Earth Day Environmental Centers

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Our school is a green school, so we do a lot as a whole school to learn about caring for our Earth throughout the year. Our third grade has some specific science standards that explore pollution and effects of humans on the environment. They are beginning a unit on this during science, and the opportunity aligned to allow us to explore the topic during the week of Earth Day. Each class came to the library for a 45-minute exploration of 5 centers. Students began on the carpet for a quick intro to the 5 centers. Students did not have to make it to all of the centers. Instead, I told them to prioritize which ones interested them the most and do their best to make it to those and save the others in case centers were full or they had extra time.

The classroom teacher, gifted teacher, and I all walked around and talked with individual students as they worked to see what they were discovering and assisting them if they had a question. Here’s a look at the 5 centers they explored:

 

Center 1: Books

I pulled multiple books from our collection about the environment, energy, recycling, water conservation, and more. Students were encouraged to find a book that caught their eye and spend a few minutes reading parts of that book or parts of several books.

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Center 2: Flipgrid

I created a list of authentic environmental problems that exist in our school. These included things like printing to copiers and never picking up the copies, throwing away recyclables, and trash in our parking lot after a UGA football game. Students were encouraged to pick an issue from my list or come up with their own observation. Using Flipgrid, they recorded a brief video identifying the problem and naming possible solutions.

 

Center 3: Observation and Poetry

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This center included multiple books by Joyce Sidman. She is a master of making observations in the natural world, researching those observations, and then turning them into poetry. Many of her books feature side-by-side poetry and the information that inspired the poem. Students were encouraged pick a book, find a poem, and see how the factual information that Sidman researched made its way into her poetry.

Blackout poetry in action #poetrymonth #blackoutpoetry #writing #3rdgrade #librariesofinstagram

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Center 4: Environmental Blackout Poetry

This center was modeled after the blackout poetry of Austin Kleon. It is  kind of found poetry where you find words in magazines, newspaper, websites, or books to arrange into a poem and you blackout the rest of the words on the page. I copied multiple selections from books about the environment and students chose one of those pages to create a blackout poem. It’s always interesting to see how students boil the words down to the ones that stand out the most in the article or page. This year, I made sure that we did our blackout poetry on top of a table cover so that they black crayon and marker didn’t make its way onto our tables.

Earth day blackout poetry #studentwork #studentvoice #earthday #librariesofinstagram #centers #poetrymonth

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Center 5: Environmental Online Resources

Using Symbaloo, I pulled together ebooks, websites, interactive sites, and videos about the environment. Students spent time on a few of the sites before moving on to other centers.

Now the students will use the topics and ideas that they discovered in this exploration as they continue to study these topics back in the classroom.

 

Using Makerspace to Extend Curriculum: A Geology Project

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Third grade studies rocks and minerals as a part of their science standards. In Ms. Hicks class, they have been extending their research of rocks and minerals to create their own Blendspace lessons to teach others facts about rocks and minerals. They are even including pre-tests and post-tests in their lessons. As a part of this Blendspace project, students started thinking about how they might design their own climbing wall for our school based on their research.

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Ms. Hicks asked me what tool we might use to design and prototype of a climbing wall, and I immediately thought of Tinkercad. We have used Tinkercad for other projects and have found it to be one of the better tools for 3d design at the elementary level. Students came to the library to learn a bit about how Tinkercad works.

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I gave them a very quick tutorial which basically showed them things like adding a work plane, dragging over geometric shapes, resizing shapes, and building up.

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I created two generic accounts that students share rather than creating an account for every student. Half of them logged in with one account and half with the other. Their goal was to tinker during the first lesson to see what they could figure out, but their tinkering was a bit more focused than usual. Ms. Hicks really wanted them to already start envisioning their climbing wall as they were tinkering. Some of them latched onto the tool and really got a jumpstart on designing, while others tried something and started over several times.

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One student thought we was being a bit silly by trying to design a chicken instead of a climbing wall, but we turned this into a learning opportunity. I thought about the climbing wall that is at our own Omni Club here in Athens. It is shaped like a giant bulldog, so I pulled it up on the screen to show that he could in fact design his rock all to look like a chicken if he really thought about how people would climb a giant chicken. Instead of shutting him down, his wheels were turning about what he might try, and he is in fact now designing a penguin rock wall.

Other students started thinking about which rocks and minerals would be the best choices for the climbing wall based on their strength and also their color. They referenced their research and the Mohs hardness scale to choose rocks and minerals that would hold up a climber. As they did this, they changed the colors and shapes of the climbing pieces on their walls to represent their different choices. Not all students were ready for this level of thinking, but when we found students who were thinking in this way, we encouraged them to share what they were doing in the hopes of giving other students ideas.

