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Beginning the School Year with “Who I Am” Projects

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It’s the start of a new school year. I am often baffled why teachers (all levels including college) jump right into covering content when the students are in a state of disequilibrium . . . wondering about the other students, the teacher, and the classroom climate. As such, I begin my classes with experiential, personal connections activities. During the first days of class, the messages I want to give my students, through these activities, include:

The Activities

Here are some of the activities I am doing with my students during the first weeks of school:

  • Bio-Bags
  • Toss and Talk Balls
  • All About Me Posters
  • Vision Statement
  • Family Picture Book
  • Kahoot Selfie
  • Fake Instagram
  • Mask of Symbols
  • Comic – the Change I’d Like to See in the World

Time is built in for students to do a show and tell of activities completed. They can decide which activities they want to do and in what order. See the following punchcard for more about this.

Punchcards for Accountability

Students receive their own punchcard (see below – printed on cardstock). When they finish an activity (they can be completed in any order), they come to me to show me. I ask them: (1) Did you fully completed the activity? and (2) Do you believe it is of a quality you believe is your best work (to avoid the let’s get it done quickly mentality)? If they say “yes” to both questions, I give them the hole punch so they can punch the two holes related to that activity.

Activity Descriptions

Bio-Bags

To begin, students bring an old but sentimental t-shirt to class. The shirt is made into a tote bag (see https://www.instructables.com/No-Sew-T-Shirt-Tote-Bag-1/).

Students are then given the following directions (taken from BioBags: Linking Literature and Life):

Choose any written works that have been important to you or that you love (you must have at least five written works) and bring them to school. You might bring the first book you could read by yourself, a letter that you like to read over and over, a special recipe, a favorite trading card, etc. Please try to include a variety of written works. You will get to tell the class why each
of the works is special to you and how it has impacted your life. Examples include:

  • A story or a book that you used to love listening to when you were younger
  • First books you were able to read by yourself
  • Hobbies- any written works you could share that fit with those hobbies (e.g., a program from a play, a scorecard, a trading card, a how-to book, directions for a favorite game)
  • Any special letter or e-mail received
  • Favorite song lyrics
  • A diary or a journal
  • Any special certificates or awards you’ve won
  • A favorite dish recipe
  • Any books that you love to read over and over

Toss and Talk Balls

For this activities, pairs of students receive a beach ball and a sharpie. They make Toss and Talk Ball, and then play it with their classmates.

Here is a list from which the students can choose: https://museumhack.com/list-icebreakers-questions/

Vision Statement

For this activity, students create a Vision Statement about themselves using Canva or Adobe Express. Directions for doing this using Canva and examples can be found at: https://our3lilbirds.blogspot.com/2017/05/how-to-make-one-page-profile-ellie-style.html. Note that this activity was designed for parents to create visions statements for their special needs children (as is seen by the poster to the left). I am adapting it for my students so that they create their own Vision Statement/Profile sheet using the same sections as this poster and populating them with their own information.

Vision Statement

The template:

Student Examples


LED Enhanced All About Me Posters

I like using the All About Me posters at the beginning of the school year as it lets me know a lot about the learners in a very short time. I also use them to decorate my classroom walls. Since I have been involved in maker education, I show the kids how to use LED lights creating circuits with copper tape. They use these materials to create LED-enhanced All About me Posters.

Kahoot Selfie

Most teachers and students these days know about Kahoota game-based learning platform that makes it easy to create, share and play learning games or trivia quizzes. For this All About Me activity, learners create their own Kahoot Selfie with 5 or more Kahoot quiz questions about themselves, each question having a four possible answers with only one of them being correct. Here is a template to help them with planning – https://kahoot.com/files/2017/07/kahoot_paper_template-1.pdf and an actual Student Selfie Kahoot that they can duplicate and edit with their own questions and answers (they will need their own account to do so).

Fake Instagram Account

Because my learners are elementary age, they don’t (or shouldn’t) have their own Instagram account. This activity allows them to create their own (fake) one. The blog post, Fake Instagram Template with Google Slides (FREE), describes the process for doing this. This template – https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1_gupBqIZBToioNFgbAb4nFVlsJgbdW5xneccto6pcFk/edit?usp=sharing – can be used by going under file to make a copy.

Here is my example:

Family Picture Book/ Cuadros de familia

This activity fits quite well with the Hispanic (the identifier used by the population with whom I work) heritage of the majority of my students. It begins by showing the students the following video:

They then use the following handout to create their books (taken from https://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/family-traditions-class-book):

A few adaptations that are used within my class are: (1) they can make the book as long as they choose, and (2) they can decide if they want to combine their books with other students in the class.

