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Canvas to Masterpiece

Seeing the paint in blobs on my art palette, as mounds of potential, inspired me. My family participated in a relaxing evening of painting at our church. The leader, a graphic designer and artist, showed us the type of painting that we would emulate: a close up of a bike with a basket of flowers on it.

The canvases were placed on each white table after we picked up our styrofoam palates. Step by step, the art teacher gave clear directions on how to paint the background with white and blue to appear as sky. Next, she had us sketch with chalk an outline of a bicycle but just the handle bars and front wheel with a basket on the handlebars. After our initial preparations, she directed us to use a large brush to paint a color of our choice on top of our chalk outline. I selected bold red but almost chose dark pink. Once the brush touched the canvas, there was no turning back. I loved the contrast of the blue background and robust red then we continued to sketch a basket on the handlebars. I painted a light brown basket then added white and dark brown lines to give it a woven basket look.

As the next hour unfolded, we added black and white outlines to the bike wheel, painted multi colored flowers in the basket and began to see our masterpieces come together. Each person worked at their own pace as the teacher facilitated by modeling each step. She praised our effort and complimented each painter with specific comments like “What a great blue flower!” Or “I love your basket!”. We knew that our paintings needed our signature so each artist signed their pieces and pictures were made of our masterpieces.

As the school year comes to a close, I am struck by the similarities of painting a personal masterpiece and my creating and facilitating lessons to help my students develop into better digital storytellers as well as confident communicators, collaborators, critical thinkers and creators.

When the year begins, each teacher sees their units of study but by the end of each day and each unit, they have added more to each masterpiece, their students. By year’s end, they have offered the tools and encouragement for each child to develop into a learner with more strategies and fluency than they had before the year started. It truly is an amazing journey to use the teaching tools that I know to promote deeper understanding and application of concepts. I am not an art teacher, but as a Technology Teacher, I guide students to become better at using digital tools to enhance proper communication and digital citizenship. It is quite amazing to see children progress and continue to develop as learners and to see their mind masterpieces!

It has been an amazing 25 years for me as a public school teacher in North Carolina. I know that I have not reached the end of my teaching career. In fact, I feel as if I am just getting started with promoting STREAM projects. I know though, that it is time to clean out and set Goals for the future. It is fitting to look at this school year as another masterpiece. I have included a picture of my finished painting masterpiece and a video with highlights from this school year!

 

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Is it hard to build?

As I shared Maker Stations with a group of fourth graders last week, one of the stations would involve building a new ski resort in the N.C. mountains using KEVA wood blocks and calculating the cost. I showed the box of KEVA blocks and a girl raised her hand with a question that has continued to replay in my mind. She asked, “Is it hard to build with Keva blocks?” This question gave me a glimpse into her frame of reference. I knew that she had not had a lot of times to build. I knew that I must give students time to use the blocks with open ended opportunities to build a structure of their choice but also to give them STEM Design challenges in earlier grades to promote confidence as builders and creators.

One way to have students build is after reading “After the Fall”, they could build a wall for Humpty Dumpty” to sit on with Keva Wood Planks!

I read aloud the book to my first grade students and they LOVED it, especially the surprise ending where he transforms from an egg to a bird! The book has thoughtful scenes where Humpty Dumpty tries again and develops a growth mindset! Here are pics of my first graders building walls with Keva blocks and an Easter egg with a face drawn on it to represent Humpty Dumpty! After they built, they took pics, recorded their voice describing the wall and wrote a sentence using Book Creator app!

I loved their creativity and collaboration that came about through this project. I noticed girls and boys diving into the challenge because it was fun to design a new wall for Humpty Dumpty plus they communicated so well as they recorded their voices describing the wall!

They need time to design.

No, it’s not too hard.

What’s hard is trying to change the mind of a person who thinks it is too hard because they have had limited opportunities to build. I hope that my 4th graders will love getting to design and build a ski resort. They will become interested in designing, building, redesigning and sharing their ideas because of the time that I will make for them to become builders!

