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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: Machine Learning Activities

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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 machine learning activities I describe below are part of their larger Artificial Intelligence elective, and part of the ISTE AI Explorations course I am taking.


Education as it should be – passion-based.

Artificial Intelligence: Chatbot Activities for Students

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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 chatbot learning activities I describe below are part of their larger Artificial Intelligence elective.Here is another

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

Introduction to Machine Learning Via Videos

Real World Examples

Teachable Machine Activities

Introductory Activity: Using Teachable Machine with Google

Website Used: https://teachablemachine.withgoogle.com/

Here is a video tutorial how this works:

My students tried the Teachable Machine using three categories of objects (images) found in the classroom:


Rock, Paper, and Scissor – Machine Learning for Kids

This project uses Google’s Teachable Machine (images), the Machine Learning for Kids website, and Scratch 3.0 to create an interactive game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Website Used: https://machinelearningforkids.co.uk/#!/welcome

The following video used in conjunction with the website above describes how to create this project.


Machine Learning with Marshmallows and Tiny Sorter

This project uses Google’s Teachable Machine (images), p5 Sketch, and Arduino’s Circuit Playground to create a mechanism that sorts mini-marshmallows and cereals into respective cups.

Full directions for this project can be found at: https://learn.adafruit.com/machine-learning-with-marshmallows-and-tiny-sorter?view=all


micro:Pals

This lesson uses Google’s Teachable Machine (poses), Stempedia’s Pictoblox, and a micro:bit to create a micro:Pal (see the video below for an example).

Web Resources Needed:

I created the following video to describe the step-by-step directions for this project.

Here are my students doing making their microPals:

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 22, 2022 at 10:51 pm

Transmedia, Digital Storytelling Project

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As someone who, for years, has been using educational technology, I have \said the often stated quote, Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who don’t use technology will be replaced. More recently I heard the quote from my brilliant colleague, George Couros, Technology won’t replace great teachers, but in the hands of great teachers can be transformational. This better fits my sensibilities.

As an educator of 1st-6th grade gifted students, I love asking them to use digital platforms that permit them to be content creators. I believe that learners, in this high tech, highly connected world, should be producing as much or even more content than they are consuming. From Digital Promise:

Schools, libraries, and classrooms have traditionally been a place for the consumption of information and ideas. Empowering students as creators means educators shift their professional thinking, instruction and instructional program to enable authentic opportunities for students to individually and collaboratively tinker, build, inquire, design, create, and iterate.

The research surrounding students as creators recognizes their potential to engage, participate and their potential for developing agency as citizens of the world. As digital-age learners, students are not merely consumers of content and ideas. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) identifies “Empowered Learners,” “Knowledge Constructors,” “Innovative Designers,” and “Computational Thinkers” among seven core standards for students (Empowering Students as Creators).

To support students as content creators, they were asked to create transmedia, digital stories. Digital stories are:

At a basic level digital storytelling means using technology to tell stories. You can tell digital stories in many ways, for example: through text on a website or social media tool, through narration and images in a video, or through narration in a podcast. Digital stories are not just facts presented with accompanying images, they are narratives crafted to take the listener or reader on a journey. Just like a novel or a documentary, digital stories have a plot, characters, and themes (What is Digital Storytelling?).

. . . and similarly, transmedia storytelling is defined as:

Transmedia storytelling uses multiple media platforms tell a coordinated story.  Multiple narratives come together, constructing a larger storyworld. Like a giant puzzle, each piece contributes to a larger narrative. The process is cumulative and each piece adds richness and detail to the story world, such as character backstories and secondary plotlines.  This makes for a richer audience experience and multiple access points (What is Transmedia Storytelling?).

For this project, my gifted students, grades 4-6, were asked to write a fictional story, alone or with a partner (most chose a partner). It was open-ended in that the fictional content was determined by them. They did, though, have to create:

  • Characters with each student creating a Makey-Makey/Scratch bottle character,
  • The Story Setting with each individual or team creating a CoSpace to portray their story setting,
  • A Story Arc using Storyboard That or Google Docs.

Makey Makey/Scratch Bottle Characters

To begin this aspect of the project, students were asked to compose 5 facts about their characters. They then created sculptural versions of their characters using water bottles and craft materials. They used Makey Makeys/Scratch to “speak” those facts – see the video below. Scratch is coding language with a simple visual interface that allows young people to create digital stories, games, and animations. Makey Makey is a simple circuit board you can use to create your own keyboard for a computer. For this project, students used Scratch to work using the Makey Makey. See Biography Bottles With Makey Makey for how to do this.

CoSpaces Story Settings

CoSpaces Edu is a 3D creation web and app-based classroom tool that allows students to create in a 3D augmented and virtual reality environments. It permits for collaborative creation so students were able to work with their partners to create a 3D, VR versions of the settings for their stories.

