All posts by engagetheirminds

We are the Possible

A Brave And Startling Truth – Poem by Maya Angelou
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
Maya Angelou

Atomic

The Kuriositas blog recently featured, “Atomic,” a short video created by students at Columbus College of Art and Design.  The students were tasked with creating animations of some of the elements on the periodic table, and this video is a compilation of some of the best.  Learning about the elements and their symbols would have been vastly more entertaining when I was in high school if I had been given a similar assignment!  In fact, there are a few elements in the video that I would swear I never heard of (dysprosium?), but now I will never forget them.

Head on over to Kuriositas to view “Atomic” for yourself.  Also, if you want more fun with the elements, augment your reality with this activity from Daqri.

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the creators of “Atomic”

Google Expeditions

Like many people, the first time I experienced the Virtual Reality of Google Expeditions, I thought it was pretty cool.  Like many teachers, however, I wondered about the practicality of using it in my classroom.  Getting VR viewers, like Google Cardboard, doesn’t seem to be a big deal.  But getting devices that fit in them (in other words, smartphones) and also that work with our district network turns out to be a bit more of a challenge.  This is especially so for elementary school, where smartphones are not quite as ubiquitous has in many secondary schools.

I was so focused on solving the problem of getting devices that I didn’t realize that we could still use Expeditions in our class without the VR feature.  We have plenty of iPads in our class, and you can actually get some decent 360 degree footage without being immersed in the scene.  It’s not quite as awe-inspiring, but certainly more engaging than still photos in a textbook.

This Smore from Karly Moura has several great links for beginners in case you are planning to embark on a journey of your own.  My favorite link leads to a list of available Expeditions that has incredible details on each tour.  After searching the internet up and down for something like this, I am thankful to Jennifer Holland and Lauren Carroll for creating and updating the document, as well as Karly for sharing the link!

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image from Pixabay

 

Barclays Coding Playground

It’s been awhile since I stepped foot in my bank. With online resources and apps, I don’t even have to go there to deposit my checks.  But I didn’t realize banks had increased their lobby services to teaching kids how to code…

Okay, not all banks do this.  But Barclays, a bank in the UK, has made it a mission to “demystify” coding, and has even trained some of its staff (Barclays Digital Eagles) to provide tw0-hour coding sessions for ages 7-17 in branches across the UK.

Well, that’s great, you think to yourself, but I’m not in the UK.  No worries, Barclays has you covered, too.  Head on over to Barclays Coding Playground, and you too can practice the basics of coding.  Select any of the objects roaming around the screen and you will be directed to change some of its features using lines of code.  For example, see the giraffe below?  I know.  It doesn’t look like a giraffe.  That’s because I coded it to have a particularly short neck.  Because I could.  And because when I made the neck its maximum size the head went off my browser page which made the image a bit more difficult to capture…

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The Playground isn’t going to make your child into a coding rockstar, but it is fun and would probably entice anyone who hasn’t programmed before to take a few more steps toward learning more.

If you want more resources for coding, here is my Pinterest page.  Also, I will be doing a presentation at TCEA in Austin, Texas, called, “Code Dread,” for those of you who find all of this talk of teaching kids to code slightly disturbing because Barclays wasn’t kind enough to demystify it for you when you were a child 😉

 

Civil Rights

“We learned about a man who got killed today,” a kindergarten boy solemnly informed me Friday afternoon.  We were waiting in the cafeteria to board buses at dismissal time.  The day before, he had been all excited about his train book he had checked out from the library.  But now things had gotten serious.

I wasn’t sure how to respond.

“Martin Luther King,” the little girl next to him nodded.

“Oh,” I said, somewhat relieved.  I don’t know why that made it better – that it was a man who was killed years ago instead of hours ago.  Time shouldn’t make it less disturbing, should it?

“No one liked what he said, his speeches,” the boy went on, “so the police killed him.”

“Wait a second!” I said, as gently as I could, “The police did not kill him.  A bad man did.  And lots of people did like his speeches.”

“Okay,” the boy said.  He didn’t seem very concerned with the details.  But he patted me on the arm because he could see that I did care.

