Friday, April 5, 2013

Final Report

I'm sitting here at the Alumni Conference for my Fulbright Program and I realized that I never shared my results. Mea culpa! Here it is: Final Product

A few quick footnotes...
-My deadline was the end of August. I didn't get the final post-test data until November/December, and didn't analyze it until the holiday break. So the report shared above does not include this data, but it does discuss the results of the surveys that the students completed, the pre-test data, and my observations about the schools I visited, the teachers I worked with, and the educational system in general.

-My mentor Julio and I finally got the chance to discuss the results and implications via Skype in early 2013. We discussed the particularly low conceptual gains and what might be responsible for these results and may pursue this avenue of research in the future.

To sum it all up, the original question I set out to answer was:

Can values-affirmation reflective writing activities help reduce the gender gap in conceptual gains in high school physics students?

It remains unanswered because the conceptual gains were so low that statistically there was no difference between the control group and values affirmation groups. This is disappointing, but I hope to continue this thread of research.

Thank you to everyone for your support and interest! ¡Un abrazo!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time Flies

The pictures below pictures are obviously dated. They're from my homecoming when my wonderful family (including my dog Emma) came to meet me at the airport.

We had a great summer, and now the school year has started and life is crazy all over again. It's been good getting back into the swing of things and working with my own class, but at the same time I miss my friends from Argentina and the lifestyle there. I especially miss cortados, I haven't been able to teach the local shop ( how to replicate the Argentine brew. Maybe someday they'll get it right. 

I had high hopes of keeping up with this blog after I got back, but between family, life, writing my report, etc., it never came to be. I've been doing a lot of work getting ready for the new school year, and I'm going to be trying out some new stuff. I considered continuing this blog, but to be honest it seems like I might as well start anew with a completely different theme. 

I struggled with the decision to start a new blog. On one hand, I feel like blogging is sometimes very narcissistic. On the other hand, I've learned a lot of reading blogs written by other physics teachers and I feel like it's the least I can do to share some of my experiences. So... if you're interested in following along, you can see my new blog at Duck Duck Physics. I promise, I will write something very soon!

Before signing off, I want to thank those of you who took the time to follow my adventures in Argentina. It can be difficult to convey the experience I had, but I was really touched by the number of people I have spoken with since returning home who took the time to keep tabs on me. I can't wait to go back and continue the work I started there. ¡Saludos!

p.s. If you're interested in the results of my project and want to know how things turned out, stay tuned. Sometime this fall I will get the final set of data from my mentor in Argentina and I will be happy to share my findings.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Home again, home again... and reflections

After about 40 hours of travelling, I finally made it home. It was a long trip, but I had a fantastic sendoff in San Luis and a great welcoming committee in Saranac Lake. The other people on the plane (all 5 of them) were amazed to see my family (including the dog) all decked out in red, white, and blue with welcome home signs. 

Despedida with friends
Settling in at home wasn't as easy as i expected it to be. For one thing, it took a me a while to get used to using English again. That means I was definitely immersed when I was in Argentina, but it has been a little bit challenging to get my brain to work in this mode again. I also dove right back in to parenthood, but things have changed a lot since I left! That certainly took some getting used to. I've also been surprised by cultural things- I miss some things about Argentina, like frankness, the greetings, and some of the other customs. And the hot dogs here have nothing on choripan!

People have asked me some interesting questions since I left San Luis. Here are the most common:
-Was it worth it?
-What will you miss the most about San Luis? Argentina?
-Was it hard being away from your family?
-What seems the strangest to you now that you're home?

For the record, my answers are (in order):
-Yes. Different from what I expected, but one of the most meaningful experiences I have ever had.
-My friends. Cortados in blocke cuatro. Speaking Spanish all the time. Alfajores!
-Only shaking hands when you meet someone. In Argentina it's always more- usually a kiss on the cheek.

I'm hoping to keep up with this blog now that I'm back, but given the demands of parenting, the report I'm working on for Fulbright, getting ready for next year, and relaxing a bit, my posts will probably be less frequent. Thanks to everyone who has followed along, I hope you've gotten as much out of reading my entries as I did by writing them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Last week, on the spur of the moment during a visit to Santa Maria, Guillermo invited me to help introduce the topic of free-fall.
Action Shot
Below is a video that shows me in action, bumbling Spanish and all!
(I know the camera starts out sideways, but it switches soon after, so bear with it)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


So I have officially started saying goodbye and tying up loose ends before I leave on Wednesday night. This includes packing (ugh) and finishing up the data collection for my project. I only have one school left, and should finish on Wednesday morning, leaving me just enough time to enter the data before I leave that evening. Earlier this week I went back to a school to observe a class, but Emiliano ended up letting me help run part of the class. It was challenging, but a really good experience in the end.
Emiliano showing off his parting gift

The exceptional students of San Luis Gonzaga

This was actually the second time he's given me the same type of chance, and I really appreciate it. Not teaching every day is actually one of the things I miss most about being here- watching from the sidelines just isn't the same!

