Category Archives: Creative Thinking

Word Mandalas

I am such a geek.  Last night, I was researching mandalas for an upcoming lesson with my 4th graders.  I remembered that Richard Byrne had just published a post about a new online magazine creator, so I thought it might be fun to try it out and let my students collaborate on the magazine.  Then, I started looking for images to put on the magazine cover, and came across a mandala that used words instead of symbols.  There was no information on how it was created, so I did a search for word mandalas – and that is how I landed on Mandific. (I still haven’t discovered how the original word mandala picture I found was made, but that’s okay.)

Type a word into Mandific, and it will create a mandala for you using the letters of the word.  You can adjust the color, the spacing of the letters, and the design.  See if you can figure out my word in the mandala below.

mandalaword art
Word Mandala created with Mandific

H/T to GeekMom for sharing this tool on a blog post.

Then, I continued my search (I won’t tell you how long I spent on Mandific before remembering my actual mission.) I found MyOats.com.  Still not exactly what I was looking for, but it gave me another alternative for including words in a mandala.

74f72feb-63df-48c9-80fd-58e45ff914d6
Created with MyOats.com

As you can see, I didn’t spend a lot of time on that one because I had suddenly become obsessed with finding the perfect word mandala generators.

My next attempt was with using the word cloud generator, Tagul.

Word Cloud
Made with Tagul

I also tried Tagxedo, which will allow you to upload your own image to make into a word cloud. However, I had so many problems with it not loading correctly on three different browsers, that I finally moved on to some iPad apps.

WordFoto has always been a favorite of mine.  I uploaded a photograph of a mandala from the web, and then added some text. If you are not familiar with WordFoto, here is a post I wrote about the app.

Photo Mar 22, 7 21 43 PM
created with WordFoto app

My last word mandala attempt was created with the TypeDrawing app. I uploaded a mandala photo, and then traced the main lines with words and some of the symbols offered in the app. After completing my drawing, I changed the photo opacity setting so that only my drawing shows. I have to say that this was my favorite creation.

Photo Mar 22, 7 46 23 PM
created with TypeDrawing app

Photo Mar 22, 7 44 12 PM

I will keep you posted on what we use! If you have any other ideas for word mandalas (that don’t require expensive software like Photoshop), please let me know in the comments below.

Visualistan

Perhaps my interest in the infographics on “Common Mythconceptions” led me to Visualistan, which I bookmarked in my Pocket account awhile ago.  The specific infographic I thought might be useful for my students was, “How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build?

How Long Did Famous Structures Take to Build? #infographic

Having time during this Spring Break, though, I found some others that might be of interest in educational settings. For example, if your students are doing animal research, you might want them to take a look at, “Travelling Speeds of Animals,” or “Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom.”

Travelling Speeds of Animals #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Sleep Habits of the Animal Kingdom #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Another one that I find intriguing is, “Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World.

Cultural Differences in Teaching Around the World #infographic

Like “Common Mythconceptions,” I would not recommend the entire site of Visualistan for elementary students, but single infographics from the site could certainly be used at all levels.  There are many real-life math applications and engaging topics, from “Lego Bedrooms,” to the “Evolution of Video Games.”  You could create your own questions, have students create questions, and eventually allow students to create their own infographics!

Global Day of Design 2017

Mark your calendar for May 2, 2017, this year’s Global Day of Design.  This project, spearheaded by educators A.J. Juliani and John Spencer, encourages classrooms all around the globe to participate in innovative thinking and creating during one 24-hour period.  According to Juliani, over 40,000 students participated in last year’s Global Day of Design, an impressive number that we could surely double this year.

Ideally, every day should be one that includes innovation for our students.  However, the reality is far from this.  Hopefully, just as Hour of Code has promoted awareness of the need for more computer science education, the Global Day of Design will encourage more educators to integrate Design Thinking into the curriculum.

Juliani’s post gives a link to register for the Global Day of Design, as well as many resources.  The official website for the project also has a registration link and the bonus of at least 12 free design challenges with the promise of more to come.

In a related post, my colleague Sony Terborg recently wrote about the concept of “The Producer Mindset,” and also linked to the Global Day of Design.  Like Terborg, many forward-thinking educators agree that it is imperative that we move away from the factory-based system of education to instead provide students with opportunities to create and think for themselves.  Design Thinking is a great framework for educators to refer to when embarking on introducing innovation in the classroom, and I would recommend the Global Day of Design as just the beginning that will hopefully eventually lead to a new generation that is comfortable designing 365 days a year.

designthinking
image from: Dean Meyers on Flickr

Society for the Ethical Treatment of Leprechauns

A favorite project that seems to dwell in the memories of my gifted and talented students from year to year is the time they made Leprechaun Traps in Kindergarten.  It’s how I introduce our “Inventor Thinking” unit and ties in, of course, with St. Patrick’s Day.

As I introduced the project yesterday to my newest group of Kinder students, I was met with the usual enthusiasm. There was lots of excitement generated as they brainstormed ways to entice a leprechaun into their trap, and even more as they thought of ideas for ensnaring him.

And then one girl said,”What if I don’t want to trap the leprechaun?  What if I think that’s mean?”

For a moment I was speechless.  In all of my years of doing this project, none of my students have ever questioned if it was humane or not.

Interestingly, I am the person who carries spiders outdoors rather than smush them – and the person who grabbed a rat snake behind its head when it snuck into our house and flung it outside.  I yelled at my husband in the middle of the night when he grabbed a huge pair of hedge clippers to battle a rat that had snuck into the house.

