Dave Eggers, award-winning author, founder of McSweeney’s, and co-founder of 826 National, recently invited students in grades K-5 to participate in The Young Editors Project. This is a great example of how students can get involved with authentic learning. Teachers can e-mail the person noted in Eggers’ article to be paired up with a real manuscript that is in progress and matched to their age group. Students can then give comments and suggestions for improvement. Once the manuscripts go to final print, the children who gave feedback will have their names mentioned in the book. This is an opportunity for students to learn about revision, the value of soliciting different perspectives about your work, and what a book looks like before it gets placed on the shelves. Making the editing process relevant and real-world will have a huge impact on your students. Click on the above link to learn more about this unique project!
Aaron Maurer (@aaronmaureredu), a STEAM educator who blogs at Coffee for the Brain, is hosting a month of Lego challenges during May, 2020. Each week is a different theme, and each weekday he posts a new challenge for that week’s theme. Before beginning the challenge, participants are asked to select 100 pieces from their Lego collection and post a picture of those pieces.
You can view the instructions from Maurer in the video below, as well as on this page (which includes a link to a form).
For the week of May 4th (this week, can you believe it?!!!), the theme is, “Movie Genre.” Each day is a different genre, with the first day being science fiction (of course!). You can see the builds for Week 1 that have been assigned so far on this page. Clicking on each build card will take you to the page with guidelines and pictures of builds that have been submitted so far.
Maurer already did a different Lego challenge last month, and used feedback he garnered from those participants to create this month’s lineup. Based on that input, he is also doing some livestreaming this month, so be sure to click on that button at the top of the website if you are interested.
I think this idea is really going to blow up, as Maurer had hundreds of participants from all over the world for the last challenge. (You can see the map when you scroll down on the Home Page.) If you’ve got kids who love anything Lego-related, this is their opportunity to be inspired and get creative!
Cat in the Hat Builds That is a mobile app that is based on the PBS series, “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That.” With a target audience of younger children (Pre-K and up), this free app (available on Android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire devices) is an entertaining introduction to STEM principles, such as the engineering design process, problem-solving, inquiry, and creativity. By solving different puzzles and demonstrating skills such as perseverance, players can unlock more features in the game – opening up more opportunities to explore and create. They can decorate the tree house that serves as the home base in the app as they collect new objects during their adventures.
For those parents and educators concerned about too much screen time, Cat in the Hat Builds That also gives suggestions for STEM activities that can be done at home with parental supervision. In addition, there is a section for “Grownups” within the app that summarizes the games included, and the STEM concepts being taught within each one.
Although children could certainly play this game independently, I would recommend some parental involvement in order to maximize the learning. Recognizing and verbalizing the vocabulary and concepts will help students to develop habits of thinking that they can apply outside of the game for a long time to come.
The Creativity Project is a book edited by Colby Sharp, a 5th grade teacher in Michigan who is one of the co-founders of “The Nerdy Book Club Blog.” For this book, Sharp reached out to forty-four authors and illustrators of children’s books to ask them to send him two creative prompts. After receiving these, he mixed them up and mailed two of the prompts to each contributor, who could then select one to which they would respond. The chosen prompts and results are collected in this book, along with the forty-four unused prompts.
As you read the book, you will be astounded by the imaginative collection of short stories, comics, poems, and illustrations that the creators chose for inspiration, as well as the responses they whimsically crafted. You may feel like you are immersed in an exposition of improvisation that appears on the pages instead of the screen.
I wanted to list some of the authors and illustrators who participated, but then I felt like I would be granting those names more importance than the ones omitted. For the full list, you can look at this page on Sharp’s website.
If you know someone who struggles with choosing writing topics, this book is a great gift to give or share!
This is another example of one of the great internet wormholes that I fall into when I read Twitter. I was fascinated by a Tweet from Nick Sousanis (@nsousanis), which led me to an amazing book so I could interpret his Tweet, which led me back to the work of his students and a bazillion ways remote learners around the world could have fun with his assignment or other permutations of it.
