Vote for the 2020 Barrow Peace Prize

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Each year our 2nd graders work on a project called the Barrow Peace Prize. Every student researches one of four people from black history and gathers facts from PebbleGo, Britannica, books, and a few other online resources. They use these facts to write a persuasive essay asking people to vote for their person to win the Barrow Peace Prize. The criteria for the prize is also determined by the students after learning about character traits. These essays are recorded in Flipgrid and are now ready for viewing. We ask people all over the world to watch these videos, listen to these student voices, and vote on which of the four people from Black History should win this year’s award: Jackie Robinson, Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr., or Harriet Tubman.

You can vote as many times as you like and you are welcome to share this link with everyone you know.  If you choose to tweet about our project and share pictures of you or your class of students watching our videos, we hope you will tag @plemmonsa in your tweets so they can be shared with our Barrow students. If you use Instagram, please tag @barrowmediacenter  We love to see how this project spreads around the world.

Voting is open now through March 13 at 12PM EST. Simply visit our Smore page, watch several videos, and then click the link to vote.  We can’t wait to see who will win this year’s award.

2020 Barrow Peace Prize Smore Newsletters for Education

Follow this link to vote!

Rubiks Cube Mosaic Makerspace

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We love trying new things in our makerspace, so this February we decided to leap into Rubiks cubes. At AASL in Louisville, I visited the You Can Do the Cube booth and checked out their Rubiks cube lending program. You can check out sets of Rubiks cubes to create Rubiks cubes mosaics and simply pay for the shipping and handling each way.

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I shared this idea for our makerspace with Gretchen Thomas at UGA and she was excited to give it a try.  We collaborate with Gretchen and her students every Tuesday and Thursday in our open makerspace time. Instead of waiting on an available kit in the lending program, she decided she could use some funds to purchase some inexpensive cubes on Amazon. She ordered 120 3×3 cubes and 50 2×2 cubes.

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In class at UGA, Gretchen’s students watched multiple videos on how to solve Rubiks cubes and worked to learn some strategies that would be helpful to our Barrow students. They also practiced designing their own small mosaics using the 3×3 cubes.

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At Barrow, we selected some prepared mosaics from the You Can Do the Cube site. We chose Rosa Parks for our 3×3 and a flower for our 2×2. I measured out a grid on a piece of butcher paper and taped the individual mosaic pieces into the grid and numbered them.  I made a second set of pieces that we numbered and cut out and put into an envelope. Students could select a picture out of the envelope, solve that picture, and place it onto the correct square in the grid.

For our open makerspace, teachers sign up students for a 30-minute slot on a Google document. They are signing up for all 6 Tuesday/Thursday sessions of Rubiks Cube. For this first session, students spent time exploring the cubes.  I made a QR code for students to scan to watch tutorial videos about solving. Some followed these videos, while others learned from the strategies of friends and UGA students.

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It was amazing to see how many students already knew some tips about solving Rubiks cubes because of their own practicing at home.  We also downloaded an app on the iPads called Cube Solver that allows you to put in the colors on the cube and it shows you all the steps to solve the entire cube. Some students used this as a tool for learning more about the different turns required to solve.

Once students felt comfortable with the cube, they started solving actual pieces of the mosaic and adding it to our grid located on a large table in the back corner of the library. With so many students working on cubes during one makerspace and with so many students already talented in solving cubes, the mosaic started to take shape pretty quickly. By the end of the 2nd day of working on the mosaics, we had the Rosa Parks and flower mosaic done.

I had already prepared additional mosaics to work on: a dinosaur and Mona Lisa.  We celebrated our achievement of solving the first mosaics and took some pictures. Then, it was time to start dismantling the mosaics and solving a new one.

Once we created 2 additional mosaics, I gave the students the option of designing their own small mosaics.  They could do this alone or with a group.  They sketched out their mosaic on grid paper first and then worked to solve and assemble the mosaic at tables.  This would be a great way to extend this experience in future sessions because there wasn’t much time left.

The thing I loved most about this makerspace project was being able to see students bringing in a talent and passion they had outside of school and making it something for school.  There are lots of ways this could be incorporated into grade level curriculum so I hope that this is not the end of the Rubiks cube. We have so many students who enjoyed this that I’m sure we could even just make this a center in the library for people to work on over time.

