Author Archives: atyslau

Welcome back everyone!

To 7A and 7B students – welcome back!  I am very excited to be working with you this year and I am looking forward to learning and exploring with you.  Please use this page for online help, additional information and videos for your missed lessons.  And remember…



STUDENT GUEST POST: Kangaroo’s Produce Methane

Kangaroos produce methane because of their tract system.  Here is my PowerPoint that I did for science.  It is all about kangaroo and cow farts.

Kangaroo Farts may not be so Eco Friendly

STUDENT GUEST POST: Flowing Water Discovered on Mars

Here is a video from Thomas, where he shares his news article about water on Mars, and shares his thoughts and ideas on what this means for science and space exploration – thanks Thomas!

“Seeing” Music: How Synesthesia is Viewed by an Artist

I recently gave my wonderful grade seven students an assignment, titled “Science in the News” (click the link to take a look at the assignment), where they are asked to find a current event article and complete a written, visual and oral component to the article.  I wont go into details on what each component is, but I will demonstrate some examples that I came up with this week to model how this assignment might look.  So… here is article number one I would like to share.

© 2014 by Melissa S. McCracken

VISUAL COMPONENT: Here is the mini-movie I made about the article.


TOPIC – The topic of the article is human anatomy, more specifically the human brain.  The topic could also be under biology.

TITLE: The title of the article is “Here’s How an Artist with Synesthesia ‘Sees’ Famous Songs”

ARTICLE SOURCE: The article was found on the website


Synesthesia – a rare neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory pathway (such as sound) leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second pathway (such as sight).  An artist who has synesthesia is able to not only hear music but can see or visualize the music as well.  Synesthesia is a very rare neurological condition.

Neurological: referring to the nervous system of the human body.  There are many different neurological diseases that can affect the human brain, such as Alzheimers.

Stimuli: something in the environment that causes us to react.The balloon popped and we all jumped.  In that scenario, the popping balloon was the stimulus and when we all jumped that was our reaction.


Artist Melissa McCracken, an artist from Kansas City, has a rare neurological condition known as synesthesia.  What this means is that Melissa will actually experience music as two things: something she hears and something she sees.  She experiences sounds as images and colours while listening to music.  To better share her experiences with synesthesia, Melissa decided to listen to some of the most popular songs from the last 30 years of music and paint what she saw.  She has been painting these images since 2014.  Scientists are still not sure what causes synesthesia.  The human brain and its abilities continues to be a very complex and mysterious part of the body.  Her paintings are available for sale from her website.


When reading the article, I was fascinated about the idea that people could see music.  When I took a university course on the brain, I also heard stories about people being able to taste shapes!  I wonder if it would be possible to taste music?  I think that being someone with synesthesia could be very difficult, because there would be a lot of sensory information that you would have to “deal” with at one time, rather than just hearing or listening.  I chose this article because not only do I really like science and the human brain, but I think that music and art are a large part of how wonderful our brain is and what it allows us to see and feel.  I also picked the article because I really liked her paintings and I wanted to know more about what songs she had picked to pain. I would be very curious how much one painting would be to buy!


I think that the impact this article has is mostly on the understanding that people may or may not have on synesthesia and how it can impact or influence the lives of others.  Reading the article actually gave me a greater appreciation for not just art but for what some people live with each and every day.  Some questions that I would have for the artist are:

  • What was your favourite song to paint?
  • Did one genre or type of song show the same sorts of paintings? (i.e. did rock music have lots of “sharp” or “pointed” parts of a painting??)
  • How did you feel while painting?

Supermoons and Water on Mars – What an Amazing Few Days!!

Good morning everyone!  WOW!! What an exciting last few days for science – especially in planetary bodies and exploration…

First, on Saturday, we were treated to a rare supermoon Lunar Eclipse.  We here in Lethbridge got to see it clearly and perfectly in the crisp, clean night skies above our city.  Some great photographs have emerged locally, as seen below, and internationally.  Also, check out the video on the supermoon event and its frequency.


