In my first year of teaching, fresh from my haze from history grad school, I remember approaching the history and English department chairs about creating a high school level journal for those subjects. I mean, our school has a literary magazine, and also even a publication for works in foreign languages (seriously!). But nothing for amazing critical analyses and interpretations in English and history. I figured having something like this might encourage students to revise already excellent work for publication, and also make the audience of their paper be an audience of more than one. I even contacted the literary magazine student editors to see if they would feel like the journal would encroach on their domain (they said no). For reasons that are still quite beyond my understanding (because I still think it’s an amazing idea), both department heads rebuffed my idea. (Also, if they said yes, they would have gotten an enthusiastic first year teacher who would have taken on all this work!)
And so, I let this idea pass. One of many that I have, think are awesome, and then languish and die, either due to my own laziness or due to external circumstances beyond my control.
Until last year. When I was thinking: I’m a math teacher. Why not start a math and science journal? It’s so obvious that I don’t know why the idea didn’t hit me over the head years ago. So I found a science teacher compatriot who I knew would be interested, and we came up with an initial plan. And at the end of last year, we presented it to some students who we thought might have been interested (as this was something that is something that has to be for them, by them… if they don’t want it, there’s not point in doing it… it’s not about us…). They were, and we were officially off to the races.
We shared with the students the following document we made, with a brief outline of one vision for the journal. But with the understanding that this was their thing so their ideas reign supreme. This was, in some sense, a mock-up that the science teacher and I made to show them one possibility. The one thing that the science teacher and I were really aiming for in our mock-up was that the journal shouldn’t just be for superstar students. We wanted to come up with an journal that has a low barrier of entry for students submitting to the journal, and that if a student has interest or a passion for math or science, that’s really all they need to get started. To do this, original and deep research wasn’t really the primary focus of the journal. So here’s our brief proposal:
The additional benefit of having this journal is hopefully it will cause curricular changes. Teachers will hopefully feel moved to create assignments that go “outside of the box” — and that could result in things being submitted. Students who express an interest in some math-y or science-y idea (like why is 0/0 undefined… something that came up in calculus this week) could have a teacher say “hey, that’s great… why don’t you look it up and do a 3 minute presentation on what you find tomorrow?” … and if they do a good job, encourage them to write it up for the journal. Or a teacher might assign a group project on nuclear disasters, and encourages the students who do extraordinary work to submit their project to the journal. (Which can be showcased by teachers the following year!) Or a student who notices a neat pattern, or comes up with an innovative explanation for something, or who wants to try to create their own sudoku puzzle, or decides to research fractions that satisfy . Or whatever. Knowing there is a publication you can direct the student to, as a way to say “hey, you’re doing something awesome… seriously… so awesome I think you kind of have to share it with others!” is going to be so cool for teachers. (As a random aside, I was thinking I could enlist the help of the art and photography teachers, because of the overlap between math and art… They might make an assignment based around something mathematical/geometrical, which students can submit…)
I honestly have no idea how this is going to turn out. What’s going to happen. How the word is going to get out. If anything will be submitted. If kids get excited about it. Lots of questions. But I have a deep feeling that the answers will come and good things are going to happen with this.
I’m soliciting in the comments any thoughts you might have about this. If your school does a math journal, a science journal, or a math-science journal, what does it look like? What works and what doesn’t? Do you have a website/sample we could look at? If you don’t have one, and you are inspired and think of awesome things kids could put in there (e.g. kids submitting their own puzzles! kids writing book reviews of popular math/science books, or biographies of mathematicians/scientists! getting kids to create photographs or computer images of science or data visualization or just making geometrical graphing designs! trust me — brainstorming this is super fun!) I’d love to share any and all ideas with the kids involved with this project at my school.