I just had to share this Lego/EV3 vending machine created by one of my 5th grade students. He is in my GT class as well as our campus Robotics Club. He owns an EV3, and spent his spare time last week making this contraption to dispense Starburst candies every time you deposit a quarter. There are other versions on the internet, where he got the idea, but he apparently created his machine using his own design. Super cool!
Fish in a Tree, the awesome book by Lynda Mullaly Hunt that I reviewed here, has just come out in paperback. The paperback includes the main character, Ally’s, complete Sketchbook of Impossible Things. In honor of this, Hunt has launched a nationwide contest for students in 3rd-8th grades to create their own incredibly unique writing or artwork, photos of which must be received by May 12, 2017. You can find all of the details, including the list of prizes, here.
Also, if you have time, Mrs. Hunt recently did a live webcast for School Library Journal, and I think that you can view the archive by registering here. My 3rd graders and I watched it today, and found it very inspirational. Mrs. Hunt talks about her own learning difficulties, the many real-life models for her characters, and how her long-term goals helped to keep her on track. If you have spoken to your students about growth mindset and grit, then you will find her speech will really resonate with them!
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.
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.
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.)
Fans of the fabulous Kid President know that he is part of a dynamic duo. Behind the scenes of all of the Kid President videos is his brother-in-law, Brad Montague. Now Brad has started a YouTube channel, and his first video is just as inspirational as all of the others he has produced. I can’t help but think that Brad’s new dad status might have been a motivating factor for this story. Or maybe he saw Hamilton recently…
By the way, I’m adding this video to my “Inspirational Videos for Kids” Pinterest Board. Check it out for more great short films!
Dr. Pauline Dow (@PaulineDow), an Associate Superintendent in our district, shared this recent TED Talk by Steven Johnson, “How Play Leads to Great Inventions,” in a tweet this week. Steven Johnson, you may remember, is an author I’ve mentioned on this blog because I was fascinated by his book, How We Got to Now. Johnson is adept at tracing innovations back through time to discover the (often surprising) building blocks that made them possible.
In this October, 2016, TED Talk, Johnson claims that necessity is not always the mother of invention – and that play may be just as, if not more, important when it comes to generating new ideas. I’m pretty certain that Sir Ken Robinson would approve this message.
I will be adding this video to my Pinterest Board of Inspirational Videos for Teachers. Click here to see more.