Saturday, April 29, 2017

Embracing and Integrating Fidget Spinners in the Classroom

The fidget spinner craze has entered my classroom and my home, and I imagine, based on the ads and Facebook shares, they have also entered your world too!  I have heard from parents and teachers that many of them have been taken away and most people are annoyed with it.  I’m here to offer a few suggestions to embrace this craze and integrate it with learning!

Spinner Scientific Investigations
I encouraged all of my kids to bring them into our classroom this week and create an investigation to study some aspect of the fidget spinners. Kids were collecting data before and after adding lubrication, measuring the mass of the spinners, coordinating the timing of spinner, and really digging deeper with how these spinners work. One of the things I have to grade on report cards is that kids understand the scientific process. This gave them a great opportunity to carry out an investigation all on their own...and they were motivated! (We will continue our investigations and share our conclusions next week! I'll post them here!)

Spinning and Math Facts
Skip count by a certain number and see how high you can get before it stops spinning. Since my students need to have their multiplication facts memorized by the end of the year, skip counting is a skill they can all use to practice.

Creating Spinners on Your Own
My cousin 3-D printed a spinner for my own kids in January, and then one of my students made one in his garage just cutting and sanding heavy plastic. This led to him thinking of other ways to create them, and he even used an old toy to recreate it into a spinner. After that, I got excited and bought a bunch of bearings for my students to create their own. Even with a bit of hot glue, you can make things work.

My son made this by hot gluing pennies together and then gluing them to the bearing. 

Eye Hand Coordination and Perseverance

Kids are spinning them on their fingers and throwing them up in the air to catch them while spinning over and over. Not only does it develop patience and perseverance, but it also helps with coordination! (Just make sure they have a safe distance around them for flying spinners.)

Update...and my kids have just shared with me that they are also good to spin on other body parts. Here is my daughter sharing her nose balancing skills!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Tuning Into Learning Through the Inventor’s Challenge

My 3rd grade classroom at Glengary Elementary is participating in the Inventor’s Challenge sponsored by the Imagination Foundation and AT&T Aspire.  We launched the challenge by brainstorming What If’s and actually presented them in the January #PasstheScopeEdu event on Periscope.  Here are some slides on our Inventor's Challenge if you want to take a peek.

A few weeks ago the challenge launched, and we began the process of inventing.  I would like to highlight one story from our first day of inventing! 

I was sitting at my desk, and I overhead one of my students say, “Hmmm…how can I attach this?”  I looked over and saw CR trying to attach a blown up fold-top baggie on a white t-shirt she had decorated. I asked her what she was trying to do, and she told me that she was trying to get the shirt to fly so people wouldn’t have to be stuck in traffic. I wished her good luck with the invention.  
Next, I noticed she realized the fold-top baggies were not keeping in the air, so she went and got ziplock baggies. She was super excited to fix the issue of air escaping.  She blew them up and started thinking about the placement when another student started a discussion with her about helium gas.  Knowing she didn’t have access to helium, she moved on to a different idea. 
Again, I heard her say, “Hmmm.  How can I attached these?”  I looked at her and saw her trying to figure out how to attached small flat batteries to the shirt.  I asked her what she was trying to do, and she went on to tell me that she was hoping that the stored energy in the battery to help give the shirt the energy to fly.  She also had part of a circuit board that was from a DVD the some students had disassembled earlier in the year.  She was trying to figure out how she could connect the energy to the board to see if there were any motors, as she thought that could be part of the solution to make the shirt fly. She tried and tinkered with it a bit, but our Passion Time ran out without much progress.  

As her teacher, I was able to witness many curricular connections through her tinkering.  CR was able to compare baggies and find one that sealed in air better. She learned about the difference in gases…and the capabilities of helium.  Her knowledge of batteries having stored energy was evident, and she realized that the circuit was in need of power in order to do work. Since we were at the end of our unit of Energy and Matter, I was able to see that CR had acquired knowledge from our unit.  I was able to assess her without giving a test…just through questioning her while she played essentially. Though she may not be successful making a shirt that flies, she has shown me success with her problem solving, her ability to redesign, and her basic knowledge of energy!  I believe we can do a lot more assessing through play if we pay attention to our kiddos and engage with them! I challenge you to pay attention to play and see what skills you can assess. I bet there are many! 

Here is a quick video with her reflections on her flying shirt invention. 

If you would like more information how your students or your child can participating in the Inventor’s Challenge, check out

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Looking Forward to Having Fun with HyperDuino

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Roger Wagner, the creator of Hyper Studio, to introduce me to his latest project...HyperDuino.  I am typically very tuned into new products in the STEAM/Makerspace world, but I had not experienced HyperDuino before.  I jumped at the chance to explore it with my third graders, and Roger jumped right in and sent me one within days of our first contact!  I went ahead and opened it up in front of my students, while they were sitting on the carpet, and we explored it together.