By then it was time to board the bus, so the conversation was over.

The day before, I had been talking about courage with my 5th graders.  They had to rank 5 pictures from lowest to highest on how much courage they felt was being demonstrated in each image.  There was disagreement about the ranking of a picture that showed a Selma protest march.  Before ranking, the students had set some criteria for courage, one of which was that the person chose to perform that action not knowing if the outcome would be harmful to him or her.

“I ranked it high because they were marching for their civil rights,” one student said.

“But they didn’t have a choice!” one student exclaimed.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“They weren’t getting treated right, so they had to march.  It wasn’t their choice, so it’s not courage!”

I tried to wrap my mind around this interesting logic and a few of us did our best to explain the situation – which the student admitted he didn’t know very much about.

“Well, and plus, they didn’t have to worry about being harmed because we have the right to protest, don’t we?”  he asked.

Wow, I thought.  This had obviously not been covered in his history class.

Ironically, our entire conversation had been brought about because we just finished reading The Giver, a book about a dystopian society where only one person holds all of the memories of the past – the good and the bad.  We had talked about the importance of keeping even horrible memories because we learn from them.  Yet here we were struggling to understand the importance of historical moments that are already starting to fade as newer generations tell the story with less and less detail.

I am worried.  Every time I read The Giver with a class, I try to get across the message that, even though it’s fictional, it is not entirely unrealistic.  People are willing to give up many freedoms to ensure safety – especially if they have no experience in having their rights taken away.  I don’t want to be an alarmist, and I don’t want to send my students to bed with nightmares about atrocities from the past (or even the present).  But I worry that we assume that rights that have been won can never be lost, and underestimate the incredible courage and strength it takes to capture and retain our tenuous freedom.

I’m sorry that I was relieved when I found out my student was talking about the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.  We should all be just as angry and horrified today as those who mourned when it happened.  We need to feel the pain of his death so acutely that we will not allow those circumstances to ever develop again.  I feel, especially in our country this week, that we are at an important crossroad and we desperately need the wisdom of the people who understand what it really means to live in, “The Land of the Free.”

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That Can Be My Next Tweet!

So, traditionally, Fridays are what I call Phun Phridays – when I blog about something that pretty much has no educational value.  But I’m tired of called them Phun Phridays.  So I used an online Scrabble dictionary to help me find something more realistically alliterative.  The new name is – drum roll, please!!!! – Frivolous Fridays!

For today’s Frivolous Friday Find, I am grateful to The Bloggess, whose site never fails to make me laugh but is definitely NSFW – particularly if the workplace happens to be a public elementary school.

Anyway, The Bloggess shared, “That Can Be My Next Tweet!” which gathers information from your Twitter feed to generate random tweets that could be complete nonsense or surprise you with startling depth.  The best ones are those that do both.  I included a few of the suggestions it compiled from my feed below:

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If you really have nothing better to do, you can also put in other people’s Twitter names. Like famous people.  You know.  Famous people who Tweet a lot.  Here’s a scientific study you could try: If someone always tweets nonsense, does the random tweet generator from their Twitter feed actually make sense?  I’ll let you figure that out…

Greg Tang Math Resources

Don’t tell anyone, but Greg Tang Math penetrated my incredible resistance to e-mail spam and persuaded me to visit the site out of curiosity.  I’m not really sure why the persistent e-mails that I kept trashing finally grabbed my attention, but I obviously wouldn’t be writing this post if they hadn’t eventually been successful.  (If you happen to be a spammer, please don’t think I am encouraging you to try the same strategy;  I can promise you that it was a one-time-thing…)

The good news is that I actually found some unique math materials on the site.  There are plenty of free resources that you can download, and even some interesting online math games.  For gifted students, the Kakooma and Expresso pages are great challenges. (There is also an online version of Kakooma on this page.) In addition, there are some printable math games on the resources page.

Of course, there are plenty of things you can purchase on the site.  Otherwise, what would be the purpose of the e-mail barrage?  But I think that you will agree that there is a generous dose of free materials, which makes some advertising bearable 🙂

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