Major Impossible: An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

It has been a rainy week in Georgia, which means kids haven’t had recess in a while. Pair that with the full moon, and you have a group of high energy kids. We were already excited about our upcoming author visit with Nathan Hale, but this added an extra layer. If I had known what students were about to experience during the visit, I wouldn’t have worried at all. Nathan Hale is a top-notch author & illustrator and his school presentation is a sight to behold. I don’t want to give too much away about the content, but I will say that he had almost 300 high energy 3rd-5th graders laughing, gasping, and hanging on every word.

We’ve known about our visit since November, which gave us a bit of time to build some excitement. When Nathan Hale arrived at our school, two of our 5th grade ambassadors welcomed him and walked him to the library to get setup.

Once we got him setup, he worked on a drawing of Hangman. He continued working on this as kids arrived and then moved over to draw on his iPad.

I loved that this immediately hooked kids in as they sat down. There was a buzz of excitement as kids chatted and watched Nathan draw.

All Nathan uses for his presentation is an iPad connected to the projector, but don’t let that simple setup fool you. After my quick intro, which included a huge thank you to Abrams Books and Avid Bookshop, Nathan launched right in to his presentation which is a combination of storytelling and drawing on his projected iPad. He introduced the Hazardous Tales books and then crossed them all out.

Since kids can just read those on their own, Nathan told us a new Hazardous Tale about Lewis & Clark. Since some people say that this story is too weird, too gross, and too dumb to be published, it can only be heard in school presentations. And, of course, the students were dying to hear it.

Nathan proceeded to tell us the story of Lewis & Clark and the corps of discovery. His story introduced an evil doctor, York-an African American explorer, and Sacagawea. His story was filled with  sarcasm, danger, gruesome details, and of course laugh-out-loud humor.

As Nathan told the story, he drew everything out on the iPad. He would zoom in at just the right moment, just like we were zooming in to a panel of a comic.

The storytelling introduced students to parts of the Lewis and Clark expedition that they most likely hadn’t heard before. It explained the “Lewis and Clark” is really referring to a whole group of people, and Nathan was sure to give credit to the individuals who played big roles in the expedition.

The story built up to a huge comedic finish that I can’t give away. What I will say about it is that it was so much fun to look around the room and see so many students and adults laughing to the point of tears. No matter what we were carrying with us as we came to the visit, we had 45 minutes of storytelling and laughter.  You couldn’t help but feel good after laughing that much.

One of the things I loved about Nathan’s presentation was that he went around the library before the presentation and pulled books about Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, York, and Sacajawea. He repeatedly reminded students that the story he was telling them was true and that he learned about the facts by reading books from the library.

He showed each one with his iPad and even turned this book presentation into a comedic event by always zooming in to show Baby Pomp on Sacajawea’s back.

Nathan chatted with students as they left, and then signed a huge stack of books. Every student who bought a book got a signature and a drawing of Hangman.

Before he left, Nathan took time to look at all of the comics that kids had made for the library windows. I loved that he took a moment to see how each one was different and what kids did with a blank piece of paper.

After an author/illustrator leaves our school, they don’t always get to see the miraculous things that happen back in classrooms and home. Kids returned to class buzzing with ideas and retelling the Hazardous Tale they heard. I had reports back from parents that their child couldn’t stop talking about the visit. Some students made their parents take them to hear Nathan again at the public library. Several parents reported back to me that their kids couldn’t put Major Impossible down and some finished it that night.

The next day, I put out a new set of Hazardous Tales and 5 copies of Major Impossible along with the other books Nathan showed at his visit.  All were immediately checked out and there’s already a list of holds on each book. Before Nathan’s visit, we already had some Hazardous Tales fans, but now that students know him, he has developed a much bigger fan base at our school.

Thank you again to Abrams Books for sending Nathan Hale on a tour of bookshops and schools. Thank you Avid Bookshop for supporting our schools with author visits and allowing us to have this opportunity. Thank you Nathan Hale for sharing your talents with us all.

Preparing for An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

One of the biggest blessings of having an award-winning independent bookshop in your community is having authors and illustrators visit our school as they tour to promote new books. Avid Bookshop is our local indie bookstore and even before they opened as a store, they supported the author visits that I arranged at our school. Now, Avid Bookshop pitches to publishers to have authors and illustrators visit their bookshop. Sometimes those visits happen in store and sometimes they happen at our public library. In addition to visiting the store, authors & illustrators usually visit a couple of schools, too.

