Category Archives: Student Products

White House Science Fair

On Monday, March 23, 2015, the White House hosted it’s fifth annual Science Fair.  You can see some of the participants in the video on this site.  I haven’t been able to watch the whole video, but I enjoyed the segment that starts about 57 minutes in (I just chose a random place to start) where some students describe their experiences with their FIRST Lego League robots to Bill Nye.

White House Science Fair 2015
White House Science Fair 2015

If you visit the site, you can learn all about this year’s exhibitors – which include the 6-year-old darling “Supergirls” FIRST Lego League Team below.  Talk about STEM Inspiration!

The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK
The Supergirls from Tulsa, OK

You can find more coverage of the event here. And if you want some STEM resources, check out this Pinterest Board.

District Twitter Chats

A couple of weeks ago some of the librarians in our district sent out an idea for a district Twitter chat for our students.  They included a great form that we could use for the students to fill out. I had just participated in a professional chat a few days before, hosted by Todd Nesloney, about creating a positive school culture.  In fact, Todd’s recent #EduLS challenge was to celebrate someone. So, the third prompt on the Twitter sheet appealed to me, “Give a Shout Out to a Teacher!”

As the GT teacher, I have students from all grade levels, so I thought this would be a great opportunity for my classes to perform a random act of kindness for potentially every staff member in the school.

My younger students dictated their Tweets to me, while older students wrote their own and then tweeted them from our class account once I approved them.

Knowing that not many teachers follow our class account, I’ve been collecting the Tweets in Storify each day, and mailing the link to the teachers included in that day’s accolades.  All of the students were allowed to choose who got the shout outs, and most of them chose to recognize two or three staff members each.

Twitter Shoutout

I am trying to encourage the students to name something specific they remember about the person, rather than just saying, “You’re nice.”  It’s been gratifying to see that they are happy to include all staff members – not just classroom teachers.

I want to thank Irene Kistler(@IreneKistler) and Sara Romine (@laffinglibrary) for spreading this idea.  I believe Irene is the author of Twitter Paper.  When I asked her if I could share the idea, she pointed me to a very cool website that inspired her.  It is called KidsEdChatNZ, and has fabulous prompts for their New Zealand student participants each week.

It appears that the New Zealand chat happens at a weekly scheduled time.  However, I think that doing this as a “slow chat” was great so that we could get more participants.

If you are interested, you might also want to check out the “S.C.A.M.P.E.R.” Twitter Chat with students that we did in February.

 

Makerspace Essentials – Robots

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials - Robots

We are about to wrap up our robot activities in Maker Club for this year, and I’ve learned a lot about the robots we have in our space.  If you are thinking of purchasing robots for your maker space, there are many factors to consider.  Of course, I didn’t consider any of those factors – just creativity potential.  We were also sent a couple of robots by companies for review.

Of course we have been learning as we experiment with various robots that they each have pros and cons.  Keeping them charged, for example, can be a challenge.  And the learning curve definitely varies.

I thought I would share some of the info I’ve gathered about the robots we have in case you would like to see a side-by-side comparison.  I’ve embedded the sheet I’m using to keep notes on each one.  It is a document I plan to update in the future with some of the other robots we are still trying out.  You can also access it here if you prefer not to have to scroll to see the details.

One thing that I would recommend is that you commit to buying at least 2 of whatever robot you decide on.  It helps for grouping – and when one of them has a dead battery or other troubleshooting is necessary.  For our Maker Club, we have 4 different types of robots, so the students rotated to each station to try them out.  Then, their groups were assigned a specific robot that they are currently preparing for our Robot Olympics.

If you have any questions about the robots, feel free to leave a comment on this post.  For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board here.

Makerspace Essentials – Legos

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials Legos

Legos may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to maker space essentials, but it actually took me awhile to realize that we needed to add them to our inventory.  There were a couple of reasons I resisted their inclusion:

  • Many of my students have Legos at home, so there seemed to be no point in offering them at school as well,
  • I’m an idiot.

My students have been working with Lego robots for a few years, so I didn’t see the need for any additional tiny pieces ending up on the floor waiting to ambush me.  And, to be honest, I kind of got stuck on the kit part of Legos, which didn’t seem like the best outlet for creativity.

We added a few last year because some of my students wanted to do a Lego stop-motion film for Genius Hour.  The small box of Legos a parent donated seemed like plenty to me.

But then we kept getting robots that included Lego adapters and students kept asking, “Where are the Legos?” and our pitiful supply did not impress them, and I finally gave in and sent out an all-call to parents and staff for more Lego donations.

Legos, like cardboard boxes, are ubiquitous, it seems.  Before I knew it, we had several bins of Legos, donated by parents and teachers who were grateful to re-home them, and my students were happily digging through the pieces to find the perfect accessories for their robots. (I’ll be talking more about the robots in tomorrow’s post.)

Some of the robots, like Sphero, don’t even come with Lego adapters.  Yet my students managed to find a way to create a Sphero chariot with the donated Legos.  The slideshow below shows Legos with Cubelets and Edison also.

 

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If you don’t have robots or the materials to do stop-motion, here are some other ideas for using Legos in a maker space:

The Lego Education page has more information on their robotics kits and other products designed specifically for schools.

Click here for a list of Lego-related posts I have done in the past.

For more maker space ideas, here is my Pinterest Board.

