This year I am trying a new thing call STEM Family Project. It is a pack that I found on Teacher Pay Teachers by the same author as the STEM bins that STEM@Schall is using this year in our grant. Basically at the beginning of each month I send home a two sided paper with what the challenge project is and a few short questions about design process. Students have until the end of the month to use their engineering minds and creativity to make anything they want as long as it is in the general category listed. For our first month the project was to make a model of a building or shelter. Students were allowed to work with family members and could use any type of construction material they wanted. Both students and families really seemed to enjoy the task. Although many used similar materials, there were no two structures that were the same. There were also some amazing details added. One of the Lego houses had hinges to open and see the inside. One of the popsicle houses included handmade stick furniture. One shoe box home was a hospital complete with helicopter landing pad, reception area with mini clipboards for paperwork, and rooms were the sick were being treated. There were also a couple of functional bird houses and even a teepee for a cat.
As part of the project grade students are expected to give a presentation about what they created. For this first month they were allowed to choose to use their chromebooks to either take a photo and write a caption in complete sentences or take a short video where they explained what they had done. These were posted to their StudentStory Digital Portfolios on ClassDojo so not only can I look back at them to grade, but their parents are also able to share in the experience.
For the month of October, in honor of Halloween, we are creating something useful that includes candy somewhere in it. I have already been asked if they can eat them when we finish. This could get sticky. ☺
We started off part of our STEM grant this week with a Breakout EDU pretest game about using Google email. It was not only a good way to get the students used to GMail on the chromebooks but was an exercise in perseverance and patience. A timer was set for 45 minutes and students had to work independently to try and decipher the clues for each of the 4 locks. They had to get each answer correct before they were given the next clue in the sequence. The first lock required them to put in a URL address correctly, watch a video, and answer a question. Lock two had them looking at an image on the chromebook and trying to find the correct answer within the image. Only 7 made it to this stage. Lock 3 had them trying to figure out an alpha numeric code. One lone student made it to this step. Lock 4 would have been for them to send me an email with a picture attachment. None made it to this stage. At the end of the 45 minutes, I walked through all 4 of the locks and how to solve them. Sadly the prize inside, M&Ms were not won by any of them so I let them know I'd just have to eat them myself. After we were finished, we had a great classroom discussion about how we would be working throughout the year on their critical thinking skills and that when we tried a similar puzzle at the end of the year I had no doubts that they would get farther than they had today. When I asked how many of them were going to try hard next time and do even better, everyone raised their hands. I guess they didn't have any doubts either. ☺
Today was our first day of school. While we did all the regular 1st day of school types of things (going over rules, putting away new supplies, learning names, etc.) I also wanted to do something different to learn about my students and teach them something new. While on Pinterest searching for, of course, 1st day of school activities, I came across a blog written by another elementary teacher. In it they gave quick tips for how to use different websites and apps. One of these tips was about an app called WordFoto and how they used it in social studies to have students do a quick write about President Abraham Lincoln. The app would take a collection of words and merge them with a photo to create an image made of words. A lightbulb went off! I could do the same project but instead of doing it on a historical figure, I could use the app on my students. Students were given a worksheet to brainstorm things they liked and how they would describe themselves. Then they had to come up with at least 5 one word answers. Using these words and photo we took with the iPad today, we created these images showing what, according to them, "Makes Me, ME." Every part of the image, down to the color of their eyes and strands of hair, contain these descriptive words. For those that had permission, the images were loaded into their online student portfolios, which parents can access. It turned out to be a great first day project which got the students thinking, writing, and involved in technology.
That's Elementary Explains is a teacher with almost 2 decades of teaching experience and a technology degree who is still trying to figure out the new and unexplained.