My engineering classes have been working on helping to design the new playground at Advanced Learning Academy. On Thursday, the architect, landscape architect, and district Director of Constructor visited the students to explain the process and answer questions.
Sonya Terborg has a great blog post about questioning here, and I love the quadrant example she gives.
My original plan was to use the image in a Padlet. However, as seems to be the case too often recently, our internet has been wonky. So, I went somewhat “old school” and had the students use Post-Its on our whiteboard.
I changed the wording a bit, and flipped the labels on the y axis so that the more they cared about the answer to the question, the higher up it would be on the axis.
Although the concept appeared to be difficult for the class at first, they soon got the idea. As always, some questions were “deeper” than others. “What is the budget?” was asked more than once, but, “What is your idea of a playground of the future?” got high marks from the students.
The guests wanted to project a presentation, so they were able to pull PostIts off the board as they answered each question while their slides were on the screen. It turned out that our primitive method of using the whiteboard was a good call after all!
Could the fact that I just noticed the title of this NBC show is a double entendre be in any way related to the fact that I now spend my days teaching teenagers?
It could just be that Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler hosting a show about amazing makers distracted me from any other interpretation of the title other than crafting incredible stuff.
If you are a STEMer, STEAMer, or STREAMer, you should definitely take a peek at this weekly show to get some inspiration. Though it is not directly related to education, you will get some ideas of what is possible with a little bit of imagination and a lot of glitter and balsa wood.
You can stream the episodes here if you don’t have NBC or Hulu. So far, my favorite has been Episode 2, in which the makers were challenged to design forts and corresponding toys for children. The versatility and creativity of each entry blew me away. I am really glad I’m not one of the judges.
If you love watching people rip each other apart or run naked through the woods, then this show might not be your cup of tea. But if you enjoy seeing people who appear to be genuinely nice and sometimes a little bit goofy produce amazing works of art with unusual tools and supplies, “Making It” should be your goal for tonight.
Okay, that didn’t quite come out the way I meant it. But you can take it any way you want. I’m not in charge of your personal life. Most of the time I’m not even in charge of mine.
I’ve been combing the internet for projects to do with my engineering students (grades 8-10), and ran across these lessons from Design Squad. They don’t quite fit my curriculum, but I thought I would share them since I know a lot of my colleagues are working on incorporating STEAM into the curriculum. If you look on the left side of the page, you will see other lessons and activities that you may be able to use in areas that range from electricity to structures.
I have included Design Squad in posts since 2013, but I don’t think I have mentioned this particular page before. Even if I have, it bears repeating! This site offers a lot of creative challenges and videos that are great for any STEAM classroom. And it’s not just for elementary students. I used one of their videos today with my secondary students on isometric drawing, and it was the perfect introduction to a brand new topic for them. After you browse the site, click here to visit their YouTube channel, chock full of videos on all sorts of design topics.
If you are looking for 3d printing project ideas and curriculum, Stratasys has many free educational resources – you just have to know where to look for them and be willing to give Stratasys your contact info to download the lesson plans and project ideas.
From what I can tell, Stratasys is a company that focuses on providing 3d printing solutions for industrial use. If you download any curriculum from them, you will probably receive an e-mail or two within a few days asking how they can help you with your 3d printing needs. The inquiries are worth it, however, in order to have access to the activities and lessons you can use with your students.
I have downloaded the Lessons and Project Ideas, Semester Curriculum, and 3d Printing Modules. Depending on the experience of your students, most of the resources are good for middle and high school students. You can integrate them into a STEAM curriculum, use them as stand-alone lessons, or make them accessible to students in your Maker Space to jump start some ideas.
I think I’ve finally come to terms with my Kickstarter addiction. Basically, I choose an item to “back”, and wait until that product arrives on my doorstep before I find something else to invest in. Most of the items I fund take around a year to get manufactured, so this seems to be a compromise that my bank account can handle.
Last summer, I wrote about my latest Kickstarter purchase, the Turing Tumble. I expected to receive it in January, but a few obstacles were encountered during production that delayed it to the summer. Sadly, this meant that only the few students that attended my robot camp got a chance to test it out, but I think I got a pretty good idea of its impact from them and my 15 year old daughter.
