Celebrating International Dot Day with Google Drawing and Cells

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We love Dot Day at our school.  We connect with classrooms around the country across the whole week.  Our students love reading stories and creating dots in creative ways.

This year, our 5th graders are studying cells in science at about the same time as Dot Day, so we decided to connect the two.  Each class came to the library and we spent some time talking about “making our mark” and what that really means.  We gave examples of students who are already making their mark this school year.  I tried to emphasize that a big part of this is trying new things and just seeing where it goes.  We never know when we try something new if it is going to lead us to something awesome.

After this quick mini-lesson, students had a chance to tinker with Google Drawing.  I showed them where it was within Google Drive, but really gave no instruction on how to use it.  They had about 15-20 minutes just to click on everything they could find and see what it did.  Some students found a groove and actually created something they were excited about while others gave themselves permission not to worry about what the page looked like and just get messy clicking buttons.

During the tinkering time, there was a group of students who suddenly started using Google Drawing to make their own emoji.  When I started asking them about their work, they were a bit shy at first because they thought they were in trouble.  However, I told them that new emoji are being created all the time, and they never know when their ideas and creations might lead to the next emoji on our phones.  They were eager to carry on with their work.  I saw other students designing their own jewelry and another creating a building design.

Mrs. Freeman, the reading teacher, and I transitioned students from tinkering into using Google Drawing to make a cell for Dot Day.  We pulled up some examples of animal and plant cells and then students referenced those as they drew and labeled their cells.

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One of the things I loved was walking around and seeing how unique each student made his/her cell.  One student talked about how the organelles looked like bacon so he actually imported a picture of bacon into his cell drawing.  Awesome!

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As we neared the end of our time, we took a moment to highlight various student work.  It was selected for many reasons, not just because it had all of the parts of a cell labeled.

We closed by once again revisiting the idea that by trying a new tool, we are opening up possibilities for future projects and creations that might lead us to making our mark on the world in some fantastic way.

Happy Dot Week!

 

What Fairy Gardens Taught Me About Makerspaces, Teaching, and Learning

Entertaining a 5 year old and 3 year old during the summer is a big job.  I love being a parent, and it has made me grow so much as an educator.  Summertime brings many days of opportunities for adventures.  We get out of the house every single day and go somewhere whether it’s the botanical gardens, the local UGA campus, the local zoo,a movie, or the pool.  In between all of the fighting that happens between a brother and sister, there is a lot of curiosity about the world, and I love watching this unfold during the summer.

Recently, Athens held its big summer music festival, Athfest.  A part of this festival is an artist market, and my kids loved seeing what was in each tent.  Their attention was most drawn to a booth of fairy gardens.  These artists had created living pieces of art inside picture frames and jars.  They had made every single item in the gardens.  Building on my kids’ curiosity of this art, I decided we would make fairy gardens one day.  The only instructions we had were the memories of what we had seen at Athfest.  I intentionally did not look up examples on the computer because this was not a copying activity.  I wanted this to be full of investigation, dreaming, tinkering, and creating.  In fact, I really love not planning out every single detail of what we do because I can just see where the curiosity takes us.

We started by looking around our house for fairy homes.  We looked at several pickle and jelly jars as well as empty flower pots.  Alora and Anderson each chose their favorite.

Then, we had an outing to the local hobby and craft store to find trinkets for the fairies.  I didn’t have a specific budget in mind, but I like a good bargain, so I didn’t plan to spend very much.  We got a basket and each child got to put things into the basket as possibilities.  There’s not really a “fairy garden” section in the store so you have to really wander around with a fairy eye and think about what a fairy might like in his or her house.  We spent a good amount of time in the dollhouse section of the store.  Finally we made our way to the clearance section which was a hodge podge of all kinds of stuff.  We really had to dig here.  After the basket had a good amount of stuff, I got out my phone calculator and started looking through the basket.  We sorted piles of “definitely want”, “kind of want”, and “don’t want”.  As Alora and Anderson were making those decisions, we talked about price and also how many items were in each pack.  They knew they would be sharing so they were more interested in packs that had multiple items in them that could be split up.  After agreeing on an amount, we visited the register, chatted with the cashier about fairy gardens, and paid our bill.

