Thursday, May 7, 2015

Still Scratchin'

My students are still actively using scratch.  It is their "go to thing" when they finish early.  I'm about to turn a few of them loose on our Hummingbird boards and use Scratch to program little moving puppet type creations.  Enjoy "Z's" creation!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Roaring 20's

It has been forever since I posted.  I was thinking that since I was revisting past projects it probably wouldn't be something anyone might want to read about again.  For our project for Roaring 20's. students worked in teams to create a stop motion animation with a free app on an ipad.  We only have 1 ipad in our classroom, so I borrowed from other teachers on the hall to get through this project quickly.

Students chose a topic, and developed a storyboard to design how to get their stories across in the genre of a silent movie.  This group chose the assembly lines, and the fact that Model T's were becoming more accessible to the public. **spoiler alert **** I LOVE when the horse dies, and I thought it was very creative how they showed the car developing on their assembly line.  They wanted to make an actual Model T but we had to be content with a version of a car because of limited LEGO.  Other groups were equally successful.

The app we used was called LEGO movie, and it was incredibly simple.  Three years ago when I attempted stop motion animation it took incredibly long because we tried to use Windows Movie Maker.  This free app was definitely easy.  It's on my phone as well, and can go on an ipod touch too.
On rainy day recess, or afternoon school I have students who are interested in borrowing the ipad to make their movie.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Personification and Glue Gun Safety

   As we ease back in to school this first week, I am working to finish up my figurative language requirements for ELA.  This week's mini lesson was personification.  We watched a youtube video, sang a song, and then wrote our own..... not very STEMsy.  We are also finishing up our science unit, and moving on to the next, which is force and motion.  Traditionally my students have made rollercoasters out of craft sticks and hot glue.  While, I'm not sure I'm going to repeat that this year (I tend to get bored and change things up), my students did need to show me they can handle a hot glue gun safely just in case. We also are asked to help with a couple Kindergarten projects in the spring with the 5th graders manning the hot glue guns.

I had the students go home last night and write 8-10 sentences personifying winter, and share them with me this morning. The goal is to simply hot glue craft sticks together in the shape of a symmetrical snowflake, and then write their personification sentences/stanzas on the snowflake.  I cleared off a counter, set up two hot glue guns so I can monitor them well, My rules for hot glue guns are simple: 1) Use a low temp one because they are less likely to burn the skin. 2.) Don't touch the "metal/pointy/hot" end 3.)  If Mrs. Dawson hears the word "OW" consider yourself warned.  4.) If I hear you/see you a second time you are sitting down because clearly your maturity level is not able to handle heat.   I rarely have any problems, and don't even begin to judge the students before they begin.  One thing I've learned is that often the wiggliest of kids likes to stand up and build something with a tool of some sort, and they tend to change the behaviors you may see at a desk and pull it together nicely. 

     As always, I giggle at the joy these simple little project bring the students.  Many were begging to use indoor recess time (hello 20 degree weather in SC) to take their turn, or offered to stay after school to get it completed.

     YES, this is more CRAFTsy than STEMsy, but I think the snowflakes fit the maker feel in my classroom.  They are learning to use a tool for the first time, and creating something different than the snowflake ornament. Safely using all tools is an important emphasis in my room.  If I can't trust you to do the right thing every single time, we can't possibly do the cool things you see kids doing in my room.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

SC Science Council Presentation

If you were interested in the links in my Presentation  today in Myrtle Beach, this is one way to find them.  I'll leave this up for the next couple weeks.  I hope you got some new ideas on how to integrate ideas together. Leave a comment, my students LOVE seeing where people are checking the blog.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Moment of Truth

     We spent this week working out little bugs here and there, but today was the moment of truth.  With classmates watching, and the district news, we crossed our fingers and dropped the ball......

     The first time needed a little push, but the second was AWESOME!  I'm so proud of my students and all of their hard work.  Big thanks to Dr. H for standing underneath and Dr. Catoe for helping to organize.  WAY TO GO KIDS!  Next stop...... USC Stem Fair

Monday, October 13, 2014

Beautiful Success.

