs of War that I am currently still reading)