Mask Making

The full lesson for this activity can be found at Facing History’s What Aspects of Our Identities Do We Show to Others? which students are given access to work through independently:

Students will be making a mask that will be displayed in the classroom. The purpose of the mask is to answer the question, “Who am I?” To make their masks, students first have to decide how they want to present themselves to the class. Which aspects of their identities do they want to emphasize? Which aspects of their identities do they wish to conceal? Completing the Mask-making Preparation Worksheet can help students answer these questions before they begin crafting their masks. Before they begin, show students the materials they can use. In addition to markers and paper plates (or mask DIY which like Colorations® Cardstock Masks), old magazines are especially useful for this activity because students can cut out words and images. Also, inform students that they can decorate both the outside and the inside of the masks. They can use the outside to represent the aspects of their identities they openly show to the outside world and the inside to represent the more private aspects of their identities.

Here is the worksheet that goes along with this activity:

Comic Strip: A Change I’d Like to See in the World

For this activity, learners create a comic strip of at least 6 cells that describes a change they’d like to see in the world. I really like StoryboardThat and have an account for it so this is the platform my students use. Here is an example I found so learners can have an idea what to create:

Reflecting on the Activities

Once they successfully finish an activity, they are asked to reflect on it prior to going to the next activity. I use the blog platform, FanSchool (formally Kidblogs) to have them do so. FanSchool also has a direct connection for Flip (formally FlipGrid) so students who prefer to talk rather than write can do so. They show their project (inserting an image for writing, showing and telling for a Flip recording). During their reflections, they answer at least three of the following questions:

  • What did you enjoy about the activity? What didn’t you enjoy?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • What were the most difficult parts of the activity? Why?
  • What were the most satisfying parts of the activity?
  • What positives can you take away from the activity?
  • How have you been challenged during the activity?
  • How do you feel about what you made? What parts of it do you particularly like? Dislike?

Standards Address

Common Core State Standards – ELA

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.6
With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

21st Century Skills

THINK CREATIVELY
• Use a wide range of idea-creation techniques (such as brainstorming)
• Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)

REASON EFFECTIVELY
• Interpret information and draw conclusions based on the best analysis
• Reflect critically on learning experiences and processes

COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
• Articulate thoughts and ideas effectively using oral, written, and nonverbal communication skills in a variety of forms and contexts)
• Utilize multiple media and technologies, and know how to judge their effectiveness a priority as well as assess their impact

MANAGE GOALS AND TIME
• Set goals with tangible and intangible success criteria
• Balance tactical (short-term) and strategic (long-term) goals
• Utilize time and manage workload efficiently

WORK INDEPENDENTLY
• Monitor, define, prioritize, and complete tasks without direct oversight
• Be self-directed learners

NAGC (Gifted Education) Standards

1.1. Self-Understanding. Students with gifts and talents recognize their interests, strengths, and needs in cognitive, creative, social, emotional, and psychological areas.

1.2. Self-Understanding. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate understanding of they learn and recognize the influences of their identities, cultures, beliefs, traditions, and values on their learning and behavior.

1.3. Self-Understanding. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate understanding of and respect for similarities and differences between themselves and their cognitive and chronological peer groups and others in the general population.

1.5. Cognitive, Psychosocial, and Affective Growth. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate cognitive growth and psychosocial skills that support their talent development as a result of meaningful and challenging learning activities that address their unique characteristics and needs.

3.2. Talent Development. Students with gifts and talents demonstrate growth in social and emotional and psychosocial skills necessary for achievement in their domain(s) of talent and/or areas of interest

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

August 14, 2022 at 7:09 pm

Physical Computing with micro:bits and Makecode

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I am quite fond of facilitating physical computing activities with my learners as I’ve discussed in Scratch and Makey Makey Across the Curriculum . For that post I created the following graphic to represent the benefits of physical computing. I think it is important to extend the use of coding and microcontrollers into creating physical objects for the following reasons:

benefits of physical computing

Standards Addressed

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

Next Generation Science Standards

  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.

micro:bit Activities

The following slide deck contains the list of micro:bit activities completed by my summer campers. It includes the Makecode for the more advanced projects:

Here are examples of student projects:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 23, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Lip Syncing Characters Using micro:bits and Hummingbirds

