Teaching new and innovative classes tasks some risk and also is a bit of balancing act for teachers who take on these very important ventures. Last year, I split my time between Flynn and the Burlington Technical Center. At BTC I was tasked with creating a new pre-tech program and also creating a maker space. Below are some pictures from the space and a write up done by Lucie Delabruere who used the space for her summer maker class.
Lucie´s blog post about Studio B can be found here: http://createmakelearn.blogspot.com/2017/08/learning-about-maker-spaces-in-our.html
We had an exciting year last year with many integrative and engaging projects for our students at Flynn. Below is a bit of a visual mash up of these projects.
The highlights of the 2016-17 school year was a collaborative mosaic project, inspired by local artist Peter Katz, with Generator, 5th grade team, Art and STEAM. The students each created a beautiful wooden mosaic that exemplified their understanding of their ecosystem unit. Also, we created an Arduino (external hard drive) controlled weather station to gather data about weather right on Flynn campus! You can see it on the south side of Flynn´s roof. You can access our live weather data here: https://www.wunderground.com/personal-weather-station/dashboard?ID=KVTBURLI32#history
Students in fourth grade have used the simulator link below to test materials for conductivity or insulation.
As part of the fourth grade energy unit, students and teachers spend time discussing and learning about renewable energy; itś pros and cons and how different methods work. To integrate and allow students a deeper look into wind energy, in STEAM we have been investigating wind turbine models. We explored the following questions:
- How does this turbine model connect to Michael Faraday´s research on electromagnetism?
- How does the wind energy transfer to electricity?
- Does the number of blades affect voltage created?
- Does the angle of blades affect voltage created?
Additionally, each group learned how to accurately read a volt meter, keep data and even tried to see if they could produce enough electricity with the turbine model to light a small bulb!
Lately I have been reading a lot about design thinking, as I begin to write new curriculum for the Burlington Technical Centerś Pre Tech and Maker Space programs. The most engaging and interesting information I have found so far live on Stanfordś design thinking site: dschool.stanford.edu and on NuVuś site: cambridge.nuvustudio.com. Both sites are fairly different as one school is a college and one a high school, but both bring to light some interesting thoughts when it comes to process and design thinking.
In the last month, second graders have been wrapping their heads around the idea of how seeds travel and why this affects why plants replication. We had a great adventure in the back field area of Flynn searching for ¨evidence¨ of how seeds do this. If students didn´t know what or were able to identify wild grapes, milkweed and burdock, they now do.
To fit in some design thinking to compliment this investigation, I asked students to design and create their own seeds that had to travel in a specific way. Most wanted to design seeds that traveled by air, while a daring few chose my personal favorite; explosion. Students dove into building, but soon realized that this task may be harder than they think.
One of the really great intersections of science and engineering in this challenge is the idea of properties (science vocabulary also present in the second grade matter unit). Students had to be aware of the properties of the real seeds they were trying to mimic in order to create one of their own that was successful.
Building my curriculum on the passions and wishes of my students is integral to my design. Last year, when asked, students overwhelmingly stated that they wanted more experiences with robotics. So, true to my word, I looked into purchasing and providing more time with robotics this year. The crux is, robotic sets are VERY expensive!
Instead of only looking into Lego Robotic sets, I ordered a new solar set that focuses on the building aspect, but was also tuned into Spheros by my colleague and Flynn math integrationist, Kevin Grace. Two weeks ago, fourth graders began a robotics unit. Our newly acquired Spheros were the kickoff.
Students became acquainted with them slowly, learning how to connect them to iPads, then learning how to move them and then program them. This week we were able to engage in a challenge. As you’ll see in the pictures below, students had to program their robots to follow a line of tape on the rug. These may seem simplistic at first sight, but students have to grapple with duration. speed AND angle within each programmable roll of the Sphero.
It was so amazing to watch students engaged and working together cooperatively! Our I can statement of the day was:
- I can collaborate and persevere with my partner through a programming challenge.
Students sat together in groups of fours and many worked together, building on each other’s ideas and learning from fails to produce a successful program. The incredible part is how organically these skills happen from a simple and fun task such as this. Most did not solve their challenge in one class, but I hope to build on these ideas and future classes.
Three amazing scientists from ESPCoR visited our Flynn first graders for a second year. They thought that the first visit was such a huge success that they would come back again!
When you ask a first grader what a scientist is you get a wide range of answers ranging from:
- a person who wears a lab coat.
- a person that makes potions.
- or my favorite this year; a person that carries handcuffs.
So in order to promote our wonderful study of science and debunk all the myths of what scientists really are, we brought three female scientists in to teach us. They taught us that:
- yes, we wear lab coats, but not that often. We usually wear ripped jeans when we’re doing field studies.
- we collect water samples and bug samples to check for the health of the lake.
- we use many tools, such as magnifying glasses, microscopes and vials.
- and we get to travel to other countries, like China and parts of the South American continent.
We also had some amazing ideas and questions come from our students about:
- zebra mussels
- blue/green algae
We will visit these questions and ideas in future STEAM classes.