Category Archives: K-12

Powers of Ten Day

So, I didn’t even know this was a thing.  I overheard a few of my fabulous co-workers discussing it at a meeting yesterday, and completely interrupted them because it sounded like such a cool idea!

Powers of Ten Day is celebrated on, of course, 10/10.  (It probably would have been really cool if I did this four years ago on 10/10/10, but I think my students won’t hold it against me that I didn’t know it existed – particularly since none of them knew me back then.)

image from: billwhittle.com
image from: billwhittle.com

You can do all sorts of things to celebrate Powers of Ten Day.  It would probably be appropriate to show the famous Powers of Ten video, which does an amazing job of zooming out and in on a picnic scene by powers of ten.  This document by Jerry Becker gives some other ideas for activities for various grade levels.  Or, you can check out the “Zoom Inside Stuff” link on Strange Matter.  The Scale of the Universe or The Universe Within are both fun, too.  Here is a Pinterest Board full of Power of 10 activities for younger students.

If you aren’t necessarily interested in Powers of Ten, but just the concepts of scale and zooming in and out, check out my post on a cool site called, “Here is Today.”

Do any of you celebrate this day?  I would love to hear what you do!

 

Pencil Code Gym and Code Studio

I’ve just added two new resources to my Programming for Kids Pinterest Board: Pencil Code Gym and Code Studio.  I haven’t played with either one of them, yet – but they look like they are worth exploring.

The "Draw" interface from Pencil Code Gym
The “Draw” interface from Pencil Code Gym

Pencil Code Gym gives you the opportunity to code your own art, music, or fiction.  It looks fairly elementary, but definitely best used by good readers if they are to work independently.

Code Studio from Code.org
Code Studio from Code.org

Code Studio is a new offering from Code.org, who sponsors the annual Hour of Code.  It allows for teachers to sign up and to monitor classes of students as they work through coding lessons.  You can read more about this new, ambitious project here.

I have many coding resources for students on my blog and Pinterest board.  If you are interested in participating in a Twitter chat about the topic, join in on #kidscancode every Tuesday night, 8 PM EST, hosted by @kodable.  It’s a great group of educators with many fabulous ideas!

 

What Breaks Your Heart?

My GT classes and our after-school Maker Club are participating in this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge.  Select projects will be chosen to bring to a local party/entertainment center, Main Event.  We will be inviting the community to play the games for a $1, as well as selling wristbands to access the other fun activities at the facility. All of the money we raise will be going to a charity that the students choose.

But, how can I get several classes of students – in addition to the 24 students in the Maker Club – to decide on which charity will receive our donation?  I decided to use an idea from Angela Maiers, who is internationally renowned for her motivational speeches about how we should Choose to Matter.  One of my favorite quotes from her is, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.”

In a blog post last year, Angela described the process for:

  • helping students to determine what matters the most to them
  • determining what “breaks their hearts” about their passions
  • thinking of possible solutions to those problems.
by @Kara Dziobek
by @Kara Dziobek

So far, I’ve walked two of my classes through the first two phases.  It has been very enlightening.  Similar to the activity that Angela describes from teacher Karen MacMillan, I had students mind-map their passions in the middle of a piece of paper.  Then they drew branches from each of those that identified what breaks their hearts regarding those topics.

As an example, I told them that teaching and learning are both passions for me.  What breaks my heart is that there are still children, particularly girls, who are denied the right to an education.

One boy had brainstormed every single sport he could think of as a passion.  When asked what broke his heart about them, he replied, “When I lose a game.”  I had to question him a bit more to get a deeper, less self-centered answer – “when people get injured.”

After we shared the things that break their hearts, we looked for trends or patterns.  Sports-related injuries was a big one with my 3rd graders, as well as cruelty to animals and pollution.  The latter two were also common themes with my 4th graders.  Today, I will get feedback from 5th grade.  Armed with the information from three grade levels, we can then try to find a charity that many of them will find meaningful.

We will also be holding on to these papers to use as jumping-off points for this year’s Genius Hour projects.

I really loved this process for so many reasons.  It tells me about what is important to my students and gives them a voice.  It shows them that they have responsibilities to be contributors as well as consumers.  And, it helps them to understand themselves a little better.

I’ll keep you posted as we continue on this journey :)

Maker Club

As a powerful response to the rigidity of curriculum that has overwhelmed our nation’s schools during the last couple of decades, Maker Spaces are popping up in communities all over.  Many of these are stand-alone locations, but more and more are becoming expansions to libraries, museums, and schools.

In a recent video that I did for @GustafsonBrad’s #30secondtake Challenge, I mentioned that “making” is not about the space, but the time.  Time to create, especially during school hours, has become an endangered species.

In an attempt to head off the extinction of creativity, I applied for several grants during the past year.  I do have the good fortune to have an empty classroom next door (which my students named B.O.S.S. HQ – Building of Super Stuff Headquarters), which was great for the 50 or so students that I service in the Gifted and Talented program.  But what about the rest of our school?  With the materials purchased with these grants, participation from many more students is possible.

So, Phase II of my grand Maker Studio plan was to start a Maker Club that meets once a week after school. Students in 2nd-4th grades were allowed to apply (5th graders already have several other clubs to choose from), and we randomly chose 24 students from over 40 applications.

