The 5 Habits Framework

1) Evidence (How do I know what's true?)

2) Perspective (Who might think differently?)

3) Connections (What other areas of knowledge are connected?)

4) Supposition (How might it be different if..?)

5) Significance (Is this important?)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Couple Tries to Un-Adopt Kids Who Threatened to Kill Them

Couple wants to void adoption of ‘mentally ill’ Russian orphans

By:  Matt Cantor

1)  Who should decide the outcome of this case?  What evidence did the couple have that the children were stable?  What evidence would be most compelling in prosecuting the children?  The parents?  The adoption agency?  The Russian government?    
2)  Why might a Russian and an American have different opinions on the subject?  An American born in 1945 vs an American born in 1985?  Someone who's been adopted?  Someone who's never had children?  

3)  How is this connected to the current political relations between Russia and the U.S.?  The Soviet Union?  How is this similar to a warranty for a product?  Different?  How is this connected to science?  Language Arts?      

4)  What would happen if all adoptions from foreign countries were outlawed?  Would this be different if the children were American?  Ethiopian?    
5)  What is the significance of this issue?  At what point are the children responsible for their own actions?  To what degree does biology affect your destiny?  

Extension Activities:

1)  Students can chart adoption rates to the U.S. from other countries and predict future impact.

2)  Students can research the emerging field of neuro-criminology and create appropriate method of justice for people who have genetic predisposition to criminal behavior.

3)  Students can research the effectiveness of reciprocity laws between countries and report how these impact our country.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hiker Defaces National Parks for the Likes

Why the Creepytings National Parks Vandalism is a Big Deal


By:  Casey Shreiner

1)  Is photographic evidence reliable?  What's the difference between graffiti and folk art?  How do you know?  Can nature be considered art?  Who might have the most convincing argument?  What information would you need to punish the artist?   

2)  Why might a park ranger and a native American have similar views on this issue?  Different?  Why might there be an issue between urban and rural citizens over this issue?  People over the age of 45 vs. those under?

3)  Have we seen something like before?  Locks on bridges in Paris?    Is this a geography, science, history, or visual arts issue?  How is graffiti like tattooing?  Different?  How does time affect our view of art?  

4)  What if she used Photoshop to make it seem as if the graffiti was real?  How might this be different is she was famous?  A man?  A Native American?  An environmentalist?  What is we banned photography in national parks?  What if there was a special tagging section set aside in every national park?       

5)  What is the impact of this issue?  Will National Park attendance be affected?       

Extension Activities

1)  Students can study the cave paintings of Europe and evaluate the effectiveness of their protection.

2)  Students can offer temporary and safe tagging solutions to those who might want to deface National Parks/Monuments/Sites.

3)  Students can study street art and how it's been elevated in our culture through artisits like Banksy and Shepard Fairey and create art based on their famous works..  

The Irony of Patenting a Google Doodle

Google's Doodle About Jonas Salk is Patented.  The Polio Vaccine Isn't


by:  Lily Hay Newman

1)  Should there be patents on medicine?  Who might be the best judge of that?  Should Doodles be patented?  How does this issue change if you find out Salk owns several patents?

2)  Who might have differing opinions on this subject?  Would you feel the same if you had a family member with a preventable disease?

3)  How is this issue connected to Ebola?  Is this a science, history, or government question?  In what ways are copyright abuse justified by some?  Music sampling?

4)  What would happen if Salk had patented the Polio vaccine?  What if all vaccines were free?  Would companies spend money to research and develop medicines if they couldn't recover their investment?

5)    What is the significance of this issue?  What is the root of the problem?

Extension Activities:

1)  Students can research popular medicines and find out who has benefited financially from them.
2)   Students can research copyright laws as they relate to art and compare/contrast the most interesting cases.
3)  Students can create Google Doodles over issues they feel are important.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Father's Birthday Gift Makes 19-Year-Old a Multimillionaire

Chicago teenager hits lottery jackpot on her 19th birthday

Photo: Eyewitness News$4m-lotto-on-19th-birthday/364288/

By:  Rosa Prince

1)  Should teenagers be millionaires?  How can I find a trusted source on the number of millionaires in the U.S.?  Do teenagers who earn their money appreciate it more than those who inherit it?  How do you know?  What happens to taxed income from lottery winnings?      

2)  Would I feel different about this story if it were about me?  About my cousin?  About someone who supports Republican/Democratic candidates for office?  How might an IRS agent and her father agree on her winning?

3)  Is this similar to inheritance?  How is it different?  How is the lottery like genetics?  Why might mathematicians be better at gambling?  Worse?  

4)  What would happen if she was one year younger?  20 years older?  What would you think if she was taxed 90% on her winnings?  2%?  What would happen if lotteries were outlawed in the U.S.?  

5)  What might the impact of this issue be on the winner?  Her family?  Her community?  What "lottery" have you won?    

