User Generated Education

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 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

Learners try out the following chatbot:


Video Introduction


Main Activity 1: A Scratch Text to Speech Language Translator Chatbot

Student Examples


Main Activity 2: Create a Chatbot on a Topic of Your Choice

Learners create their own Chatbots using Scratch 3.0. They are expected to research a topic of personal interest to create a Chatbot that can answer questions about interesting facts related to their topic.

Students explain how the ones they created work:



Extension

To extend knowledge about and coding of Chatbots, learners do the Python-drive CodeMonkey Trivia Chatbot course: https://app.codemonkey.com/hour-of-code/trivia-chatbot/course#1

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 30, 2022 at 1:54 am

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

leave a comment »

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

The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul (A Guide for Educators)

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As an educator who . . . began my career as an outdoor and experiential-based counselor; loves and studies educational trends; and teaches elementary students, and pre-service and in-service teachers; I believe good teachers naturally do what’s best for their students. This is in spite of (all meanings intended) of the multiple, and often conflicting and changing mandates placed on them.

With that said, I was excited to hear Annie Murphy Paul discuss her new book, The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, at toddle TIES.

Over many years of elementary school, high school, and even college and graduate school, we’re never explicitly taught to think outside the brain; we’re not shown how to employ our bodies and spaces and relationships in the service of intelligent thought. Yet this instruction is available if we know where to look; our teachers are the artists and scientists and authors who have figured out these methods for themselves, and the researchers who are, at last, making these methods the object of study. For humans these [methods] include, most notably, the feelings and movements of our bodies; the physical spaces in which we learn and work; and the other minds with which we interact—our classmates, colleagues, teachers, supervisors, friends. (https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Outside-Brain-Annie-Murphy/dp/0544947665)

From The Harvard Book Store:

The Extended Mind outlines the research behind this exciting new vision of human ability, exploring the findings of neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, psychologists, and examining the practices of educators, managers, and leaders who are already reaping the benefits of thinking outside the brain. She excavates the untold history of how artists, scientists, and authors—from Jackson Pollock to Jonas Salk to Robert Caro—have used mental extensions to solve problems, make discoveries, and create new works.

What we need to do, says acclaimed science writer Annie Murphy Paul, is think outside the brain. A host of “extra-neural” resources—the feelings and movements of our bodies, the physical spaces in which we learn and work, and the minds of those around us— can help us focus more intently, comprehend more deeply, and create more imaginatively.

In this book, she proposes a series of strategies that for me reflect best practices in education and ones that I typically use with my students (of all ages) on a regular basis. As mentioned earlier, I believe good educators often naturally integrate these practices in their classrooms:

(Note: It should be “Interoceptive“)

created by Cindy Blackburn

Here is an written summary of these keys points and strategies:

Source: https://jenniferlouden.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Paul.THE-EXTENDED-MIND.list-of-takeaways.pdf

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 13, 2022 at 4:47 pm

Pi Day: An Example of an Interdisciplinary, Engaging Lesson

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I have the privilege of teaching my gifted elementary students at two Title 1 schools for multiple years. Each year I have special thematic days for which the students get very excited, e.g., Halloween and Day of the Dead “Wars,” Valentines Day, Book Celebrations, and Pi Day. I love planning a variety of interdisciplinary activities for these days. It is like planning parties. I want to give them memories of positive school experiences that last a lifetime. When I announce these upcoming celebrations, the students who have been in my program for multiple years cheer loudly. My new students then get excited, too.

I’ve blogged about the value of interdisciplinary units before – All Lessons Should Be Interdisciplinary https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/all-lessons-should-be-interdisciplinary/

benefits-of-interdisciplinary-learning

Pi Day Activities

The day consisted of the following activities:

  • Introduction – Pi Day Trivia
  • Book: Sir Cumference
  • Kahoot Pi Games
  • Digital Breakout
  • Making and Decorating Pies
  • Measuring for Pi
  • Stations
    • Pi Fortune Teller
    • Pi Sky Line
    • Race to Pi Card Game

Standards Addressed

A variety of cross-disciplinary content standards were addressed during this lesson.