 

One student even let me record a snippet of his thinking about his own rock wall choices.

The students have worked on these designs for 3 work sessions. As they finish, they are taking screen shots of their designs and adding them to Blendspace with an explanation of their design. In the future, we plan to export their designs as .stl files so that we can actually 3d print their prototypes when they are ready to present.

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I loved this real world application of rocks and minerals because it showed students that there are actually careers where you might consider some of the facts that they are learning in science. There was so much higher order thinking built into this project, especially this design piece. I had some great conversation with students as they referenced their research to find the specific rocks and minerals they wanted to use. One conversation involved a student specifically wanting a rock that was yellow. He kept Googling different rocks he knew to see if they came in yellow. When he finally found one of the feldspar family that was yellow, he noticed that the website description referenced Bob’s Rock Shop. We had a great conversation about the importance of digging into the website to really see where the information was coming from, and he found that the information actually did come from a reliable source within that site.

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I hope that we can find ways to share the work that this class is doing in the hopes of inspiring students at all levels to apply what they are doing to really world experiences. It would be fascinating to actually see this climbing wall come to life and have o

Fostering Digital Leadership: A Next Step

chromville1I recently rolled out our 1 to 1 devices to grades 3-5.  During this orientation, I talked with students about digital leadership.  Since then, our oldest grades have started taking their computers home, but our 3rd graders are still waiting.  It’s their first year with their own computer and we are trying to do a better job of helping them understand what kinds of things they can do with their computer when they take it home.

The third grade teachers chatted with me about digital leadership and digital citizenship and we thought about what would be the most important thing to explore next.  We looked at Common Sense Media and their scope and sequence.  We also talked about ideas that I planted during the orientation.

Based on our discussions, I decided to focus on our digital snapshots.  What are we currently doing with technology?  What do we want to strive to do with technology?  What is ok to share?  What do we keep private?

I created a short set of slides to guide our conversation, and I’m fascinated by some of the things that came up.  I started with a small piece of my own digital snapshot.

It contained my blog as well as a screenshot of my home screen on my iPhone.  I asked students to look at this one piece of my digital life and see what they could learn about how I use technology.  They had conversations with partners and I eavesdropped.  I heard things like:

  • He misses a lot of calls and doesn’t answer his text messages
  • He likes to share things
  • He takes a lot of pictures
  • He likes to travel
  • He is very organized with his apps
  • He uses his phone to look up books in the library
  • He has 2 kids

The list continued to grow with each class, and each class inferred something more than the last class.  I was actually amazed about how much they could learn from me just by focusing on my phone.  In fact, that’s all they focused on.  Not a single student talked about the picture of my blog.  There focus was completely on the apps on my phone, which was also interesting to me.

I used their noticings to connect to some of the decisions I make as a user of technology.  I talked about how I know when I share a picture or a blog post that it is going to be seen around the world.  I once again shared our blog map to remind students where people are looking at our work.

Next, I had students talk with partners about what their digital snapshots look like.  How are they using technology in their everyday lives?  We started adding some of these ideas to a doc.  We didn’t capture everything, but I at least wanted a list we could refer to.

All of this was leading up to us spending more time talking about using our devices in school and at home for educational purposes.  I loved having this list because most students thought it was bad for them to go onto Youtube.  Many were surprised when I talked about all of the great things Youtube is for.  In most classes, we spent a bit of time brainstorming why we might use Youtube.  This list also gave me some insight into what students are doing at home that I haven’t even heard of.

After students reflected on their own digital snapshot, I showed students what other students have already done at our school with technology.  I couldn’t show everything, but I gave them a quick look at pictures to show some of the awesome ways we’ve used technology to connect, collaborate, create, and share.

Finally, I asked students to spend time brainstorming how they might use their 1:1 technology.  This was only a starting place.  Many students focused on videos, games, or websites they might visit, so we have some work to do in regards to thinking about our devices as creation tools and tools that connect us to opportunities.  Students added their ideas for how to use technology at home and keep it connected with learning and appropriate use for an elementary student to a padlet.

Some students were also able to move on to a wonderful coloring page from the augmented reality app, Chromville.  This coloring page features Zoe and a computer screen.

Students can draw or write about a digital citizenship message on the screen.

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Using the Chromville app, Zoe comes to life on the screen displaying the students’ digital citizenship message and you can even click the mouse to display additional messages about staying safe online.  I want to make sure all of the students get to try this out, but only a few made it this far during our hour together.

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We will continue to revisit these topics in classrooms and during library projects and lessons throughout the year.  If you have an innovative way to have these conversations with your students, I would love to hear them.

