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Posts Tagged ‘maker education

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

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

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.

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

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