One of the challenges I have with students when we are doing Design Thinking is to teach them to embrace constraints. Sometimes I will get feedback from them at the end of projects that “we should be able to do whatever we want,” despite my explanation that my experience has shown that complete freedom can often be too overwhelming – and sometimes not very safe. So, I’ve been watching the slow emergence of innovative ideas coming out of our current pandemic situation with some delight at the creativity being revealed as people try to design around social distancing.
These are all basically ideas using, at the very least, the “Adapt” step of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., as people attempt to find ways to stay healthy while still leaving their homes. After you show them a few of the linked images, students might enjoy designing their own social distancing hacks for school, shopping, the beach, etc… I’d love to see their ideas!
One of my favorite math activities to do with students is called, “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” This was an idea that seems to have originated with @MaryBourassa, who created a website for this. I described the concept and offered some links in this post from 2016. Recently, I saw a Tweet from @Simon_Gregg offering an entire album of over 200 WODB images for educators to use for stimulating math discussions.
Each picture set has 4 different images. Project the images to your students, and ask them which one doesn’t belong – and why? Hopefully, you will receive many different answers, and they will all be right for various reasons. Because these are so open-ended, they can be used with different levels of complexity from number sense to geometric reasoning. Encourage students to use mathematical vocabulary as they defend their choices, perhaps even making it a game where points are awarded for including particular words. Challenge the students to try to find a reason for each one of the four to be excluded from the group, not just the first one they notice. The “See, Think, Wonder” Thinking Routine would go very well with this activity. (For more on Project Zero Thinking Routines, see this post.) A formative or summative assessment option would be to ask students to create their own WODB challenges.
WODB is one of the 15 Math Sites That Won’t Make You Fall Asleep that I’ve listed on this post. I highly recommend checking out those links if you feel like you want to add a bit more zip to your math lessons – or just enjoy doing unusual math puzzles. (I’m addicted to the SolveMe Mobiles!)
Two Bit Circus is a foundation that describes its mission as follows: “We serve children in all economic situations by creating learning experiences to: inspire entrepreneurship, encourage young inventors, and instill environmental stewardship.” The organization has aimed to achieve these goals through activities such as summer camps, STEAM Carnivals, and workshops. Although many of these programs have had to come to a screaming stop during the last few months due to the pandemic, Two Bit Circus has not faltered in its delivery of quality content. Instead, it has shifted to offering streaming classes during the week on topics that range from creating music to building balloon racers. You can find the archive, already full of informational project videos they have streamed since March, here. Note that Caine Monroy (yes – the charming young man from Caine’s Arcade) makes a special appearance in some of them. He is a member of the foundation’s Junior Advisory Board. In fact, according to the streaming schedule on the home page, Caine will be hosting another live session this Thursday, May 21st.
It’s clear that Two Bit Circus is making a strong effort to offer distance learning projects that are fun, educational, and mostly reliant on household supplies. Some other resources you will currently find on their website home page are their STEAM Carnival Playbooks (currently free downloads thanks to Vans), a Bricks Playbook for Parents, and “Power Lab,” a “Print-At-Home Escape/Story Room Experience.” In addition, parents who are suddenly finding themselves to be educators may learn some helpful advice from the “Teachers for Teachers” series that you can find here.
While the official school year may be winding down for some, the unpredictability of the next few months will probably still leave some gaps in children’s schedules. With these resources from Two Bit Circus you can make that time fly!
Darrell Wakelam (@DarrellWakelam) is an artist who shares his considerable talent by doing workshops with children at schools and museums. During the quarantine I have noticed Wakelam’s tweeting free #ArtJumpStart activities, and I asked him for permission to write about them on this blog. I had no idea that he had so many available on his website!
Each #ArtJumpStart consists of a pair of pictures. The first one shows his completed project, and the second one gives instructions. As you can see, the materials should be fairly easy to find in most households, making these works of art ideal projects for students staying at home. The hope is that these will inspire students to create and innovate no matter where they are.
You can download the full gallery of #ArtJumpStart projects here for free. Also, be sure to check out Wakelam’s photos of his art on this page of his website.
As always, I would love to hear any comments or recommendations for topics of future posts. I am currently working on the rough draft for next month, which is about integrating S.T.E.A.M. into distance learning, and I welcome any ideas you think should be included!
Dave Eggers, award-winning author, founder of McSweeney’s, and co-founder of 826 National, recently invited students in grades K-5 to participate in The Young Editors Project. This is a great example of how students can get involved with authentic learning. Teachers can e-mail the person noted in Eggers’ article to be paired up with a real manuscript that is in progress and matched to their age group. Students can then give comments and suggestions for improvement. Once the manuscripts go to final print, the children who gave feedback will have their names mentioned in the book. This is an opportunity for students to learn about revision, the value of soliciting different perspectives about your work, and what a book looks like before it gets placed on the shelves. Making the editing process relevant and real-world will have a huge impact on your students. Click on the above link to learn more about this unique project!
Aaron Maurer (@aaronmaureredu), a STEAM educator who blogs at Coffee for the Brain, is hosting a month of Lego challenges during May, 2020. Each week is a different theme, and each weekday he posts a new challenge for that week’s theme. Before beginning the challenge, participants are asked to select 100 pieces from their Lego collection and post a picture of those pieces.
You can view the instructions from Maurer in the video below, as well as on this page (which includes a link to a form).
For the week of May 4th (this week, can you believe it?!!!), the theme is, “Movie Genre.” Each day is a different genre, with the first day being science fiction (of course!). You can see the builds for Week 1 that have been assigned so far on this page. Clicking on each build card will take you to the page with guidelines and pictures of builds that have been submitted so far.
Maurer already did a different Lego challenge last month, and used feedback he garnered from those participants to create this month’s lineup. Based on that input, he is also doing some livestreaming this month, so be sure to click on that button at the top of the website if you are interested.
I think this idea is really going to blow up, as Maurer had hundreds of participants from all over the world for the last challenge. (You can see the map when you scroll down on the Home Page.) If you’ve got kids who love anything Lego-related, this is their opportunity to be inspired and get creative!