The ethics of trapping leprechauns never once crossed my mind.

My friend over at Not Just Child’s Play, Joelle Trayers, provides examples like this one of ways to discuss ethics with Kindergarten students.  Yesterday was only my third meeting with my current Kinder class, so ethics had not entered into our class vocabulary yet.  However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity at this point.  After a slight pause, I said, “That’s a very good question.  What do the rest of you think?  Is it okay to trap the leprechauns or is it mean?”

Whether a coincidence or not, the issue was decided by gender.  The girls were firmly in defense of the leprechauns and the boys had no intention of being swayed from dreaming up diabolical ways to trap them.  (I have, several times, reminded the students we are “just pretending,” but that hasn’t deterred their strong feelings on the subject.)

The girls decided they are still making traps, but they are going to give the leprechauns a reward and an escape route instead of imprisoning them, especially since we will be gone for Spring Break.  The boys are more interested in how they can combine Legos with their cardboard boxes than they are about the fate of the leprechauns.

So, a word of warning to any leprechauns in the vicinity of our school in the upcoming weeks: Beware of complex Lego staircases that seem to lead to nowhere.  The boys outnumber the girls in my class, and I’m not really sure what they intend to do if you actually do fall into one of their clever contraptions.

Photo Mar 06, 8 58 47 AM

 

 

Begin at the End of the Rainbow

With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I have been doing a few leprechaun activities with my students.  One that my 1st graders enjoy is to use the “Substitute” tool from S.C.A.M.P.E.R. to imagine what they would like to find at the end of the rainbow instead of a pot of gold.  This year, one student drew a puppy that solves Rubix Cubes.  That was definitely “out of the pot” thinking!  My 2nd graders “Adapted” a classroom to leprechauns, and included posters that instructed the leprechaun students, “How to Talk to Humans.”

The hands-down favorite St. Patrick’s Day activity for my students has always been the Leprechaun Traps.  I usually do this with my Kindergartners.  The other day, my 2nd graders were recalling the excitement of making the traps and speculating that “probably Mrs. Eichholz was the one who left the notes – not a leprechaun.”  🙂  I’m looking forward to introducing my newest group of Kinders to the Design Process and STEM as they invent their own leprechaun traps.

Breakout Edu has a couple of Leprechaun games on their Seasonal page. (Remember that you need to register for free in order to get the password that opens the full set of instructions.)

Technology Rocks. Seriously. has a grand collection of leprechaun activities that include digital and paper links.

And, as if that is not enough, the MilkandCookies blog offers a free download of St. Patrick’s Day logic and sudoku puzzles here.

I wish everyone the Luck of the Irish this March, and I hope you discover your own pot of gold in the near future.  (If it’s a puppy who can solve Rubix Cubes, please send him to my house because I’ve never been able to complete one without cheating.)

rainbow
image from: echaroo on Flickr

Valentine Resources for the Young at Heart

I’m not actually a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, believe it or not.  If you search “Valentine” on this blog, though, you would suspect otherwise.  I’ve collected quite a few resources to use in class based on this holiday – mostly because my students seem to love it so much.  In fact, I’m pretty sure kids get a lot more of enjoyment out of it than adults!

In case you missed it, here was my 2016 Valentine blog post – which pretty much linked to everything I had curated so far.  Since then, I’ve added:

Some new ones that I’ve just discovered:

I imagine a few more will pop up in the next couple of weeks.  If so, I will be sure to share them with you!

UPDATE 2/13/17 – Here are a couple Valentine’s Day Breakout EDU activities!

heart
image from Pixabay

Virtual Valentines

I asked my 1st grade gifted students today to try to think from their parents’ perspectives of what they would like for Valentine’s Day besides food or flowers.  The first student said that her parents would want, “my sister and I to stop fighting,” which seemed like a pretty good response.  Then the next student said, “Yeah, my mom would want to rest in peace.” I think I know what he meant, but you can never be sure.  Then another student said, “Beer!” which brought up an interesting discussion as to whether or not that could count –  because “it’s a food!” as some of the students declared…

Sometimes my job just makes me smile 🙂

Anyway, this all started because we are studying different countries, and learning about the Depth and Complexity icon, “Multiple Perspectives.”  I signed our class up to participate in a Virtual Valentines project, and we will hopefully be exchanging Valentines with a class in another country.  It occurred to me that are probably very few countries that actually celebrate this holiday, but I did some research and found out that several places around the world either have Valentine’s Day traditions or other similar variations. (I’m still trying to figure out why “Love Spoons” haven’t caught on yet in the USA.)

I signed us up for Level 2 of the Virtual Valentines Project, which means that we will not only make virtual Valentines, but try to exchange them with another class.  If that is too much pressure, you can also choose Level 1, which just legally binds you to having your class create virtual Valentines.  Which I read to mean, “I am putting my name down, but my life is crazy and it’s quite possible that by ‘virtual’ Valentines I mean that my students will just create some in their imagination, so I refuse to commit myself to them doing anything that isn’t somehow tied in to standardized testing.”

The Virtual Valentines Project has a resource page, which gives suggestions for tools to use to create your digital cards.  I would add to this list the Quiver App’s free augmented reality Valentine’s Day page, which you can find here.

For more Valentine’s Day ideas, you can look at last year’s blog post.  I’ll probably update and re-blog it in the near future.

valentine