Then yesterday, NASA announced that they have strong evidence that there are seasonal flows of water.  These flows were detected by one of NASA’s orbiters (the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter).  This suggests that there might possibly be life on Mars at this very moment!  Holy Martians Batman!!  This is news because there has been lots of evidence in previous explorations to show that Mars once was a watery planet, but that the water had long since left and disappeared leaving only icy patches behind.  For more information on this amazing find, check out the CBC News article here.  Google has even changed their banner image to commemorate the news announcement…


Starting the School Year Right

Day one is in the books – congratulations!!

In the spirit of starting off the school year on the right foot, I thought I would share with you this infographic by @jenniferlagarde, called 27 Ways To Make This the Best Year Ever.  It’s a great infographic that uses Thinglink, so it is an interactive infographic 🙂


In the spirit of the “first Days Back”, I thought that I would share my personal reflections on her 27 suggestions… some might not be as thrilling as others but its worth the ol’ college try, right? 😉

Here it goes…

27 Ways to Make This the Best Year Ever

(1) Passion – I am passionate about making this new experience a growing and learning opportunity, and I am passionate about working with a great team of people to make it happen.  I am passionate about science and exploring and learning new things.  And I am passionate about kids.

(2) Reach – I plan on continuing to use the ever-growing network of professionals and educators that I have connected with personally and through social media to help to support my learning and to share and collaborate.

(3) Ditch the desk! – I don’t spend a lot of time here anyways, so easy one to check off.

(4) Share your story – we live in an ever changing connected world, where everyone has a story to tell.  My small goal this year will be to have your children share their stories through various means and methods.  The idea is to share the learning experience and to share their growth with not only each other but with the world!

(5) Get to know your students – well, of course!  I plan to spend the first week (maybe even first two) sharing, telling personal stories, playing, chatting and getting to know them.  Also, I plan on sharing my experiences and background with them as well.

(6) Play – part of our school FISH! philosophy.  Check and check.

(7) Don’t be afraid to be silly – I think that working in a middle school, this is inherent to survival.  If you can’t laugh at yourself and make yourself vulnerable, its difficult to expect the same from the students.  It helps with #5 and #6…

(8) Reflect – we learn when we reflect.  I will try to model and encourage reflection as much as I can with all my students to help promote critical thinkers who are reflective and ask that ever so important question in science: WHY?

(9) Organize – I honestly believe I am 89% “super-organizer” and 11% “its an organized mess”… I prefer to be in the majority most of the time, however.

(10) Make time for making – I think this speaks to allowing time for me AND my students to learn and explore.  Setting aside time in the day or the week to allow students to create something is an awesome approach to developing those “21st century skills” along with following true to the Inspiring Education direction as well.

(11) Share – I think I tell my oldest daughter this every 2 minutes, and my youngest daughter every 2 seconds.  Sharing makes the “learning machine” work. When we can, we will share both in the class and with the community in responsible, respectful and meaningful ways.

(12) Allow yourself to be blown away – I think this comes first from being connected and open to the staff in my school as well as to the students.  Locally, we have some incredibly talented and incredible educators that do amazing things with kids each and every day.  Connecting with these fine folk and growing personally would be a great part of this year for me.

(13) Take time to listen to your students – Step away from the keyboard.  Place the pencil down.  Stop.  Simply listen.

(14) Empower students through choice – When working with the students of all educational needs, choices offer pathways for creativity and for ingenuity.  Choices can also lead to tough learning and learning through mistakes.

(15) Be brave – (gulp!) A tough one.  I am currently reading a book called Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown.  It is actually all about vulnerability, and how to learn to be vulnerable in a strong way.  I am very excited to continue reading… lets see how it goes 🙂

(16) Be awesome / Be the teacher you would choose for your child – That is a tough one but a goo one!  Each teacher does this in his/her own way.  For me, its about keeping as current as I can, putting the needs of the students first and having fun.  Everything else will find its place (I’m thinking big now, as its the start of the year… ask me again in December – haha!)

(17) Strut your stuff – I don’t think that teachers are particularity good at this.  We like to do our best for our students, but when it comes to being vulnerable and open to others, we are very quick to shy away or hide.  I have the opportunity to work with a great staff and students and we need to encourage each other to share more and be proud of what we have been able to accomplish.

