Category Archives: Books

Worlds of Making

Our school makerspace, B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters), is slowly establishing itself.  To aid in its development I’ve devoured every piece of advice that I can find: blogs, professional development sessions, Twitter chats, and books. At the beginning of this journey I read Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager.  From that book, I learned the power of T.M.I. (Think, Make, Improve), and all of my students and Maker Club members are well-versed in those three steps.

Another well-known pioneer in Maker Education is Laura Fleming (@NMHS_lms), a Library Media Specialist in New Jersey, who has documented the transformation of her library makerspace on her blog.  Laura recently published a book, Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establing a Makerspace for Your School.  The book gives practical advice on getting started on this adventure (or improving it if you have already begun).

Maker Space Essentials - Worlds of Making

Every school is different, and that means, of course, that makerspaces will vary as well.  It might not be the best idea to put your makerspace in the library.  Maybe an empty room or nook would be better.  Or perhaps you would prefer to have “pop-up” makerspaces or mobile carts.  No matter the layout of your space, Worlds of Making will give you many ideas.

Here are a few things that I learned from Laura’s book that I hope to put into practice: include “fixed” and “flexible” stations in your space, invite experts to your space (such as Ron Grosinger, who ran a bicycle repair workshop for her students), and make sure there are plenty of opportunities for students to showcase their work.  (I have been working on this last one, and her book gave me some new ideas.)

My favorite quote from the book?

Maker Movement

If you are interested in joining the Maker Movement, then I highly recommend that you read Worlds of Making.  Just like the creativity and collaboration for which it advocates, it should be an essential element of any library.

For more Makerspace Essentials, check out my series and other resources here.

Iggy Peck, Architect

I think I just found a new favorite children’s book.

iggy-peck-architect-cover

I was already a big fan of Andrea Beaty’s book, Rosie Revere, Engineer. Because well, girl engineer.  Need I say more?  Okay: growth mindset, adorable story, fabulous illustrations (by David Roberts).

Because Amazon is so wonderful about making recommendations based on previous purchases, I knew Iggy Peck existed and kept planning to check it out.  I don’t know why I waited so long.

My 2nd graders are studying Structures, and are about to transition from natural ones to man-made.  So, I thought Iggy Peck might make a good introduction.

Unlike the What Do You Do with an Idea? fiasco of 2014, I carefully read the book a dozen times to myself before finally unveiling it to the students.

As I predicted, they loved it.

And I love it even more every time I read it.  The rhyming story of a young boy who loves to build anything anywhere and anytime is fun. The students were enthralled with the incredibly detailed pictures.  (One sharp-eyed student noticed Rosie Revere on one of the pages!)

But the most important part of Iggy Peck is the message about pursuing your passion and what happens when teachers stifle that passion.

Fortunately, the teacher in the story evolves.  Otherwise, it would be kind of a bummer of a book ;)

I’m not sure if Iggy Peck makes more of an impact on adults or kids, but I can tell you that it is enjoyable for all ages.

Here are some Iggy Peck resources you may want to view:

Foster a Love for Reading with ConnectED Bingo

Dr. Brad Gustafson is one of the Engaging Educators that I have had the good fortune to connect with through Twitter and blogging.  This man is a social networking powerhouse who regularly dreams up unique ways to empower students and prepare them as global citizens comfortable with using 21st century tools to create and problem-solve.

image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson
image from Adjusting Course Blog by Dr. Brad Gustafson

His latest project was posted on his blog yesterday – just in time for February, which is “I Love to Read Month.”  Always the master networker, Brad asked a few of the members of his PLN to contribute activities to this “ConnectED Bingo” card, and the suggestions range anywhere from reaching out to authors on Twitter (suggested by @pernilleripp) to writing a poem based on the Daily Wonder at Wonderopolis (suggested by @JoEllenMcCarthy). If you look carefully, you might see a couple of other familiar names on the card;)

Head on over to Brad’s blog to download your own copy of ConnectED Bingo.  While you’re there, you might also want to check out his World Book Talk project, which ambitiously invites contributors to make 60 minute videos that Brad uploads to Aurasma so anyone can view the videos when they point the app at the book cover.

What Do You Do With an Idea?

The easy answer to the question is to cook it.

But I should probably back up a bit.

All of the elementary GT teachers in our district received a book before the holidays called, What Do You Do With an Idea?  It’s a beautifully illustrated book that figuratively represents a boy’s idea as he conceives it, nearly abandons it, and then nurtures it until it “spreads its wings.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For some reason, I thought this would be a good book to share with my 1st grade GT students.  That was my brilliant idea – and I didn’t ponder it long enough to realize that it was a bad one.

“Have you ever had an idea that you wanted to share, but were afraid other people would make fun of you?” I asked as an introduction to the book.

“Yes!” a 1st grader emphatically confirmed.

“Oh, what was your idea?”

“I wanted to go to my friend’s house,” she said.

So that led to a discussion about what I meant by the word, “idea.”

We finally got to the book.  And, as I started reading it I quickly became uncomfortably aware that I hadn’t looked at the story with 1st grader eyes the first few times I read it.