The Setup

These visits are for one presentation and sometimes have requirements for the minimum or maximum number of students in attendance or are sometimes targeted at specific age groups. We also have a minimum number of books that we need to sell for each visit. Typically this is 40-60 books.  Ahead of the visit, I send home a pre-order form for students to purchase the new book. I have also worked with our PTA to include a line item in the budget for buying books for classroom libraries and students. I use this budget to supplement the number of books to ensure that we meet the minimum number.

We normally have the visits in our library, which requires me to move our shelves, tables, and chairs to accommodate 250ish students on the carpet. I book time on our library calendar to make sure there’s time to setup and clean up.

Introducing the Author

When we know about the visit in enough time, I make sure that all students have been introduced to the author. On January 14th, we will host author Nathan Hale for his new book, Major Impossible. We learned about the visit in November, so that gave me time to work on introductions before winter break. The visit will be for grades 3-5.

Our 5th grade was studying WWII at the time, so I worked with the art teacher and 5th grade teachers to put together a project around their Social Studies curriculum and Nathan Hale.

For day 1 of our project, we looked at all of Nathan Hale’s books and read the first chapter of One Dead Spy in order to meet the characters and learn the setup of the Hazardous Tales series.  Next, students had time to browse all of the Hazardous Tales, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Apocalypse Taco, and One Trick Pony. Their job was to enjoy the books but also to notice the style of illustrations, the dialogue, the humor, and anything else that caught their eye. They shared these noticings with partners and the whole group in our closing.

For day 2, students selected a topic from WWII to research. Examples included D-Day, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Rosie the Riveter, VE Day, Iwo Jima, and more. They used resources from our state Galileo database. Students gathered facts onto Google docs in Google Classroom to use in art with Ms. Foretich.

In art, students used their research to create Nathan Hale-inspired one-page comics. These comics would be used to display at the front of our library for Nathan’s visit.

For grades 3-4, I offered an opportunity to come to the library for the same intro that 5th grade had. I also knew that they were overwhelmed with assessments and finishing up units before winter break, so I made a short intro video and uploaded to Youtube for them to watch at their convenience in class.

Contests

Ahead of Nathan’s visit, we held a big reveal on our morning broadcast. I gave one clue each day about the author/illustrator visiting our school and students could make a guess and drop it in a box in the library. I pulled out all the correct answers and held a drawing the give away copies of Major Impossible.

We also held a one-page comic contest for anyone in the school.  5th grade was automatically working on this, but I wanted to extend the opportunity to any students.  The rules were to create a one-page comic in the style of Nathan Hale. Students had to incorporate some event from history.  I provided various blank comic strip pages or students could create their own. Once the deadline came, Ms. Allie, our student support technician, and I went through the entries to select some winners. Again, these students received a copy of Major Impossible.  Every entry was used to add to our window display at the front of the library.

The Visit

Now, we are awaiting the big visit. I made a banner to put above the library door. The window display is created.  Books have been ordered. I’ve created post-it notes to put inside each book for autographing and delivery to students.  Students have been checking out all the Nathan Hale books, so hopefully we will get a few back to have signed at the visit. I love the excitement that an author visit brings. They are a lot of work, but they are so rewarding.

November Makerspace with Doll-E 1.0

Our makerspace is taking a break for the next 2 months while we work on our student book budget project. We wrapped up November with a makerspace inspired by the book Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda Mcloskey. This book is about a girl who receives a doll that only says “mama”. She tries lots of ways to play with the doll but just can’t get past the fact that it only says one thing. Then, she figures out that she can hack the toy using her computer programming skills and a Makey Makey.  As soon as I read this book last year, I wanted to do a makerspace with it. Then, the amazing Colleen Graves put together an instructables with step-by-step instructions on how to create a toy programmed with Scratch and controlled by Makey Makey.  While we didn’t really follow all of Colleen’s instructions, we did have fun creating our own variations.  Here’s a look at what we did.

For context, this took place during our open makerspace time on Tuesdays/Thursdays. Students sign up through their teacher via a Google Doc. We have four 30-minute segments which allows students from grades 1-5 to try out our month-long theme. Students from Gretchen Thomas’s maker class at UGA help facilitate each of the segments alongside me.

Session 1: Tinkering

Since students have a variety of experiences with Scratch and Makey Makey, we wanted all students to have some time to tinker with both tools. Our UGA students made some example toys out of toilet paper rolls, aluminum foil, copper tape, and a variety of other objects. We stationed these at tables with Makey Makey piano and Makey Makey kits. Students had an opportunity to tinker with how to hook up the Makey Makey as well as how to use the toy to play the piano on the computer. In another area, students practiced creating blocks of code in Scratch with events and sounds.