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3rd Grade Kinetic Sculptures with Tinkercad, Makerbot, Collaboration, and Imagination

Tinker Ramsey (12)As soon as we received our new Makerbot Replicator, Rita Foretich, our art teacher, began brainstorming ideas with me about how this tool could support the standards that she teaches our students in art.  Rita is a great collaborator.  She weaves in standards from students’ classroom curriculum into her art standards.  Often, these projects involve the media center as well.

Currently, Rita and her student teacher are exploring kinetic sculptures with students.  In art, they have spent time tinkering with a variety of materials that they might use to make a larger, movable sculpture.

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Tinkering in art

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A piece of these sculptures that students will create will be designed using Tinkercad and printed on our Makerbot Replicator 3D printer.  We scheduled a session in the library to work on the Tinkercad design.  Working in the media center allowed us to have plenty of room to spread out as well as maximize adult support.  During each lesson, there were 3-4 adults (media specialist, art teacher, student teacher, and tech integration) to support students as they had questions.  Of course, we encourage students to support one another, but it is nice to have adults supporting students as well with problem solving and collaborating.  Also, to maximize our time in the media center, students did some flipped learning by watching this Tinkercad tutorial in advance at the closing of their last time in art.

Here’s what our time in the media center looked like:

1.  Students met on the carpet for a quick reminder of our plan for the day.  Mrs. Foretich gave them the standards we would work on:  Creating sculpture using a variety of forms and working in teams.  She also showed them how artists use technology to create their art as well as some images from the 3Dprintshow site.

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A quick intro to how artists use technology to create

2.  Students were organized into 5 collaborative groups.  Each group had a Lenovo Thinkpad computer with a mouse.  Tinkercad was already pulled up on the computer and each group had a username and password to use.

Tinker Ramsey (9)3.  Students brainstormed their concept for a piece to add to their kinetic sculpture and took turns controlling the mouse.  Adults guided students through problem solving and working together.  As students had ideas for their designs, adults helped them think through their ideas and take risks to try to get their idea onto the drawing board.

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Students quickly learned how to work together to problem solve

4.  Students named their file before leaving.

5.  I took student files and saved them as an STL file, imported those files into Makerware, and saved the file for 3D printing on the Makerbot.

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We will repeat this process with all three 3rd grade classes.  Students will continue to work on the rest of their kinetic sculptures in art.  Mrs. Fortetich will create a schedule with me in the media center for students to come and 3D print their designs.  We want each student to have the experience of pressing the red M on the 3D printer and watching their design magically appear on the build platform.  Although all students probably won’t be able to stay from start to finish during the printing process, they will at least activate the print and see the beginnings.

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As always, I was amazed by what students figured out in such a short time.  One group really wanted to put holes in the top of the smoke stacks on a boat they were making.  They tried several different things and never once got frustrated.  I was fortunate enough to be with them at that moment of exploration and encouraged them to keep trying.  After several attempts, they figured out how to put one cylinder inside another and make the inside cylinder a hole.  It looks great in Tinkercad, so we’ll see how it translates to 3D printing.  These same types of conversations were happening in every group.

Deep in thought

Deep in thought

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Ship with holes in the smoke stack

I also loved that we did not tell students what they had to create.  The only guideline was that students work together to create something for their larger kinetic sculpture.  Every group created something totally different from a block filled with words to a barn to a ship.

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As usual, we are always crunched for time in school.  This was a great first pass at using Tinkercad with an entire grade level.  I’m hopeful that in the future we will figure out ways to increase the amount of time that students get to spend on their designs.

Real-Life Angry Birds: A 3rd Grade Action Research Project

Our school has a problem that I’m sure many of you have seen or have experience with.  We have angry birds.  Not the ones that live on an iPhone, iPad, or other device.  These are ones that take a crash dive into the windows of the school and either knock themselves out or something a little more grimm.  Our students, of course, notice this every time they pass by a window.

Mrs. Shealey’s 3rd grade students have decided to do something about this, so they have launched into an action research project which ties to many of their curriculum areas including habitats, research, information writing, data collection & interpretation, and more.  It would be easy for a small group of adults to sit down and figure this out, but it is much more meaningful when the students are involved.  It is also our hope that the process of this project will carry over into the lives of students outside of school to notice problems, investigate, and take action.

Mrs. Shealey is doing a tremendous amount of work for this project within her classroom, but the library has been one small piece of this larger initiative.  Mrs. Shealey, Ms. Hicks (spectrum teachers), and I met to brainstorm and map out a timeline.