Back home, we took to the outdoors with a basket.  We did a nature walk and collected free items for our gardens.  On our walk, we talked about what to touch and what not to touch.  We collected sticks, rocks, pine cones, moss, and leaves.  Finally, we prepped our fairy gardens.  Again, we didn’t specifically look up what we should put, but we talked a bit about the layers in the Earth and decided to make some layers in our gardens.  We filled the bottom with rocks.  We didn’t have any sand, but we noticed that there were some rocks along the sides of the house that had been broken down a lot by the water gushing out of the gutters.  We talked about the rock cycle and erosion while we shoveled up some of this sand and bits of rocks to make another layer.  Finally, we put a layer of dirt.

Back inside, we added some water to pack everything together a bit and then topped our containers off with some moss.  We spread out all of the items from our nature walk as well as all of our trinkets from the store.  They both started placing items into the gardens and making decisions about what the fairies would like the most.

When their construction was complete, we topped off each garden with a metal candle shade from our junk closet and placed all of the remaining items in a ziploc bag so that they could trade out things in the gardens when they wanted to.  The gardens went to each child’s room.  At bedtime, I went in Alora’s room and she was busy once again.  On her own, she had gotten a roll of tape and a ziploc bag.  The ziploc was on top of the metal shade and was securely taped on.  When I asked about it, she told me that if a fairy went inside she didn’t want it to get out.  Nevermind the gaping hole on the front of her flowerpot.  I loved how she was already extending what we had started.

It really wasn’t until that moment that I started reflecting on the whole experience: where we had been, where we could go, and what implications it had for my own teaching.

A Few Topics We Explored:

  • perspective through the eyes of a fairy
  • financial literacy through budgeting and decision making
  • speaking and listening
  • layers of the Earth
  • habitats
  • erosion and rock cycle
  • plant identification
  • problem solving
  • reusing
  • safety
  • art
  • creativity

A Few Potential Extensions:

  • reading fairy stories to learn more about fairy behaviors and needs
  • building upon Alora’s idea of a fairy trap.  We could use littlebits to make an alarm to alert us when a fairy is inside.
  • adding electronics and circuitry to our garden.  To give the appearance of a fairy or even to add some light for an existing fairy, we could use littlebits or leds with coin cell batteries.  This could lead to a whole exploration of circuits and electricity.
  • spending more time learning about terrariums and the types of plants that could live inside a jar.
  • storytelling based on our fairies and fairy gardens.

Some Takeaways

  • Some of the best learning experiences can happen when you don’t have every detail planned out. We had a goal, which was to build a fairy garden, but we didn’t lock ourselves into a series of steps.  While I love to plan, I think we often miss out on some incredible learning opportunities with students when we aren’t observing, pausing, listening, and reflecting.
  • Our library makerspaces are a place where these types of experiences can launch, but the space alone does not create the learning.  I add a few layers to our makerspace each year.  More stuff brings more possibilities.  However, I learned last year that you can’t just turn kids loose in the makerspace and expect that they are going to come out with an amazing project.  There’s a big inquiry piece that is amplified through conversations with an educator like the librarian.  Kids can come into the makerspace to dream, tinker, and create, but it is up to us to be observing, listening, reflecting, and inquiring to take the student learning to the next level.
  • When students are engaged through something that is of their own interests, multiple required standards can be woven in.  They may not happen on the timeline that comes from the district or state, but they can be woven in.  My struggle, just like many educators, is how to replicate this type of individual experience with a class of 25-30 students.  It can be done.  I believe it can, but it is very tricky.
  • I thought back to my experiences with Kelly Hocking, a kindergarten teacher at our school.  She can take just about any topic that most of the class is interested in and create a magical year long project that weaves in multiple standards, experiences, and projects.  The fairy garden could easily be that kind of project, but I’m not telling everyone to go out and make fairy gardens.  I think we need to listen to our students’ voices, find their interests, and somehow find connecting threads that allow us to create projects and experiences that honor those while still upholding the standards we are required to teach.

