Middle School Then and Now

Then - Me around age 11
Now - Teaching 11 year olds

Welcome to Stretching Forward! My name is Janelle Wilson, and I teach students in that fabulous time in life known as middle school! To be more specific, I teach Earth science to sixth graders at the gifted/accelerated level. I cannot remember a time I did not love science!

I grew up on Florida’s west coast, which meant I had a lot of scientific, awesome things around me. With things like Epcot and the Kennedy Space Center only a couple hours drive away, my love for science grew. My hometown also has an amazing planetarium, and I am sure visits there helped to solidify my love for science!

As I familiarize my students with Earth science, I hope I am sharing with them the sense of wonder, excitement, and joy I get whenever I look at the scientific world. If you are interested in what we do in class each day, you can check out our class web site: Earth Science with Mrs. Wilson.

Here at Stretching Forward I will be sharing reflections of activities I have tried in class, lesson and unit plans I have developed, technologies that I have used with my students, and other thoughts related to education.

What I Do for Fun


Jumping for Joy: with Atlantis and friends
Hanging out in front of the VAB

As you noticed, I love science, and space is one of my biggest favorite things! I love visiting NASA space centers, and I could not believe it when I was chosen to go see the launch of STS-132 – Atlantis’  final scheduled flight. It was amazing. Now I feel like Atlantis and I are bffs. In fact, there was an MSNBC article that called us all shuttle groupies! No worries – you can call me a shuttle groupie any day!

Atlantis and me
All decked out for the launch of Atlantis

I also went to visit Houston, TX and Johnson Space Center to see Mission Control. This was another amazing event, and you can read an article about it here and watch a news recap (with me speaking about it) here.

And in case you think I spend all my time doing space science stuff, do not worry. I also like to run (a new hobby for me this year), spend way too much time on the computer (especially tweeting, follow me), read books of all sorts, crochet, and watch British tv shows (like Doctor Who) with my husband.


Neil and me
The entire family

Here are some photos with my family. My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years. He is from England, so he has an awesome accent. Occasionally, we get to go back to England and visit all of his family, who still live in England. I do not know how he does it living so far away from all of his family. My sister and her husband live in close by, and my parents still live in Florida. Ironically, it takes 8 hours to drive to my parents’ house and 8 hours to fly to London!

And Finally…

I thought you might seeing what it is like to view a shuttle launch from up close. I viewed the launch from the press site standing right behind the count down clock.


  1. Hi Janeelle Wilson,
    I am reading on Nasa Twitter; that you attended the Space Shuttle “Atlantis”; Launch of STS 132 Mission to the ISS. I follow the shuttle mission’s i live in Ireland i watched the launch on Nasa T V, via the Internet. It must have been quiet exciting to watch the launch from the kennedy Space Center? I will be following the STS 132 Mission, on Nasa T.V.

    I read also that you are a earth science teacher.in NE Georgia?. Astronaut Dottie Metcalf Linedenburger who fly on STS 131 Mission was also a teacher.

    Bill Reddin Rep of IRE…

    1. Thank you 🙂 It’s still very much a work in progress. Trying to get in the habit of blogging more often this summer so I can carry it over during the school year.

  2. I really like how you put then and now pictures on your About Me page. I also liked how you included things that you like to do and about your family. Something that students could do is to have a now page and a future themselves.
    Thanks for the ideas.

    -Mrs. Berry

    1. Thanks, Christy.

      That’s a great idea about having students include future selves information. I may have to include that with my students eventually.

  3. Hi Janelle,
    Great job with your new “About Me” page! The ‘before’ page is very professional and suitable for a CV or resume, but I love the ‘after’ page because it makes you more accessible to students, parents and other teachers. You really have been ‘stretching forward’ with the teacher’s blogging challenge – keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks, Britt. I definitely felt the before page was too restrained. I am not like that at all, and I think the new page really helps my personality to come through.

  4. Hi Janelle–

    My, you certainly gave your page a makeover! The new one is much more personal and informative. I am a NASA fan too, but am old enough to have watched Apollo launches in the (yes, there was only one) TV room in my elementary school. How lucky that you got to see a launch in person.

    What I couldn’t tell from your page, though, is what your primary goals are in the blog. Your older version made clear that the intent was to post assignments and so on. I know that you are doing this as part of the teacher challenge, but is the classroom piece still part of your goal? I just wasn’t clear.

    Thanks for sharing. I’d love feed back on my updated page at Book Frontiers—About page

  5. Hi Janelle, I was very interested in your about page, having just springcleaned mine. I love the way you have your family in there, as well as the other images and video. I must admit that after I had rewritten my about page it got a few more additions after I had been around looking at others, especially this one.

  6. Hi Janelle, I love your new about page. It really gives a much stronger sense of who you are and what you like. I am envious about your ability to watch a shuttle launch. I’m a total NASA geek too, although from the era of watching Apollo launches from the school’s (only) TV room.