Let’s start with the book. Dear Data began as a pen pal project between two information designers on different continents. As they explain on their website, “Each week, and for a year, we collected and measured a particular type of data about our lives, used this data to make a drawing on a postcard-sized sheet of paper, and then dropped the postcard in an English ‘postbox’ (Stefanie) or an American ‘mailbox’ (Giorgia)!”
Each postcard consists of their data and the explanation of its depiction. The women chose all sorts of topics to record, such as a week of laughter or a week of complaints. Though they would be collecting data for the same topic during that particular week, their pictograms would be dramatically different.
They learned a lot from this year-long project, which resulted in a book, a postcard kit, and a journal. As Giorgia and Stefanie explain in this video, “We learned to pay attention, to live in the present much more, to be more aware of our surroundings, and empower behaviors with new lenses.
So, back to Nick Sousanis, who Tweeted that his visual communications students had come up with their own “Dear Data” projects, and gave examples of some of the results in his Tweet. I asked Nick if I could share these on this blog and he graciously agreed. (You can click on each picture to enlarge.)
I see all kinds of potential for this with students. For example, one of the Depth and Complexity icons is “Trends,” and it would be interesting to ask students to analyze one of these postcards, and determine what trends they see. Using, “See, Think, Wonder” would be a great start. In addition, as Nick found with his class, assigning students to develop their own data sets can invite self-reflection and creativity.
During these unique times, when data has become a fixation for much of the world, students can also examine its importance and reliability. As the women who completed this ambitious project say in their video, “Finally we both realize that data is the beginning of the story, not the end, and should be seen as a starting point for questioning and understanding the world around us instead of seeing it as the definitive answer to all of our questions.”
Are you looking for a fun math game to play with your kids or students at home? “Clear the Board” might be just the ticket. Mark Esch (@mtesch) recently tweeted out the link to his humorous video that explains how to play “Clear the Board.” It is surprisingly simple with few materials needed – and lots of fun potential.
Teachers who are currently trying to get your students engaged in math remotely could try this in several ways: during a synchronous class meeting, assigned with the video to play at home and directions for demonstrating what they’ve achieved with their own combination of numbers, or something like the fun idea below from Mrs. Bogar:
You guys I am OBSESSED!! Here is a sneak peek of a little project I’m working on!! #SocialDistancing #distancelearning #DontRushChallenge #YesWeCan @montclair_elem @Parks_AS @Edukatemm pic.twitter.com/4RPtL2tirx
— Mrs. Bogar (@mrs_bogar) April 25, 2020
“Clear the Board” is one of those activities that is easy to differentiate, as Mark Esch explains in “Clear the Board Part 2,” offering extensions to keep students challenged. (Can you figure out which famous SNL skit he and his partner are parodying in this one?)
Mark also tweeted some other suggestions:
Get stuck? Reroll. Roll a 4th dice! 1-10 too easy? Try 11-20 or 1-100, every time u get stuck roll in another dice! Use fractions! Factorials. Exponents! Limits and rules adaptable for all!
— Mark T Esch (@mtesch) April 28, 2020
For an activity that is similar to this, check out “Bowl-a-Fact” from YouCubed.
Patrick Benfield (@McLemoreAve), who is the Innovation Director at the Magellan International School in Austin, has created a website called, “i.Make@Home.” The website includes several “Maker Playbooks.”Each playbook has several projects that can be done at home to encourage creativity and innovative thinking. Examples (including some videos) and directions are provided. Many of the projects require basic materials that can usually be found at home, such as cardboard and scissors, or even out in nature, but there are some that call for hand-tools and/or adult supervision.
Currently, there are five Maker Playbooks available on the site, beginning with one from March 30, 2020. You can add your e-mail to a subscription list to be notified when new ones are added. If your children or students make something from one of the playbooks, be sure to post it to social media, and tag it #magellanmakers so Mr. Benfield can see that his hard work in curating these ideas for using design thinking at home is paying off!