Maker Stations

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Makerspaces seem to be everywhere these days!  I like to see how different educators design spaces and provide materials for kids to have Maker experiences.  I love the idea of giving kids materials at school which they can use to build and create. I would like to have stations similar to ones I observed in the Media Center at Cornelius Elementary recently.  The librarian, Pam Lilley, calls her stations Maker Stations.

The librarian applied for a massive grant (Belk Bowl and Lowes for a whopping $110,000) to allow her to redesign her Media Space with flexible seating and tables with casters to allow them to be moved for various purposes depending on the activity.  Most of us will not ever be able to have $110,000 to redesign our learning spaces, but it is really not about the money.  Her philosophy is grounded in an understanding of the whole child and how children learn best when they are self directed and have a sense of ownership about the activities that they complete.  The students self check out books by scanning their book with a scanner into the school’s Destiny checkout program. It is an inviting atmosphere where kids interact with each other at a rotation of eight station activities in Grades K-5. The librarian shows video clips to explain how to use certain maker materials in January then for the next eight weeks, kids rotate to each of the eight stations. I got to observe her with a first grade class and will share pictures and a description of each station.  The first picture below gives you a feel for the creative atmosphere with a green screen set up in a pizza box, Lego Wall in background and paper roller coasters!  Tall tables with cool stools scream for children to come and make something!

Keva Contraptions with Keva Planks – She directed the two students whose names were on the list for Keva blocks to go there.  They designed an awesome tower with a place for a small ball to roll as a part of it.  Sometimes she gives them Keva Challenges from the Keva company or other websites.

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Marble Maze group – She gave them a bin with marble maze materials.

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Make a Lego Duplo Architecture creation. Look through a stack of pictures and decide which Lego structure that you want to build.

Chatterpix – She gave a direction. The character will need to have a face then put in Chatterpix app. They are given markers to draw on paper a character.

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Make a book mark out of Art Materials with brown paper.

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Little Bits STEAM circuit building – She told them that needed a few specific parts and showed them in the Manual Book how to build it.

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Osmo Station: She gave one group an iPad to use with the Osmo.

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Dash and Dot Coding Station – A Group uses an iPad to program a Dash robot.

After giving directions for cleaning up, she gives each group a point or not a point in Class Dogo depending on how well they cleaned up.

She lets them check out after looking at their class account on screen.

She said, “If you want a chapter book, raise your hand,” and she gave them a laminated sheet with each genre on it listed on a different colored box. She said, “If you want a pic book, you can get up and get a shelf marker.”

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For kids who were not checking out, she gave them a magazine at the table where they had been sitting. They all came back to their tables after self checking out their books and then begin reading with partners.

She “genrefied” the books this past summer by putting colors of stickers on the binding of each book then when kids get the laminated sheet and they are looking for a fantasy book, they can go to the books with the fantasy colored sticker.

Here are the stations that she described that she has for Grades 3-5 for nine weeks:

Program Spheros with Keva wood blocks

How To Draw – She gives them drawing books and websites to see how to draw.

Snap Circuits (These do not hold up well.)

Green Screen in Pizza Box. Use art materials on green straws as characters.

Makey Makey

Osmo Pizza Kit – Runa a pizza shop and calculate giving change

Stop Motion Animation. A Ready Animator holds the iPad.

Paper Rollercoaster – They make one Marble paper maze per grade level. She builds the cardboard base and lets them use paper to build the track.  Teachers Pay Teachers has a seller who made Paper Rollercoasters which she uses to allow her to make copies of parts of the roller coaster in multiple paper colors.  See http://www.paperrollercoasters.com.

She does 8 week rotations from Jan. – March.  She has 2-4 students in each group for each station which is an ideal amount.  Each child rotates to the eight Maker Stations during the nine weeks.  I noticed children who were totally engrossed in building, making, creating and designing.  They conditions were set up for them to be successful in this beautiful library space!  She has K-2 Stations and Grades 3 – 5 Stations but only runs them for one nine weeks.  If students want to use the maker materials after the nine week Maker Station cycle, they can return to the Media Center to do so!