Aleluya 4th year students

Their teacher Daniel with his new shirt

Aleluya 6th year students

And finally, here is an awesome video that I recently saw. It has some of the coolest footage of the northern-southern lights I've ever seen. Well worth the 2 minutes of your time.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Dixie Flag in Argentina?

This post has nothing to do with physics, but everything to do with cultural (mis)understanding. In my position as a Fulbrighter, I am not only sharing knowledge and teaching methods, but am also an agent of cultural exchange.  At the risk of opening a massive can of worms, I am going to throw my $0.02 out there in an effort to help clarify some things that Argentines might not be aware of. Before I start, I want to reiterate the disclaimer from above- the following is my opinion, and nothing more. If you have a different view of things, I would be happy to discuss this issue with you. Feel free to leave a comment, but please keep things appropriate. This preamble may seem a bit over the top, but this is a contentious issue and I think it's better to be prepared. I'm also going to do my best to provide a translation so that all my readers can understand. Be patient, I'm sure there will be minor errors!

Este entrada no tiene nada que ver con la Física, sino es sobre (mal)entendimientos culturales. En mi posición como Fulbrighter, no solamente estoy acá para compartir conocimiento y métodos de enseñanza, pero también soy un agente de intercambio cultural. Al riesgo de abrir la caja de Pandora, voy a decirles mi opinión en una oferta para aclarar algunas cosas que unos Argentinos no conocen. Antes de empezar, quiero repitir otra vez el descargo de responsibilidad de arriba- lo que sigue es solamente mi opinión, y nada más. Si vos tienes una interpretación diferente, me alegraría discutir este tema con vos. Sientes libre para dejar un comentario, pero por favor, debe ser apropriado. Por favor, tienes paciencía, porque estoy seguro que hay errores!

About three weeks ago I was visiting a school and I saw a student pull a notebook out of a backpack. I did a double-take, because there was a familiar image on the front of it.

Hace tres semanas estaba visitando una escuela y ví un alumno sacar un cuaderno de su mochilla. Miré de nuevo, porque había un imagen familar sobre el frente del cuaderno. 

Company Logo, copied from website.
What caught my eye was that it was adorned with an emblem that looked awfully similar to the rebel flag. For those of you who aren't familiar with the Civil War in the US, this image was the icon of the Southern states who seceded from the Union (it was actually their second flag, but this is the one that is commonly remembered). Since the Civil War, this flag has become an symbol of Southern Heritage. I grew up in Tennessee, and it was a frequent sight (for the record, I also see it flown in New York from time to time). In Tennessee it was frequently displayed in the back of pickup trucks, sometimes with the slogan "heritage, not hate."

Lo que me llamó la atención es que el cuaderno tenía un imagen que me aparecío muy similar a la Bandera de Los Rebeldes, cual también es conocido como la Bandera Dixie. Por esos de ustedes que no conocen la Guerra Civil de Los Estados Unidos, este imagen era el icono de los estados del Sur que se separaron de la Unión, que se llamaba La Confederación (de verdad, ésta era su bandera segunda, pero es la que es más conocido). Desde la Guerra Civil, esta bandera ha se vuelto un símbolo del Patriminio del Sur. Cuando era niño, vivía en el estado de Tennesse, que está en el Sur de Los Estados Unidos. En este lugar, esta bandera era una vista frequente (también debo decir que la veo en el estado de Nueva York a veces). En Tennessee, unas personas la exponen de la parte atrás de sus trocas, a veces con la frase "patrimonio, no odiar." 

I finally got around to doing some research to see if there was a connection between the emblem and Confederacy. I found the website for the company: John L. Cook. It seems to be a company that makes clothes and some school supplies.

Últimamente tenía la oportunidad para hacer una investigación para ver si existe una conexión entre el imagen den cuaderno y la Confederación de los Estados del Sur. Encontré el website para la empresa: John L. Cook. Parece que es una empresa que hace ropa y útiles.

I wasn't the only one who noticed the Dixie Flag here in Argentina, another blogger found this interesting as well. While this person recognized the flag for the symbol of the Confederacy, and was astonished that it had been appropriated as the symbol of a popular brand here in Argentina, in my opinion he or she missed something important about the reasons for the Civil War.

Yo no era la única persona que comprendí la Bandera Dixie acá en Argentina, un otro blogger que también la encontró muy interesante. Mientras esa persona dío cuenta que la Bandera como el símbolo de la Confederación, y le asombraba que había sido apropiado como símbolo de una marca popular acá en Argentina, mi opinión es que el o ella faltó algo important sobre las rázones porque empezó la Guerra Civil de Los Estados Unidos. 

