Thinking Outside the School

Pop-Up Museum Exterior

Exterior view of the future “Pop-Up Museum”

Some people look at space differently.  For example, you might walk past a suddenly empty retail space in an outdoor mall, and completely ignore the “For Lease” sign.  At most, you might think, “What a pity.  Another store has gone out of business.”  But, I’m betting you don’t think, “Wow, that would be a great spot to have a “Night at the Museum” event showcasing student art and other great projects!”

That’s what John Hinds thought.  And, he set about making this “pop-up museum” idea become a reality.

John Hinds is the Principal at Encino Park Elementary.  (You can stalk him on Twitter @johnghinds.) More importantly, he is a man of ideas – especially ideas about maximizing space. I used to work for him until our paths diverged, and I’ve never known a person as passionate as he is about creating unique learning environments.  This is the man who spearheaded the class on wheels in our former school, and currently has an initiative where parents artistically design ceiling tiles for his current school. Yes, ceiling tiles – because, of course, students should be just as inspired when they look up as they are when they look at the walls.

When John noticed a furniture store had vacated a uniquely designed space in one of the local outdoor malls, he knew it would be the perfect spot for a “Night at the Museum.”  He made a deal to secure the space for a day. That evening, students will showcase art and clubs.  Other schools in the cluster will participate.  Students will provide music.  Photos from the school year will be streamed, and new pictures will be taken and added to the stream that evening.  One of my favorite ideas that John just shared with me is a “recording booth” where parents and students will have the opportunity to share their favorite memories about their school.

This will be an enjoyable evening for families, but businesses in the area will also reap benefits.  It’s certain that this influx of families on a week night will flood the local restaurants (who might be generous enough to donate some of their profits to the school).

Sometimes, it’s nice to invite the community to your school.  But, like John Hinds, maybe we should consider switching things up and bringing the school to the community.

Night at the Museum Interior

“Night at the Museum” Interior – Doesn’t this space inspire you?

Meet the Doodler

4th grade students giving

4th grade students giving Sophie Diao their full attention

Last week, I posted about this year’s Doodle 4 Google contest with the theme, “If I Could Invent One Thing to Make the World a Better Place.”  I mentioned that one thing that I am particularly excited about is the page of Classroom Activities that complement the contest this year.  Included in this are three live events where students can “Meet the Doodler” online.  Fortunately, my 4th graders got the chance to view the first event yesterday, and it was a great experience.  If you were unable to participate, you can see the archive here.

Two elementary schools were able to join the Doodler in the Google Hangout.  You can apply to be included as one of the video guests by signing up here for the two remaining events (2/19/14 and 2/26/14 at 1 PM EST).  Or, you can just do what our class did, and watch the video while posting some questions in the chat window.

Yesterday’s video (less than 40 minutes) featured Sophie Diao, one of the ten Google “Doodlers” that create the fabulous specialized logos we see periodically.  She explained the process for creating a Google Doodle, how long it generally takes, and what she does when she can’t think of any ideas.  A neat part of the presentation included an assignment for everyone watching to try to design their own Valentine doodles.  I’ve included some of the ones my students did during the short presentation, and you should watch the video for some outstanding ideas from the 2 elementary schools that participated.  If you are looking for a fun, last-minute Valentine activity, throw this challenge at your students! (For more Valentine ideas, check out this post.)

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Doodle 4 Google 2014

Every year about this time, Google launches the Doodle 4 Google Contest for students in K-12.  I love to see the new theme each year.  This one certainly invites a lot of creative ideas! The winning entrant can win a $30,000 college scholarship, as well as $50,000 for his or her school.  There are other prizes available as well. Entries are due Thursday, March 20th.

Maybe I completely missed it in years past, but I am really excited to see the addition of “Classroom Activities” to the Doodle 4 Google resources. These include “Activity Packs” for different grade level groups, a video featuring some Google Doodlers, and links to planned Google Hangouts during the month of February that will allow students to connect with some real-life Google Doodlers.

Here are some other resources you might want to view to get some inspiration: Google Doodle Gallery, History of Google Doodles, Some Past Doodle 4 Google Winners.

And, just in case you feel like doodling is a poor way to spend your time, you might want to read this article from NPR: “Bored? Try Doodling to Keep the Brain on Task.