Common Core Math Standards:

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.G.B.4
    Know the formulas for the area and circumference of a circle and use them to solve problems; give an informal derivation of the relationship between the circumference and area of a circle.
  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.MD.A.1
    Convert among different-sized standard measurement units within a given measurement system, and use these conversions in solving multi-step, real world problems.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7
    Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.5.10
    By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

National Core Art Standards:

Pi Day Trivia

Students were introduced to Pi and Pi Day through the following videos:

Sir Cumference

The students then were shown a reading of Sir Cumference and the First Round Table (A Math Adventure) by Cindy Neuschwander:

Join Sir Cumference, Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius for wordplay, puns, and problem solving in this geometry-packed math adventure. King Arthur was a good ruler, but now he needs a good ruler. What would you do if the neighboring kingdom were threatening war? Naturally, you’d call your strongest and bravest knights together to come up with a solution. But when your conference table causes more problems than the threat of your enemy, you need expert help. Enter Sir Cumference, his wife Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius. With the help of the carpenter, Geo of Metry, this sharp-minded team designs the perfect table conducive to discussing the perfect plan for peace (https://www.amazon.com/Cumference-First-Round-Table-Adventure/dp/1570911525).

Pi Kahoots

My students cheer when we do Kahoot quizzes. The Kahoot quizzes made and submitted by other teachers make it so easy to use. Here are the two Pi Kahoots I did with the students:

Accessed at: https://create.kahoot.it/details/0210be57-ce68-489a-9054-d9165b8165ff

2019-03-31_1035.png

Accessed at: https://create.kahoot.it/details/pi-day-trivia/a7605cd3-4c93-4c13-bc23-eec96da2a627

Digital Breakout EDU – Pi Day

Breakout EDU is an immersive learning games platform. Breakout EDU games consist of a combination of physical and digital puzzle elements that must be solved in a set amount of time. Players of all ages are challenged to open the locked Breakout EDU box using critical thinking, collaboration and creativity. (https://orrhslibrary.weebly.com/what-is-breakout-edu.html).

Here is the Pi Day Digital Breakout EDU game they did.

2019-03-31_0947

Can be accessed at https://platform.breakoutedu.com/game/play/pi-day-digital-breakout-4th-6th-grades-90608 .

Making and Decorating Pies

One of the activities students enjoy the most during Pi day is making pies. They were given ingredients and recipes for:

They needed to follow the recipe which included figuring out the directions and using measurements. I even bought a Pi pan for them to use. After the pies were made, they decorated them with Pi symbols and characters.

Measuring for Pi

With tape measures in hand, groups of students carefully measure the circumferences and diameters of various round objects.  The class makes a table of measured values and calculates the quotients.  When they see time and time again the same answer result from division, whether it be from big circular objects or small ones—eureka!—they will have unwittingly discovered π for themselves (http://ccssimath.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-life-of-pi.html).

I created a competition to see which team could achieve Pi based on their measurements of diameters and circumferences of real world objects. I watched as they struggled with and learning about circumferences, diameters, and pi; about doing accurate measurement; about converting fractions into decimals to do their calculations; and about using the Pi formula.

Stations

Students could choose from the following stations to complete their Pi days.

Pi Fortune Teller

Pi Graph Skyline

Directions for this activity can be found at https://carrotsareorange.com/pi-day-activities/.

Race to Pi Card Game

Directions can be found at https://mathgeekmama.com/pi-day-card-game/.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

March 12, 2022 at 2:21 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

Benefits of Using Board Games in the Classroom

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As a kid growing up, I loved board games . . . loved playing The Game of Life, Clue, and Sorry with my friends as a preteen and then Backgammon throughout my undergraduate years. I definitely liked the thrill of winning but equally so interacting with my friends while we played the games. Years ago I brought board games into my classroom. but haven’t for several years focusing more on using video games with my students. I started bringing them back again this year after remote learning due to the COVID pandemic. This allows my students to engage in and develop the social skills that were sorely lacking during the pandemic. We know that the kids didn’t have these developmental experiences during the year+ of isolation from their peers.

The pandemic has brought about huge disruptions in normal life for humanity as a whole. The pandemic has brought about a worldwide lockdown state, and children’s interactions with other humans have become limited to that of their immediate family. Peer interactions and relationships are how kids learn not only about cooperation, trust, loyalty and support, but also about themselves, understanding and expressing their own emotions, making well thought out decisions, coping with challenges and accepting responsibility.