If you go back and look at the articles of secession for the civil war (few people have actually read these), you will find that yes, on the surface the states claimed economic factors as their reasons for seceding. However, their economies were based on slavery- without slaves the southern economy could not function. Hence, abolishing slavery would be ruinous to the southern economy. So the economic argument for secession doesn't hold water- in my opinion it's just a thinly veiled excuse- the real reason to secede was to keep the institution of slavery intact. This is what I believe, but I wasn't the one who originated the idea. I was lucky enough to have an incredible US History teacher. who was an expert on the Civil War. He provided my class with the opportunity to look at primary and secondary sources and decide for ourselves. It comes as no surprise that he was also an outspoken critic of the "Heritage, not Hate" claim, as the Dixie Flag represented the Confederacy, which was in turn based on slavery, which ultimately was based on the subjugation of one race for the benefit of another.

Si vas a ver los articulos de secesión para la Guerra Civil (poca gente lo han hecho), vas a encontrar que si, es la verdad que unos estados reclamaban factores económicos como sus rázones para separarse de la Unión. Sin embargo, sus económias eran basados sobre la esclavitud- sin esclavos la económia del Sur no podía funcionar. De ahí, el paro de la esclavitud hubiera sido un desastre para la económia del Sur. Pues, el caso de que la secesión era para rázones económicos no tiene sentido- mi opinión es que es solamente una escusa apenas velada- la rázon verdadera para separarse era para guardar la institución de la esclavitud. Éste es lo que yo creo, pero yo no era el creador de esa idea. Tenía suerte de tener un profesor increible de la Historía de Los Estados Unidos cuando yo era un alumno en colegio (y también tenía otros profesor buenos, pero eso es un cuento para un otro día). Él era un experto de la Guerra Civil. Él le dío a mi clase la oportunidad para ver fuentes primarias y secundarias para que pudimos decidir para nosotros propios. No debe ser una sorpresa que el profesor también era crítico franco de la afirmación que la Bandera Dixie represente "patrimonio, no odiar," como la bandera representaba La Confederación, que era basado en la esclavitud, la natura de cual últimamente es la subyugación de una raza por el beneficio de una otra.

There is a long history of disagreement about the meaning of the Dixie Flag. You can read a lot about it if you take the time to do some searching. I would encourage you to do your homework- read articles that are researched and supported, not the drivel that many take as gospel. Look for the primary sources- the articles of secession themselves, etc. Don't take my word or anyone else's for it- decide for yourself.

Existe una historía muy larga de desacuerdo del significado de la Bandera Dixie. Puedes leer mucho sobre este tema si tomas el tiempo para buscar. Te animo completar esta tarea- debes leer articulos que son investigados y apoyados, no la basura que mucha gente cree como si fuera evangelio. Buscas para fuentes primarias- los documentos de la secesión, y más. No debes creer lo que yo digo, ni las palabras de otras personas- necesitas decidir para tu propio.

For the moment, I'm going to end by saying that I was astonished to find that image here in Argentina. Clearly, it has been taken out of context, and is not meant to represent the same things that is stands for back home. However, its appearance here presents a unique opportunity for meaningful discussion. I'd love to hear what y'all have to say.

Por el momento, voy a terminar por decir que me asombraba encontrar el imagen de la Bandera Dixie acá en Argentina. Es cierto que lo está siendo usado sin el contexto que es necesario, y no es intentado representar lo que significa en los Estados Unidos. Sin embargo, su aparación acá nos da una oportunidad para una discusión positiva. Me encantaria oir lo que ustedes piensan.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Tonight I went to a celebration of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which has been a tradition at the Aleluya school since its founding. You can read more about the tradition here:

The students basically build a giant figurine out of wood and paper mache over a two week period, and then perform a ceremony involving dancing and pageantry as they affirm the most positive aspects of human nature. The sculpture is then lit, as a way of sacrificing all of our worst attributes. This is the way I understand the ceremony, which I found to be very interesting.
Nearing the end of the construction phase in the school gym
This year's sculpture was a Minotaur. After construction was completed, the final product was transported to the military base for the ceremony. The ceremony used to take place on the school's campus, but eventually as the school and city grew it got too dangerous.

5th year physics students after class today

6th year students in front of the Minotaur they constructed

5th year students before the start of the ceremony

The 4th year B class, all decked out in their makeup for their performance.
A video of one of the dances.

The 10m tall sculpture went up fast!

Quite a pyre!
As always, I was impressed by the work that went into the ceremony. The students put a ton of work not only into making the sculpture, but also into choreographing the dances that were done by each group.