Category Archives: engineering design process

The Gingerbread Trap

So this is Christmas,

And what have you done?

These lyrics from a popular Christmas song always make me pause as a teacher and a person and think, “What have I done?”  To answer this question in December of 2019, I can say that rebranding my classroom as a STREAM Studio this year has allowed a fresh perspective to invade my teacher heart.  I have provided numerous opportunities to create, collaborate, communicate and critically think in Grades K-5 at the new whiteboard tables with flexible seating.  Using the Book Creator app on iPads to document the engineering design process is one of my most favorite times of the day with my first graders!

Here is a description of how I have framed my lessons using the STREAM acronym with pictures!

S – Self Directed Learners are planning a trap made from popsicle sticks and binder clips to catch the Gingerbread Person who has run away.

T – Technology use of Book Creator app on iPads, Thinkers who have to collaborate to build a group trap while combining ideas, Tinkering with binder clips and popsicle sticks to generate a solution is a challenge!

R- Reading versions of “The Gingerbread Man” but deciding that we should trap the Gingerbread person so it won’t get eaten by a Fox then we will take him or her back home.

E – Engineering Design Process to plan, build and test out our designs

A – Artistic representations of a Gingerbread person including decorating it with ideas from a glyph, Adaptability when needing to make adjustments to the design and incorporate ideas from collaborative teammates

M – Maker mindset is developing as students make design using simple materials

My design challenge question is “Can you create a trap that can catch and hold one Gingerbread person?”  I provide plastic Gingerbread people on sticks that I bought at Michaels and plush Gingerbread people who smell like Gingerbread that I bought at CVS.  I have each child get an iPad with Book Creator app, choose a partner, get a bag of popsicle sticks and binder clips then pick up a Gingerbread person.

They begin by drawing their trap idea in Book Creator, show it to a partner then decide how they will combine drawings to build the actual Gingerbread trap out of the materials!  Next, they test it out to see if their trap works and take a picture of it in a Book Creator.  Finally, they write about “How to Catch A Gingerbread Person” in Book Creator, change font and text size to make the sentences special!

I have asked our art teacher to have students make Gingerbread people and decorate them with a glyph.  For ex., put One stripe on the leg if you have a sister or two stripes if you have a brother.  Put various color buttons to represent the month that you were born in, etc.

Since I don’t have time to always read an entire book to the class and do the design challenge, I asked our Media Center teacher to read various versions of “The Gingerbread Man” to students.

I also think that students learn to use sequence words like first, next, then and last when typing about how to catch a Gingerbread person.  I have an example on an anchor chart to provide writing support!





Our Own Balloon Parade!


During the past month, my 2nd Grade students have learned about the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I had never known the rich history surrounding it until I read a book called “Balloons Over Broadway” which I also shared with students.  It describes the puppeteer, Tony Sargh, who was asked by Macy’s Department Store in the early 1900s to create mechanized puppets to be placed in windows of their stores.  Later, Macy’s asked Tony Sargh to create a puppet street parade to celebrate the street parties that people had been accustomed to before they left their homes and immigrated to the USA.  Over time, Tony Sargh redesigned the balloons to be made out of rubberized silk and they flew high above New York streets.

I have included my Google Slide Show in case you’d like to see the book and see my lessons.  My students went through the engineering design process to develop balloon characters on paper, then created their designs using actual balloons!  They hooked them to plastic sticks, taped them to Sphero Chariots and learned to navigate their balloon float through our school hallways by controlling the Sphero robot which was located under the Sphero Chariot using the Sphero EDU app on iPads!

I loved collaborating with the Art Teachers at my school so that the students made the balloons during Art Connect Class.  In Art, students also made two large murals to go in the hallways where they drew New York City Skyscrapers and faces of people in the windows who would watch the parade as students drove their Balloon floats past the murals!

The children loved getting to shake bells or play sticks during the parade which gave us the feel of live music!  The children had to problem solve and apply their understanding of how Sphero robots work to make this project come alive.  They loved being a part of it all and I did too!

Here is the link to my presentation which I showed each class!

Google Drive “Balloons Over Broadway” link:

I am also including some of the videos that I have taken of each class in the school!


I am excited about the last phase of the project where I will have partners develop and write out at least three reasons of why they think that their balloon character should be in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on an index card.

Next, I will have them scan a Flipgrid QR Code to open a Flipgrid project.  They will record a Flipgrid about why their group’s balloon character should be added to the actual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and give at least three reasons from their index card.  The balloons are losing air and are deflating but I hope that they will last one more week until I see each class again so that each group can hold their balloon as they read their reasons for their balloon to be included in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

They will watch each others’ Flipgrid presentations and share positive feedback.  

We will also check out this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons and watch each class’ Balloon Parade Video that we created in our last class.  Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


Engineering Design Process in Book Creator App

My first graders have been busy as they developed ideas in the engineering design process!

They would open Book Creator app, draw their design then build it out Jumbo K’Nex!  I captured a lot of pictures to share and am so proud of their creations along with the text that they wrote to accompany their picture.  They also changed size of text in their sentences, changed font and color of text!  Their favorite part was recording their voice reading aloud their sentence into Book Creator and sharing their recording with others.

The Book Creator app allows children to begin to fluidly create with tools at their fingertips.  For example, when you open a New Book and choose the Landscape option, then you can press the “+” symbol to see the Pen tool which allows you to draw in many colors, the Add Text tool, the Camera tool, the Photo tool and the Record Voice tool.  I love that kids can select many types of fonts, colors and sizes of text.