In the Fall she does Digital Citizenship lessons using a variety of resources and teaches students to self check out books with the scanner in Destiny at laptop computers. They click on their picture in Destiny, scan their book and check out books themselves.  After the Maker Station rotations which I observed which run January – March, she will do research projects with kids.

A reward is given to children when they reach a certain number of points in Class Dojo where they go to the Lego wall and build.  There were NO behavior issues that I observed!  Their class time was over and they had interacted with appropriate voice levels and interpersonal interaction.

She gets feedback by giving them a survey to identify a favorite center and she gets rid of not so popular centers.

I am so inspired by the way that Pam has organized the stations rotations in the library. The kids were extremely engaged in working on their station activity for about 20 minutes then they read/checked out books for 15 minutes.

I have Spheros, Lego Story Maker Kits, iPads, Chromebooks, Bloxels video creation kits, Lego WeDo 2.0 robot kits and Keva Wood Planks which I have bought using Grant Money. I will be able to implement some of the same type of stations using the materials that I have.  I would also include Bloxels building challenges in my Maker Stations and STEAM challenges that relate to picture books!  I am in a Computer Lab, but visiting this library with Maker Space Stations has certainly broadened my perspective on what is possible in how to manage a class of K-5 students with Maker Stations!

For my students in the future, I would like to get Lego Duplo blocks, a Lego Wall, marbles for a Lego Marble making station, pictures on cards for kids to see of locations around the world for them to “create” in the Lego Duplo blocks, Makey Makey kit for kids to make music! Bongos is a simple Makey Makey project that she shows them and the Piano project, but they will find Pac Man and Flappy Bird. She used sponges with the Makey Makey and wet them if needed but not food to conduct electricity. She shows video tutorials at the beginning of the rotation cycle and I would like to curate some tutorials to show to train my students when we do station rotation.

As I have reviewed the N.C. Digital Learning Competencies, I have seen the following standards which the librarian has incorporated and I want to also incorporate in my lessons and with furniture choices in the future:

-Design technology-enriched learning experiences that encourage all students to pursue their individual interests, preferences, and differences.

-Identify, evaluate, and utilize appropriate digital tools and resources to challenge students to create, think critically, solve problems, establish reliability, communicate their ideas, collaborate effectively.

– Evaluate and appropriately modify the form and function of the physical learning environment to create a conducive digital learning environment.

I will continue to remember the excitement that I saw on the faces of children that day! They love to participate in active learning!

Computer Science Education Week

The past two weeks have allowed my students to explore coding lessons and animation lessons! The pictures and video below show their active engagement while using Bloxels Video Game Builder, coding tutorials at http://www.code.org, Sphero robots to program the Sphero around the shape of a holiday tree and the “Go Animate” program at http://www.abcya.com for animation projects!

Coding and digital storytelling will continue throughout the school year! My Donors Choose project to purchase Lego WeDo Kits was recently funded! I look forward to the collaboration and communication that will happen as students create Lego robots and program them with Lego software.

https://animoto.com/playMDyBT14e9kRJOj7s0EFd9w

Where I Am From

In the next week, I plan to start my 25th year of teaching elementary students.  Teaching is about planning but in life, you can’t always plan how it will go.  I participated in a Paideia Seminar this week with my colleagues based on a poem by George Ella Lyon which inspired my own poem.  I am placing my latest “Where I Am From” poem below and outside of my classroom.  I am who I am because of my life experiences.  This poem looks back through my memories and tries to paint a picture about the moments that have shaped me and stayed with me.  My principal wants each teacher to compose their own “Where I Am From” poem and to post it for students, parents and staff to read as a part of our current school year’s theme of “I Am From Elon Park”.

Where I Am From by Lisa 

I am from Sunday visits to my grandparents’ houses at the end of a dirt road in the country where grandma shared her homemade apple jelly and her patchwork quilts. My favorite quilts were the ones that she made from my grandpa’s old shirts.

I am from piano recitals when Mrs. Matthews, my piano teacher, expected my best! I memorized each piece every Spring and played on the grand piano at the Alumni House at UNC-Greensboro while the azaleas bloomed.

I am from Sunday school, Bible verses, Worship songs and The Golden Rule.  