    One thing that I didn’t see from the original, though, is what the goal of the blog is. I usually like to have a sense of what the person will be talking about in the future. I can tell it will be about you and science, but is it still for students and parents?

    And if you blogged with students, would you want them to share this much information? I’m curious, because as a school librarian, I usually discourage kids from telling too much personal information.

    Thanks for sharing your makeover!

    1. Hi, Lydia! First of all, I want to apologize for the delay in responding. Your comment was flagged by my spam filter for some reason, and I just rescued it.

      That’s a good point about the goal. I may need to go back & sneak a sentence or two in the first paragraph. This blog is for professional development mostly. It’s intention is not to interact with parents or students, but I would not mind at all if they did find & comment here. I also have a class site for interacting with students & parents.

      I do blog with my students, and when I have them fill out about pages I encourage them to share their interests and information about themselves that would not make them easily identifiable. I teach sixth grade, so privacy is definitely a concern.

  7. Janelle I think your “about me” page is great. It is so much richer than your old one. Great work! I love the fact you have included your family and I want to do that too, when I have time. As I come from a farm, I thought it might be fun to include some of that too. Congratulations on some great work!

  8. Hi Janelle,

    Wow! what an amazing transformation. I think the great thing about the ‘About Page’ is that you can really get to know the person who is writing the posts. It becomes like you are reading a letter from a dear friend, rather than someone you don’t know!

    Thank you for sharing

  9. Whoh, Janelle.
    What a huge difference between your before and after About Pages. I’m really impressed by the way you have made your ‘new’ About Page alive and vibrant. I get a sense of who you really are (if that makes sense).

    1. Thanks, Glenda. I was definitely hoping you would get a glimpse of the “real me” by reading the about page. It sounds like it’s working. 🙂

  10. Hello Janelle,
    Wow, what a great job you have done of spring cleaning your “about” page.It is truly inspirational. Love your photos and the way you write How fortunate you are to live where you do . I visited Kennedy Space Centre and the EPCOT Centre in 1997 and found them very memorable.Best Wishes for 2011,
    Yvonne Osborn, Melbourne, Australia.

    1. Hi, Yvonne. Thanks for stopping by.

      I was very blessed to grow up where I did in Florida. I definitely had some incredible experiences because of it.

  11. Great site! You’re so lucky, to live in Florida, I want to watch a launch too!
    I’m a Japanese middle schooler. I blog about space explorations, which I’m really interested in.

  12. Hi Janelle,

    Just want to introduce you to Gnowledge (www.gnowledge.com), the online test publishing platform, and solicit your thoughts and opinions on it.

    Gnowledge is free for everyone to use. Tests and exercises can be created by anyone and are categorized by title, subject, grade, school and/or country. Once published, these tests are available for everyone to use and share. Students preparing for exams or who wish improve their knowledge and accelerate their academic progress can search Gnowledge for their desired subject. All test results, scores and answers to every question administered is stored on Gnowledge. Registered users can view their own individual test results any time and the test results of everyone who has taken the tests they’ve created, and these tests and/or results can be shared with others if they choose to do so.

    The best example of how Gnowledge is being used and how it transcends language and cultural barriers and education syllabuses is by a French language teacher in Mexico (a Spanish-speaking country). She uses Gnowledge (an English-language website) to produce simple tests and exercises for her students. In two months she has published 50 tests and these tests have been administered to her (and other) students 1,272 times. Scale of this magnitude does not happen in conventional classrooms or schools. Her stats can be independently verified at: http://www.gnowledge.com/saveurfle.

    I invite you to check out Gnowledge. If you have any comments, queries or criticisms for Gnowledge, please let me know, your feedback would be most appreciated.

    Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon.

    Aiman Azri

    1. I’m sorry for not responding to your comment sooner. I am not sure what the student made that model out of. I let my students be as creative as they want for this project.

  13. Thanks.. My son did well.. We made one out of Styrofoam, and the teacher decided to keep it to show to other classes / grades.. !!

  14. I am a student research assistant at Montana Tech of the University of Montana. Technology has created exciting ways to connect with others and form professional learning networks. As a part of an active member of a social media community made up of teachers, I wanted to contact you to ask you to participate in a study our research group is conducting.

    Research shows that face-to-face professional networks provide much needed professional and personal support to teachers. You and the community you belong to are providing these types of support using social media. We are interested in learning more about your experiences using social media to connect with other teachers and your opinions about online professional networks.

    The purpose of our study is to learn how professional learning networks created through social media are similar or different than face-to-face networks and what you feel are advantages of using social media to connect with other teachers. Our hope is that the results of this study will inform how professional networks for teachers are designed in the future. If you are interested in participating, please send an email to me at teacherblogPLN@gmail.com. I will send you a link to a short online survey and will set up time for a short skype interview.

    If you have any questions you would like to ask about the study, please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Kaitlyn Rudy
    Research Assistant
    Department of Mathematical Sciences
    Montana Tech of the University of Montana

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