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I am quite fond of facilitating physical computing activities with my learners as I’ve discussed in Scratch and Makey Makey Across the Curriculum . For that post I created the following graphic to represent the benefits of physical computing. I think it is important to extend the use of coding microcontrollers into making physical objects for the following reasons:

benefits of physical computing

Lip Syncing Characters with a micro:bit and a Servo

I was excited to find Cecilia Hillway‘s (she’s so very talented!) Lip-Syncing Characters With Micro:bit – https://www.instructables.com/Lip-Syncing-Characters-With-Microbit/. Here is her video overview of her processes:

. . . and here are some examples of what my students did over the school year and what Cecilia’s kids did this summer:

Cecilia’s provided a Makecode graphic for the project:

I recreated this Makecode – https://makecode.microbit.org/_aRfexJ44aEpk

Lip Syncing Characters with a Hummingbird

A Hummingbird by Birdbrain is a kit of lights, sensors, and motors which allows students to create personally meaningful robots out of any materials. As part of her Instructables, Cecilia described her use of Hummingbird to add more features to the Lip Syncing Characters. It was a bit complicated for me so I used the kit to add a second servo to have her arm move and a flashing light to highlight my character’s name.

With the help of the folks from Codejoy, a Makecode was created for this project.

Here is the makecode – https://makecode.microbit.org/_1Ex1vYcqbF0r

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 18, 2022 at 12:37 pm

The Joy of Watching a Lesson Come Alive

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Number one on my love list of teaching is spending time with my fantastic students. High on my list is also my love of designing and creating learning activities for my students. I get such joy in seeing my designs come to life in the hands of my learners. Recently, I designed a pinball machine using a pizza box, Strawbees, Makedo screws, and an optional micro:bit scoreboard. The full directions can be found at: https://www.instructables.com/Cardboard-Pinball-Machine-Using-a-Pizza-Box-Strawb/.

I got to test my new learning activity with my summer campers during my Toy Making camp. As is usual, when kids get to jump in and try the activity out for themselves, they far exceeded my vision and expectations for it.



As I observed the campers making the pinball machine, I found such joy in witnessing:

  • 100% engagement. All students were actively and joyfully engaged. It reinforced my belief that there is a human need to create. I wrote about this in The Magic of Making: The Human Need to Create.
  • Their creativity. I was in awe about the directions they took with this; how much they added their selves to the base project.
  • Their ability to create the project without direct instruction. About half of them were able to just fly with it without my assistance; by just studying my prototype.
  • Their eyes light up when their projects worked as they envisioned them.
  • Their interest in their peers’ projects.
  • How valuable experiential learning is. I wrote about this in The Imperative of Experiential and Hands On Learning:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

July 3, 2022 at 11:27 pm

Toy Take Apart and Repurposing: A Creative Problem-Solving Lesson

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Toy Take Apart and Repurposing is always a great favorite both with my gifted students and with my campers during my summer Toy Hacking and Making camp. I purchase battery-operated toys from ebay and thrift stores. Because I am always seeking ways to improve my lessons, I was excited to add the repair mindset reflection, the micro:bit driven Plushpal, and circuit jewelry to this activity this past spring. These additions seemed to really enhance the lesson.

This lesson was driven by the following references and resources:

Toy Take Apart

Learners began by taking their battery operated toys apart. They were instructed to take it apart so all of the components were separated and to sketch the parts as they did so.

Repair Mindset Reflection

The Repair Exploration tool is designed to cultivate a sensitivity to and curiosity about how objects and systems work by looking closely at them (https://resources.makered.org/resource/cultivating-repair-mindset-toolkit).

After learners completed taking their toys apart, they were asked to used this tool to reflect on their learning. They put their answers directly on the paper where they made their sketches.

micro:bit PlushPal

PlushPal is a tool for creating interactive toys using the micro:bit. Using PlushPal, you can program your stuffed animal to respond with sounds based on custom gestures you create.

Link to the PlushPal Guide – https://www.notion.so/scientiffic/PlushPal-Guide-06def1796fd4420389ea33a5eb9ac897. The following video shows some learners trying out PlushPal:

Circuit Jewelry

In order to reinforce the concept of repurposing, learners got to use a circuit board from their toy (comes in all battery-operated toys) to make some jewelry.

Invention Literacy: Repurposing Toys Parts

Invention Literacy, as coined by Jay Silver of Makey Makey, “is the ability to read and write human made stuff.” To be invention literate, it means you’re able to look at the world around you and think about how something works. When students put on the hat of an inventor, they can see how the world works, and have the confidence to invent new parts of the world (https://sphero.com/blogs/news/invention-literacy).