I am from going to church camp every summer in High Point, NC where I swam, sang, prayed, learned from spiritual giants and made great friends. 

I am from leading my church choir and being church pianist in my late teens and twenties.  

I am from prayer, hope and precious parents who love me because I am their only child.

I am from learning how to be a teacher at UNC-Greensboro and singing in Women’s Choir.

I am from the day I married Gene Maples 20 years ago on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year because I didn’t want the day to end.

I am from the moments I heard my daughters cry for the first time and held them when they were born.  I am from 10 years where one or both of them came to school with me to Elon Park. 

I am from Family Movie Night every Friday night when we eat pizza together and relax.

I am from beach trips to Wild Dunes at Isle of Palms, SC where the sound of waves, sun and soft sand ripple into my heart, slowing me down, making me see what’s important.

I am from love, the kind that shows it cares. The kind of love that doesn’t laugh at me, but supports me. The kind of love that builds up. The kind of love that is patient and kind.  

I am from being a 3rd Grade teacher for 13 years in Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte.

I am from being a 4th Grade teacher during the first six years when Elon Park was opened.

I am from being a Technology Teacher for the past four years at Elon Park, my home away from home. I am from caring so much that students create digital projects to make learning fun!

If you’d like to read another “Where I Am From” poem, I wrote one on my personal blog in December of 2015 at http://www.intendtospend.wordpress.com.  I would encourage you to ponder your life experiences and compile them in your own “Where I Am From” poem.

Lego Love

My third graders walked in my class last week and squealed with excitement!  Why?  They saw our Lego Storymaker Kits out around the class.  In groups of two to four students, they built a Story with settings such as a pet store, a restaurant, a park, an air port to name a few.  They decided on a goal for their character or characters then devoted their time to creating three scenes.  They managed to build a beginning, middle and end scene.  I provided a graphic organizer for them to communicate their ideas for their collaborative stories on paper.  Due to having 45 minutes maximum class time, they took apart their scenes but then rebuilt them during our second class time.  In between our first and second classes, students worked on their graphic organizers in their home rooms.  When they arrived for their second class, they logged into their Google Drive accounts on iPads and took individual pictures which will live in their Google Accounts until our third class when they will build a Google Slide presentation and type their story ideas.

I blogged about this last year, but found such passion with my students again as they worked together this year!  The Lego Storymaker Kits inspired them to create interesting stories and promoted a way to write with a visible kind of prewriting. It felt more like we were playing in the Lab which sparked an amazing time of communication, collaboration and creativity!  I decided to share pictures of where we are at this juncture.  It is definitely a process!

Comparing with Venn Diagram app

During November, I had my third grade classes investigate and compare the lives of Pilgrims in 1621 and Wampanoag families.  They investigated types of houses, food, chores, games and schooling of both cultural groups at an amazing website then they typed about them using the Venn Diagram app on the iPads.  I had them read at the Scholastic website which describes both groups as portrayed at Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum in Massachusetts.  The website also has video and images of the model of the Mayflower ship, the journey from England to the New World, examples of housing like the English cottage and the Wampanoag wetu and interesting historical letters.  The link to it is here:  http://www.scholastic.com/scholastic_thanksgiving/daily_life/

As they read or listened to the narrator read the text about houses, food, chores, games and schooling or the Pilgrims and Wampanoags, students took notes in the Venn Diagram app from Read Write Think.  My next step is to have them take a virtual field trip to Plimoth Plantation and become a historian by reading and finding out more using the following link:  https://www.plimoth.org/sites/default/files/media/olc/intro.html

Earlier in the year, I had students read and compare two books using the same Venn Diagram app.  They were able to smoothly access the Venn Diagram app and create a new project because of their prior use of the app.  You can explore the Venn Diagram app at the following website:  http://www.readwritethink.org
/files/resources/interactives
/venn_diagrams/

Here was the lesson that students had done prior to using Venn Diagram app to compare Pilgrims and Wampanoags:
Listen to the videos of “Cook A Doodle Doo” and “The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza” then  create a Venn Diagram in the Venn Diagram app comparing and contrasting the books:
Cook A Doodle Doo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaJ2dEF5xVA
The Little Red Hen Makes A Pizza   
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzQVs3hzjho

I think that having students compare and contrast the lives of Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans is a great way to teach them about the history of the United States while providing grade level appropriate and interesting video and text.

