March STEM Challenge 2017

bunnypeeps

What says spring better than those colorful, marshmallows you see in every grocery store?  I’m talking about Peeps, of course!  And this month, our students are going to give them some air by creating Peep Launchers.

This idea comes from a packet of wonderful ideas that you see here.  Our building completed the Peep Puff Mobile last year.  So fun!


peepschallenge

Each pair of students will need 2 toilet-paper tubes (or 1 paper-towel tube, cut in half), tape, a single-hole punch,  a pencil, a pen or marker, 2 thin rubber bands, scissors, and a marshmallow Peep (bunnies work best).

For this challenge, I wanted the students to focus on perfecting their design to achieve the highest average distance in three trials.

I gave them this link with directions on how to assemble their slingshots.  Have your students watch the fun little video (2:12).  It explains how the slingshot stores potential energy when the plunger is drawn back and releases kinetic energy when you let go!

You can download and print the instructions OR you could simply put them on this site and let them follow the directions.  The reading teacher in me selected the latter and had great results with fifth grade.

Design Squad Slingshot

The students and I set up ten feet of measurement tape in the middle of our Makerspace for our trials.  Each pair came to the center, and gave it their best shot(s).  We rounded each to the nearest foot.

In this challenge, everyone wins – a Peep to taste, that is!

Looking for more?  The Design Squad Nation has some great extensions listed in Step 13.  Check it out!

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Want to know how Peeps are made?  Check out this video from the Just Born factory located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania!

Feeling really ambitious and want to make homemade Peeps at home?  Try this video!

If you try this STEM challenge, let me know by leaving a comment!

Open House in the Makerspace

Wednesday was a big day.

It was a big day for our students.  It was a big day for our classroom communities.

It was a big day for our Makerspace.

You see, besides a small group that attended our Family Maker Night in May, not many outside of our district staff had seen our Makerspace.

Until Wednesday.  Wednesday was our Cecil Intermediate School Open House.  Our amazing teachers encouraged the parents to trek to the basement to see our newly renovated space.  And they came in droves.  It was so exciting!

There were four stations set up.

Take Home Ball Puzzles

Puzzle Balls

Magformers

Magformers

Collaborative Zentangle Coloring and Home Challenge Information

Zentangle and Challenge

Volunteer Sign Ups via Google Forms

Volunteers

You can see more special photographs in my video below.  I love the lyrics that accompany this Animoto song.

Keep Being Different.  Keep Having Fun.

Storybird: Visual Storytelling for Everyone

My friend recently mentioned that her son is having a hard time generating ideas for journal writing.  It is taking him much longer than it needs to, and the result is a frustrated mom and child.  I explained that I view writing skills as I do muscles sets in the human body.  You have to use those muscles in order to strengthen them.  The same is true for writing skills.  We often overlook writing in the summer months, opting to keep our children reading or practicing math facts.  So, in the spirit of Back to School, I’d like to introduce one of my favorite digital resources to help students become more creative writers.

storybird-logo

As the scrolling image states on the landing page, Storybird is a place to

Write books you’ll always remember.  Read books you’ll always remember.  Discover books you’ll always remember. Share books you’ll always remember.

In a nutshell, users of all ages are inspired by beautiful art collections to write their own stories and books.  Collections range from silly to serious, but all are high quality.  Check out “Another Day, Another Doller” by my former student, Andrew:

From a teacher’s perspective, it could not be easier to get started.  If your school has Google accounts, even better.  Here are the basics:

  1. Go to Storybird.com.  Click Sign Up for Free (right corner).  Click Educator/Student.  Then click Google Sign In.
  2. Once there, Click Studio, Classes tab, and Add a Class.   Give it a name.
  3. Now, under Studio and Classes, you should see Review, Students, and other tabs.  Click Students, and Add or Invite students.  Click My Students Will Create Their Own Accounts.  See that class code?  Write it down.
  4. The students will complete the same steps as you did in Step One.  Only this time, they will enter the class code.

One of the things I love most about Storybird are its challenges.  I received an email regarding the September challenge:

For this month’s challenge, we’re going to take that famous writing advice, “Write what you know,” and put it to work. Think back to a time when you tried something new for the first time. How did it make you feel? Use your experience, and your memories of those emotions, to help you create your characters and tell your story.

Love it!  Note:  “You must have a Regular account for your story to appear in the public library and to be featured on our blog and to earn the badge. Stories published from Student accounts are only visible to members of your class.”  Doesn’t matter to me!  I am just looking for creative ideas to keep my kiddos writing!

Parents, you can sign up for free basic accounts.  Don’t be discouraged by all of the extras, like printable hardcover books, that Storybird has to offer.  The basic program is more than enough to produce beautiful stories and build writing confidence.

Storybird has so much more to offer in terms of reading and sharing stories.  Check back, and I will highlight some of its other awesome features, including its companion poetry writing app for iOs, Lark.

 

Fear Project Reflection Video

So, what did the kids really think about the Fear Project?  I decided to ask them.  First, they created reflection posts on Kidblog.  You can view some of them here:

Mrs. Lavallee’s Homeroom Kidblog Posts

I selected some of my favorites to feature in this Animoto video.

I am so proud of the sincerity, honesty, and thoughtfulness displayed in this student reflection video.  Sixth graders have so much potential.  I am lucky to work with them!

The Fear Project

This has been an amazing year for me as a professional.  I hope my students have learned that any effort, no matter how small they believe it may be, is enough to impact a community.

Children Helping Children Overcome Fears at Cecil Intermediate School’s Maker Space Whether you are the chief of…

Posted by Canon-McMillan School District on Friday, April 8, 2016

How Do You Have the Time?

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People often ask me, “I love what you are doing, but how do you have the time to fit it in?”

My short answer is this:  Providing these experiences is a high priority of mine, so I make the time.

My long answer is this:

Learning is fun.

A friend wants to give back to the community, so she spends her free time packing Blessings in a Backpack.  This is her first experience spearheading such a large initiative, so she has had to learn.  She makes the time.

A coworker is renovating a home for her parents and is learning something new everyday.  She is no renovation expert, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

My maker team buddy loves makeup and hair tutorials and thinks she might be able to share a few helpful tips on a website.  She doesn’t know how, but she is learning.  She makes the time.

We make the time to pursue our interests and learn new things every day.  Are we inspiring our students to do the same?

These children are more than a score. My son is more than a score. I want him to have a place where he is encouraged to pursue his passions. I want our students to know that they have skills, right now, that can make a difference in this world. I want them to understand that all efforts, no matter how small they may seem, are important. I want them to understand that connections and communicating with the public are just as important, if not more important, than communicating with me. The Internet has made it possible for them to learn things that we never even dreamed of learning. I want to guide them to these resources and encourage them to learn on their own.  They are not too young to impact the world around them with new skills.

In addition, my value as a teacher is greater than a set of scores. I have too much to offer as a educator, as a person, to let a test dictate how I teach or how my students learn.

I believe the same about my coworkers.  I work with an amazing group of people with the best of intentions and amazing skill sets.

When you wonder how I have the time to deviate from the curriculum, I leave you with two questions:

Would you want to be a student in your own classroom? 

Are you making the time to provide meaningful, relevant, and inspiring learning opportunities for your students?

If the answer is no to either of these questions, you might want to rethink how you are doing things.

Make the time.