Since CoSpaces projects are VR enabled, I bought a cheap Bnext™ VR headset from ebay so students could view their spaces in virtual reality. It was so much fun to watch their reactions.

(The above images are royalty-free, but my students looked like this when viewing their sites. I couldn’t take photos as they were using my phone/camera to view CoSpaces.)

Plot – Story Arc: Storyboard That

I really love using Storyboard That, a digital tool aimed at students who want to create a storyboard to communicate. The online-based platform lets anyone easily create a storyboard in order to tell a story in a visually engaging way. For this project, I assigned the Plot Diagram and Narrative Arc template for students to use, a more complex one for older students and a less complex one for younger students.

Benefits/Results

From observing my learners for the multiple hours they were engaged in this project, I found it had the following benefits:

  • Full and total engagement,
  • Increased creativity and use of imagination (more than simple, written work) ,
  • Student voice and choice,
  • Learning how to use new content creation technologies,
  • Learning the mechanics of writing,
  • Project management (due to the long term nature of this project),
  • Joy and pride in learning.

Science-Based Valentine Day Projects

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I really like using maker education and STEM/STEAM projects to celebrate holidays and special events. My method of teaching new concepts is to use the Stages of Make Education that I presented in Learning in the Making: How to Plan, Execute, and Assess Powerful Makerspace Lessons:

The following Valentine Day projects were completed by my 3rd through 6th grade gifted students. Due to the new skills involved, they were asked to copy the basic instructions. Then as is typical of my students, then went quickly into the Advance and Embellish Stages of Making.

Circuit-Based Valentine’s Projects

NGSS Standards Addressed

  • Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
  • Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another

Introduction

I began asking who knew what an electric circuit. Sadly, none did. I showed them Electric Circuits – BrainPop UK https://youtu.be/3LsXGAbwTOQ

Circuit Project 1: Conversation Hearts Box Operation Game

Project Description

The Instructable, Operation Valentine: a Game, a Gift, a Lesson in Electric Circuits, was used for this project. I substituted aluminum tape for the paperclip and pre-wired LEDs instead of the Christmas lights.

What follows is a video that shows how one student took this project from Copy to Embellish of the Stages of Making:

Circuit Project 2: Chibitronic LED Valentine Day Card

For this activity students were asked to create a Valentine Day card by making a paper circuit using a Chibtronic LED and a cardstock switch built into the circuit. I adapted the activity from two activities from their website:

I cut out the front “cover” of the card using my Cricut machine to show a heart where the light would shine through. The students chose a piece of colored tissue paper to cover it. Instead of providing a circuit temple, I drew it on the whiteboard and asked the students to draw their own on another piece of cardstock.

This student were from the Copy Stage to the Advance Stage of Making by creating a popup card he figured out and crafted:

A Little Chemistry

NGSS

By the end of middle school, students will be able to apply understanding that pure substances have characteristic physical and chemical properties

Introduction

I showed them Physical and Chemical changes (Brain pop) https://youtu.be/hq8K-dF8_4c

Project Description

I used the following video as my reference for both materials and procedures:

What the students’ molds and candy looked like . . .

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

February 13, 2022 at 2:19 am

Paper Bobsled: STE(A)M Olympics-Related Lesson

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I’ve discussed experiential learning in The Imperative of Experiential and Hands-On Learning and the lesson I describe in this post meets the characteristics I described in that blog post:

In an effort to engage students both in a STEM activity and learn more about the Olympics, I created a lesson on bobsledding.

Standards Addressed

As a STE(A)M lesson, it addresses cross-curricular standards:

Next Generation Science Standards (Science)

  • Develop a model to describe that when the arrangement of objects interacting at a distance changes, different amounts of potential energy are stored in the system [Grades 6-8]
  • Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the motion energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object. [Grades 6-8] (Source: http://teachers.egfi-k12.org/build-a-bobsled-racer/)

ISTE Standards (Technology)

(Technology is not heavily used in this lesson. Videos are used, though, to share content.)

  • Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.

Next Generation Science Standards (Engineering)

  • Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.
  • 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.