I know there is more here, but my brain is in summer mode and I’m still trying to entertain a 3 and 5 year old as I write.  I’m going to continue thinking on this.  If you have your own thoughts, ideas, extensions, takeaways, etc, please leave them in the comments.

A Year-Long Kindergarten Interdisciplinary Space Project

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I have to take a moment to brag on another teacher and group of students in our school.  Kelly Hocking is an amazing Kindergarten teacher, and she has a talented group of Kindergarten students who are some of the biggest researchers and creators in our school.  I love how each year she finds something that her class takes an interest in and somehow weaves into every subject area and standard that they study in Kindergarten.  One year it was art.  Another year it was a study of maps and stretching the imagination.  This year it was space.

Kelly never knows at what point in the year something will pop up as an interest in her class, but this year it happened when they were doing a GoNoodle.  It happened to feature space, and it took the class into a series of questions and wonderings about space.

They started reading lots of books about space as well as studying the science standards about the day and night sky.

The more they read, the more they started to notice about space popping up in so many areas of their curriculum and life.

They launched into research mode and asked lots of questions.  In the library and classroom they used print and digital resources to learn about the planets and collect facts about each one.

In February, the class celebrated Fat Tuesday by dressing as planets and parading around the school.  Each costume was space-inspired and they handed out coins and beads to lots of classes.

Research continued in the classroom and the media center.  Students used all of their facts to write a series of notes.  In groups, the students put those notes in an order that made sense and prepared to make their own ebooks about space using the Storykit app.

At this point, we were approaching poetry month, so I suggested that the students think about space poetry.  I connected the class with several poetry books about space, and they started crafting some poems in class.  Ms. Kelly also has ukuleles in her classrooms, so the poems eventually were turned into songs with music composed by the students.

At our annual Poem In Your Pocket day, the groups of students performed their poetry songs for a live audience.  We even had poet, Laura Purdie Salas, listen in to the poetry since students were inspired by her space poems and songs.

At this point in the year, lots of attention turned to Mars and space exploration.  Students really didn’t want to travel to Mars themselves, but they did want to think about helping other people get there some day.  We created a Padlet to collect all of our research in the library and the classroom.

Eventually, the students wanted to start making some inventions to help Mars explorers, so we did a lot of tinkering in our Makerspace.  In class, students constructed elaborate prototypes of their inventions and did informational writing to accompany their creations.

If we had more time in our year, I’m sure Ms. Kelly and her students would have come up with even more miraculous things, but it truly was an amazing year of exploration and I’m glad that our library was a part of it.

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You can read more about the library parts of this project in these posts:

Why Do We Explore Space: A Virtual Field Trip Opportunity

Can a Foodini 3D Printer Go to Space?

Kindergarten Mission to Mars: A Makerspace Exploration

Kindergarten Researchers in Action

Also, you can view Ms. Kelly’s full deck of slides which includes lyrics to a cumulative song that explores all of the planets and the facts the students learned.  They performed this song at our end of the year assembly.

View the full slidedeck here.

Why Do We Explore Space?: A Virtual Field Trip Opportunity

Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class has just amazed me across this year by how they have used a study of space to flow into so many of their standards.  They have written their own ebooks, composed music, written lyrics, researched multiple questions, and now they are coming up with a plan to help the people who want to go on a one way trip to Mars.  During the course of this study, an interesting question came up.  Why do we explore space in the first place?  It’s something we haven’t even considered during all of our research.

It came about because of an email that Ms. Kelly got about a virtual field trip to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

30 minute virtual field trip begins at 1:00 PM (ET) and is appropriate for all grades. Get a tour of a NASA facility and learn about the research being carried out into planetary exploration. Learn why it is important to explore the universe and how our knowledge of the universe has expanded due to the space programs. Understand the multitude of scientific practices involved in space travel, and see the application of many of these in the real world.