Makerspace Essentials – Cardboard

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials (2)

Obviously, you don’t need money to add cardboard to your maker space.  If you time things just right, you can get plenty of donations. The beginning and end of the school year will yield donations from teachers who are unpacking or cleaning out.  If you send out an e-mail to parents, they will be thrilled to contact you whenever they have empty boxes.  Local companies will also be more than happy to donate cardboard.  Mattress Firm, for example, partners with the Global Cardboard Challenge each year to provide cardboard for schools participating in that project.

One of our 2014 Cardboard Arcade games
One of our 2014 Cardboard Arcade games

One piece of advice I can offer after doing this for a couple of years is to ask donors to remove any packing peanuts or other filler before depositing boxes on your doorstep.  Those little pieces are impossible to sweep and you will find them clinging to your clothes months after your project is complete.

And that leads me to uses for the cardboard.  One of the activities that introduced me to the chaos and joy of making was the Global Cardboard Challenge, inspired by the video, “Caine’s Arcade.”  This year, some of our cardboard even got reused twice – first as arcade games and then as enrichment activities for rescued wild animals.

Once the Cardboard Arcade was done, our need for cardboard diminished but didn’t disappear.  My students use it for Genius Hour projects, leprechaun traps, and robot tracks.  Like the mother in Christina Katerina and the Box, you will frequently be certain that the cardboard has outlived its usefulness when one of your students will dream up another idea and yank a ragged piece from the jaws of the recycling bin.

Don’t get me wrong.  Cardboard is useful, but storing it is a pain. If your maker space is a corner of your classroom or even the desks of your students, you may need to be creative about where to put all of those boxes and pallets.  I do not have an easy answer for this – except to take a deep breath and accept the fact that you will not only be maneuvering around foosball games and cardboard obstacle courses, but a room full of students completely engaged in creating. It’s worth the chaos.

The great thing about cardboard is that it’s free.  You can augment it with some of the following supplies, however, if you have the funds and vendor approval:

  • Klever Kutters – I won’t say these are 100% safe since nothing is, but they are way safer than scissors!
  • Shipping/Packing tape – A good stock of this is super important.
  • Makedo tools – My students love the hole puncher and the safe saw.  Previous classroom packs included plastic hinges which were amazingly versatile.  However, beware, this company is based in Australia and often seems to be sold out of classroom kits.  I like their product, but it can be difficult to obtain due to vendor issues.  A similar product that I haven’t tried is McGroovy’s Box Rivets.

For ideas for Cardboard Box projects, check out this link, Global Cardboard Challenge, or my Make Pinterest Board.

 

Makerspace Essentials – Little Bits

I am frequently asked for advice on what materials to purchase for school maker spaces.  I am definitely not an expert on this topic, but I have gotten a couple of grants for B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) that have allowed me to try out different products.  I thought I would devote this week to sharing about a few items that I have judged to be well worth the money.

(If you intend to apply for a grant for a school maker space, be sure to research your district’s policies on spending grant money.  If you need to use approved vendors, then you should verify that you will be able to purchase the items you propose and that the vendor will accept your district’s preferred method of payment.)

Maker Space Essentials

Little Bits are modules that snap together magnetically to make circuits.  The colors help to distinguish between output and input modules, and there are endless combinations to be made with over 60 modules in their library.  You can see an introduction to the product here.

image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg
image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LittleBits2.jpg

Little Bits offers a variety of kits, and gives discounts to educators.  If you are unable to purchase directly through Little Bits due to vendor approval complications, you can also often find their kits on Amazon.com.

If you browse through the lessons page on the site, you will get an idea of the unlimited creativity and learning that these pieces potentially provide.  Math, science, and storytelling are all included in this curriculum gallery.

When we first got our Little Bits set, I found these Task Cards that help to introduce some of the basic pieces.  They were great for me to learn how the modules worked.  However, most of my students preferred to figure it out on their own.  You might want to try these Challenge Cards instead.  If you like those, here are some more.  Of course, you need to make sure the challenges match the supplies you are providing as different kits offer different modules.

Organizing your Little Bits can be a challenge.  I’ve seen some librarians mention that they have a “Little Bits Bar” with plastic drawer organizers that sit on the table.  I was thrilled when Little Bits offered this Tackle Box on their site – perfect for separating hundreds of tiny pieces.  One maker space presenter at TCEA advised us not to get “hung up” on labeling all of the Little Bits containers.  As long as the students organize them by type so the next users can easily find them, that should suffice.

Ayah Bdeir, an engineer and founder of Little Bits, gave a TED Talk about her product in 2012.  She speaks about how her product helps students to make sense of the world.  “The nicest thing is how they start to understand the electronics around them from every day that they don’t learn at schools. For example, how a nightlight works, or why an elevator door stays open,or how an iPod responds to touch.”

If you are given the opportunity to purchase Little Bits for your classroom, library, and/or maker space, I definitely recommend them!

For more maker space resources, check out my Pinterest Board, “Make.”

Left Brain Craft Brain

Yesterday’s post about the “Engineering – Go For It!” website left me thinking that I should look for some good sites for younger students related to engineering, too.  Today I have one to share with you.  “Left Brain Craft Brain” is a blog by a mother who happens to be a chemical engineer who loves to craft.  She shares projects that she has done with her young daughter, and the activities are well-suited for PreK through 2nd grade children.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is coming up for some of us, you might want to try the “Light Up St. Patrick’s Day Card.

image from Left Brain Craft Brain
image from Left Brain Craft Brain

There are many other St. Patrick’s Day activities on the site, too. But don’t worry – you don’t need to have the luck of the Irish to benefit from Left Brain Craft Brain.  There are plenty of other topics that will surely interest your young artistic engineer!