National Core Art Standards

  • Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Refine and complete artistic work

Math Standard (see math labs below)

The Hook

Students are shown the following videos to get them familiar with bobsledding (none of my students knew what it was) and the physics of bobsledding:

Making the Paper Bobsled and Track

I created the following tutorial to teach students how to make a paper bobsled and the track:

To build your track, you can use the following templates for your tracks: 

Math Connections

One or both of the following math labs can be added to the lesson:

  • Calculating Average Speed of a Rolling Marble (in this case – a bobsled) –
  • Roller Coaster Math

Process-Oriented Reflection Questions

Here are some questions for students to reflect upon during their making process:

  • What factors influence how fast your bobsled travels down the track?
  • Would your bobsled go faster if a lot or a little of the bobsled touched the track?
  • Would more weight increase or decrease the speed of your bobsled?
  • Would the position of the weight affect the speed of your bobsled?
  • What is friction and what influence does it have on your bobsled?
  • What is the Engineering Design process?
  • Why is it important to make one modification to your bobsled at a time?
  • What type of energy does the bobsled have when it is at the top of the track56half way down the track and at the bottom of the track?
  • Do you think that your bobsled would travel more quickly or slowly on a straight or hilly track? (Source: Design Challenge: Echo Base Bobsleds)

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 18, 2022 at 12:36 am

Halloween Displays: A Perfect STREAM (Science, Technology, wRiting, Engineering, Art, Math) Lesson

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Wow, wow, wow! My students finished their displays in time for Halloween after spending many, many hours working on them. Now, they are in display cases in the lobby of our elementary school. I am so proud of them and rightfully, they are very proud of themselves, too. They worked so hard on them.

A little history . . . I love Food Channel’s competitions and Halloween Wars tops my list. This is where I got the idea for this lesson. Each Halloween season, I become enamored with the passion, creativity, talent, and skill of the sugar, cake, and pumpkin artists on this show. This led me into wanting to bring this type of passion into my classrooms; so several years ago I started a yearly Halloween Wars during each Halloween season (none during our COVID shutdown, though); and yes, it’s a team competition which makes it even more exciting for the students. Needless to say, I was thrilled to bring it back this year allowing a new group of students the opportunity to experience it. As mentioned in the title, I believe this to be a perfect STREAM (Science, Technology, wRiting, Engineering, Art, Math) lesson. This post describes the learning activities and standards addressed.

Background Information

The principles that drive my instructional approach. regardless of theme, include:

  • Instructional challenges are hands-on and naturally engaging for learners.
  • There is a game-like atmosphere. There are elements of play, leveling up, and a sense of mastery or achievement during the instructional activities.
  • The challenges are designed to be novel and create excitement and joy for learners.
  • There is a healthy competition where the kids have to compete against one another.
  • Learners don’t need to be graded about their performances as built-in consequences are natural.
  • There is a natural building of social emotional skills – tolerance for frustration, expression of needs, working as a team.
  • Lessons are interdisciplinary (like life) where multiple, cross-curricular content areas are integrated into the instructional activities.

These have been further discussed in A Model of Good Teaching?

The goals included the following:

  • To work in a small group to create a Halloween scene using art work, LEDs, microcontrollers, servos, food items, and miscellaneous materials.
  • To work as a small group to craft a story about their scene.
  • To introduce and reinforce ideas, concepts, and skills associated with maker education, STEM, STEAM, and STREAM.
  • To engage in a friendly team competition whereby collaboration in their small groups would lead to success in the competition.

Descriptions of the Individual Components

Science Related Activities and Standards

Learners did several activities that involved LED circuits (simple LED lights, LED Tea Light Spider Pumpkins, and Paper Circuit Skulls) and circuits with microcontrollers (see Technology section).

Science Standard:

  • NGSS: 4-PS3-2. Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.

Technology Related Activities and Standards

For their displays, learners used servo socks to make parts of their display turn, micro:bits and servos to make milk carton robots, and Circuit Playground to make a flickering light to put inside their carved pumpkins. They needed to code their micro;bits and Circuit Playgrounds.

Computer Science Standards:

  • 1B-CS-02 – Model how computer hardware and software work together as a system to accomplish tasks.
  • 1B-AP-10 – Create programs that include sequences, events, loops, and conditionals
  • 1B-CS-03 – Determine potential solutions to solve simple hardware and software problems using common troubleshooting strategies

wRiting – Language Arts Related Activities and Standards

Learners wrote stories that drove their displays. They did so in Google docs so they could write collaboratively. My “rule” was that they could only use elements in their displays that were part of their stories. This necessitated that they revisit their stories throughout this lesson.

ELA Standard:

  • 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.

Example Stories:

Engineering Related Activities and Standards

Overall, engineering was used throughout this project from creating display artifacts – one student built a cardboard refrigerator with working parts and the milk carton robot to figuring out how to hang and arrange things on their display board.

NGSS Engineering Standards:

  • 3-5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and
  • constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3-5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the
  • criteria and constraints of the problem.

Arts Related Activities and Standards

The entire display was an arts related activity, but I include a specific art activity, the Spooky Halloween 3D Art Project.

National Core Arts Standards:

  • Anchor Standard #1. Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #2. Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.
  • Anchor Standard #3. Refine and complete artistic work.