Extension Activities:

1)  Students can study the history of the lottery and map the winners of the some of the largest jackpots.
2)  Students can track the rate of returns on different investment strategies with projected lottery winnings.
3)  Students can create a "Bucket List" if they win a similar amount and present their plans.  

China furious after saxophonist appears to back Hong Kong protesters

Kenny G Annoys Both Sides in Hong Kong Protests

Saxophonist Kenny G, who is a big star in China
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
by:  Jonathan Kaiman, Emma Graham-Harrison

1)  How do I know what's true and false in this article?  What more information do I need to know to make a valid opinion on this subject?  Is Kenny G's original tweet or follow-up statement more representative of his true feelings about the protests?  How can he please both the protesters and his fans?          

2)  How might a protester in Hong Kong and a protester in Ferguson, MO view this situation similarly?  Differently?  Can someone be against the protests and still be a fan of Kenny G?  Why might Kenny G's relatives and the children of a prominent Chinese government official have differing opinions?

3)  How is this connected to other protests?  Tienanmen Square?  Have other artists had similar situations?  How is this connected to science?  How is a selfie like a protest?  Like a saxophone?    

4)  What if another star had taken a selfie in the same place? Katy Perry?  Paul McCartney?  Jackie Chan?  Would you have taken a selfie in the same spot?    

5)  How is this important?  Should the opinions of musicians matter in political matters?  Other artists?  Who is affected by this?  Whose perspective is most important?  

Extension Activities:

1)  Students can choose an artist and give them advice on playing a private concert for a known/suspected human rights abuser (i.e. Beyonce playing for Mumar Qaddafi).

2)  Students can write a letter of apology on behalf of Kenny G to the HK protesters/Chinese government/fans.

3)  Students can write a "Do's and Don't's" guidebook regarding selfie etiquette in certain situations like protests, celebrations, funerals and other gatherings.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A $1.5B Problem: 5M Wild Pigs

Can Wild Pigs Ravaging the U.S. Be Stopped? 

(Clint Turnage of the U.S. Department of Agriculture)
By Amy Nordrum

1)  How might scientists know how many pigs there are?  Can estimation be used?  What are its limits?  What information is most relevant for a governor making a decision on this issue?  A butcher?  A hunter?  Which method do you need most convincing on to determine if it would be an effective solution?      

2)  How might a pig farmer and a vegetarian have similar views on this issue?  Why might teenage girl in Saudi Arabia have a different perspective on this issue than a teenager from Mexico City?

3)  When has something like this happened in the US?  Elsewhere? How can an understanding of exponential growth (math, economics) help us solve this issue?  At what point could this change the expression "multiply like rabbits"?

4)  Would we be as alarmed if the animals were dogs?  Snakes?  Lions?  What if early colonists were of a different religion?  What solutions can you propose?  

5)  How can this issue affect you personally?  Someone you know?  What might be the impact on the defense of the United States?

Extension Activities:

1)  Students can research the effects of introducing non-native organisms through case-studies (i.e. goats on Galapagos islands).
2)  Students can predict what might happen if various organisms are introduced to their hometown after watching a clip of The Simpsons travelling to Australia.
3)  Students can create a plan for introducing earth animals and plants to future colonies on the Moon or Mars.

Beyond Angkor: How lasers revealed a lost city

Ancient 'Lost City' Brought to Life With Lasers

In this photo taken on June 28, 2012, a police officer stands guard at Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple complex in Siem Reap province.
 (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

By Ben Lawrie

1)  How do we know what happened in the past?  Can we trust personal accounts? How reliable is a diary for historical evidence?  Should historians or scientists receive credit for this "discovery"?  Should someone else?     

2)  Why might a Cambodian and a French person have different perspectives on the excavation of Angkor?  How might an archaeologist from 100 years ago see this differently from a modern-day archaeologist?     

3)  What is your town's "Angkor Wat"?  In what ways is Angkor Wat like Rome?  Athens?  Mexico City?  The Moon?  What was happening in different parts of the world at the height of Angkor Wat?

4)  What would happen if we allowed people to build without restriction on ancient sites?  What if construction was restricted on sites older than 100 years?  1000 years?  10 years?  

5)  What is the significance of this story?  Who is affected by the new methods used to map Angor?  Is it ethical to excavate ancient sites?    
Extension Activities:

1)  Students can research similar "lost cities" to compare and contrast their development, rise, and fall.  
2)  Students can read a chapter from Jared Diamond's Collapse and report back to the large group on how resource depletion can lead to abandonment of cities.
3)  Students can predict how major cities of the world will grow or decline in prominence.
4)  Students can journal as the city through a personified life time (i.e., When was Ankgor a teenager, how did it feel, what was happening?, as it grew older? etc.)

