Last week I shared some circuitry activities that I did with 4th graders after receiving a DonorsChoose project. This week we continued the fun with some coding. The coding resources that I received were Botley the Coding Robot and Ozobots.
When I came in to the room (my STEM on a cart), the kids were instantly intrigued about what I had in my containers. Some guessed Botley was baby toys I was bringing for them to play with (lol) or if we were playing video games. I know Botley has the potential to reach many young children, but I didn't expect how engaged 4th graders would be with him! They were also equally as intrigued with the Ozobots. It was great to have 2 very different coding resources that provided different thinking opportunities, but still helped them develop critical thinking and coding skills. I love a good "if this, then that" learning experience!
Both of these resources were awesome for introducing students to the concept of coding - which is exactly what I was going for! I believe that when I use new resources with students, it is important to give them ample time to simply play and explore. This is how they learn how things work and then when the content is inserted, they are not trying to figure out the functionality basics and avoid pure frustration with connecting content and materials. One thing I have noticed with this approach as well (especially with higher level thinking materials), the students intuitively insert the content themselves. I saw many students naturally talking to each other about how to build obstacle courses, figure out distance travelled, and how to move from point A to point B in the least number of steps as possible. Don't get me wrong, I definitely heard some grumblings and frustration, but it was a productive struggle. That was after they truly understood me when I said that Botley was not voice activated or a remote control robot!
The Ozobots provided a different productive struggle than Botley. Many of the students had focused in on learning how to make the Ozobot jump and they were having a hard time doing so as they pictured in their heads. Even though most were not able to make them jump, they had fun learning how to get them to change colors, spin, change speed, and other commands. I also left this open-ended for them as I wanted them to follow their creativity and questions for "how to do it." It was interesting watching them work through the Ozobot codes to create some pretty wild paths!
I am excited to see what the students come up with as we use these more within the content area. Their interest was definitely sparked and it was something very different than what they have experienced before. I love seeing the benefits of coding - the perseverance, critical thinking, and a general interest in creating something totally new by giving directions. Coding for the win!
As our Seniors are nearing the end of their Capstone experience, one of the final things they need to do is to determine how they will present their career exploration and findings to their judges. Each student has a folding table to use for their presentation unless more space/resources are needed. In the past, we have had some pretty amazing tablescapes!
This is one of my first adventures in 3D printing! I decided to print a doll house table as a prototyping resource that was available for students. I know I am a very visual person and many others are, so I thought I would have some mini-tables on hand so students could visual their space (if need be). They aren't completely perfect, but that is okay! This is all about prototyping after all, right? :)
Many students used the little tables to help visualize the ideas in their heads. And something that was even more exciting was seeing the students look at the tables and then think about how 3D printed objects could complement their tablescapes. I can't wait to see what they look like the night of the Capstone Exhibition!
I love that my job allows me to work with students of all ages and teachers of all grades and subject areas. Another thing I love about the students I work with is their honesty. They will have no problem telling you what they think of your activities (almost always for the best, but I always encourage constructive criticism - it helps all of us grow and learn!). Students will share with me how they liked what they did, what they would like to do in the future, or something that they thought was cool. Usually the "cool" things are things that I did not anticipate or happened through their own creativity. One thing I always wonder (as I push-in to classrooms and co-teach) is how much of the activities that are done when I am in the classroom actually make it home as part of the daily learning story that is shared at the end of the day.
Which started me thinking about how I might be able to encourage this engagement conversation...and it led me to something simple - a hand stamp!
To check out my Zazzle store of hand stamps, click here.
The first time I used the stamp I ordered ("Let's Taco About My Awesome Work Today!"), I asked the students to clean up their work spaces and return their STEM bins to me to receive a hand stamp (if they wanted one). They were quick to clean up (and did a great job of it) so that they could get their stamp. Once they saw it had a taco on it, they were super excited! Who knew a taco could bring someone so much joy?! I am excited for the next time I see the class to hear if they shared their stamp and learning story when they got home. Which their enthusiasm and excitement led to me to order 5 more stamps because the quality of the stamp was awesome the kids reactions were priceless!