The following video shows Theo repurposing-inventing his toy parts into something functional:

The following images show students repurposing-inventing their toy parts into a prototype for a new game:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 23, 2022 at 11:35 pm

Stop Motion Animations: A Fun and Engaging Language Arts-Educational Technology Integration

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One of my favorite things to do as an educator is to create lessons plans that help students address content standards through authentic learning activities and develop transferrable skills. For the stop motion animations, both English Language Arts Common Core and ISTE Standards were addressed. Plus, students had fun, were fully engaged, and developed a greater tolerance for long term projects. This blog post provides some background information as well as presents a few student examples.

Standards Addressed

English Language Arts Common Core Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.A
    Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.B
    Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.E
    Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.

ISTE (Technology) Standards for Students

1.6. Creative Communicator
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students:

  • 1.6.b. create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • 1.6.c. communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
  • 1.6.d. publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Creating Storyboards

Learners were assigned the following story arc template in Storyboard That.

Link – https://www.storyboardthat.com/create/storytelling-templates

Making the Stop Motion Animations

Learners used the Stop Motion Studio App to create their animations:

Student Examples

The Worm and the Cheese by Andrew

Storyboard Template Using Storyboard That

Stop Motion Animation: The Worm and the Cheese

The Adventure of the Cats by Marisol

Storyboard Template Using Storyboard That

Stop Motion Animation: The Adventures of the Cats

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

May 22, 2022 at 3:51 pm

Social Entrepreneurship with Elementary Students: A Perfect STEAM Lesson

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I have done a social entrepreneurship unit with three groups of gifted students, grades 3rd through 6th. It was one of my favorite units . . . ever, and from their reactions, I believe it was one of theirs, too. I call it a perfect STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) unit. The first part of this post explains some of the rationale for this project, and the second part describes the unit, itself.

Why a Unit on Social Entrepreneurship

First, I wanted my learners, who are from lower income families, to develop both an entrepreneur mindset and entrepreneur skills along with the creativity and innovation that comes with these skills.

Entrepreneurship education benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds because it teaches kids to think outside the box and nurtures unconventional talents and skills. Furthermore, it creates opportunity, ensures social justice, instills confidence and stimulates the economy. Because entrepreneurship can, and should, promote economic opportunity, it can serve as an agent of social justice. Furthermore, entrepreneurship has historically spurred minorities, women and immigrants to create better lives for themselves and their families.  (Why Schools Should Teach Entrepreneurship)

Second, not only did I want my learners to gain entrepreneur skills, I wanted them to experience the benefits of starting a company in order to raise money to give to a “cause” also known as a form of social entrepreneurship.

Not every child is temperamentally suited to be a social entrepreneur. Not every child is suited to be a scientist, mathematician, or artist. But elementary school-age kids do have the natural curiosity, imagination, drive, and ability to come up with innovative ways to change the world for the better. By exposing our kids to a variety of disciplines, including social entrepreneurship, we are teaching them they have what it takes to “be the change.” One well-known expert on social entrepreneurship, David Bornstein, puts it this way: Once an individual has experienced the power of social entrepreneurship, he or she will “never go back to being a passive actor in society.” (Young Kids Need to Learn About Social Entrepreneurship)

Third, this unit met my own criteria for an effective and powerful unit:

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on, experiential, and naturally engaging for learners.
  • Learning tasks are authentic, relevant, and promote life skills outside of the formal classroom.
  • The challenges are designed to be novel, and create excitement and joy for learners.
  • Learner choice and voice are valued.
  • Lessons address cross curricular standards. They are interdisciplinary (like life) where multiple, cross-curricular content areas are integrated into the instructional activities.
  • Learning activities get learners interested in and excited about a broad array of topics especially in the areas of science, engineering, math, language arts, and the arts.
  • Communication, collaboration, and problem solving are built into the learning process.
  • Reading and writing are integrated into the learning activities in the form of fun, interesting books and stories, and writing stories, narratives, journalistic reports.
  • Educational technology is incorporated with a focus on assisting with the learning activities not to learn technology just for the sake of learning it.
  • There is a natural building of social emotional skills – tolerance for frustration, expression of needs, working as a team.