Our webcam pathfinder

Our webcam pathfinder

I wanted to help the students with observational skills.  When I stayed on Skidaway Island for 2 weeks a few years ago, I practiced careful observation in a field journal.  We decided to have one lesson in the library that explored careful observation.  I shared my journal including the sketches, quick notes, and deep reflection that I did on various pages.  I talked about the importance of being still, staying focused, noticing the small things, and observation stamina.  Then, students moved to computers where they used multiple live and recorded webcams to practice observing.  While students observed, the three of us made note of what they were doing well, what needed to be worked on, and what we might need to focus on as we did our actual observations of the birds at Barrow.  I think this practice session was really helpful to the process.

Using webcams to practice observation

Using webcams to practice observation

In class, students began making bird feeders that they plan to put outside the windows that birds are crashing into.

Mrs. Shealey also split the class into 4 small observation groups that both me and Ms. Hicks took to observe at the windows in the hallway leading down to the media center.

Here’s a quick look at what we saw:

I was amazed by the noticings the kids made after 30 minutes of careful observations and prompting from me and Ms. Hicks.  Some examples are:

  • Birds were more attracted to the tree that had berries and leaves on it outside the window than to the tree that was bare.
  • Some students had put laminated colorful pictures of flowers on the outside of the window and birds were flying straight into those pictures.
  • The window is different than other windows because the outside is exactly like a mirror.
  • Birds did not fly into the window when we were outside watching, but they did fly into the window when we were inside.
  • The tree with the berries seemed to have a smell that some students thought might attract birds.
  • Students noticed that birds were not flying into the windows of other hallways and wondered if it was the height of those windows that caused that.
  • Students began to wonder if bird feeders, statues, dark colored window decals, and perches might deter the birds from the window.

I think that these students crafted some wonderful, authentic questions that they can now research and create things to test out in this space.  As we observed, several teachers stopped and thanked the students for working on this project and asked them to share their findings with the whole school because some teachers are having the same problem at their classroom windows.

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Here are a few of the student reflections about what they saw:

 

Stone Soup: A Folktale Follow-up

Ms. Spurgeon, a fabulous third grade teacher, does a Stone Soup folktale study with her students each year.  This is a part of the folktale study that third grade just kicked off.  She has her students study multiple versions of Stone Soup and consider how the characters, setting, and plot change based on where the story is taking place or which country the story comes from.  Students are quickly discovering that the basic themes of Stone Soup stay the same but characters, setting, and the ingredients in the soup change.

DSCF2366Today, we read Jon J. Muth’s version of Stone Soup.  We loved hearing the many different kinds of ingredients that were added to the soup such as pea pods, lily buds, taro root, winter melon, and more.

After we finished the story, we revisited our Google form of folktale elements to see how Stone Soup compared with other folktales we have read.  We noticed that the following elements appeared in all 4 folktales that we have read in 3rd grade:

  • flat characters
  • fantasy time
  • setting briefly described
  • plot full of action
  • repeated phrases

Classes will continue to fill out the form and make comparisons.

To conclude this lesson, we used Tagxedo to make our own digital bowl of Stone Soup.  I asked students to think about what ingredients they might add to a class stone soup if they were to go home right now and get something out of their cabinets, refrigerator, or from a neighbor.  While students were checking out books, they came up to me and told me 2-3 ingredients, which I typed into Tagxedo.  I selected a circle shape to represent the pot of soup, and here is what our soup looked like at the end of our time together.

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Folktales with Google Forms

Third grade just launched into a study of folktales.  As a kickoff, each class came to the library for an introduction to folktales.  We used a slideshare that listed many elements of folktales as well as kinds of folktales.

Then, I showed students a Google form with 3 questions. This form was displayed while I read a folktale aloud. Question 1 was the title of the book.  Question 2 was a list of checkboxes that listed out all of the elements from the slideshare.  Question 3 was about what kind of folktale.folktales

At the end of the story, students paired and discussed each of the checkboxes to decide if those elements were present in the story that we read.  Finally, we came back together and checked off the elements that were present in the story.  Students raised their hands as I called out the elements.  If we had a majority of hands, we automatically checked the box.  If it was less than half the class, we stopped and discussed and voted again.  If few people raised their hands, we left the box blank.

For the first class, this was the end of the lesson, but for the other two classes we looked at the summary of responses in Google forms to see what folktale elements were the most common in the stories we read.  I sent the form to the 3rd grade teachers and they are  going to share it with their students.  A next step will be for students to read folktales on their own and fill out the form.  Then, we’ll really be able to notice the trends of which folktale elements are most common in our library folktales.chart

One piece I didn’t incorporate into this, which would be really cool, is to insert a question about where the various folktales are from.  Then, I could have embedded a gadget to put a pin on  a world map (like I did in this lesson) to track where our folktales were from.  This might be an addition for next year.