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Science of Judging a Politician's Looks

How you judge politicians' attractiveness, according to science

Ooh la la.
(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

1)  What evidence is outlined in the article?  Can you notice any immediate flaws in the experiment?  What are the limits of personal opinions regarding attractiveness?  Is there universal beauty in human attractiveness?

2)  What other factors might give someone a biased opinion of attractiveness?  To what degree can people of different political parties find companionship?  In what ways might men and women political figures be judged similarly?      

3)  What other idioms or sayings are there regarding beauty? Do opposites attract? How do they apply to politics?   Can this be related to other areas?  The media?  Sports?  Education?

4)  What would happen if there were only radio debates during elections?  What would happen if everyone believed this information?  Would past election results have changed?  Future?

5)  What is the larger impact of party affiliation and perceptions of attractiveness?  What are the best positive implications of this experiment for future voters?  Why is this news?

Extension Activities:

1)  Students can study the famed televised Kennedy/Nixon debates and write a letter of advice to each politician regarding their appearance for another debate.
2)  Students can create fictional eHarmony profiles for famous historical figures.
3)  Students can study the golden ratio and describe
4)  Students can compare and contrast the way attractiveness is demonstrated in nature in their own regions' ecosystem with others around the world?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is High School Football Too Dangerous?

Three high school football players have died this week alone

-Mike Barry
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

1)  What statistical information can help us understand this issue?  Can anecdotal evidence help us understand the situation?  What are thee limits of the word"dangerous"?      

2)  Why might the mother of this student and a team mate have similar opinions?  Different?  Should NFL commissioner Goodell's opinion matter more than your math teacher's?    

3)  Are there other sports with similar issues?  Are there other areas of life dealing with the balance between danger and pleasure?  Should cars be banned if we know they are linked to the physical harm of teenagers?  What about mental/emotional harm?  

4)  What might happen if football was banned in public schools?  What might happen if all forms of competition was banned?

5)  Is this problem prevalent enough to warrant a debate?  To whom is this issue most relevant?  

Extension Activities:
1)  Students will advocate for the inclusion of video games to the state's high school athletic association by comparing and contrasting traditional sports.  
2)  Students will review the school's policy on concussions and make recommendations if needed and explain why they might be adequate.
3)  Students will design the ultimate "safe" sport to play as an alternative to "dangerous" sports.


The Changing Faces and Tongues of the South

Asian-Americans are changing the face of the South

1)  How do we get evidence about demographics?  How reliable is a self-reported census?  Are the questions on a census accurate?  Useful?  How?  Should schools accommodate the diverse languages of immigrants?  Are all immigrants coming to the southern US for the same reason?    

2)  Is there a such thing as a native Texan?  Who might have a different perspective on this issue?  Tony Romo?  Montezuma?  Sam Houston?  A teenage boy of Vietnamese descent in 2014?  2030?

3)  How does this relate to immigration of the early 20th century?  Have all groups been welcomed to larger American society equally?  How is this issue related to Health and fitness? 

4)  What might happen if we restricted immigration from certain populations?  What might happen if Southern states actively pursued more immigrants?  Are we seeing a larger trend in popular culture (i.e. more actors of Indian descent on TV)?   

5)  What are the present and future implications of this issue for schools?  Businesses?  Recreational activities?  

Extension Activities:
1)  Students can review their school's policy on ESL services and determine if it is not doing enough to address specific needs, adequate in its function, or too accommodating.

2)  Students can graph or chart on a map or other visual medium the changing demographics of the region and predict the future based on current or anticipated trends.

3)  Students can review the platforms of elected or potentially elected officials to see if they are appropriately addressing the issue?  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Optical Illusions and Emotion Recognition in Faces

An Illusion That Makes Me Both Happy and Sad

-Phil Plaitt

1)  How can our brains be tricked?  How do you know how prevalent the effect is?  What are the limits of psychological studies?  Are there more valid experiments than others? Is there more compelling evidence to prove the existence of this phenomenon?  

2)  Are children better than adults at recognizing objects/faces in a cloud?  In what ways can your culture influence your perception of emotions?  Who might perceive emotion differently?  A zookeeper?  Genghis Khan? Shakespeare?  

3)  In which academic subject might this topic be most appropriate?  Which of the ways that pareidolia manifests that the article outlines are the most common?  Least?  How does this happen in the visual arts?  In astronomy?  Which forms of pareidola are most dangerous?  

4)  What if advertisers were banned from using their knowledge of pareidola?  What if the original researcher used a picture of someone else for the experiment?

5)  What is significance of understanding this optical illusion?  What are the larger implications in school?  Environmentalism?  To whom might this matter most?      

Extension Activities:
1)  Students can show this illusion to family members and record their reactions.  Compare results and chart them with others in class.
2)  Students can create advertisements using the Thatcher Effect for their favorite products.
3)  Students can identify uses of this optical illusion and facial recognition in popular culture and predict how the story might have been different if they recognized their biases.