Schedule of Learning Activities

Here was the schedule of learning activities I used for this unit:

  •  Introduction
    • Video
    • Online Games
    • Kidpreneurs
  • Market Survey – Google Form
  • Analyzing Results, Deciding of Products, Testing Products
  • Expense Sheet – Expenses and Assets
  • Business Plan
  • Making and Selling the Products
  • Visiting the Interfaith Homeless Shelter to Deliver the Profits

Introduction

The following activities were used to teach learners about entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship:

Video. Learners were first introduced to entrepreneurship with the following video:

Kidpreneur Readings. We read the Kidpreneurs’ book and did exercises from book – these readings and exercises continued throughout the unit. 

Online Games. They were then given the opportunity to play some online games that focus on entrepreneurship:


Market Survey 

Based on their own interests and hobbies (and with the help of the Kidpreneur workbook), my learners decided on possible products they could make (all products were handmade) and sell. They developed a market survey from this information:


Analyzing Results, Deciding of Products, Testing Products

Learners requested that their respective classes and family members take their survey. It was quite a treat watching them continually examine the graphs found on the Google form response page. Here is an example from one group’s survey:

Screen Shot 2022-04-19 at 6.53.44 AM

From the results, they decided to sell:

They started by testing out how to make these products to discover how to best produce them.


Expense Form

I acted as the bank and purchased the materials for the learners to make products. I saved the receipts, made copies of them, and had each learner create her or his Google sheet to record expenses.


Business Plan

From all of this information, the learners developed a business plan using the following Kids-Business-Plan simplified for kids. It included:

  • Their business name – Gifted Community Craft Story
  • Startup costs
  • Cost per item
  • Marketing strategies

Highlights – Making and Packaging the Products

Here is a photo essay that shows the students making and packaging the products.


Highlights – Selling the Products


Students Delivering Raised Monies to The Interfaith Community Shelter (serves the homeless)


Additional Resources

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 22, 2022 at 10:26 pm

Building a Sustainable City

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As I’ve discussed before, I offer electives to my 4th-6th grade GT students (see Offering Electives to Elementary Students). They chose paper engineering. A few started making city structures. They then stated that they should make a city. I suggested that it be a sustainable city (Sustainable Development Goal 11). From there, the innovation, creativity, passion, fun, and final product exploded due to the efforts of the students.

Standards Addressed

Education for Sustainability Standards and Performance Indicators

  • Responsible Local & Global Citizenship. The rights, responsibilities, and actions associated with leadership and participation toward healthy and sustainable communities. Students will know and understand these rights and responsibilities and assume their roles of leadership and participation.
  • Healthy Commons. Healthy Commons are that upon which we all depend and for which we are all responsible (i.e., air, trust, biodiversity, climate regulation, our collective future, water, libraries, public health, heritage sites, top soil, etc.). Students will be able to recognize and value the vital importance of the Commons in our lives and for our future. They will assume the rights, responsibilities, and actions to care for the Commons.
  • Inventing & Affecting The Future. The vital role of vision, imagination, and intention in creating the desired future. Students will design, implement, and assess actions in the service of their individual and collective visions. (https://cloudinstitute.org/cloud-efs-standards)

Common Core English Standards

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

Next Generation Science Standards (Science and Engineering)

  • Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved (https://www.nextgenscience.org/topic-arrangement/msengineering-design).

Resources Shared With Students

Tools and Materials Use

A Snippet of the Student Planning Session

Informational Posters by Students for the Display

Highlights – Making the City

A Map of the Sustainable City – Drawn by a Student

Artist – Valerie M., a 4th Grader

Highlights – Finished City

Teacher Reflection

I have an expression, “Show students the possibilities and then get out of the way.” I did this for the Sustainable City project and the students didn’t disappoint! The project processes and products came out so much better than I expected. This fits into another of my beliefs, “Let go of expectations about about the products students will produce,” which I wrote about in Focusing on the Process: Letting Go of Product Expectations. I let students drive what they want to produce in the context of the processes desired, and they often create products way beyond what I could imagine.

I watched as they worked together as they planned their city, deciding what will be included and where it would go. I watched as they almost spontaneously created new areas and artifacts: gardens, orchards, farmers’ market, stables, and bike racks.