Recently, I had a PD on “Academic Conversations” to encourage schoolwide discourse about texts.  So prior to having them launch into their own research, I had students read about the mishoons, or canoes, that the Wapanoag would create out of logs using fire and tools at the following link on my big screen:  http://capeandislands.org/post/wampanoag-indians-continue-burn-and-scrape-method-build-mishoon-canoes.  They turned and talked then shared a “Golden Line” or a significant part of the text.  Many of them thought it was interesting that 400 years ago, there were no horses in the New World until the 1630s-1640s.  As a result, the rivers were like modern day highways and required canoes to maneuver.  Students often grabbed these lines as their Golden Lines from the text allowing them to determine parts of text which spoke to them.  I had them do this Golden Line activity at the beginning of the lesson to involve them in reading a portion of shared text and excite them about the reading that they would be doing independently at computers at the Scholastic website.  Here is another link to using Golden Lines:  http://www.hendersoncountypublicschoolsnc.org/elementary-education/files/2012/02/the_golden_line_20110329_115744_106.pdf  

I liked how students could make choices about words that spoke to them through the Golden Lines Academic Conversations and how it was the perfect way to guide them to discovering their own Golden Lines as they researched at the Scholastic Website about the Pilgrims and Wampanoag.

 

 

The School Experience

This week I’ve been sharing “My Teacher Is A Monster” by Peter Brown with first graders.  They love the story.  Here’s a reading of it on You Tube:  https://youtu.be/iu8lMajbigQ

I encouraged my first grade students to draw pictures with text on iPads in the Storymamker Free app to share moments from the story. When the teacher reprimands the boy, Bobby, in the story, we see that he envisions her as a green monster. The teacher yells, “Robert!”, which is Bobby’s real name. Bobby had thrown a paper airplane in class which was clearly not a good choice for Bobby by the way Ms. Kirby states his name rather sternly. It wasn’t until a chance counter that Bobby had with his teacher in the park that he began to realize that she is nice. He recuses her hat when it blows in the breeze. She calls him her hero. They quack along with the ducks. They climb to a special spot where Ms. Kirby pulls out a sheet of paper and encourages Bobby to fly his paper airplane. As the story progresses, the illustrator brilliantly shades the teacher to look less green and to have an even skin tone. When Monday rolls around after the weekend park play time, Bobby sees his teacher so much differently. She is someone who will lead his learning and will give him what he needs to succeed. Ms. Kirby took the time to bond with Bobby and recognized his way of learning which is personalized learning at its best.

It really caused me to think about the way that children perceive their teachers.  Kids create their own interpretation of the adults who talk to them at school.  They see their teachers one way which is sometimes not the way teachers perceive themselves.  I know that they go home and share stories about what their teacher did or did not do.  Even parents begin to paint a picture of the teacher.  

I hope that one of our new kindergarten students will remember the patient woman who took her by the hand and talked to her about her new class as the student dried her eyes this morning.  The child had just left her mother in the car pool line.  The little one is learning a new morning routine and seeing new faces as she enters school each day.  My friend and colleague, Kelly, masterfully walks children in daily and is a difference maker.   Her heart to show love is evident.  She shows kindness and does not shame students for having a difficult time with separation anxiety or the stress of arrival at school.  I also have the privilege of greeting children each morning as they arrive.  I am one of many who create the school experience for students.  I know that the adults who guide and reassure students are the ones which help set the course for our new Kinders as well as all students and make them want to come back each day.  I hope that they talk about their smiling and positive interactions with adults at school when they get home at night.  

I have had teachers whom I may have viewed like Bobby viewed Ms. Kirby at the beginning of the story.  They talked so sternly that I had trouble focusing on the content.  Being organized is a key quality of a teacher, however, I have felt so much stress by teachers who had to have me do things their way with not much regard for my style.  I think that it matters as to what our students think of us.  How a teacher treats a child will either unlock a trust filled relationship or it will build a barrier to learning.  Teachers should hold high expectations while taking into account the way that their words are received by their students.  Words matter.  Children matter.  