Today, a child was asking me how to spell “built”.  I said the letters b, u and i then the word populated above the text.  Book Creator tries to help kids to spell the words correctly by predicting the text that they are typing.  I love that kids can create then use language to describe their drawings and engineering design products!  My favorite description in one of the pictures using Jumbo K’Nex is translated as follows:  We built a tank that is undefeatable.”  The kids absolutely love recording their voice and hearing it played back.  Recording brings the process to a close as they wrap up their creation in the Engineering Design Process and are ready to share with others.

Another exciting piece of this project was in the collaboration that occurred.  Having six year olds collaborate is possible but not always easy.  They had to draw what they wanted to create then share the drawing with a partner or partners.  Then, they had to compromise and decide on the one creation that they would make using the Jumbo K’Nex blocks.

I was glad that I started using Book Creator without having them collaborate at first a few weeks ago.  Back then, I read aloud “What Do You Do With An Idea?” then they created a drawing of an object that they could create to help the world.  I have given them opportunities to also draw a tower that would hold mini apples from the craft store then create it with Unifix Cubes and mini apples, take a picture of their tower holding the apples and then type text about how many cubes they used in the building of their tower and how many apples it would hold.  They also got to use the Record Voice tool to read their sentence aloud about their apple towers.  I think it is important to facilitate proper use of the tools in Book Creator so that students can do increasingly more difficult challenges and begin to compromise as they collaborate with others to build designs.

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Pool Noodle Robot Creations

2018-05-09 12.53.31.jpgMy second graders loved designing robots out of pool noodles and craft supplies! They taped three pens on the sides and placed an electric toothbrush from the Dollar Store in the robot to power it on then watched as the robot wiggled on sheets of paper to make cool spirals or other abstract art! Here is the video of our process and a description of each stage of our design process below.

I read my students a book called “Nanobots” and showed them videos about the many and varied sorts of existing nanobot technology.

I loved the many and varied teaching ideas that go along with the “Nanobots” book found here:

They went through the Design Process by going through the following stages:


They researched nanobots by taking notes while I read the book and they watched videos. They imagined other types of robots like Swarm Robots. They chose the one that they liked the best and wrote a paragraph to describe what it could do in first person point of view as if they were the robot.  Here is a list of the videos that I showed them:

Swarm robotics:

Great examples of real nanobots here:


They drew a design of what their robot would look like and be able to do.  Their constraints were the following materials:  6 inch pool noodle strips, a battery powered tooth brush, googly eyes, Pom poms, feathers, pipe cleaners, glue, masking tape and three pens which they would tape around the bottom of the 6 inch pool noodle. I showed them a video sample to help generate ideas.  They understood that they would have a prototype of a real nanobot.  They could not make an actual nanobot with our materials but they liked planning their prototype!


In the next session, they used the craft materials to make their robots. They inserted the tooth brush in the center of their foam noodle and turned it on to see it wiggle! They took a picture of it, inserted it into Chatterpix on their iPads and recorded themselves reading their paragraph.  They were stored in a bin to wait for our next class.

In the next session, they added three pens to the bottom of their 6 inch pool noodle and taped them on with masking tape. I had written their names on the bottom of each 6 inch section of pool noodles and gave them back to students in this session.   I placed six pens on each table where partners worked and provided strips of masking tape.  After I showed them how to attach the 3 pens to the noodle with masking tape, I showed them how to insert the tooth brush in the center of their foam noodle, turn it on to see it wiggle! The pens traveled all around a sheet of paper to make beautiful designs! They loved seeing their robot come to life.

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It took a lot of tries and a willingness not to give up to get the pens in the correct location so that the robot would draw spirals.  Sometimes, the robot just drew squiggly lines.  Since the toothbrushes came with cheap batteries, I would have to replace some of the batteries with name brand batteries if the tooth brush would not come on.  Although I purchased 15 Dollar Store electric tooth brushes, sometimes they power button would not budge.  This meant that students had to patiently wait their turns to get a tooth brush that would actually work.  The joy that erupted with students when they saw their creation come to life was worth all of the time it had taken to organize these materials!


I asked them to take their robot home that day to a spot in their world at home and think about how they can make a difference just like their pool noodle robot was designed to make a difference.  During the next class, many of the students told me how that they used electric tooth brushes at home to make their robot work.  One female student stopped in my class before school to tell me that she wanted to be an engineer and create robots when she grew up!  I was so inspired by her and thankful that she had this opportunity to make and go through the design process.

I started this journey at Dollar Tree buying batter powered tooth brushes and at Walmart buying 34 pool noodles, craft supplies, pens and glue.  I former student of mine volunteered to cut each of the 34 noodles into 6 inch sections which saved me a lot of time.  Her willingness to help me allowed almost 200 2nd graders to experience creating a fun robot and go through the design process.  It was totally worth it based on my students’ excitement!  I must admit, my shopping cart looked so unusual in WalMart back in March.  I remember my excitement as I placed the pool noodles in my trunk along with craft supplies and pens!  A local Dominoes Pizza store had just donated pizza boxes which I painted green for backdrops for green screen scenes using the Stik Bot app on iPads.  That’s another post for another time! I know that my students will remember the experience of making a robot and hope you will enjoy the video of them doing it!