Math Related Activities and Standards

Learners made their own Sugar Skulls and Gummy Legos (Bears) using recipes I projected on the Smartboard. They were asked to cut the recipes in half or thirds.

Math Standard:

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NF.B.7: Apply and extend previous understandings of division to divide unit fractions by whole numbers and whole numbers by unit fractions.

It was so much fun to find and design these activities but it was even more fun watching the learners do them all. I can’t wait until next year!

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

November 2, 2021 at 1:41 am

Watching Them Learn

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I have been very intentional in the public school teaching jobs I have chosen. First I was a PE teacher, now I am a gifted education teacher. I chose these jobs because I believe in active, hands-on, and joyful learning. I love being able to provide them with learning experiences not based on preparing them for toxic tests, but on how humans learn naturally outside of school settings. I also base many of my learning activities on my belief on the need for humans to create which I discuss more in The Magic of Making: The Human Need to Create:

The conclusion I came up with is that the human need to create is innate; and that too many people, starting during their childhood public education, stop creating. When they are given the opportunity, permission/invitation, materials, and methods, they fully embrace making and creating.

  • I love watching them go through all of the crafty materials trying to find the right ones for their projects.
  • I love watching them try to figure out how everything fits together in their projects.
  • I love watching them struggle to get something to work that matches their mind’s eye, and the joy they experience when they do.
  • I love watching how fully engaged they become in their learning, how they get into a flow, and how nothing else exists in the world.
  • I love watching how when I give them a math challenge, the students gather around the interactive Smartboard in order to solve the challenge.
  • I love watching how the collaborative projects build friendships, and the joy they feel in just being with one another. They ask to spend lunch together in my classroom. They ask to come to school on days off.
  • I love watching the pride that shows on their faces when their projects are completed.

I have the best job in the world. I get to have a front row seat to witness these beautiful human beings do what they are supposed to do – LEARN – really learn.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 17, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Student Choice and Voice Can Equal the Best Day Ever

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As is true for a lot of progressive educators, I have a belief in and attempt to practice the implementation of student voice and choice:

Sometimes this means fully letting go of the reins so learners become completely self-directed. I had the privilege of witnessing this in action one afternoon last week. I use the word, “witness,” as it was totally due to the actions of one student.

As I do every Thursday, I “pulled-out” 4th-6th graders for gifted and talented services. During the morning they built and experimented with Wiggle Bots. One of the students, Sean, also began experimenting with some of the materials in an attempt to build a toy bow (out of skewers) and arrow (out of jumbo straws). I asked him to focus on making his Wiggle Bot but told him he could continue his experimentation during lunch (they voluntarily spend lunch with me on Thursdays). They stay with me after lunch for an hour+. I do math challenges with them during those times. Sean asked if he could continue to work on fine tuning his bow and arrow instead. Then, the other kids asked if they could do so, too. Being a learner-centric educator, who values student choice and voice, I said, “Sure, go for it.”

I am so happy I did! They played with the continual improvement of their straw arrows; iterated through testing, and modifying them; and tried out different materials for their tips and tails in an effort to create increased distance and accuracy . . . again with little intervention from me. They went outside to test their work, and later, to play games with their arrows that they made up – most notably one that mimicked the video game Among Us. Seeing such joy in their social interactions warmed my heart. I know how important allowing for social time is for this age group especially after last year’s isolation due to remote learning – just as important or even more important than content area instruction.

I witnessed their creativity, innovation, flow, positive social interactions, excitement, engagement, and joy during this student-driven activity. Sean was visibly very excited that not only was he successful in making his bow and arrow, but more so that the other students followed his lead to participate in these learning activities that he initiated. The pride I saw in him was what prompted me to write this post. I was so happy with him and for him. One student even said at the end of the day, “This was the best day I ever had at school,” and this came from a student who absolutely loves and excels at school. When I heard the student state this, I jumped with joy. It wasn’t due to anything I did. It was only that I stepped back and let the students take over their learning.

I’ve discussed that one of my goals in my classroom is to create the conditions for having students experience and express that they had the best day ever:

During this particular afternoon, I believe the following occurred:

  • Built on learner interests and passions
  • Used whole body and hands-on learning
  • Allowed learners to work with others if they choose
  • Encouraged and acknowledge a broad range of emotions
  • Celebrated both effort and success
  • Respected the process – let go of the need to create the best day ever

My reflection is that I believe I typically do a good job of giving voice and choice but it is often within a more structured STEM, STEAM, maker education activities (see my book, Learning in the Making, for more information about this). I’d like to figure out more ways to “follow the child” like they do in Montessori environments. I have a lot of craft and STEM materials accessible in my classroom. I need to try out the suggestion made by Sean that day, “We should spend an afternoon just exploring, playing with, and creating things using these materials.”

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

October 3, 2021 at 9:35 pm

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