“Why do you think the illustrator used an egg as the boy’s idea?” I asked.

“I know!  Because he was hungry.”

“It’s not really an egg.  It’s a chicken.  It has feet,” another student pointed out.

Things further deteriorated when I got to the part about the boy “feeding” his idea.  I had apparently chosen the precise time of day to share this story when the distance between breakfast and lunch seemed far too wide to my “starving students.”  Between food and the ambiguity of a walking egg, the conversation wandered quite far from what I had imagined when I put this book in my lesson plans 3 weeks ago.

At home that afternoon, I thought about what had happened to my idea – the great one that I had of sharing this book with my 1st graders, engaging them in a deep, philosophical discussion (as described here), and then asking them to generate a piece of artwork with their own ideas (like these awesome examples).

I forgot to boil my egg.  That was the problem.  I just plucked a raw egg out of the carton and spun it like a top on the table – and it went wildly out of control.

What do you do with an idea?

Boil it in water for 10 minutes.

If it cracks, then you’ll know that it certainly wouldn’t have survived the heat of a room full of 1st graders.

365 Days of Wonder

I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes.  Like many people, I have a Pinterest Board of Favorite Quotations.  But I particularly revel in printed collections of quotations.  In July I shared a book of hand-lettered quotes that I purchased called, Whatever You Are Be a Good One.  I love the art of each page, and I am still debating whether or not to pull out some of them to frame.

365 Days of Wonder is in no danger of being torn apart.  Most of the pages are printed in simple fonts that belie the wisdom of the sentences.  However, it is a book that I treasure because of a few other aspects that make it unique.

wonder

The book might be called a “spin-off.”  The quotes were collected by R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder.  Its foreword and subsequent introductions before each month of inspirational sayings are “written” by one of the admirable characters in Wonder, Mr. Browne. In Wonder, Mr. Browne’s precepts play an important role in guiding the characters.  365 Days of Wonder offers more advice that he has collected during his fictional career – including precepts submitted by children. All of the contributors are acknowledged in the back of the book.

An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder
An original precept submitted by Shreya, age 10, in 365 Days of Wonder

I could be partial to this book because of Mr. Browne.  I am currently re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and he reminds me somewhat of the noble Atticus Finch.   It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that the words I’m reading come from an author and not the seasoned educator portrayed in the book. For example, these words herald the beginning of the February group of quotations: “The truth of the matter is this: there’s so much nobility lurking inside your souls.  Our job as parents, and educators, and teachers, is to nurture it, to bring it out, and to let it shine.”

R.J. Palacio is responsible for quite a few original precepts of her own.

Invisible Ink Books

This Friday’s edition of “Gifts for the Gifted” may be a blast from the past if you ever went on long trips as a child without the benefits of electronic entertainment systems.

When I was little, preparing for travel consisted of packing a bunch of books to read and a few books of puzzles.  I can’t remember ever flying in a plane without one of these invisible ink books.

You can still find them in stores.  On the rare occasion I visit a Cracker Barrel, there is usually a display of invisible ink books.  Most of the ones you see these days are products of movie advertising, like Toy Story or Frozen.  But I was amused to come across some of the classics while browsing the “New Products” section of MindwareOnline.

Invisible Ink Books (image from Mindware)
Invisible Ink Books (image from Mindware)

My absolute favorites as a child were the Mr. Mystery Secret Agent Spy ones.  (You can find More Mr. Mystery and The Return of Mr. Mystery online as well.) I loved the challenge of the puzzles and the independence that the invisible ink pen gave me to become a detective in my own imaginary world.

mrmystery

I got my daughter one of these a couple of years back for an upcoming trip, and I think she enjoyed them just as much as I always have.  Of course, in retrospect I probably should have gotten one for myself, too!

For more ideas for gifts, check out my Pinterest Board.

gifts

How to Be a Rocket Scientist

I think I can safely say that rocket scientist was never in my radar as I considered different occupations growing up. It was never suggested to me and, quite frankly, I probably didn’t even know rocket scientists existed.  If I did, I’m pretty certain I didn’t entertain any notion of attempting that career path.

rocketscientist

If someone had given me a few words of encouragement and Brett Hoffstadt’s book, things might have been different.

Possibly.

Okay – maybe remotely possibly. I’m pretty sure I would have ended up teaching no matter what.  But maybe I would be teaching rocket science.

The point is that “rocket science” sounds very intimidating, but reading this book will show you that passion for the subject plays a much bigger part than an Einsteinian I.Q.  when it comes to success.

How to Be a Rocket Scientist is easy to read, and gives great suggestions for finding mentors, resources, and even movies that will help a teenager determine if this is his or her destiny.

It’s a short read (around 51 pages) at $2.99 as an Amazon Kindle download. You can also go to the “How to Be a Rocket Scientist” website for more information.

Mr. Hoffstadt has over 20 years of experience in the aerospace industry.  He also happens to be the parent of one of my 5th grade students.  But I’m not biased because of that connection.  I’m biased because I read his book and thought, “Wow, I really could be a rocket scientist if I want to some day.”

It’s nice to know I have options ;)