I say, “we” because two awesome teachers graciously joined me in co-sponsoring the club, and I am very thankful for their help!  Our first club project has been the Global Cardboard Challenge, and having three adults to help out 24 students as they chop through cardboard is a great boon.  (See yesterday’s post for some awesome tools that you might want to stock up on for participating in the challenge.)

After the Cardboard Challenge, we are going to do programming, video creations (including green screen and stop-motion), and electric circuits.

Phase III is to have some of these students trained as leaders so other students can visit B.O.S.S. HQ during the school day – probably during recess time.  I’m also hoping to collaborate with our librarian to devote a center in the school library to making.

I was thrilled to have the majority of the parents who filled out paperwork for Maker Club offered to help out during club meetings and other events.  Getting the community involved is definitely part of my vision as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Maker Spaces, particularly in an educational setting, check out my Pinterest Board here!

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Klever Tools for Kreating – and a Kontest!

We are finally in full swing with gifted classes and the after-school Maker Club.  As I’ve mentioned, we are participating in the Global Cardboard Challenge.  I thought I would share with you some great supplies that you may want to purchase if you have money to invest (particularly grant money).

With a grant we received this year, I bought a huge supply of Classroom Kits from Makedo.  These pieces are great for inspiring imaginative cardboard projects.  My favorite pieces in our sets are the hinges, but the hole puncher tools are invaluable, too.  I do not currently see the Classroom Kit available (it appears to be sold out), but I do see a “Make Anything Kit” that has new, interesting tools like “scrus” and a “scrudriver.”  One caveat if you are planning to buy from this company is to check with your school about rules for purchasing.  The company is in Australia, and does not accept purchase orders (but they do accept checks and credit cards.) There are some products from them on Amazon, but the Classroom Kits are not yet available through that route.

Makedo Classroom Kit
Makedo Classroom Kit

Speaking of Amazon, get thee to their site to get this great deal on a 5-pack of Klever Kutters (you can purchase these other places, but this is the best deal I’ve found).  Last year, my students really enjoyed using the safety saws that came with the Makedo kit.  Even when I offered to use my box cutters to help them, many students turned me away because they loved the independence the saws gave them.  However, they can take an awfully long time to cut a flap off of a box.  So, this year I ordered a bunch of Klever Kutters (thanks to several of my GT co-workers who saw them mentioned at a conference).  I LOVE these tools.  They are super safe (even safer than scissors in my opinion), and give the students a lot more autonomy while creating.  I still use the box cutters for cutting shapes that need to be more exact out of the boxes, but I have to do a lot less running around with the kids supplied with Klever Kutters.

Klever Kutter
Klever Kutter

With our grant money, we are also receiving some Classroom Kits from Little Bits, and I’m hoping some of my students who already have Little Bits experience from last year will find ways to incorporate them into their Cardboard Creations (make things buzz or light up or something even more fantastic!).  By the way, if you buy anything from Little Bits, be sure to sign up for the Educator Discount (and they do take Purchase Orders, so call their Customer Service number for information on how to go about doing that).  Little Bits has added all kinds of new things since the end of last school year, so be sure to check out their site if you haven’t visited for awhile.

Little Bits Premium Kit
Little Bits Premium Kit

Don’t have any money to buy these awesome supplies?  Check out the Global Cardboard Challenge Make-a-Movie-Trailer Contest; the winners will receive either a Makedo Set or a Little Bits set!

Help Desks

As my students gear up for this year’s Global Cardboard Challenge, they will also be researching a charity to which they will donate the proceeds from their cardboard arcade.  I want them to keep in mind Angela Maier’s mantra, “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution,” and to cultivate their empathy along with their creativity.

Help Desks for Indian children, created by
Help Desks for Indian children, created by Aarambh

As I was thinking about how to inspire my classes this year (many of whom have already seen the Caine’s Arcade videos), I ran across this video from an organization called, “Aarambh.”  Committed to helping students become more comfortable in their schools in rural areas of India, Aarambh found a way to make combination desks/backpacks out of discarded cardboard.  For less than 20 cents in American dollars, a child can be outfitted with this invaluable piece of equipment.  This is a great video to show students so many things:

  • the value of an education
  • how fortunate many of us are to receive a free education with numerous resources
  • how simple, yet creative, ideas can have an incredible positive impact
  • that recycling is not just a luxury but an imperative

Phodable Phun

For today’s Phun Phriday post, I bring you three examples of the impact the ancient art of origami continues to have in the modern world.

Check out this story from the New York Times, which includes a video of a robot that starts out flat, then folds itself into a 3-D creature.
Check out this story from the New York Times, which includes a video of a robot that starts out flat, then folds itself into a 3-D creature.  The video is amazing!

 

Or, get yourself a metal origami sculpture that you put together yourself - starting from flat pieces delivered in the mail!
Or, get yourself a metal origami sculpture that you put together yourself – starting from flat pieces delivered in the mail! Back this Kickstarter project, Poligon, if you love this idea! (You’ve got to watch the video to see this awesome concept!)

 

Richard Byrne just published a post about an app and a website that you can use to make your own paper foldable creations.
Richard Byrne just published a post here about an app (Foldify) and a website (Paper Toys) that you can use to make your own paper foldable creations. Read his post for a cool idea for what to do with your finished products!