I was invited back to Guelph yesterday to spend the day working with occasional teachers there again. In the morning, I facilitated a session on "Math for Math-phobic Teachers". Inspired by my own recent introduction to Fermi problems, I decided to haul along a bag of birdseed I had used with my Grade 8 class a few weeks ago for a TIPS4M lesson.
The 4 KG bag certainly did little to lighten my load, but I figured it would be worth it. The other activities I had packed for the teachers to work on were some math monographs to read and discuss, and a cooperative learning problem comprising a set of six clues printed on little slips of paper, accompanied by a small baggie of cubelinks and colour tiles. So I had space to spare. Thus, in went the heavy bag of birdseed, the open top held shut by a tightly wound elastic band. I jammed a few math books on top for good measure, sat on the suitcase, and zipped it up.
I tried as best I could to pick out the grains that had flown out of my luggage when I'd unzipped it and become lodged in the hotel room carpet, stuffed everything back into my suitcase, and zipped it shut, figuring I would deal with it in the morning.
The next day at the workshop, I opened my bag to take out and set up the materials for my math workshop, and discovered the seed had spread. There was now birdseed in, on and under every other item in my suitcase, including jammed in the staples of some of the handouts!
Doing my best to not get too much seed on the floor, I carefully removed the morning's other materials, and tried to extract as much birdseed as I could, before setting them up for the teachers.
The rest of the bag was "planted", as it were, onto the impressions of the participants, and they worked eagerly to "measure" a cup of seed, and estimate number of seeds in the remaining bag.
The things teachers do for the good of the cause!