The virtual field trip is next Friday May 1, 2015 at 1PM EST.  It’s appropriate for all grade levels and it’s free!  All you have to do is register and you can even have students submit questions ahead of time.  http://www.discoveryeducation.com/Live/of-the-people-space-day-2015.cfm

Ms. Kelly wondered if we might explore the idea of space exploration a bit before students engage in the virtual trip.  I’m brainstorming about this right now, but I first wondered about putting the question out to more people.  I wonder what all of us think about why we should explore space or even why we shouldn’t.  I decided to make a Flipgrid.  Anyone can post a 90 second to this grid responding why we should or shouldn’t explore space.  I would love to have kid voices and adult voices from multiple perspectives to share with this Kindergarten class.

If you have a moment, reflect on the question and make a video.  If you have even more time, do this with your own students in the next few days.  If you don’t have time to make a video, consider sharing it with someone who might.

Why should we explore space? (or not explore space)

My thinking at the moment is that I will share these videos with my Kindergarten students as an opener.  We’ll take time to read some books such as The Planet Hunter or Moustronaut and reflect on the question ourselves.  Then, students will have a chance to add their own ideas to the grid along with the other voices.  http://flipgrid.com/#c6c0c1f0

Ms. Kelly and I never know where we are going to end up.  We just keep our minds open, look for opportunities, and give it a shot.  We usually find that our risk-taking leads to some miraculous opportunities for our students.

 

Can a Foodini 3D Printer Go to Space?: Empowering Student Voice in the Makerspace

Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class is continuing to explore how humans might one day travel to Mars and live.  You may recall that they spent a day in our makerspace exploring several tools that might help them in their research and inventing.

Students are now in the design phase of their project.  They have each thought about a topic that they want to focus on in relation to surviving on Mars.  Some have chosen topics like water, oxygen, food, shelter, robot exploration, and clothing.  They are continuing to research online and in books, but they are also taking time to think about their own dreams of what might be possible in 20 years when we might live on Mars.

A small group of students came to me in the library.  After a quick check in on topics, each student started sketching some designs on blank paper.  I walked around and listened to students describe their designs and asked follow-up questions or shared resources that I knew about.

One girl was focusing on food.  She wanted to create a machine that would dispense food as needed.  Since I knew the kids were familiar with our makerspace, I asked her what she knew about 3D printing.  It turns out that her brother is the very student who designed our Barrow Peace Prize medal, so she knew a whole lot!

I followed this discussion by telling her that there are many kinds of 3D printers including ones that print food.  She looked at me in disbelief, so we went to the computer to look for some information.  We came across the Foodini.  We read some information and then we watched a video about how it worked.

After watching the video, the student went back to her design and started drawing her own version of the Foodini.  She thought it would be great if we could take the storage containers of food into space, put them into the printer, and then print food as we needed it.

She was also very curious about whether a Foodini would work in space, so I said “why don’t we ask them?”  I pulled out my phone, opened twitter, and composed a tweet to Natural Machines (@NaturalMachines).  The student helped me write what to ask.

Later that day, we heard back from Foodini.

I thanked them for answering us back.

It was nice to know that there was a company out there willing to answer a question from a Kindergarten student, and it makes me wonder how many other opportunities are out there for our students if we just step up as the connector between the student and the company.  A Kindergarten student shouldn’t have a Twitter account, but the teacher or teacher librarian can harness the power of Twitter to make that connection for her.

I can’t wait to see what this student comes up with in the end, and I look forward to connecting even more students with the resources they need through my access to social media.

Kindergarten Mission to Mars: A Makerspace Tinkering Lesson

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Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class has turned a curiosity into a year-long project.  They became interested in space, and it has turned into a research project about planets, creating planet ebooks, writing original songs about the planets using ukuleles, and having a Fat Tuesday parade dressed as the planets.

