The Curiosity Workshop is a website founded by Mia Nicklin, who began to write daily “curiosities” for her son when she observed that his school experiences did not seem to be stimulating his interest in learning. Among the staff and contributors, The Curiosity Workshop also has a teacher advisory board and a student one that includes children between 8 and 12 years old.
Somewhat of an online magazine for children, The Curiosity Workshop is certain to motivate readers to learn more with its amazing pictures and kid “bite-sized” information . It does not yet have the substantive number of resources that you can find on sites like Wonderopolis, but it does have an interesting “hook.” With parent permission, students can register for the “Read for Good” program, which allows participants to collect online “stamps” as they correctly answer questions about each of the posts. With a mere 50 stamps, they can choose a charity to which to donate, such as saving elephants or providing soccer balls to impoverished communities.
This site has a lot of potential, and I hope that it will expand over time. In the meantime, share it with students and parents if you are interested in nourishing curiosity and the world at the same time.
Google has just released a new, free curriculum designed to teach digital citizenship and online safety. The program, called, “Be Internet Awesome,” consists of 5 parts:
Share with Care – Be internet smart
Don’t fall for Fake – Be internet alert
Secure Your Secrets – Be internet strong
It’s Cool to Be Kind – Be internet kind
When in Doubt, Talk it Out – Be internet brave
The curriculum is downloadable, and is aligned with ISTE standards. There is also a video game for kids to play that supports the lessons.
I haven’t had the chance to explore all of the resources, but it is becoming more and more urgent that our students receive education in this area at an early age. The internet and social media are parts of our culture that are not going to go away, and it is our job to prepare our students to use these tools safely and effectively.
First of all, I should tell you that I firmly believe that children should have “unstructured” time to play. This is when creativity bursts onto the scene, right at the brink of boredom. However, I also think children should get the opportunity to learn more about things that interest them, and camps can fulfill this need. Camps of all kinds are often offered during school breaks, from horseback riding to surfing. But some can be expensive or inconveniently far. So, here are some free, online camps designed for kids that you may want to try instead.
Camp Wonderopolis 2017 – Wonderopolis, the fabulous resource that provides kid-friendly answers to all kinds of questions, offers an annual online summer camp. This year’s theme is, “Build Your Own Wonderocity!” and it begins on June 12, 2017. You can register for the camp here.
Camp GoNoodle – When you create a free account with GoNoodle, you can access their free camp during the month of July, which will offer 5 new adventures every Monday of that month. Get more information here.
Summer Math Challenge – Register for this free service to get weekly e-mails from 6/19/17 – 7/28/17 that will give parents ideas for math activities to maintain or improve skills over the summer based on grade level standards. Find out more here
Leland Melvin is a former football player. He also happens to be a retired astronaut. (The two careers happened in that order.) Steamography has joined with Leland Melvin to create a site that tells his story as the first in what they plan to be a series of “ographies” about people who have lived STEAM-driven lives. You can learn more about Steamography’s mission here.
I can’t think of anything that might be more interesting to children than a football player turned astronaut – except a football player turned astronaut who loves dogs. Fortunately, Leland Melvin fits that description, as you can see from the cover of his recently published book, Chasing Space. (There is also a Young Reader’s Edition of this book.)
On Steamography’s Leland Melvin page, your students will be greeted with fun comic-like graphics, short videos from Melvin on such topics as, “What it’s like to spend Thanksgiving in space,” and eight STEAM activities.
If this site is an indication of the future Steamographies that will be featured, then I am looking forward to this being an incredible resources for my students to inspire and motivate them to learn more about STEAM careers.
The Guru of Everything Google, Alice Keeler, partnered with Matt Miller to publish the DriveSlides Chrome Extension, which is available for free on the Chrome Web Store here.
Near the end of the school year, many teachers like to make slideshows of pictures from throughout the year. With DriveSlides, Keller and Miller have given us a tool that will make this process much faster if you want to use Google Slides. Once you install the DriveSlides extension, open the folder in Google Drive that contains all of the pictures you want to put in your presentation. Click on the extension icon in your toolbar, and watch the magic happen. (You will need to allow permissions the first time you use the extension.) After a slight pause, a new window will open and automatically create a Google Slideshow with all of the pictures in that folder.
My whole family gathered around as I made this quick demonstration with pictures of our family bulldog, taking mental notes so they could use the extension too. (I added the background after the pictures were all imported, using suggestions from the Google Explore Tool.)
Google Sites are blocked for our elementary students, so I show my 5th graders the Weebly for Education site if they are interested in designing their own websites. Sometimes students create them for Genius Hour projects. This year, my students were so excited about the manifestos they created in Canva that I suggested they use the images as launching points for websites that reinforced their core beliefs.
Students seem to understand the Weebly tools very quickly. In fact, as soon as they see all that they can do, they want to do it all – add images, video, quotes, links, etc… Many of them immediately went home the first day to add to their sites and are super proud to present them.
For this particular project, I asked the students to include their manifestos, along with a page that describes their “Dream Team” – famous people who lived lives that modeled the beliefs in their manifestos. (They used Academy of Achievement’s “Role Model” tool to help them discover potential Dream Team members.) They could also include inspirational quotes and videos.
Weebly for Education is different from the main Weebly site because the education version allows teachers to have a dashboard of students for free. However, from what I have been able to see, there is no way to view a student’s website through the dashboard until he or she publishes it. This is a little inconvenient as they are editing, but the benefit of all of the other free features far outweighs this issue.
You can see a screen shot from one of my student’s websites below, and click on the link to visit his site.
One of the things I wanted to try this year was to ask my students to do hexagonal thinking as they reflected over what they had learned. Since my 4th graders had already done some hexagonal thinking this year, I thought they might like to experiment with this activity.
First, they visited our class blog where I have been posting pictures from throughout the year. I showed them how to filter the categories to find all of the blog posts from their class. Then they chose pictures that were meaningful to them and saved them to their home drives.
After choosing 4-5 pictures, the students signed in to my account on Canva, and created their own blank “A4” projects. Once the project opened, they were directed to use the search window to find a hexagon frame. In Canva, frames have a cloud and blue sky in them.
What I like about frames is that you can drag pictures into them, and they will take the shape of the frame without overlapping.
After the students added a hexagon frame, they resized it and copied it so several could fit on one page. Once their frames were arranged, they uploaded their pictures and set them in the frames. Then they used text designs to explain the connections between pictures that shared sides.
You can see a couple of examples below. They would probably make more sense if you had been in my class this year, but this gives you the general idea.
This went better than my last visual hexagon activity, but I think I will improve it next year by giving a few more guidelines for the “connector” texts so the students will try to find unique parallels that aren’t readily apparent.