Session 2 & 3: Coding

In these sessions, students considered the sounds they would like their toy to make. They could record their own sounds or use the gallery of sounds located in Scratch. Each student made an account in Scratch and worked to code all four arrow keys and the space bar to correspond with the front of the Makey Makey.  More advanced students could try out some of the extra pieces of code from Colleen’s instructions, but most students simply used an event block “when key is pressed” and a sound block “play sound until done”.

This was one of the most frustrating pieces of our project because with such as short time segment and students who couldn’t remember their email addresses and passwords, it took a long time to get accounts setup. Once we got through the initial setup, the coding wasn’t too bad, especially if students took the simple route.

Session 4: Toy Creation

In this session, students used toilet paper and paper towel tubes to create toys. We asked them to think about making up to 5 points of contact to connect their Makey Makey to. This was their first focus before adding details to give their toy character. Students used clothes pins, copper tape, brads, paper clips, aluminum foil, and other miscellaneous conductors.

We had a hot glue gun station with 5 glue guns to attach pieces. A UGA student stayed with the glue guns to facilitate safety.

Then, students used a variety of craft supplies to give their toy character: sequins, googly eyes, pom poms, feathers, etc.

I won’t lie. This was extremely messy and no matter how many hands I had helping or how many ways I tried to keep us organized, we ended up with supplies all over the tables, chairs, and floor.

As students finished their segment, we stored the toys in cardboard boxes by grade level.

Session 5:

This was the session to bring it all together. If students needed to finish coding or their toy, this was the session to do it. Then, their final goal was to hook up their toy to Makey Makey and see if their code worked. Many students realized that they had not created 5 separate contact points but had instead created contact points that touched one another. This resulted in 2-3 different sounds going off at one time. This was a good learning experience because they had to figure out a way to revise their design.  If we had additional sessions this could have been expanded on but most just got to the beginnings of revision.

Our youngest makers in 1st grade didn’t quite make it through all of the steps since they had so much to explore and learn. In this final session, we hooked up the UGA student toys to the 1st graders’ code and also had a computer with pre-made code where they could try out the toys they had made.  This was also true for students who had missed one or more sessions.  We just couldn’t get through all the steps.

There were a lot of moments during this month where I wanted to pull my hair out and moments where I had to stop and take deep breaths. I had to remind students that I didn’t hold all the answers and I couldn’t show them every step to do. I find that this is a constant struggle. Students can figure things out if they just have the space and encouragement. Many of them stepped up, persevered through frustration, and helped their peers when they figured things out.

In the end, I learned a lot about what this might look like as a class or grade level curriculum based project. We could do so much with storytelling and writing with this project in addition to the science standards involved. The purpose of our makerspace wasn’t to have a polished product at the end. We wanted to have fun, problem solve, and invent while learning a lot about coding and circuits. I think we accomplished that, even if there were moments that felt messy and chaotic. I would do it again and try to do a bit more to keep us organized and moving forward. More days would definitely have been beneficial.

Studying the Art of Mike Lowery (Plus a Contest)

 

We are eagerly awaiting a visit from author/illustrator Mike Lowery on October 24th to celebrate his new book Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve held a design-a-dino contest. Interested students picked up a blank design sheet from the library.  They could design a new type of dino and list out it’s many features in the style of Mike Lowery’s new book or they could research an actual dino and include true facts.  This was a very popular contest with students and we had to make additional copies of the entry form on numerous occasions.

It has been really fun seeing the student creativity in each grade level. Most students chose to create new dinosaurs and some of the designs and “facts” have been pretty humorous.

It’s going to be a hard decision as we choose 10 winners to receive an autographed copy of Mike Lowery’s dinosaur book.  Every design will be displayed in our library windows at Mike’s visit. Take a look at just a few of the entries.

 

The art teacher and I are also collaborating together with our 3rd graders. Each 3rd grade class came to the library during art time for a cartoon study.

We started out by learning a bit about Mike Lowery and his new book through these two videos.

We watched this video up to the point where Mike talks about the new book:

Then we switched to this video to learn about the new book:

Then we set students up for their work session.  Students were split between 3 tables.  One table had books written and/or illustrated by Mike Lowery.

The other 2 tables had a variety of graphic novels from different authors and illustrators. At each table, students were supposed to see what they noticed about line, shape, color, simplification, and how text was incorporated.