I have the privilege of observing great incidents of creativity, innovation, passion, and joy. I love my job. I love these kids.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 22, 2022 at 12:42 pm

A STEM-Driven Marble Run Using Instructables and Tinkercad

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STEM lessons are a strong focus in my 4th-6th grade gifted classes. I teach at two Title 1 schools with primarily Hispanic students. Our district works to identify students often underrepresented in gifted education programs. My mission in working with my students includes helping them gain knowledge and skills to situate them to be competitive with more privileged students when they get to high school and college. I believe that STEM lessons are perfect for doing so. For this STEM lesson, they made marble runs based on the following Instructables:

Standards Addressed

Next Generation Science Standards (Science and Engineering)

  • Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
  • Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved (https://www.nextgenscience.org/topic-arrangement/msengineering-design).

ISTE Standards for Students (Technology Standards)

Innovative Designer Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions. Students:

  • 1.4.a. know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • 1.4.b. select and use digital tools to plan and manage a design process that considers design constraints and calculated risks.
  • 1.4.c. develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • 1.4.d. exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems. (https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-students)

Common Core Math Standards

  • Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system (e.g., convert 5 cm to 0.05 m), and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.

The Learning Activities

Measuring the Objects for Their Marble Runs

Students used calipers from the Tinkercad Autodesk Innovator Kits (thanks to the company for providing these to my students!) to measure the objects that they used for their marble runs: straws, cups, boxes, and cardboard tubes.

What a fantastic math lesson this provided. Even though the students ranged in grades 4th through 6th, and studied fractions in their regular classes, they really didn’t understand how fractions worked using authentic measurement in the real world. Our discussion included the fractions between inch marks, and how these fractions function, i.e., how fractions are reduced. Our discussion was similar to the one presented in this video:

They also learned/reviewed some of the geometric properties of rectangular prisms and cylinders. I believe that using math concepts to solve real problems increased its relevance and made more sense to the students. Deeper learning occurred.

Creating the Objects in Tinkercad

This become another great math lesson as the students needed to convert the measurement fractions into decimals in order to create their objects in Tinkercad. With input from them, I created a graphic on the white board similar to the one below:

They then made their marble run prototypes in Tinkercad using these objects.

Using Tinkercad Designs to Create Real Life Marble Runs

While making their real life marble runs from their Tinkercad designs and because this process was iterative, students made changes as they experimented with making their marble runs work. They were asked to make changes in their Tinkercad designs when they made changes in their real life marble runs.

The Results

Here is one of the completed marble runs with the students providing a brief statement of their processes. Of special note is one of their comments, “We struggled a lot, but we made it work.”

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 9, 2022 at 11:04 pm

Artificial Intelligence: Generative AI

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My gifted students, grades 4th-6th, selected Artificial Intelligence, as their elective during Spring, 2022 semester. (For more about this see Offering Electives to Elementary Students.) The Generative AI learning activities I describe below are part of their larger Artificial Intelligence elective as well as being part of the ISTE AI Explorations course I am taking.

ISTE Standards for Students

  • Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences. Students understand the fundamental concepts of technology operations, demonstrate the ability to choose, use and troubleshoot current technologies and are able to transfer their knowledge to explore emerging technologies.
  • Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions. Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
  • Students develop and employ strategies for understanding and solving problems in ways that leverage the power of technological methods to develop and test solutions. Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.
  • Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

The Hook

Students explore the following Generative AI technologies:

Introductory Videos

Students watch the following videos to gain some background knowledge about GANS:

Warm-Up Activity: Create a Mythical Creature

Students create a mythical creature using Google’s Chimera Painter-https://storage.googleapis.com/chimera-painter/index.html. “Chimera Painter is a demo that lets you run wild by drawing out creature shapes that become fully fleshed out by our CreatureGAN machine learning model, which was trained on hundreds of thousands of 2D renders of 3D creature models.” To begin, students watch the following video. It provides a great overview about how GANS work in the context of using the Chimera Painter. Once they create their creatures, they write a short story about them. Students can be instructed that their favorite creation can be used in the next activity – their presentation assignment.

The students loved making these.

Assignment: Create a Generative AI-Enhanced Presentation

For this assignment, students are going to make a presentation out of Generative AI Art that shows the projects they created for our AI unit (see previous blog posts). An alternative can be that the theme for the presentation is decided upon by the student and/or the teacher). It needs to include AI Art, AI sounds or music, and AI Drawing or Painting elements.

To begin students experiment with and create artifacts for the following GANS. They then choose their favorite creation from each of the following for use in their presentations. Students can use Google Slides to upload their creations, and possibly add text to create a GAN-enhanced presentation.

Generative AI Art

Generative AI Music

Generative AI Drawing / AI Painting:

Example Student Project

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 4, 2022 at 1:30 pm

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