Putting Educational Innovations into Practice.

Rick Maschek
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  • Hesperia, CA
  • United States
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  • Genovefa Pinnick
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Are you a member of MERLOT (
Have you used a learning material from MERLOT in your teaching?
Not yet but I plan to
Describe your role in education
I retired from teaching chemistry and physics to devote more time to my rocket/space interests (I am on two separate amateur space projects and two rocketry organizations and advise high school Team America Rocket Challenge (TARC) teams. I have since been asked to finish the second semester chemistry classes for a school that let go the teacher.
I taught good science, not the standards or the test and yet my students averaged as good or better as the California schools that made the top 100 in the country. The majority of my students were economically disadvantaged and our school API was less than 650. I believe that any and all students respond to good teaching and freely pass on my experience in teaching.
When I was teaching middle school, I recreated a 4,000 sq ft dinosaur dig in an unused weed covered patch of the school grounds. At one point I had six life size dinosaur "fossil" skeletons for the students to excavate and attempt to reconstruct (an excellent way to learn anatomy). Years later I've had students tell me that was the best thing they ever did in school. I also had an after school science club of some type for all but my first year teaching. We've done things such as technical rock climbing while learning geology, spelunking, gold panning (history connection) and of course rocketry (including a few TARC teams).
I did the rocketry program because of mishaps I experienced in my unsupervised youthful experimentation that I managed to survive. In my retirement I may now realize one of my lifelong dreams of going into space. I found that one way to turn on students to the sciences was to live and experience them. I've walked on red hot lava, slept in igloos, floated in hot air balloons, dug dinosaur fossils, etc.
I look forward to helping any of you with your projects in any way I can.

Student rocket club

Just a few of the many students who experienced the thrill of building & launching rockets.
I had been out all night on a search and rescue mission and met the students at the launch site.
These "scratch built" rockets cost about 50 cents total...for a bottle of Elmer's glue. Ask me.

Comment Wall (6 comments)

At 9:26am on March 10, 2009, Genovefa Pinnick said…
Yeah. What comes to mind for you? I have y version of this, too. One of the first things I experienced as a sub, aside fro the shock of not knowing how to control a classroom, was the brain-numbing lessons that I was required to teach. Oh God, it was awful. I felt so bad for those kids.

There were a few instances of enjoyment and deep interest, that both the kids and I experienced, and this was both instructing and inspiring.
I would like to hear your stories, especially coming from a season veterans of the education world, your lens will be pun intended.
At 9:40am on March 10, 2009, Genovefa Pinnick said…
Hey Rick. You've been enjoying your interests. Wow...I used to yearn to go on a dino dig. Then I grew up, got responsibility and got lost in life. This is so enjoyable to reconnect with childhood interests. Good for You Rick!!! The Sugar Shot is very interesting. I'm not necessarily into rockets, but the challenge of using only s sugar-based fuel to launch into space...that is quite the feat. How far up have your rockets gotten so far?

One of my favorite classes as a Bio undergrad was "Dino Biology" taught by Nick Geist at Sonoma State university. He's an amazing instructor, very charismatic and an outstanding scientist. He's down at Zzyzx often for reptile research. I learned so much fro him and that class rekindled my long, lost love of dinosaurs. So, this is what retirement is for!?
At 4:27pm on March 12, 2009, Genovefa Pinnick said…
Rick, I loved your sounding off. Don't stop on my account.

On a few occasions I've had the good fortune to sub for a scinece class and I loved it. I had a chance to do some big picture analogies and diagramming for mitosis and meiosis...I was in heaven. Ahhhh...! Not many subs don't have a science background and anythng complicated is beyond many of them. In my district I encounter subs who are coming from another country and frequently their background is in Composition and or art, or who are in between jobs. A few who are engaged in the teaching credentail process. It generally is a grab bag of expereinces and abilities. I did sub for a english teacher who was teaching scinece and I had to follow the sub plan...awhhh. That was awful.

Personally, I feel composition fits perfectly into science as a lesson in comparative composition exploring the APA vs, MLA style, purpose, scientific method, peer review process, intended audience, accumulation of empirical data, etc. And art....I love art, and am pretty creative myself. I see no disconnect between science and art. It's just applied in a different manner. I've seen some very elegant experiments conducted. Each was a thing of beauty.

Looking at the roster and backgrounds of these people coming to the Mojave trip...this will NOT be the case. There are some very smart and interesting science types showing up here. I'll learn so much! Have you checked out the bios of the scientists who will be leading us? Wow...some very sharp cookies.

Well, I haven't built up a collection of things to bring in, but as you told your story I felt it. Cool stuff. I am so sorry that you were prevented from enriching the lives and interests of young people. I a completely green and wet behind the ears in regards to teaching science class full time. One of my fellow students in the MA ITEC program is a 3 year science teacher, earth science, and he's been kind enough to both share critique of my work and show me what has worked for him. He also spoke about not expecting to sleep for a few years. I've already heard that. I'm very much a tech person so I expect I'll accumulate a database of lesson plans that I've combine from other lesson plans and my own ideas, as well as hard copies, to page through. I'm open to suggestions.
At 11:35am on March 14, 2009, Genovefa Pinnick said…
Rick, great ideas! It seems natural that I would create a feedback loop for myself...especially in the first year or two. I do love computer resources for the ease with which this can be done. However, I have recently begun to think I may have a hard copy in binders by class topic that I can page through as it is much easier to "see" on a page versus on the screen. Unfortunately, I can not seem to get away entirely from paper use.

Science Art...I really like that. I'd love to see pics of science art your kids have produced over the years. From your description, it truly is beautiful and creative. I spent years in art class and I still paint and raw fro tie to tie. My mother was a draftsman and patent artist and used her art talent for the renderings of cogs and schematic diagrams of structures. She created industrial art and her ability was sought after. 3-D Topo maps using the modern resins, clays and paints would be fantastic.

I just bought a camera that has 10 minute video capabilities and I'm planning on bringing my computer to download video and pics onto Flickr. I know how much I have always loved watching y teachers go and do things overseas or on research expeditions....I'll start y collection of "Walking the Talk" photos on this trip. I'm so glad you mentioned this. I know this stuff...but being reminded is very helpful. May have to ask or you and others to take my pic.
At 11:41am on March 14, 2009, Genovefa Pinnick said…
By the way...where did you get the dinosaur skeleton to plant in the unused weed patch at your school? Is there a kit or supplier for this type of school project? Of course...tying it to anatomy. That's a "no brainer". Yuk, yuk.
At 11:58pm on March 29, 2009, John Char said…
Mr. Maschek~ I'm sure you probably don't remember me, but I was a student of yours about 12 years ago at Ranchero. My name is John Char (Chongwon). You also helped me with a science project involving fruit flies while I was at Sultana.

I was looking for your email address on the HUSD site when I came across this page on Google. I tried to come by your class many moons ago, but they told me that you were at Hesperia High. I've been away for a while and just got back to California in August, so every now and then I think of memorable people from my past.

If you do remember me :), I'd love to catch up. my email is hope to hear from you soon.

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