Well, let's just be honest here and put it out there that not only am I a bit of a perfectionist, I like being a bit extra. So not only did I have to buy a stamp pad off Amazon, I had to buy a SCENTED stamp pad in the delicious scent of grape (which I love, but doesn't actually ever smell like the grapes I eat). Talk about student excitement at the next level with this one!
You can't just have one taco stamp, right? :)
I try my best to be as environmentally conscious as I can be on a daily basis (I am a big fan of recycling and reusing!), but sometimes we all could use the reminder to do a little bit more to protect our planet. I know I have been making an effort to no longer use plastic straws when dining out - it seemed weird and awkward at first, but the more I do it, it doesn't feel that way. I believe it has been said that it takes 21 days to form a habit...I don't eat out that often, but it is getting easier to simply move the straw to the end of the table and drink straight from the glass. Sometimes Earth Day is that gentle reminder each year that we can do better as long as we choose to do better about our environmental decisions.
As Earth Day fell on a weekend this year, I asked the teacher I usually work with on Fridays if an Earth Day STEM activity would fit in to anything they were doing. She told me they were actually studying animal adaptations, so it fit in well with what they were learning. I found this video that we watched about kids taking action against pollution found in the oceans. The video was very powerful and the students definitely had thoughts to share on the issue!
When the classroom teacher and I were planning this activity, we had originally wanted them to do some brainstorming before building. When I arrived for STEM time later in the day, the teacher informed me that they have spent over 3 hours that day doing state testing, so we decided to not do our brainstorming worksheet and let their brains just create. And to be completely honest, I think it was the perfect decision for the end of a Friday after a long week of state testing. They needed to explore (we hadn't used Brain Flakes, wooden planks, or Plus Plus yet in STEM activities) and have some confidence in doing what they do best - create!
I am so proud of what these kiddos came up with knowing how brain-drained they were at this time. They had so many great ideas! Some of the conversations I had with students included:
Through the amazing generosity of the DonorsChoose community, I was able to have a DonorsChoose project funded recently. This came as an absolute surprise and it was less than 24 hours from when I posted the project to when it was fully funded. I thought my heart would explode!
My project was 2-fold - circuitry and coding. I really wanted some resources that would help the students expand not only their critical thinking, but help build computational thinking. Often when we have STEM time, we work on exploring new tools, why trial and error is important, and how failing is a good thing. With this class in particular, we incorporate content at times, but often we work on building an environment for productive struggle and exploration. The kids have responded well, but I want to push them at times beyond building structures and learning about how the world around them works. Insert coding and circuitry here!
Earlier in the year fourth graders studied circuitry, so the basic concepts of circuitry were not new to them. But exploring circuitry with these fun new resources was new! As I had 3 sets of Power Tiles Circuits Kits and 3 sets of Snap Circuits Jr., we separated the class into 6 groups. As these were new resources, I allowed the students to have the instruction manuals and asked them to start at the beginning of the projects/challenges and see how many they could make. After about 20 minutes of building, we switched groups so that everyone was able to build with both types of circuit materials. My goal was for the students have hands-on experiences with building circuits and problem solving through when they didn't work as expected.
Sometimes I wish there was a way to bottle up the energy and excitement that elementary kids just exude when they are amped up about learning. When a sluggish Monday rolls around, all you would need is a little sprinkle of that to get you going and have a little pep in your step. The students get so excited about their STEM time and are eager to give honest feedback. I took a poll from groups as I was walking around and it seemed like it was a 50/50 split on choosing a favorite between the Snap Circuits and Power Tiles Circuits. Many favored the Snap Circuits because of the versatility to build different types of circuits (mainly ones that included the fan because when you turned it off, the fan component often flew up in the air). Those that favored the Power Tiles Circuits enjoyed them because they were easy to manipulate and you could build functional circuits that could be used for a purpose (such as a light switch).
Next time in using these resources with this class, I would have them complete challenges that accomplished tasks (such as building a Cube Car that could pull a cart). I am excited about all the possibilities of these new resources. Thank you DonorsChoose and supporters!
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