Now, these students are on a mission to figure out how to support human travel to Mars.  They don’t actually want to go to Mars themselves, but they want to think about what might need to be invented in order to support human travel to Mars in the future.  Wow!  Some might look at a Kindergarten class and think this is silly.  How could students as young as Kindergarten come up with ideas for traveling to Mars?  I think Ms. Kelly’s class proves that even our youngest voices should not only be listened to but empowered as well.

Mars Makers

These students have spent extensive time researching Mars.  They know about the land, the weather, the atmosphere, and ways that Mars has already been explored.  They have brainstormed things that they might need to think about when traveling to Mars such as water, food, oxygen, and how to survive the dust storms.

They recently came to the library to read the book  You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O’Brien.

She and I brainstorm a lot over email.  When working with her, nothing is impossible and our biggest limit is time.  She wanted a way to capture all of her students’ brainstorming, so I suggested a Padlet since they could post ideas, websites, pictures, and files.  I set one up for her and they got to work adding to it.

Within their brainstorming, they talked about creating robots that could help them explore Mars as well as several other technology-heavy ideas.  This brainstorm naturally brought us to our library makerspace.  We wanted students to have a time to explore some facts about robots, technology, electricity, circuitry, energy, and space exploration.  Ms. Kelly books an hour of time for student to explore, and I created some experiences for them to move through.

Experience 1:

I pulled as many books as I could find on all of our major maker concepts from 3d printing to robotics to circuitry.  I also pulled books about space.  This experience was a time for them to look at lots of pictures, read captions, and skim text with one another and an adult to get ideas that they hadn’t even thought of in their brainstorm.

Experience 2:

We have several robotics options in our makerspace.  Since robotics was part of their brainstorm, I wanted them to tinker with a robot that was manageable by a Kindergarten student.  I chose Sphero.  Since Sphero alone couldn’t do some of the things they were thinking of robots doing, I showed them a Youtube video of how Sphero can be combined with other things like a chariot to pull a camera or add an attachment.

Then, students used the Drive app to practice driving Sphero and brainstorming how this might help them explore Mars.

Experience 3:

Students have talked a lot about wiring and circuits during their brainstorming.  They really want to wire something that could actually work. I have 2 littleBits space kits which have instructions for creating things like Mars Rovers, Grapplers, and Data Collection Tools.  The age range is high for these kits, but age range never stops us from trying something.  We just look at what barriers are in place and then figure out how to build a bridge.  For this experience, I started students with the instruction booklets.  They got into 2 smaller groups and looked at the diagrams, instructions, and functions.  They started to think about their brainstorm and how these littleBits inventions might work with their ideas.  Then, they moved to a table of littleBits.  In pairs, they used a battery, power cord, and blue power switch to connect to one input (pink) and one output (green).  The idea was just to start tinkering a bit with littleBits to see how they work.  They weren’t necessarily making a space invention yet.

Here’s a quick look at what it all looked and sounded like:

Next, our students will go back into their classroom and continue working on their padlet using the ideas from the makerspace exploration and the books.  They also checked out some of the books to take back.  Then, students will begin constructing prototypes of tools that they might actually invent for space.

 

Crowdsourced Rockology with Blendspace and Thinglink

3 ELT Rockology   ThingLink

A group 3rd graders have been working for several weeks on a project in Blendspace.  They are using this tool to combine their notes and photographs from class along with research and instructional videos they are finding online.  They are also creating their own pretests and post tests within the Blendspace lessons as well.

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Ms. Hicks, the Spectrum teacher, and I wanted their projects to be crowdsourced into one location so that an audience could easily access all of their lessons on rocks and minerals.  Crowdsourcing the Blendspace lessons would also make it efficient when sharing their work with one another for peer review as well as sharing with families.  There’s even potential to share this work with other schools who might use their content or offer feedback to improve the work even more.

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To crowdsource, we used Thinglink.  Ms. Hicks selected an image of rocks and minerals positioned in rows.  Then, she assigned students to the various rocks or minerals.  I uploaded the image to Thinkglink and made it unlisted.  Then, I allowed anyone to be able to edit it.

