Category Archives: Education

Undercover Robots Camp 2017

Do you live in the San Antonio, TX area?  Do you have a child aged 7-11?  Then this is the camp for you!  I am offering an Undercover Robots Camp this June, 2017.  We will be using the fabulous Dash robots from Wonder Workshop.  (Robot purchase is not required, but bringing your own can result in a camp discount.)  Here is the link to the registration page.

You can see highlights from last year’s camp sessions here and here.  We will be doing the “Spy School” session again this year (with modifications for students who previously participated) as well as a brand new “Circus” edition during our second week.

For more information, click here.  It’s going to be great fun!!!

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Joey’s Mental Health Recovery

Three years ago, I decided to host an online class that would encourage students to “make things” over the summer.  It was called, “Design a Theme Park,” and I invited some famous makers to help judge the different categories each week.

Joey Hudy was one of those makers.  Well-known for the video of his appearance at the White House Science Fair with President Obama, Joey was an inspiration to many of my budding “makers-in-training.”  I invited him to be a guest judge of the student-designed theme park rides.  Joey’s mother kindly responded for the teenager that he would be happy to do it.  I wish I had kept copies of his mother’s comments, because I remember that she was excited about any program that promoted maker-education and/or STEM, and her supportive words were very motivational.

Joey had a difficult time choosing a winner from my students’ projects. The day before he announced his decision, he posted this, “I’m sitting here getting to judge your awesome projects. I don’t really like picking winners, you are all winners. You all did exactly what I want kids to do..
Don’t be bored…make something!
Ok..the winners are..drum roll.”

Joey’s mantra of, “Don’t be bored…make something!” has lived on in my classroom since then.  I have been following him on Twitter over the years, and often chant those same words to my own students – particularly right before they are about to leave school for long vacations.  The enthusiasm of Joey (and his mom) have directly and indirectly affected my teaching style and educational priorities ever since the first time I viewed his marshmallow cannon demonstration.

Today, I saw a Tweet that announced sad news about Joey.  He is now 20 years old, and was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia. In this “GoFundMe” post, Joey’s sister makes an impassioned plea for help with the staggering medical costs facing his family as they navigate the difficulties of identifying the appropriate treatment and care.

This post struck a chord with me for many reasons.  First of all, I benefited from the great kindness of Joey and his mother when they donated their time to my students as proponents of STEM and maker-education.

Secondly, I know, first-hand, the treacherous havoc that mental health issues can wreak on the sufferers and their families.  Over 15 years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD.  This was not a surprise to me, as other family members had received similar diagnoses or exhibited symptoms that were never treated.  Therefore, I have great sympathy and empathy for Joey and his family.

I write this post for two reasons: to ask you to consider donating to the Hudy family to help cover Joey’s enormous medical expenses, and to also ask you to consider what our country and/or world can do to educate people about how to better identify and aid the people who suffer from mental illness.

I wish the best to Joey, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Hudy family.  Thank you for all of the contributions you have made so far to “making” this world a better place.  It’s time for the world to help you now.  With so many people behind you, I guarantee you will continue to be a positive force on this planet for many years to come.

We are All Connected!

As I try to communicate to all of my students, K-5, the importance of understanding diversity and our global interdependencies, this video strikes me as one way to remind them that we must think beyond our immediate surroundings.  I originally found this video, “We are All Connected,” on KidWorldCitizen.org.  There is a page on human rights lessons for kids, which includes the video as well as many other resources.  I will be adding this video to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Students, where you can find many other motivational short films to use in your classroom.

we are all connected
image from: We are All Connected

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!

Common Mythconceptions

Did you know the Great Wall of China is not visible from space, you can’t kill someone by dropping a penny from the Leaning Tower of Pisa (or any other building), and bananas don’t grow on trees?  These are some of the “Common Mythconceptions” you can find on Information is Beautiful.  The visualizations on this page are just a snippet of what you can get in the infographic book titled, Knowledge is Beautiful, but they are fascinating to read.  There are different colors to represent various topics, such as science and sports, and the size of the circular icon for each fact denotes the “virulence of the idea.”

You might not want to set younger student loose on this site, as it does include some sensitive topics.  As an elementary teacher I would use it as a resource for some google search challenges to give my students.  It would be fun to develop a “how certain are you” quiz a-la Russel Tarr with some of the information on the site.

In a world where tsunamis of information overwhelm us every time we turn around, one of the best things we can do for our students is to help them learn how to distinguish the facts from the “mythconceptions.”

The_Leaning_Tower_of_Pisa_SB
image from: Wikipedia

Some Rational Ways to Celebrate an Irrational Number

Pi Day (3/14) always falls during our district’s Spring Break, so I try to celebrate it with my students the week before, if possible.  After looking back at my Pi Day posts from past years, I see that I can add a few updates, so here are some of the ways we honored it in my classroom this year:

Some other resources you may want to try that I haven’t mentioned before are:

The number of ways to celebrate the number seem to be almost as infinite as the number itself!

piday
image from: Amit Patel on Flickr

Never Have I Ever

Never have I ever…

Thought of using this game in a professional setting with colleagues (including our school’s principal).

I’m not going to elaborate on the usual context of, “Never Have I Ever.”  Suffice it to say that when my friend, Angelique Lackey (@lackeyangie), suggested we play it during our next Professional Learning Community discussion, I had a difficult time fitting my head around including this activity into what I have always defined as a “meeting.”

Angelique’s re-mix of the game did involve red Solo cups – but they contained gummy bears.  Her directions were simple: we would each share a personal professional development goal that we haven’t achieved yet, and anyone who had already accomplished it would eat a gummy bear.

I’m not sure if it was the presence of gummy bears or the absence of other refreshments that made this Never Have I Ever game experience more productive than my past ones.

By playing the game, a few of us vocalized goals that we had never shared with our colleagues.  For me, this made my own goals more resolute.  It also helped me to learn more about the other staff members.  In addition, I ended up adding some of their ideas to my ever-growing list of goals.

Another interesting by-product of this activity was discovering people who were eager to help us to achieve our goals.  For example, I mentioned that I had never taught a college class.  My principal instantly invited me to substitute for him one evening teaching undergrads.  And, just like that, a goal that has percolated in my head for more than a few years, is on the road to being accomplished.

To recreate the “Never Have I Ever” Professional Goal-Setting Experience™, I would recommend that you do it in a small group of no more than 8 people who have already developed relationships that support taking risks.  Prepare the group in advance so they can think about what they want to share.

And don’t forget the gummy bears.*

*According to Mrs. Lackey, the gummy bears should be organic.  If there is accidental (or intentional) ingestion of artificially colored gummy bears during this activity, we cannot be held responsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.

**Regardless of gummy bear ingestion, we cannot be held responsible for any inappropriate behavior that occurs as a direct or indirect result of playing the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.

***We haven’t really trademarked the Never Have I Ever Professional Goal-Setting Experience™.  I just figured out how to access special characters in my blog and thought it would be fun to add the ™.

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I searched for “gummy bear meeting” and this is what I got.  Thanks, Pixabay.