Essentially, Roger has created a breadboard... HyperDuino, which can can run off a 9V battery and connect to lights, touch sensors, light sensors, and I believe even temperature sensors.  In addition, it can connect to a computer through a usb, and communicate with a Chrome App that allows students to create multi-media presentations that interact with their makerspace projects or other school projects. Take a look at this example:

My students and I were really excited to jump in and see what the HyperDuino could do. Fortunately, Roger has amazing tutorials on his webpage, and he had a specific one for getting started right away with a simple project using the touch sensors and LED lights.  As we were connecting the wires, it gave me a great opportunity to reinforce our unit on energy and the transfer of energy.  Often kids think that wires have electricity flowing through them at all times, but I was able to point out to them that the wires serve as a means to transfer energy.  We hadn't connected the battery yet, so no power was flowing through them. Once we got it all set up, the kids enjoyed taking turns pressing the touch sensors and seeing the lights light up.  We also noticed that sometimes when I talked (the touch sensors were inches from my mouth) the lights would illuminate, which allowed us to talk about things that conduct electricity...including the water vapor in my breath!

Last week I got another kit sent to me...this time with a project already started for my kiddos.  Roger prepared it for a National Park Project, complete with photos of how to set it up and his own handwriting!  Included were also packets of how-to instructions to walk us through each step of the project! Now I know this is a product that is still in the launching phase, but I actually think there is something to be said about delivering a product slightly ready with an example, as it helped me see the potential right away! The great thing is, I have done Michigan State Park reports in the past and after seeing this example, I believe I know how I will be tackling that project this year!

Another great thing about having it shipped to me ready to go like this, I was able to share it with my colleagues right away!  I also think it made it look user friendly and doable for teachers.  I think I have even convinced my ELL teacher to do a small group project to frontload our next science unit with the third graders using the HyperDuino!

All I can say is kudos to Roger Wagner for knowing how to win over teachers!  Not with fancy swag, but with a great product and awesome support to get started!  I can't wait to see how much fun my students and I can have integrating the HyperDuino with our making, researching, and learning!

For more information on how you can get a HyperDuino, check out the HyperDuino Store!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Camp Invention 2016....What a Week!

Over the past week I was honored to be the director of the Walled Lake Camp Invention! Camp Invention is a FABULOUS camp for students entering first-sixth grades. Over the week I used Smore to build a newsletter for each day. Take a look at all the fun students had with STEAM and Inventing!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blended Learning in Elementary

I will be presenting at the My Blend Summer Learning Day Camp in East Lansing on July 12, 2016. Here are some of the resources for my "Blended Learning in Elementary" poster session.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Ending the Year with Passion

I have integrated Innovation Days and Genius Hour into my classroom for several years.  This past year, I haven’t been able to have a  consistent time for the kids to work on developing their passions, but I have done a lot of great things involving choice, makerspaces, and STEAM. Even with that, it didn’t feel right ending the school year without having time for passion projects, so I decided to have the last full week of social studies spent on American History Passion Projects.  The students could choose to learn about anything involving American History and create a project about it.  

I tell’s the magic recipe for ending the school year with engaged learners eager to come to school!  I have enjoyed seeing the kids come alive with curiosity and excited to learn.  Teaching three sections of fifth grade Social Studies, each class got 4 hours to work on their projects, however, many decided to work on their projects at home and even during recess.

Interestingly, there were several projects that were themed around September 11. An event that is still so vivid in my mind, was an event they had heard about, but didn’t know many details about.  It was hard to find appropriate information for kids, but we did find a great resource with the 911 Memorial page. Many of my students were interested in learning more about the Twin Towers.  It just so happened that I great up with Minoru Yamasaki’s grandson, Jesse.  I contacted Jesse and asked him if he would video conference with us. He happily agreed, and we had a wonderful time connecting with him over a lunch and recess last week. The kids were able to learn a lot about Min, as his grandfather was commonly called, and the wonderful building her designed...right down to the art he commissioned throughout the building and the 10-foot model that was created when preparing for the build.  Here are some of the projects that were created:

I had the chance to video some of the projects.  Here are our videos.  Enjoy!

On the second day of presentations we did live presentations.  Here is one of the plays that were performed by 2 of my students...believe it or not, these are two of more reserved students.  It brought me to tears to see the risks they took with their comedic performing skills!

If you are interested in ending the year with kids eager to come to school and be engaged, I highly recommend putting the control into their hands. I noticed better behaviors while we were working on the projects, and I enjoyed walking around and seeing the joy in their minds and hearts!