I try to notice the interests of my students and listen well. I hope that my students see me as positive, encouraging, welcoming and one who notices them and the effort that they give. It is when teachers build trusting relationships with students that students will buy in to the school experience.  

I included some of the pictures that my students drew of scenes from “My Teacher Is A Monster”.  They are so creative and give us a glimpse into how they understood story events.   Ms. Kirby realized that she needed to try a new strategy to win Bobby over after some initial moments at school when she reacted instead of seeing Bobby’s choice of flying a paper airplane as something to redirect into something positive.  She began to see that she should build on his strengths and interests.  Building on strengths should be our focus as we interact with our students too.

Science Olympiad 2016

Discover. Play. Build.

This past weekend, my school’s Science Olympiad team competed against 26 other Varsity Teams at a local university. Our team placed 10th overall! I am so happy that our team earned medals in 10 out of 19 events! Fourteen out of 18 of our students won individual medals where they placed anywhere from 2nd to 9th in their events. They had worked so hard to learn all that they could about 19 different events ranging from weather, force and motion, fossils, landforms, CSI, electricity/magnetism, animal adaptations, insects and plants, outer space, circulatory/respiratory systems and data collections to building a Pasta Tower out of hot glue and dry spaghetti, folding paper airplanes and flying them, designing a blueprint to build a rollercoaster out of K’Nex blocks, catapult building and launching marshmallows to specific distances, shooting bottle rockets after engineering the best designs after multiple test launches day after day and building a structure while following written directions from a partner. To see short descriptions of each event, go to this link: http://www.sciencenc.com/2016%20NCSO%20Elementary%20Event%20Descr

I took a chance when I decided to be their Head Coach this year. I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed but sometimes have been known to bite off a bit more than I can chew what with also being a wife and mom in addition to being a Technology Teacher.  Nineteen students were on this year’s team which was a much more manageable amount of students than when I had coordinated it in the past. My youngest child really wanted me to get the club started again like I had done when her older sister had gone through fourth and fifth grade. Back then, I organized around 100 students for each of the two years when I had done Science Olympiad Club three and four years ago. It was exhilarating while also feeling overwhelming as a classroom teacher to fourth graders. In past years, I devoted at least three hours for each event (except a few events that teachers and an expert parent coached) to create Smartboard files about each event which I shared with parents after school and then they used those files to deliver the three weeks of lessons on the events. My husband insisted that I not do it again until there was more support because of the time it took away from our family on weekends to prepare the S.O. lessons and afterschool while I met with each parent coach.

So, in the Fall of 2015, I asked my principal if I could send an email to each fifth grade teacher for them to send to each parent email list in their respective classes. I included a Smore digital poster with a link to which 19 parents responded. I included each of the 19 students in this year’s S.O. Club. I also put an announcement in the PTO newsletter announcing S.O.Club.

I decided that for this school year, with my own younger daughter being in fourth grade, I would start a club but allow students to be in the driver’s seat for many of the events. I created web links to support materials in a Google Classroom for my students and had them create collaborative Google Slides on their topics which they worked on during and outside of our Tuesday morning practices.  I am so glad that I personalized their experience by allowing them to choose the two or three events that they wanted to learn about and compete in then had them build Google Slides to curate their knowledge.  It was the way to go!  For the events that needed more hands-on participation, I was blessed with three parent coaches who helped them create Marshmallow Catapults and test them to reach various assigned distances, design a rollercoaster with K’Nex cubes in 40 minutes using a blueprint which they created and hot glue dry spaghetti pasta together into the form of a Pasta Tower to see how much sand it could hold at the tournament!

