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What is a Valley?

I know I haven't posted in a long time, but just thought I would share a quick update from the trenches here at El Cerrito High. I actually took yesterday off so that I could go down to Cal State Northridge. I got invited to give a talk there about teaching Earth science in urban settings, the first of three conferences and workshops I have in the next few weeks. As many of you know, Northridge is in the "Valley," the San Fernando Valley in southern California. My talk emphasized that urban students have less familiarity with the natural world, so we need to modify the way we teach them about Earth science.

Point driven home when I returned to my class today and was teaching about contour maps: A question on my worksheet asked my students, "Does the map show a hill or a valley?" While contour maps can be challenging to interpret, I was absolutely shocked when a student asked the following question: "What's a valley?" A weird fluke, I assumed. But then it happened again a few minutes later (students were working individually, so they didn't hear my answer the first student). Then it happened again during the next block. I still have so much to learn about my students...

I wonder if they have this problem at CSU Northridge?


Back in the day I was mentoring some 6th graders in EPA. I planned a big camping trip for them in Big Basin. (Looking back I can't believe I had time for that! So much work!). I drove a van full of girls over to the campsite. We got past Saratoga and things started to get woodsy. That's when I got a question I'll never forget. "Melissa, what is that?!?!" "What is what?" I said while trying to drive. "All those trees all together over there. I've never seen trees like that and so many all together." "I said, yeah that's a forest, that's the type of place we're headed to go camping." Several of the girls were dumbfounded. A couple had visited relatives outside of EPA, but most had never seen a forest; never been outside of EPA. Blew my mind.

Your kids are so lucky to have you as their teacher!!

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