Lack of social interaction is creating a domino effect on children across the world. This isolation is not only creating a deterioration in social skills, but also, when children are asked these days about how they feel, the most common answers received are ‘bored’ and ‘lonely’ (How the pandemic is affecting children’s social skills).

I understood this was a problem throughout our time doing remote learning from March, 2020 through the end of the 2021 school year. During that time, I built in a gaming club whereby for a long, 2-hour lunch one day a week we had a gaming club. The kids could remain on Google Meet while they played and discussed multiplayer games such as Among Us, Fortnite Creative mode (I couldn’t ethically agree to violent games in a classroom setting), Roblox, and Rocket League. I would turn off my camera and mic as this was their time; and often a highlight of their weeks.

I understand and believe in value of learning through board games, and have incorporated them into my classrooms – both elementary and higher education – throughout my decades long teaching career. Research indicates that there is power in using board games in the classroom. Here is the conclusion from a 2019 meta-analysis:

Board games and programs that use board games have positive effects on various outcomes, including educational knowledge, cognitive functions, physical activity, anxiety, [and] ADHD symptoms. Additionally, board games were shown to contribute to improving these variables, enhancing the interpersonal interactions and motivation of participants, and promoting learning (The effectiveness of intervention with board games: a systematic review).

. . . and from Knowledge Quest:

Games provide stories and information, presented in a new format. They encourage critical thinking and problem solving and accomplish objectives of curriculum frameworks. Board games can provide students with opportunities to apply concepts they have learned. Board games promote collaboration, inquiry, and critical thinking. By using games that support the curriculum, educators can give students opportunities to experience play, while at the same time promoting student achievement (Using Games to Support the Curriculum: Getting Teachers on “Board”).

That is some “official” research but from observing my students at play, these are what I see the benefits to be:

  • Increased communication
  • Building social negotiation that are required of playing games together
  • Increased socialization
  • Reading and understanding procedural directions (I ask students to read directions how to play the game)
  • Experiencing joy inherently involved in play
  • Developing critical thinking skills (depending on the game but that is a criteria in my game selection – see my next section.)

The types of games I select are intentionally new to students (so they have to read and understand the directions) and have strategy-critical thinking aspects, Here are some games the students have played and enjoyed:

Leave a comment about those board games you like to use with your students!

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 31, 2022 at 1:49 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

Top Five Blog Posts During 2021

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I love to blog. I do so for several reasons. First, it provides me with a means for reflecting on my teaching practices as well as having a written and often graphic record of my pratices. Second, my biography includes the statement, “I believe one of the roles and responsibilities of the modern educator is to share resources, lessons, ideas, thoughts, and opinions.” Blogging and Tweeting allow me to do so.

Here are the top five blog of 2021.

Number One: Virtual Team Building Activities

This is not surprising given all of the remote learning in K-Higher Education especially in the beginning of 2021. I was happy to see that educators looked for team building activities to use with their classes.

Number Two: The Importance of Civics Education

This actually surprised me. As I mentioned in the blog post, I was never that found of civics and politics but given the events of the past couple years, I have come to believe that all kids need civics education throughout their K-12 education. So I was excited to see this as number two.

Number Three: Morning Meetings, Check-Ins, and Social-Emotional Learning

This wasn’t surprising. This is an old post – from August, 2012. It always gets good traffic which is exciting to me as I believe that morning meetings can be powerful in elementary education environments.

Number Four: Emotional Check-Ins in a Teaching Webinar

As with the Virtual Team Building Activities, this wasn’t surprising given all of the remote learning during 2021. All of the activities described in this blog post focused on social emotional learning (SEL). One “good” thing that came from COVID is a greater focus on SEL in traditional educational settings. I always believed in its importance so I am thrilled it is gaining more acceptance.

Number Five: Approaching Marginalized Populations from an Asset Rather Than a Deficit Model of Education

This is also an older post. Out my top five, I was most excited to see this one. My work history includes teaching and counseling marginalized children and youth. Needless to say, the movement towards anti-racist education this past year has made me more hopeful that this can be achieved one day (although I understand it will take a lot work and a major overhaul of our traditional and archaic education systems).

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

December 28, 2021 at 11:15 pm

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

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