I was so glad that my daughter chose the 3,2, 1 Blast Off Event!.  I saw her go through the project based learning cycle and facilitated each step with her.  She had engineered bottle rockets and tested them several times at school.  We spent many weekends at our house with her cutting out wings from pizza boxes and taping them on numerous empty soda bottles.  We purchased clear cylinders from Lowes and taped them to the end of the bottle.  The rocket that she chose to launch at the tournament stayed aloft longer than any of her other test rockets!  It stayed up for around 12 seconds which was combined with her partner’s rocket time too for a final score.  They placed 11th out of 26 teams which was a great joy to us!  My daughter and I had to leave during the Science Olympiad tournament and drive to her Dance Recital.  She performed beautifully!  After taking pictures with family, she changed clothes, grabbed a snack and we headed back to the Science Olympiad Tournament. It was a very busy day but it was worth every minute to see her face not only as she retrieved her rocket after it performed so well but also to see her dance her heart away on stage!  She is a “Maker” reminding me of Krissy Venosdale’s description of them:

makerspace1.jpg

Image Credit:  http://krissyvenosdale.com/2016/05/12/you-might-be-a-maker-if/

When this year’s S.O. Team came to my classroom from 8:15-8:45 this Monday morning for donuts with me to celebrate, I had them share their experiences about participating in the tournament during the past weekend. They were smiling as they wore their team tee shirts and talked about what went well and some things that didn’t go well.  I praised them for their effort to be at club meetings before school from January through May every Tuesday morning, to meet at each others’ houses for practices for certain events, for creating Google Slides about their Events then studying them and for giving amazing effort to be at UNC-Charlotte at 7:30 a.m. and competing all morning this past Saturday! It was a great day at the Tournament, however, very disappointing for the STEM Design Challenge team whose rollercoaster did not function as they had planned resulting in them not earning a medal. They had spent many practices together outside of school so this was very sad for them. It gave me the chance to praise their effort because it was never about earning medals. It was always about growing as problem solvers, collaborators, communicators and creators!  I decided to have this club to engage students in STEM topics and further their interest in STEM related careers. The process of meeting to learn about the 19 science topics from January through May of 2016 gave students opportunities to persevere, to work together on a shared project and to enjoy the journey.

They also appeared on our school news show today which elevated them as role models to rising fifth graders who will hopefully want to follow in their footsteps! I hope that by putting the S.O. Team on the morning news today, it elevated interest in the S.O. Club for next year for rising fifth graders. I have also been seeing more students wondering what the bottle rockets are which have been in my classroom and for me to explain a catapult that I have in my room.

In order to have a Science Olympiad club, there must be Administrative and parental support. My principal and Admin Team have been very supportive of me and encouraged me to not put too much on my plate. I was able to handle 19 students in a before school club much better than around 100 students which I had three and four years ago when I first ran a Science Olympiad Club. There is a lot of preparation and time that must be devoted to preparing students for the events.  It is my plan to continue to have One Varsity Team in the future because I can handle that amount of students and not feel like I am over extending myself with all of my responsibilities as a Technology Teacher to over 1,000 students. I will also have to gauge whether or not I can have the club next year based on the amount of coaches who will volunteer. I was able to manage this year with three parents as coaches. I know that one of those parents who will still have a child at my school is eager to help next year with the rockets and catapult events, but I will just need more help.

Our kids, overall, placed consistently higher in most Science Olympiad events than many other schools. Since I had run this club with only three coaches besides me, I couldn’t be happier with the results! I am celebrating my students and all that they learned in the process of preparing for the tournament.  I plan to announce the possibility of having an S.O. club in the PTO newsletter, on the school news and by parent email lists in the Fall of 2016 to gauge interest for having the club in the next school year. I hope we can do it again!
To see more about the Science Olympiad tournament, visit this link and look for posts around May 21, 2016.

After seeing the excitement for STEM in this before school club, I began to view our time together as Maker Time.  Students made designs, made Google Slides and made time to create!   Krissy Venosdale expresses her thoughts so well from her own Launch Pad experiences in her Texas school.  I wanted to end my post with one of her posters which has caused me to think about bringing out the maker in each child which is exactly what happened for five months during Science Olympiad preparations:

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Image Credit:  http://krissyvenosdale.com/2016/05/12/you-might-be-a-maker-if/

Thanks to Ruth Ayres who provides a linking space to share our Celebrations!