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Ms. Hicks emailed the link to the image to all of the students.  They went to their Blendspace lessons and selected all of the privacy permissions that they wanted to.  Then, they copied the link to their Blendspace lessons and connected them to the Thinglink image.  We did run into a problem with several students trying to edit the image at the same time, but as long as they kept retrying, they eventually were able to edit the image.

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Now, students are looking at the image to access all of the projects in their class. They are viewing the work and offering feedback to their peers.  Since the links are active, any changes they make to their Blendspace is automatically connected to the Thinglink.

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I love this way of getting student work out to an authentic audience and I invite you to take a look at their work.  Feel free to leave them a comment here on the blog.

Teaching Fractals in PreK with “Let It Go”

My daughter is in PreK, so the other day when I picked her up from her classroom to leave school early I saw her class busy exploring shapes at various centers in the classroom.  I saw Ms. Melissa holding up familiar objects like cans and bottles and talking about what 3-D shape these objects were.  My daughter ran up to me so excited to tell me about some new shapes that she was learned.  I was reminded how important it is for us to step into one another’s classrooms, especially when we collaborate with one another.  Taking just a moment to stop, look, and listen in a classroom can open your eyes to what students are learning and how they are learning it within a room.  I love how preK is full of curiosity and wonder.  They get excited about every new discovery and immediately start looking for that new knowledge all around them.

I also know how much PreK loves the movie Frozen.  I’ve seen them using GoNoodle to sing the song together.  They belt out the lyric “in frozen FRACTALS all around”, but they have no idea what a fractal is.  This was a perfect opportunity to weave together some informational text, video, music, vocabulary, science, and math since the teacher was already signed up for a read aloud.

We opened the lesson by watching the “Let It Go” video where the word “fractal” comes up.

We wrote the word fractal on the board and then asked ourselves what a fractal might be and how it was connected to our study of shapes.  Next, I read the book Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature by Sarah C. Campbell.

This book explains how 3-D shapes are all around us and tells how Benoit Mandelbrot made up the word fractal to describe shapes that are made up of the same pattern.  One piece of the shape looks the same as the whole shape.  The book has photographs of things like broccoli broken into different pieces all the way down to a single piece of broccoli to show that it looks the same.  There are also pictures of Queen Anne’s lace, trees, lightning, and more.

Following this, we continued thinking about shapes in nature by reading Joyce Sidman’s Swirl by Swirl.  It was interesting to think about fractals and swirls and whether or not they were the same thing or different.  The teacher, Ms. Heather, checked out both books to take back to class to add to their explorations of shapes.  She plans to branch off of the excitement that kids had from the photographs and illustrations in both books and continue to look around outside for these patterns.  For example, the class already knows that there is a swirl shape within our playground equipment, so they plan to walk out there to take a look.

Now, when this class belts out “Let It Go”, they will have a new understanding of frozen fractals.

 

 

America Recycles Day: Connecting with the World and Making a Difference

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This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to collaborate globally.  In the past, I’ve participated in amazing events such as Dot Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and World Read Aloud Day.  Each of those events has connected our students to classrooms and authors around the globe, and I’ve found so many collaborative colleagues through these events.  It’s these very events that have pushed me to wonder what more we can do with our students.  I’ve been pondering how we can have collaborations that allow our students to make a difference in the world and share their ideas, their questions, their problems, and their solutions.

When our spectrum teacher, Natalie Hicks, came to me with a flyer about America Recycles Day, I knew that this day had potential to spark some action projects with our students and students around the globe.  I made a Google doc, crafted a blog post, and started inviting anyone and everyone to connect for America Recycles Day.  It didn’t take long for some of the very people I’ve connected with for other events to start posting their own schedules in the doc and making connections.  I want to thank Shawna Ford, Jenny Lussier, Cathy Potter, Donna MacDonald, Misti Sikes, Ly Phan, Kathy Schmidt, and Craig Seasholes for taking a risk with me and trying something new.  These people put their schedules out there and started making connections.