(18) Ask hard questions and help find answers – Some of us are certainly better at this than others!  I really have no idea where I fit on the spectrum of asking the “hard questions”.

(19) Ask for and offer help when needed – Abso-FREAKING-lutely I will!!  I have no shame in saying “boy, I really have no idea what to do here.  (Insert expert name here), would you show / tell / explain this to me please?”  I think I will get a t-shirt made 😉

(20) Teach students not subjects  – I am proud to say that I think this is an area of strength for me.  I can certainly grow more to learn how to better do this with my students, but I believe that I am on the right track!

(21) Choose kind always – Perfect point as a teacher and parent role model.  Choose kind ALWAYS.

(22) Mentor / Be someones superhero – Well, superhero I am not, but I am always certainly willing and open to mentoring any new staff, or even to mentor a students with a particularly hard topic or part of their school / life.  Building these relationships can help to strengthen all those involved.  Everyone has something to contribute and to learn from.

(23) Grow – Something tells me that this will not be a difficult task to do this year…

(24) Say thank you and mean it  – and don’t forget to say “you are welcome” as well!  “Yup” or “no worries” do not mean the same thing.  Period.

(25) Be infections / Spread your genius / Lead – Everyone has the ability to lead.  In middle school we all work together to support one another and to encourage our students and staff to be innovative and confident leaders in their field of expertise.

(26) Be the change you want to see – How will I be the change that I want to see??  Hmmmm…..

And finally, (27) When all else fails, just dance  – Good idea.  🙂

Why I Love to Teach Science


Welcome back to a new school year everyone!!

I am SUPER excited to be teaching science once again.  For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to teach in other areas of education at various levels (including University!) and I can say with certainly that my passion is science.

So why science?  What draws me back year after year??  One word: curiosity.

I love to learn.  I love to learn and explore and read about new explorations, innovations, ideas, research and studies in science.  I love watching fascinating videos or documentaries about science and how our world works.  I even search out films on Netflix (right now my favourite one is called “Blackfish” – check out the trailer here!).  Yeah, I am that guy.

And with teaching science comes the passion and desire to share my excitement and interest and curiosity with my students – that’s you guys!  That’s one of the best things about teaching science is when someone asks a question and we get to answer “I don’t know.. lets find out together”.  I hope that this year we work together to find the answers to as many questions as we can.

So with a new year and a new opportunity to learn, I hope that I can share a little bit of what I love in science and that we can learn together along the way.


Consequences of the ‘Cinnamon Challenge’

It appears that doing that Cinnamon Challenge may actually have some dangerous effects on your respiratory system…

A recent journal article published by pediatricians in the USA seems to point towards information that shows that the challenge has led to a growing number of calls to poison control centres and visits to the emergency room.  Some teens have even suffered from collapsed lungs and ended up on ventilators.

In 2011 in the USA, there were 51 calls to the poison control centre related to the Cinnamon challenge.  Then at the start of 2012, that number jumped to 178, and 30 of those calls required immediate medical attention for burning airways, nosebleeds, vomiting and difficulty breathing.

Cinnamon is actually caustic to the airways, meaning it actually burns the pathways for air.  This can cause inflammation and scarring of the lungs.  You see, cinnamon actually contains a substance called cellulose which can lodge itself in the lungs, which never breaks down. The cellulose then causes chronic (continuous) inflammation and scarring – a symptom called pulmonary fibrosis.  “Getting scarring in the lung is equivalent to getting emphysema” says one author of the study, Dr. Steven Lipshultz.

For more of the article, click the following link:  Consequences of the ‘Cinnamon Challenge’ –



Marine Biology Trip 2013

We are off to Sidney, B.C. to spend the next five days exploring the marine ecosystem – so exciting!!  If you would like to see where the boats are, click on the links below to find that specific boat.  Cannot wait to share the stories when we return!


ISLAND ODYSSEYclick here to view SPOT Messenger location

ISLAND ROAMERclick here to view SPOT Messenger location



UPDATE: Google Glass Will Get Prescription Lenses

For those of you wondering if you could wear these glasses INSTEAD of your normal glasses….. your question has been answered.  I really hope these aren’t too expensive because I really want a pair!!

Google Glass Will Get Prescription Lenses.