Category Archives: K-12

5 Educational Mother’s Day Activities

I know that the readers of this blog live in many countries, so I try to write posts that might be applicable no matter where you are.  I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to learn that many nations celebrate Mother’s Day in May, as does the United States. Here are some lesson ideas to consider that will simultaneously honor mothers as students learn something new.

  • GT Frames for Mothers (original idea from @jtrayers)
  • She Wears Many Hats (advanced students can use multiple meanings and think metaphorically)
  • Mother’s Day Trip (I am considering doing this with my 1st graders, who just researched different countries.  It would be funny to make the video sound like the mom just won a roundtrip vacation to the country on a game show or in a sweepstakes!)
  • Mother’s Day Shopping Spree  – Speaking of winning things, a fun math/writing lesson could be to have students “shop” for their mothers online with a budget. They would have to make sure they stay within budget as well as justify each gift they would purchase.  I would use one store site (such as that offers many types of items, or curate some ahead of time for younger students.  Mothers may enjoy seeing what their children would buy for them if money were no (or, almost no) object!
  • Paper Circuit Greeting Cards (more examples here)
My mom wears a “magician hat for when she magicly gets websites working again after I acedentely hit a button.” image from “She Wears Many Hats


“Let’s write some goals.”

Collective groan.

By 10 years old, my students are tired of making goals.  I don’t blame them.  After more than four decades of writing goals, I’ve grown a bit weary of them myself.  It’s not that I don’t have goals.  It’s just that I’m an “Achiever,” (according to one of the many personality assessments I’ve done over the years) and my life is pretty much an infinite list of goals because I get depressed when I’m not working on accomplishing something.  So, writing goals down seems a waste of time – time that could be spent on trying to achieve some goals.

When it comes to having students write goals, I feel like we are just going through the motions.  They write something they think I want them to write, sometimes even make a “plan,” and then pretty much go on living their life the same exact way they were living it before.

I will be the first to admit that it’s my fault that goal-setting never seems to go far with my students.  I usually start out well, checking in with them regularly, and then life seems to happen and goal-checking just doesn’t seem to lead the list of priorities.

So, I’m going to make it a goal to be better at helping students make (and achieve) goals.

It’s possible goal-making has never seemed very genuine to me because I’ve been skipping an important step with my students.  Instead of doing WOOP, we’ve been doing WOP, and that extra “O” apparently makes a big difference.

WOOP, according to Gabriele Oettingen, stands for, “Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.”  The problem many people make in setting goals, by Oettingen’s reckoning, is ignoring the potential obstacles.  We are usually good at figuring out what we want to accomplish, how it would feel, and how to get there, but we tend to omit any consideration of the very real problems that we may encounter on the way.

Just to digress a little, I know that WOP can have negative connotations, but it was actually the nickname of one of my husband’s uncles.  It took me a few years after meeting Uncle Wop to find out how he got his nickname.  It turns out that he was running to go outside when he was a kid and ran into a glass door.  Wop.

And that’s kind of what we do when we skip the Obstacle part of WOOP.  We know we want to get somewhere and have a quick plan to get there, but we don’t think about what might stand in our way and how to deal with it or avoid it.  We hit the glass door.

And we WOP instead of WOOP.

And if we are really unlucky, we get labeled with an unfortunate nickname that lasts for another seventy years.

If you’d like to read more about WOOP and see an example of each step, check out this article on Mindshift.


You Are More than a Number

As we begin our spring testing season in Texas, I would like to share a video that our principal, Dr. Cody Miller, posted on our school’s Facebook page this weekend.   At our elementary school, and across our state, students in 4th and 5th grades and many other grade levels will be taking STAAR tests this week.   Educational decisions will be made based on the results of these tests.  Sometimes, in our zeal to prepare our students for these assessments, we inadvertently send the message that we value high academic performance above all else.  In Dr. Miller’s video, he reassures our students that educators and families are aware that standardized test scores only communicate a small fraction of the abilities of each person.  We honor kindness, creativity, leadership, and so many other strengths our students exhibit each day.  Their art work, music, athletic feats, selflessness, collaborations, and innovations cannot be condensed into numbers or plotted on graphs.

Assuming we know a child based on a test score, or even a series of scores, would be like judging the health of our planet by measuring the height of a blade of grass.  Although these measurements give us some information, they definitely do not sum up the whole.  This may seem obvious to most adults, but some of our students may need the comfort of this reminder.

image from woodleywonderworks on Flickr

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  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


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.

image from: Dean Meyers on Flickr