Paul and Alyssa Boswell, who invented this unique game, kept their Kickstarter backers very well-informed during the production process. Packaging is a huge part of getting products like this into the hands of consumers, and there were a lot of bumps along the way. However, I think they got it right in the end. Turing Tumble arrived in a substantial box that has a customized insert for all of the pieces. It will definitely make it easy to store.
Speaking of pieces, there are a lot, including tiny red and blue marbles that are “tumbled” in the games. The quantity of small pieces is a definite reason you should not ignore the age rating of 8 to Adult. I would caution anyone with young children or pets (like mine) who are living vacuum cleaners to set up this game in an area where accidental flying marbles won’t be immediately ingested .
The Turing Tumble is basically a mechanical computer. The different pieces represent what happens in a computer when a program runs. The set comes with a puzzle book that is written in the form of a graphic novel. Players are given 60 different objectives (challenges) throughout the story to complete using the pieces. (You can see an excellent description of the game, along with pics and video, on their Kickstarter page.)
A few of my students, ages 8-10, got to try out the game. Despite the beautiful images by Jiaoyang Li that accompany the story in the puzzle book, the students skipped straight to the challenges. Once they understood the basic structure of the book (each challenge has an objective, a picture of the starting setup, and the available parts you should add), they began to cruise through the scaffolded puzzles. A small crowd gathered around whenever they “started a program” by pressing the lever to release the first marble, and everyone watched in fascination as red and blue marbles fell in patterns determined by the placement of pieces.
My daughter was equally interested in the game. We sat at the dining room table working our way through the puzzles, and I ended up being the gatherer of pieces as she mentally visualized where to place them in order to accomplish each new objective. I was the one who finally stopped that night – mainly because I was feeling a bit grumpy about her solving the puzzles much more quickly than I ever could.
The good news is that anyone can now buy the Turing Tumble – and you don’t have to wait a year to receive it. It is available directly through their website, from Amazon, or Gameology (for New Zealanders and Australians).
Turing Tumble also has an education portion on their website, which includes a practice guide. You can submit your email address if you want to hear from the company when they release their Educator Guide.
My 4th grade students are currently studying mathematical masterpieces. I love showing them examples of the intersection of math and art. When I saw a tweet yesterday morning from @TheKidShouldSeeThis with a link to the video of John Edmark’s spiral geometries, I knew right away that they would want to watch the video. It weirdly connected with the magical drawbridge from yesterday’s video, so I showed that part to them first. We have already talked about Fibonacci and the Golden Spiral, so they immediately found ways to connect both videos to their learning.
Since the students have also been using Scratch coding, I found a Scratch project for making spirals. First we looked “inside” to decipher the code. Then the students explored running the program. After that, I talked about creative constraints, and gave them the challenge of changing one and only one part of the code to see how it made the program run differently. They recorded the results of their new programs and the class tried to guess what variable each student changed based on the videos. Then I gave them time to freely remix however many parts of the program they liked.
This was one of those times that the students could happily have explored all day. It was their first time remixing a program, and they delighted in trying to take it to the extremes by putting ridiculous numbers in to see how large or small or non-existent their spirals became. Some of them created spirals so tiny that they appeared to be flowers blooming as they popped on to the Scratch stage.
And I still haven’t blown their mind with this Vi Hart video yet. With the school year almost over, we may have to take this unit into their 5th grade year. There is so much beauty in math, and we have barely scratched the surface!
Thomas Heatherwick demonstrates amazing feats of design, architecture, and engineering in this TED video that I showed my 2nd graders (studying structures) this week. After the revelation I had a few weeks ago that my students aren’t entirely sure of the importance of creativity, I wanted to be certain that they saw these examples of unique designs that defy all norms. The favorite, which literally has gotten “oohs and ahs” from every audience I’ve shown it to so far, is the bridge. (Go to about 3:33 on the video to see that directly.) Almost as popular with my students are the apartment buildings near the end of the video that demonstrate that not all tall buildings are wider at the bottom than the top!