As students looked at books and talked, Ms. Foretich and I rotated to each table and had conversations with students about their noticings.

If a table was having trouble picking out observations, we offered some models.  For example, we noticed that many of Mike Lowery’s illustrations use dots for eyes and lines on eyebrows or mouths to create expression.

After students rotated to each table, we collected books and introduced a project. Students got to choose from 4 final products based on their observations from the tables.  They could:

  • Create an informational poster in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a character and book cover for a comic in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a self portrait in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a one page comic

For this first session, students had time to select the project they were most interested and then create some initial sketches, notes, or story lines in their artist sketchbooks.

Now, students will begin working on their final project in art class and the final products will be displayed on the walls of our school during Mike Lowery’s visit.  We can’t wait to meet Mike Lowery.  Look for a post at the end of October about our visit.

First Grade 3D Jewelry Design with Makers Empire

Each year, the art teacher and I collaborate on a 3D design and 3D printing project to accompany her art standards in 1st grade. Blokify has been a trusty 3D design tool that has served this project well due to its simplicity on the iPad. However, this year we hit a road block. Blokify is no longer available in the app store, and this was the year that our iPads finally quit supporting its functionality.

I began exploring alternatives.  There are so many 3D design apps and web tools out there, but the tricky part is finding one that is developmentally supportive to 1st graders.  The app I decided on was Makers Empire. This app has a lot of options for 3D design and also has some gaming built in, but it has a block based design tool called Blocker that works very similar to Blokify. This app is free to use but it’s not free to access the teacher dashboard and be able to download the STL files for 3D printing. It’s also not cheap, so we decided to test it out with a free 14-day trial and see how it served our project.

After tinkering with the app on my own, I decided on some steps it would take to get our 1st graders designing. Makers Empire is not an app you can just open up and start. There’s some setup involved, which I felt like was a bit of a barrier to our 1st graders. Ms. Foretich and I made a slideshow of steps to get students started, and we all sat in front of the screen to do these setup steps together.

First, students tapped on “new” to create new accounts. First, they create a hero. This is their avatar, but we didn’t want to spend much time on this so we just told them to tap each button and make a quick selection.

Next, students let Makers Empire assign them a random name and skipped the password step.

Prior to their arrival, I went into the dashboard and setup a class for each 1st grade homeroom. Students were able to select their class, grade, and type their real name so that I could easily identify their account in the teach dashboard.

This finally brought students to the screen where they were ready to create in Blocker.

At this point, we had students turn over their iPads so that they could see the steps needed to create a jewelry pendant for 3D printing. Since Makers Empire has so many things to click on, I really wish we had time for them to tinker first. However, we decided to focus them on a few buttons and promise them that when they finished their design that they could tinker with any of the other parts of the app.

In Blocker, we only needed students to use the add, delete, and view buttons to create their design, so we showed them these 3 buttons. We also talked to them about the requirements for a pendant. It needed to be one level tall. All pieces had to be connected by at least one side. There had to be a hole for string to go through. Students could design a specific shape or something abstract.

We sent them to tables with iPads and then rotated around to support students with any design questions or confusions they had. Once students were actually in Blocker, most of them had little to no trouble figuring out how to design. When students felt their design was done, they raised a hand for us to come and double check it. Then, they named the file with their name and moved on to tinkering with any part of the app.

Once students left, there were several steps for me to do. I loved that I could log in to the dashboard in Makers Empire and pull up each class, see their files, and download the STL file. This was such an easy step that was so much better than my experience with Blokify. I imported each filed into the Makerware software for our Makerbot and put about 8 files on each plate. On paper, I labeled each plate with student names so I knew which file belonged to which student.

Then, the printing began. Each plate took about an hour to print and there were about 3 plates per class. In all, it took about 12 hours to print the whole first grade’s files across a few days. As each plate printed, I put pendants in individual ziploc bags with the teacher and student name written on the outside.

When classes were finished printing, Ms. Foretich took the pendants to the art room for the final steps. Students colored their pendants with sharpie markers, placed string through the pendant, and added decorative beads to finalize their jewelry piece.

I loved seeing students wearing their necklaces around the school. They were so proud to show them off to me in the hallways.

Now, Ms. Foretich and I need to think through this tool, how often we might actually use it through the next school year, and whether it’s worth the lofty price tag. If you know of other 3D design tools that might be a good fit for this project and first graders, comment below.