Category Archives: 5-8

The Passion Project

from "The Future Project Playbook"
from “The Future Project Playbook”

Sometimes I start reading a blog post and my jaw drops. I am constantly amazed by the work of educators around the globe, and Sonya Terborg is one person I deeply admire.  From her blog, I learned about The Passion Project, and I am absolutely convinced that I must somehow find a way to include this in my plans for my gifted fifth graders.

There is too much involved for me to eloquently explain The Passion Project.  Here is one sentence from the “About” page of their site, “Our goal was to give our students the opportunity to explore their passions in a meaningful way, with freedom to explore and the chance to use this time to connect to themselves as learners and as members of a community.”

On her recent post, “Gearing up for Passion!”, Sonya shared a link to a wonderful “playbook” from The Future Project, another website that has similar goals.  This 60 page free download has many thought-provoking exercises.  The image above is one excerpt.  I can’t wait to use this with my students.

I am also “passionate” about the idea of having my students create a video like the one below, “Dear World…Our messages to the world!”  You must watch this!


Museum of Mathematics

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 4.56.59 PM

I am so jealous of New York City.  They just acquired one more museum, and I’m pretty sure it would be a great destination for a field trip.  The Museum of Mathematics opened in December of 2012.  In this article by Bob Minzesheimer of USA TODAY, it is described as ‘”a kind of playground” and a “work of theater” that plays with geometry, art and algorithms,” according to Tim Nissen, its designer and architect.  Why do we need a Museum of Mathematics in this world?  You can check out this video on USA TODAY’s site in which the director gives 5 reasons for this $15 million project.  If you are like me, and do not live close enough to visit, you can at least enjoy some of the hands-on activities provided on its website.

Reading about this museum inspired me to challenge my 4th grade Gifted and Talented students, who have been studying mathematical masterpieces, to design their own math museums.  They gleefully took on this project, and I am enjoying some of their ideas.  Below you can see a couple of examples of what they have done so far.  They are still in the beginning stages, so try not to judge their spelling!

(You will note the mention of “Vi Hart” in both of the examples.  My students are very impressed with her videos.  I realized, today, that I haven’t posted about them on this blog, so I will probably do a post about them tomorrow.)

map2 museum



image credit:

I first learned about the web game, “Refraction“, from Julie Greller’s post on “A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet”.  Since my 5th grade daughter happens to be knee-deep in fractions right now, I was intrigued by Julie’s description of the game, which involves guiding lasers to power spaceships.  I followed her link to the game to check it out for myself.

Big mistake.

I really didn’t need another internet addiction, but “Refraction” has all of the elements that make it worthy of adding to your Favorites list.  First of all, your mission is to help the poor, lonely spaceships of animals drifting along with no fuel.  So, that should appeal to everyone’s heroic inclinations.  Secondly, the game slowly introduces challenges that keep it from becoming boring, but also make you do some mental gymnastics.  More and more spaceships need fuel, and some need a quarter of your laser beam or a third or a half.  Math and logic are definitely necessary skills in order to succeed in this game!


Peter Reynolds, author and illustrator of The Dot, as well as many other books, is the mind behind SuperThinkers.  This website, designed for students in upper elementary and middle school, includes, games and activities that encourage: reading for meaning, logic, and reasoning skills.  According to the site, it “offers activities that require that students THINK before they click. Do not be surprised if some students find this site “too hard.” An important lesson in authentic learning is that it IS a challenge to think.”

The featured game on SuperThinkers is The Peetnik Mysteries, and I think students will enjoy making deductions based on the clues that are given.  The site also includes:  a creativity workshop, posters, and parent and educator pages.  In addition, there is a section on getting involved by helping others with your SuperThinker powers.

Bright Ideas for Summer

Read, Write, Think has a page of recommended summer activities that would be good to share with parents.  “Bright Ideas for Summer” includes links to four activities that could be used with students in 2nd-8th grades.  I’m already planning to use “Can You Convince Me?” with my 9 year old daughter!  All of the activities have recommended links, resources, and plans for implementing.  Bookmark this site for something different to do on a hot summer day!

Pink Bat

Pink Bat, by Michael McMillan, is an inspirational book that I just shared with my 5th graders.  The book is “about turning problems into solutions”.  In a charming story about a plastic red baseball bat that fades with time, the author teaches about the importance of trying to look at problems through a different lens.  Included with the book is a DVD of the author explaining his message.  You can also find that video here.  We were able to connect the story to another video that was recently brought to my attention through e-mail.  Ask your students to brainstorm their own “pink bats”, and share a few of yours!

Math Apprentice

Math Apprentice is designed for students in grades 4-7.  According the producers of this site, “the goals of this project are to connect math with real world careers, introduce students to more advanced mathematical ideas, and provide additional opportunities to apply math concepts they have already learned.”  If you have a student who asks you, “How will I use this in the real world?”, you will probably want to give him or her this link.  The activities will definitely appeal to tweens, and there is a great guide for teachers to facilitate using this in the classroom.