     Our ongoing Rube Goldberg machine met GREAT SUCCESS today.

AND WE CAN REPLICATE IT.  So here's the plan..... next week we will be working on collecting money for ALS and our Principal Dr. H. will stand under the bucket.  We promise to pour ice water out of it and NOT the wood blocks we used today for weight.  Tomorrow we practice with water.

It has been so gratifying to watch my students persevere with the problems and find solutions for each and every one of them.  The pure joy at the end of the video really says it all. I'm so proud of them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

R2 Innovates

     Did you ever have something you really wanted to see happen in your building or district but didn't know if it was feasible, and you didn't know how to overcome the financial or space or staffing issues?  My district has a way of addressing it through a program called R2 Innovates.  If you follow me on twitter ( @Mrs_K_Dawson) you may have seen my tweets last week while I was in our training sessions.  Our district has partnered with a group called NoTosh that walks us through this process.

     My idea, of course, revolved around an elementary maker space.  After speaking to my Principal and Lead Teacher I was allowed to apply for the innovates group, and was accepted last Spring. I created a team with my now teaching partner Mrs. Parker, and a third grade STEM teacher Mrs. Fink. Last week Mrs. Fink and I went to a training that lasted 2 days for her, and 3 for me.

     I wasn't sure what was going to happen over those 3 days except I was supposed to walk out with a plan.  From my perspective my largest obstacles are needing a space that doesn't get taken away for a classroom next year, it has to be managed by classroom teachers having each class maintain the space, and it has to encourage others to use the PBL/STEM model that many of us early adopters use.  We want to make it a place that afterschool groups use as well.

     On the first day we had to begin with the dreaded Mission Statement. Each team is wanting to achieve a different goal, so Mrs. Fink and I were working together.  It took us AT LEAST 10 drafts to get a "sort of" approved Mission Statement.  We were getting frustrated, because describing our end goal involved a lot of buzz words, and I don't want this to be something trendy but something that really impacts our students both in and out of our STEM magnet. I will need to revisit this with our expanded team next week.

     Next up we had to think about the student that we were targeting.  In all fairness. I won't be targeting just boys, but we had to choose.  I think boys wiggle the most in a traditional classroom, and PBL and STEM work well to meet their more kinesthetic needs. Now having said that, our girls are just as curious as our boys and we need to find the ways to keep them engaged with investigating ideas.

     Our space also should meet the needs of teachers who aren't using PBL or STEM in their classroom.  Our hope is to give teachers not trying these strategies more opportunities to see how a challenge might be incorporated into existing curriculum.  We don't want to take time away from curriculum preparation, but problem solving IS part of what we are doing.

     We went and toured a nearby elementary school that was not one in which I teach.  Our purpose was to sort of ask questions and gather data about what sort of need in our community there might be for this sort of space.  Mrs. Fink and I asked students in 4th and 5th grade, if they could do any sorts of projects or study anything what would it be.  At first the students were very typical in their responses - "I like foldables, I like studying Native Americans, " etc.  When we pressed them to let go and really tell us what they thought, not what they thought we wanted to hear we got an earful.  The students were asking for programming and robotics and individual experiments. Some wanted to sew, and others really liked electricity last year, and a few still wanted to research their own topic (think Genius Hour).  This reinforced what we believe going into this.  Our children are growing up in a high tech world and learning in a paper and pencil school. We believe that we need to put these projects in front of the students so they can be prepared to see things differently and come up with new ideas.

     When we returned to our training we looked at assets in the building, and how we could begin to consolidate and move things together.  We categorized ideas into high and low impact on one axis and high and low do-ability on the other.  Our goal now is to expand our team next week on our inservice day, present to them, and begin to tackle some of the doable things on our list.  We will also prepare our pitches for December to try to get a separate space and find community partners to help us accomplish this goal.

     I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to do this sort of planning because in the end it benefits our students.

    I'm looking forward to watching our space grow over the next few weeks.