Newspaper Blackout Poems

A newspaper blackout poem by Austin Kleon

A newspaper blackout poem by Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, also has a book called Newspaper Blackout.  He recently participated in a Twitter chat, #edbookchat, co-moderated by Chris Couch (@the_explicator), which found its way into my Twitter stream.  Austin, who lives in Austin (fancy that!), has posted some of his poetry on his blog here. He creates one of these each day, and posts them on Instagram.  I find this method of creating poems so intriguing.  To take a piece of writing that is meant to be informative and light on figurative language, and make it into a work of art that speaks deeply and lyrically really appeals to my appreciation for irony, I suppose.  I want to try this with my students, but I’m still working out the logistics (which grade levels, how much to scaffold, etc…)  And then there’s the newspaper.  Do I limit it to certain sections and/or articles?  Or maybe I should start with a Scholastic Weekly Reader, or a website, or a picture on the iPad of a textbook page.  So many possibilities!

Regardless of the educational implications, it’s Phun Phriday, so you don’t have to stick this in a lesson plan.  Just read, and appreciate the talent of Austin Kleon!

(Strangely, right after I saved my draft of this post, I saw a tweet from @PrincipalOgg about a great writing blog.  I followed the link, and found a recent post on “Erasure Poetry.”  I highly recommend you visit “Two Writing Teachers” for some more awesome ideas!)

UPDATE:  After this post was shared on Twitter, Mr. Theriault (@davidtedu) shared this link to a Slideshare about creating Novel Blackout Poetry by Sean Ziebarth (@MrZiebarth).  Thanks for the tip, Mr. Theriault!  And, one of my Tweeps, @ArinKress, was inspired to create her own Newspaper Blackout Poem and share it.  The pic is a bit difficult to read, but it says, “Enough with worrying when falling because we all stumble.”  Love it!

It’s Like a Box of Chocolates – but Not as Caloric

Chocolate Fix Logic Game from ThinkFun (for 8+)

Chocolate Fix Logic Game from ThinkFun (for 8+)

Since I only see most of my students once a week, I have to think ahead when it comes to holidays.  It suddenly struck me that we are in the middle of January, and I haven’t given thought to Valentine’s Day, yet.  So, I culled together a bunch of resources to offer to you in advance.

And finally, I came across this last one, and almost leapt out of my seat.  If any of you participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge this year, then you know how much the students love making new things with boxes!  In fact, I had a parent e-mail pictures of her son this weekend as he fashioned a large box they had received at home into a mini putt-putt course.  According to her, he said, “After GT, I don’t see cardboard the same way.”

So, if you are looking for another Cardboard Challenge to energize your kids (or didn’t get the chance to participate in October), here is a cool idea for a Valentine’s Day Box Project from Amanda at One Extra Degree.

Everyone’s a Critic

Some of the themes suggested in Institute of Play's "Everyone's a Critic" game

Some of the themes suggested in Institute of Play’s “Everyone’s a Critic” game

I’ve pretty much decided that, if I ever stop working at my current school, my next career stop would be The Institute of Play.  How could a place with that name not be a fun place to work?  These are the people who brought us Gamestar Mechanic, Gamekit, and SimCityEdu (which I haven’t tried, yet, but really want to!)

One of the fun resources provided by Institute of Play that I just recently stumbled upon is called, “Everyone’s a Critic.” It’s a game designed to use at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (yet another reason for me to be jealous of New Yorkers!)  The free PDF of the game is available here.  Fortunately, you do not have to use the game at MOMA; any art museum would do.  Instructions are given for a 2-player game and for 3+. For the 2-player game, there is an Artist and a Critic.  The Artist chooses a work in the museum that represents a certain theme (known only to The Artist), and The Critic must try to figure out the theme by clues The Artist gives. For the multi-player game, there is one Critic, and the rest of the students are Artists.  The  Critic chooses a theme, revealing it to The Artists.  They must find a piece of art that reflects that theme, and convince The Critic that their choice is the best representation.

The PDF provides a page with suggested themes.  You could use that page or create your own that might be more suitable for the age group you work with.  Also, who says that you need to be at an art museum?  If you have prints in your classroom, you can set up your own museum where “Everyone’s a Critic!