This week, my own students started making connections for America Recycles Day.  Each Skype or Google Hangout offered a little something different.

Ms. Clarke and Ms. Haley’s 3rd grade class connected with Kathy Schmidt and her 3rd graders in Gwinnett County, GA.  We learned about how her students are collecting items from home to put in the library’s tinker lab rather than throw them away.

Ms. Wright’s 2nd grade class connected with Cally Flickinger in South Burlington, Vermont.  We read the book Here Comes the Garbage Barge by Jonah Winter.  The story sparked a great conversation about how our trash can take over our world and how important it is to recycle or reuse instead of throw things away.

Ms. Ramseyer’s 2nd grade class connected with Donna MacDonald in South Burlington, Vermont.  Her students shared how they are using Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit to inspire a save the crayons campain.  Students are collecting crayons and sending them to be melted into new crayons.  Our students took time to offer some other ways that the crayons might be used such as making candles, melting crayons for artwork, fusing crayons together to make two-sided crayons, and investigating what crayons are made of so that they might discover even more things that crayons could make.

Ms. Li’s Kindergarten connected with Misti Sikes and her Kindergarten in Forsyth, Georgia.  They shared how they recycle at their school by separating white paper and color paper as well as other ways that recycling has to be prepared before it goes into the bin such as removing paper clips and staples.

Ms. Boyle’s Kindergarten connected with Holly Esterline & Katie LeFrancois’s grade 1 & 2 class in Bolton, Vermont.  We shared the book Compost Stew and heard about how their school is doing TerraCycling.  Even with our connection issues, we still learned a lot about something we don’t do much of at our school.

Ms. Tesler’s 4th grade students gathered a lunch bunch together to connect with Cathy Potter and her students in Falmouth, Maine.  The 1st graders at her school showed us a Google presentation with pictures of recycling and composting efforts in their school.  They have a whole process of how their scraps at lunch get put into a bucket to go to the composting bin.

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Finally, Ms. Spurgeon’s 3rd grade class connected with Karre Sloan’s 6th grade students in Nashville, Tennessee.  They shared the recycling program from their school and how their 3rd graders are in charge of recycling.  They also shared their ideas and tips for our own recycling problem at our school.

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In every connection, our students shared our own school problem.  We have recycling bins in every classroom, but we are finding that people are still throwing away recyclable things.  Even when we recycle, we have an additional problem.  People are parking in front of our recycling dumpster and the recycling truck can’t get to the recycling to empty it.  We posted these problems onto a Padlet.  We showed each connecting class the bins that we have in our classrooms and read the recycling instructions that can be found on the bag inside.  Sometimes our connecting classes gave us new ideas right on the spot or shared what their own school is doing that might support our problem.  Other classes added to our Padlet after we disconnected.  We also added to the Padlet.

Barrow America Recycles 2014

Our next step is to take this Padlet and share the ideas with our environmental committee which is chaired by Natalie Hicks.  We also have 2 enrichment clusters that we can share the Padlet with.  Our hope is that some of the ideas that came from so many perspectives will spark change within our school problem.  We want to connect back with some of the classes we met this week and share what we’ve done to improve our problem, and we want to see what they have done since our connection.

I loved that during our very last connection, students arrived in the library to put signs on our recycling bin that were sent by our recycling department.

 

Miraculous things came out of our connections:

  • We saw that we weren’t alone with our problem and that there were multiple things to test out to try to reach a solution.
  • We learned that recycling is very different from place to place.  We are so fortunate in Athens to have a state of the art recycling facility and single stream recycling.  Some communities have to put forth a lot of effort to recycle, and it is so easy for us.
  • We realized that there were so many things we could do with our “recycling” other than put it in the bin.  The concept of makerspaces is really causing a lot of us to think about turning trash into functional creations.
  • We saw that together we could come up with out-of-the-box ideas.  We often started with “put up posters about recycling”, but with the energy of collaboration, new ideas surface such as make smaller trash cans, create a recycling contest, write a catchy song about recycling to sing on morning announcements, and more.