Restricting Travel to Curb Ebola

Restricting Travel to Curb Ebola

1)  What is Ebola?  Where have you heard about this?  Do you trust the source?  Are some sources more credible than others on this topic?  The Centers for Disease Control?  The radio?  Facebook?  Who should decide if restrict travel?  What gives them authority?      

2)  Who has the most important opinion on this subject?  How might a teenager in Liberia view this differently than a teenager in Dallas?  A nurse with 2 children in Ohio versus a physician with the organization Doctors Without Borders?    

3)  How is this crisis connected to any other recent epidemics?  Swine Flu?  AIDS?  The bubonic plague?  What is the intersection between the Ebola crisis and math?  How is Ebola like the World Series?  Who is the audience?  What is first base?  What is an inning?       

4)  What would happen if we restricted travel to the US from West Africa for a year?  What would happen if the government made people get an Ebola vaccine? 

5)  How significant is the risk to you?  How significant is the risk to people you care about?  Are there other things to worry about more than Ebola?  To what degree is this an example of sensationalism by the media?

Extension Activities:
1)  Chart the prevalence of Ebola in various countries and compare them to the US.  Predict results in various potential cases (i.e. The US invests heavily in the World Health Organization,  the US bans all travel for 10 years, etc.).  

2)  Students can describe a personified day in the life of a virus.  Fears, motivations, etc. 

3)  Students can research effective and ineffective responses to international health crises and provide advice to a school administrator on how to handle the school's response.  

4)  Students can place myths and facts about Ebola on a continuum to evaluate the claims made by various news/social networking sources.        

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The 5 Habits of Mind: A Framework for Critical Thinking in the Classroom

The Five Habits of Mind

The infusion of critical thinking into a lesson is the most crucial aspect for ensuring positive educational experiences.  The 5 Habits of Mind, as promoted by education activist Deborah Meier, is a framework on which the concepts and application of higher-order thought can be drawn for a 5 minute discussion or 5 lifetimes worth of contemplation.  In a system which all-too-often shows a laundry line of seemingly disconnected ideas and facts to uninterested and coerced students (sorry for the strong language) the 5 Habits stand in stark contrast as universal criteria for clear thought and engagement with complex material.  The questions of 1) evidence, 2) perspective, 3) supposition, 4) connections, and 5) significance are just as important to consider today as Aristotle did 2,400 years ago or a student on the colony of Mars 240 years from now will.

The purpose of this blog is to provide a resource for teachers at any level in any subject to incorporate critical thinking into their classroom.  I will post a link from publications designed for students and then provide guiding questions for each of the 5 Habits.  Possible project or activity extensions are outlined at the end as well.  The questions and exercises are not intended to be exhaustive or complete since your students will begin to generate inquiries once they are primed, taking the conversation to interesting places.  Questioning for complex thinking in a classroom is a skill that can be developed and I hope these postings help you in your journey.  If you have suggestions or additional questions to ask or want to relate how you used these brief guides in classroom, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section.   

When our goals are to help students become life-long learners and independent thinkers there can be no better time than the present to give them an environment in which to practice.  

Deborah Meier on the 5 Habits

Into the Future with Drones

Into the Future with Drones

Image result for drones
1)  What do I know about drones?  How do I know this?  What evidence do I need to know to determine who should be able to use drones?  How do I make sure it's credible?
2)  Whose perspective is being represented? Who might have a different perspective on this issue?  A homeowner whose house was destroyed in a natural disaster?  A young Pakistani girl from areas that have been bombed?  An administrator from the FAA? A teenage boy from the year 2045? Do you believe there should be restrictions on drones?  What, if any, are the limits of those restrictions?      
3)  Did people have the same fear about other technologies?  Planes?  Cars?  GPS?  The internet?  What is the connection between drone use and science?  Math?  ELA?
4)  What would happen if everyone could use drones with no restrictions?  How could this affect other sporting events?  Concerts?  Business? Transportation?  The media? What would happen if the government only gave businesses licenses to fly drones?  To what degree would someone have to change the design of drones to go around existing laws?  Future laws?  What would happen if drones took over pilots' jobs?
5)  How is this an important issue?  If it's not important to you, to whom might it matter?  What areas would be most affected by drone use?

Extension  Activities:
1) Students can write an editorial advocating for or opposing drones for military use.
2)  Students can develop geometry questions about the limits of range for a controller and the distance and height of a drone for a quarterback or for surveying wildlife for ecological purposes
3)  Students can create a continuum of drone uses outlined in the article on a scale of their choice with examples of their use at each level (i.e. "Acceptable Uses of Drones"continuum with toy at #1 weapon at #10 or  "Fun Uses of Drones" with football analysis at #1 and damage surveying #10).

AoK:  Ethics

WoK:  Reason