Candle Up-cycling Inquiry Project

I’ve always wanted to use the leftover candles and ugly candles that we have lying around to make new candles, using old jars, mason jars, etc.  I began by exploring the activating questions, in order to find out what I already knew about this topic and what I needed to know.  You can read more about my process here.

Then I hit the Internet. I started with a really broad search for “how to make candles” and then began to refine my search, looking for instructions using leftover candles and materials on hand. The most useful page I found was on Wikihow.

After reading a bunch of pages, each with their own suggested techniques and tips for candle making, I decided to throw out the rules and go at it on my own. The only thing I needed to purchase was the wicks and the rest of the tools I just found around my house.   I began the project, approaching it as an experiment – “what would happen if I did this or that?” Because I am very safety oriented, I did Google some questions, like “adding vanilla to homemade candles”, just to make sure I wasn’t going to cause a ton of smoke or blow up or anything.

I tried making a few different candles, each time trying something different and learning from my mistakes. There were no real challenges, aside from learning that both kitchen vanilla and food coloring do not mix well into melted wax. However, there was a ton of learning, which I’m excited to bring into the next time I make a few candles at home.

In terms of learning for my students, I think this project really reinforced the need for kinaesthetic, hands on learning. Being able to experiment and try different things and then assess the outcomes was really refreshing. After being in school for so long myself, I have really gotten into the habit of researching, reading, and writing as the only pathway to learning. I almost felt like a kid again, it was learning disguised as playing and fun! I will definitely do my best to bring more of this kind of hands on, student-centered learning, based on some introductory research and exploration, into my classroom.



Psychology Webquest

I’ve been teaching Intro to Psychology for years now.  It’s the same old thing and I tend to deliver it the way that I was taught it, over 15 years ago.  It’s lecture heavy, with a few student research presentations.  As I’ve finally got some down time to prepare for my May Psych course and I have a wonderfully small class size this time around, I’ve decided to switch it up and Webquests seem like a terrific way to start.

As I did a google search, I realized that there are a ton of psych Webquests already out there!  I will definitely be using some that already exist.  In particular, this one stands out to me.

I have decided to take this Webquest about understanding psychological disorders and modify it a bit to fit my lesson plans and objectives.  I will remove some of topics, such as autism, which is not actually a psychological disorder, and I will also add a few topics, such as postpartum depression.

As there will be 12 topics to choose from, I will assign each student 4 topics and have them in groups of 3.  They will create powerpoint flash cards based on their assigned topic and then they will share them with their group mates so that each group has a completed overview of all 12 topics.  Students will be given some class time to complete this webquest, however outside time may also be necessary.  This Webquest will be in lieu of the entire chapter on Psychological Disorders, giving me more class time to focus on other things.  This will also allow students to become more engaged in the topic, as they are not just tuning out my lecture and powerpoint presentation.  On a more interpersonal level, it is my hope that while the students are searching for information, they may come across links and/or resources that may be useful to themselves or someone they know.

Some helpful websites that I will suggest to the students include:

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders

The National Institute of Mental Health




The Flipped Classroom

I focused this blog on the article about the unplugged flipped classroom.

My theme seems to be surrounding technology and the students who are left in the cold – either due their lack of technology or their lack of knowledge about technology. I keep coming back to the fact that I have many learners in my one program who do not even have access to smart phones, so forget about laptops. Due to life barriers and other responsibilities, they are unable to stay late to use the three classroom laptops nor are they able to access free laptops at a library. All of my questions are around how do we reach these individuals. How can we create a flipped classroom, engaging them with blogs and wikis etc. etc., when the students are unable to access an electronic device. When we do borrow enough technology to go around, or I set up time for each student to use the laptops, there is the added challenge that my students are not conversant in tech-speak. Therefore, let’s say I give an hour to work on a web quest… I end up spending the entire time trouble shooting issues on the computer, having little to do with the assignment itself. And if I am spending ten minutes helping five students, the hour is essentially gone. And the student who I helped last only has ten minutes to work on this. So how do we reach these students?


This is why I appreciated the article on “unplugging” the flipped classroom. As it turns out, I have been flipping the classroom in an unplugged manner all along! I routinely ask my students to watch a video or review a case study on their time and then we use the classroom as a place to brainstorm or create mind maps. I use playing cards to make groups so that I can separate and break up groups multiple times in order to allow all initial groups to share their content with each other. Then as a class, we will work together to figure out a better way to approach an issue, etc. I’m happy to see that this is a wireless form of the flipped classroom!

Student Centered Approaches

The article I have chosen is 4 Principles of Student Centered Learning.

The only way that I can get my head around this article and what it says is to explore each section as it relates to my own teaching. For some points, I am so there already, however for others, I have more questions than I do answers at this point. The four principles of student-centered learning are space, place, choice and voice, however, due to the length requirements I have chosen to discuss only one of the principles of student-centered learning.

In terms of space, I do my best to create a physical environment that encourages creatively. I also ensure that it is moveable and dynamic, changing to our needs from moment to moment. My space is less mobile than it could be, however this is very much due to the population I teach (most often). This group of learners do not have access to technology regularly – even smartphones are not the norm in the class. Therefore, even having them reach out to me via email can be a barrier for students. In terms of emotional safety, this is always a challenge for me. Our topics can be triggered and I teach a very vulnerable group of individuals. We work very hard to create safe spaces for all, however, it is common for an individual to become triggered and we have to react to that immediately. I find this can be an ongoing battle as an instructor – one that is fluid, based on the topic of the day. The same can be said for cognitively agitating spaces – I have to balance between pushing the students and not overwhelming them as many are living with complex needs and life events.

All of that said, my question for this principle are based on teaching vulnerable/at risk populations. When you have a group of learners who cannot access technology readily, how do you integrate technology? In our learning space, we only have 3 laptops that the students have to share. I do have web-quest assignments, and inevitably, they come in late, or students have trouble “sharing”the computers or others just do not submit it at all. As well, a lot of my learners have very little experience with technology and the Internet. There is no time in the program for me to teach the basics of technology. And I find by creating very technological assignments, this creates a massive barrier to learning, as the students are overwhelmed and are ready to quit before they have even begun.