My hope is that this week of connections really does spark change in our school and others.  At the very least, I think it made us more aware of what we are throwing away.  These types of connections have the potential to grow into large-scale collaborations around the globe.  The combination of powerful texts such as Here Comes the Garbage Barge and Eyes Wide Open along with the innovative ideas of students, teachers, and families fosters a healthy environment for long-lasting collaboration.  Our students are the future of our world, and when we allow them to unite with one another around authentic dilemmas in our world, we are equipping them with problem solving skills to keep our world a peaceful place.

 

 

3rd Grade Environmental Projects with Flipgrid, Story Me, and Blackout Poetry

IMG_3405Third grade has been revisiting their environmental science standards at the end of this year.

S3L2. Students will recognize the effects of pollution and humans on the environment.
a. Explain the effects of pollution (such as littering) to the habitats of plants and
animals.
b. Identify ways to protect the environment.
• Conservation of resources
• Recycling of material

 

In the library, I pulled tons of environmental print books and made a pathfinder of ebooks, database resources, and websites around the environment.

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We’ve also had guest speakers from The Seed and Plate   What is The Seed and Plate?

We are an independent magazine in Athens, Ga. with a focus on food, farming and community in the Southeast. We hope to educate and inspire using our surroundings and the amazing people we’ve met along the way. We begin now as an online media publication, with an eye towards a print version in the future. Enjoy.

The Seed and Plate

The Seed and Plate has been fantastic because they have presented to the students several times on composting, community farming, and being friendly to our earth.  They have also supported students as they work on environmental projects and plan to give our students an outlet for publishing their work.

We’ve also hosted the Athens Clarke County Recycling Department to talk to the students about composting.  Students have been using compost bins and paying attention to the amount of food that is being thrown away in our cafeteria.  Since students are watching this closely, they are really starting to think about what we can do as a school to be friendly to our Earth.

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After our exploration of print and digital resources as well as our guest speakers, I sent all of the resources into classrooms for students to continue using. Students chose a focus area to learn more about.  Then, they came back to the library to learn about 3 options for final projects during the last week of school.

Option 1: Students could write a script with or without props and record it on our environmental Flipgrid.

Option 2: Students could use the Story Me app on the iPad to create a comic strip about their chosen topic.

Option 3: Students could create a blackout poem using text from a web resource or a copied page from an environmental book.

As I shared each option with students, I let them know what they would need to prepare in order to create their final product in one work session.  For Flipgrid, students would need their scripts and prop.  For Story Me, students would need drawings that they wanted to include in their comic and possible text that would go into speech bubbles written on post it notes.  For blackout poetry, students needed to print the page from the web or have teachers copy a page from a book to use.  Students spent 2 days in class preparing their materials.

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Today, students came to the library with their materials ready.  I gave one more quick overview of the projects and we designated areas for record, areas for coloring for blackout poetry, and areas for spreading out to take photographs for Story Me.  The classroom teacher, Natalie Hicks (spectrum teacher), folks from The Seed and Plate, and I all walked around and helped students think through the process of creating their product.

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Eventually, I stopped roaming around so that I could focus on collecting work from students.  Each Story Me comic was saved to the camera roll on the iPad and then downloaded to a folder on my computer. Each blackout poem was photographed and downloaded to a separate folder.  Flipgrids were automatically added to the online grid as students submitted.

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The students were truly prepared when they came to the library today. This allowed them to really focus on putting together their final product rather than focus on trying to create all of the content.  Students supported one another and adults were able to focus on students who needed extra support.

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Now our work is ready to show to the world.  We’re sharing it all with our new friends at The Seed and Plate to highlight on their website but we also have a gallery to share with you here.

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Flipgrid:

Flipgrid. Relax and discuss.

Blackout Poetry:

Story Me Comics: