Category Archives: K-12

Random Building Challenges

We have all sorts of building materials in B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff HeadQuarters) – from Legos to Magnatiles.  During the first quarter of our after-school Maker Club adventures this year, the students rotated through different building materials each week.  To make things interesting, they were given building challenges.  I wanted to make the challenges a little bit of surprise, so I grabbed ideas from all over the internet and put them in to one spreadsheet that was a template from  You can make a copy of the Google Sheet template here. After you make your own copy, you can plug in whatever random ideas you have on the first worksheet.  Then, go to File-Publish to Web, and paste the link you are given on to the 2nd worksheet in the space provided. will give you a link for the your new random chooser.

If you don’t want to build your own random chooser, you can just use mine.  This tool from is supposed to help you choose student names randomly, but it works for anything you type into the spreadsheet cells.  I just happened to want building ideas.  On my Flippity page, all the students need to do is choose the random icon, and they are given an idea for building.

Builder Challenges
Building Challenges on

I’ve found that it helps to have a bit of a focus for activities like this, as students sometimes find the challenge makes them even more creative, and they enjoy seeing how other students solve the same problem.

For more Makerspace articles, check out my Makerspace Essentials page!


Code Dread

Last week I gave a presentation called, “Code Dread,” at a tech conference.  I’m not sure who had more dread at the time – the attendees who hadn’t tried coding before, or me, the teacher who can only speak publicly in front of people 10 and younger.

My target audience was people who are interested in using coding in the classroom but have some reservations like:

  • I don’t know how to do this.
  • I don’t have time to learn how to do this.
  • I can’t fit this into my curriculum.

Here are my recommended solutions:

  • Pretend you’re pretending you don’t know how to do this because that’s what’s best for your students; it will make them better problem solvers.  This has the added benefit of being true. (Not the pretending part – the better problem solver part.)  If you don’t know how to do it, you won’t feel tempted to rescue them too quickly.
  • Learn along with your students.  You don’t have to spend time during the weekend learning it.  Just put it in your lesson plans and jump in.  It will be messy and chaotic, but learning will happen.  You’re modeling a growth mindset, and showing students that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.
  • Once students know the basics, there are all kinds of ways coding can be used as part of your everyday curriculum.  For example, Sphero provides lessons that connect to math.  With Scratch Jr. you can teach Kinders how to program while they learn their sight words. And I taught my 1st graders geography with Dash and Dot.

Here is the link to my presentation – though it may not make a whole lot of sense without my narration.

Hour of Code will be here soon (12-7 thru 12-13).  The site provides extremely user-friendly resources and tutorials.  They just announced their newest tutorial yesterday – Star Wars!  This is a great way to dip your toes into coding and find out that it really isn’t that intimidating.  Here is a simplified scope and sequence I offered to our faculty last year (with a few updates for 2015).

But don’t stop there!  Your students will love being able to code on a regular basis – especially when they are able to create games or art with their programming.  You can find many resources in my Code Dread presentation.  I also have a “Programming for Kids” Pinterest board.

So, jump on in.  Who cares if you don’t know what you’re doing?

I certainly don’t.  Know what I’m doing, I mean :)

Take a risk, and get rid of your

Code Dread


I attended an amazing professional development yesterday that was hosted by Trinity University.  In San Antonio, we have a company called VentureLab, which bills itself as “Entrepeneurship Education for Kids.”  Members from the company presented yesterday’s workshop, and led us through the steps of inventing and pitching products that solve problems.

In addition to the fact that the session was very hands-on and not a typical “sit and get” training, I found it to be extremely relevant to what many of us already teach our GT and Maker Club students.  In the past couple of years,  more and more “design thinking” has become embedded into the curriculum, as well as the importance of a growth mindset.  Both of these are key ingredients for teaching about entrepeneurship.

I am hoping to integrate what I learned into our Genius Hour projects this year which means, yes, I’ll be tweaking that part of my curriculum once again.  I’ll be using design thinking to better plan the design thinking part of my lessons.

Okay.  I think I might have just blown a few neurons up with that last thought.

Anyway, I want to thank  VentureLab for helping our group to develop an idea to help teachers that will one day make us so much money we won’t need the idea;)

I can’t show you the idea because you might steal it.  Yep. It’s that good.

This isn't our idea. It's from "The Invention of the Telephone" on Wikipedia.
This isn’t our idea. It’s from “The Invention of the Telephone” on Wikipedia.
This isn't our idea either, but I really like it. And it has a Creative Commons license for noncommercial use, generously shared by Sha3teely
This isn’t our idea either, but I really like it. And it has a Creative Commons license for noncommercial use, generously shared by Sha3teely.

If you’re in the San Antonio and Austin areas, you should definitely check out VentureLab for more information on their camps, field trips, and school visits.  They know how to make learning relevant and fun.

(P.S.  A big shout-out to April, a reader of this blog, who I met at the VentureLab workshop.  So glad to meet you!)

Kids Philosophy Slam 2016

The annual Kids Philosophy Slam has announced its new topic for 2016 – Imagination or Knowledge: Which has a Greater Impact on Society?

I’m determined to have my students enter this year, as I think that they will have a lot to say about this topic!  For more information about the rules for the Philosophy Slam, check out this page.

If you think your students are too young to think philosophically, read about how Joelle Trayers handles philosophy with her Kinder class!

Philosophy Slam

You Know You’ve Succeeded When…

  • You run into a student who transferred to another school, and she says, “I love it. But there’s no Mrs. Eichholz.”
  • A Kinder who rides the bus you monitor finally remembers your name after 9 weeks of school and says with a big smile, “I was up all night thinking about your name. I didn’t go to sleep until eleven!”
  • A student who isn’t even in your class runs to hug you every time she sees you  – because you once told her teacher how polite she was to hold the door open.
  • Two 2nd grade students who think they’ve finished a project but still have time left, decide to add more details instead of just sitting there.
  • “Wait – we’re adding more details, that was my goal for today!” “Mine, too! We both went above and beyond!!” And they high-five each other.
  • You fall out of your chair and say, “That darn long skirt keeps getting caught in the wheels, ” and one of your students quietly observes, “It’s not a very good growth mindset to blame something else for your mistakes, Mrs. Eichholz.”
  • You go to bed at eleven thinking about all of the students who will eventually find a way to use your own teaching against you.
  • And you’re glad.

Every Moment


Makerspace Essentials – Magnatiles

I’ve seen Magnatiles at toy stores and a few of the children’s museums I’ve visited.  From what I could tell, they seemed like a great manipulative for building.  So, I finally ordered some last year.

A week after I received my set, I happened to be helping out in a Kinder classroom, and realized with a bit of disappointment that Magnatiles seemed to be a standard supply for 5 and 6 year-olds.  I worried that my investment would be met with disdain by my older students.

Sure enough, when I pulled out the set, the first thing a student said was, “We used to play with those in Kindergarten!”

But it wasn’t said critically; instead the third grader sounded nostalgic and wistful for the times when building with Magnatiles was an acceptable part of the curriculum.

Since then, my gifted students and Maker Club students have awed me with some of their Magnatile creations.  Sometimes I set what seem to be impossible parameters, yet the students still find a way to make my jaw drop.

The challenge was to build "something funny" so this group designed an office building shaped like eyeglasses.
The challenge was to build “something funny” so this group designed an office building shaped like eyeglasses.
A 5th grade challenge: Adapt a hayride for another environment. This group made a “hay” sled for the North Pole – with living quarters.

Lesson learned by me – never think that toys that encourage imagination are too “young” for my students!

For more Makerspace Essentials, check out this post!

From Service Dog to SURFice Dog

Joelle Trayers’ blog is a frequent resource to which I often refer. She works with gifted Kinders, and shares fabulous lessons and student work examples that never cease to inspire me.

In her recent post, “Not Giving Up on Your Dreams,” Joelle recommends a book that I have just placed in my Amazon shopping cart.  (Read her post to see the title and her summary!)  As a tie-in to the book, Joelle recommended this video, which I had never seen.

Piggybacking on Joelle’s take-away from the book and the video, I would say that both remind me of one of my favorite Zen Pencils posters based on an Einstein quote:

poster by Zen Pencils
poster by Zen Pencils

Except in this case it would be a judging a dog by its ability to ignore the temptation of gloriously exciting birds.

Who could easily stay safe in trees, but apparently prefer to ramble around and tempt dogs.

I’m pretty sure a fish would not have that kind of audacity.

Anyway, have a Kleenex ready when you watch the video.  (And, if you’re one of those odd people, like me, who enjoys crying over inspirational videos, you can fly, swim, or surf over here for more.)