Monday, July 14, 2014

Failure is Totally an Option!

Please, for the sake of our kids, take down your inspirational posters that read, "Failure is not an option" and replace them with posters that say:

Fail Early and Fail Often
Failure is Totally an Option
From Failure you Learn; from Success, Not so Much

We may have had it wrong. The infamous Apollo 13 quote "Failure is Not an Option" is a mantra that I believe, gives students the wrong impression about how problems are solved. In context of the movie, the engineers had a challenge unlike any that most ever have to face. They had limited supplies, limited time, and people's lives were at stake. Being wrong had devastating results.  So the quote in that context is inspiring. However, the real engineering design process, requires failure. And the sooner you fail, the quicker you learn. The more you fail, the faster you learn. 

jharland@naper.com

I'm nervous that the pervasive message that "failing is bad" had raised up a generation of kids who now won't take risks.  Our focus on standardized testing has exacerbated the problem. Look around you. Do you know kids who are scared to do try new things unless given explicit directions and guidance? Do you know any kids who love to tinker, taking things apart? What happened to try it and see what happens? 

I was inspired by this article titled, Genius Hour; What kids learn from failure. Modeled after Google's 20% idea, middle school kids were given 80 minutes a week to work on any project of their choosing. Students meet with teachers to brainstorm, and students present and share their ideas. The standards of writing, listening, and communicating all come into play. But more powerfully, students learn to accept failure, and learn from it.

While leading a workshop recently, technology teacher Jarrod Rackauskas said he's learned that when facilitating project based learning, it is best if students fail early, rather than later. If teachers encourage students to tinker, think, develop prototypes, but wait too long to try them out, students are overly discouraged by their failure. But if they fail early, they are better able to see that failure helps them learn what's wrong, and how to fix it.  

Avoiding failure is a mindset that is so engrained in students, it will take time to undo this type of thinking. I suggest we take baby steps. Watch the words you use when students are working on projects. For example, replace, "Better luck next time" with "Great, now what can you learn from this to make your next one better?"

Encourage students when they make a wrong prediction or when their prototypes don't work. In fact celebrate it! Give them kudos, give them a crown of failure.  Let them know failure is how you begin to do something great!  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Calendar-Weather-Geography Morning Activity


 Traditional Morning Routine 

 

Often the school day for young kids starts with calendar time. There are lots of options for teachers and homeschooling parents. I've use a smattering of ideas from 1+1=1 and a mixture of some of my own materials. However, if you're on the road and trying to homeschool (whether full-time or just on vacation) I found my traditional morning calendar routine wasn't all it could be. 

I have a small 1/2" binder where I hole punch a cheap Dollar Store calendar so my son gets a sense of months and days and where he can practice writing his numbers. We also kept a graph of weather and temperature. However, when on the road, I felt like this needed to be modified. 

Roadschooling Activity to focus on geography, comparative weather, and activities  

 

Weather changes as we move around the country, and having my kids identify the current geography  increased in importance. I also found we often were comparing weather where we are, with what people back home are experiencing. So including comparative weather seemed like a good idea. And most importantly, I wanted my kids to have a record of things we were doing, from their own perspective. I didn't find anything that matched my needs, so I made this supplement handout to add to our morning routine. 


I designed the handout for a first grade student, but I'm sure it could be leveled up or down just fine. It includes:
  • What is today? A place for child to write the month, day of the week, and day and year. 
  • Today's number: This is where the child takes the number date and makes 4 number sentences. Two that add up to that number, and two that subtract to that number.  For example on March 12; the student might choose (10 + 2 = 12),  (6 + 6 = 12),  (15 - 3 = 12), and (20 - 8 = 12).
  • Where am I? Here the child writes the name of the city/town, state, and country. He also marks the location on the US map.
  • What's the Weather Like Today? Here the child writes a weather descriptor word, includes a current, and predicted high/low temperature for your current location, and one for "back home." 
  • Picture of what I did yesterday: The child can either draw a picture or make a collage that will help him keep a record of all the cool places your family goes.  My kids like cutting from tourist brochures and pasting ticket stubs in this space. Even photos of the latest fish catch have made it into this spot.   
  • Journal: Today.... prompt allows space for the child to write a sentence of something cool that is going on. 

 

Tips for Using the Calendar-Weather-Geography Activity 

 

 You might choose to print out multiple copies (back-to-back maybe) one page per day still adds up to be a lot. Maybe you might choose to print it on card stock, laminate it, or put it in Learning Resources Write And Wipe Pockets or the Crayola Dry Erase Boardso that you don't have all the paper to keep track of.  

 

 Handwriting Without Tears

 

In case you're wondering, I choose to use the 2 lines promoted by Handwriting Without Tears.  I have found that it is less confusing as my son knows that some letters are tall, some are small, some are descending, and others are capitals. His handwriting has much improved since using the two lines instead of three.

Free Download Printable


Here is a free download on the Roadschooling Calendar Journal. This link will take you to a Google Doc where you will be able to download the pdf. I would love your feedback. 

(Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks for your support.) 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Engineering Cell Division - a NGSS lesson

My passion right now is inquiry and really trying to develop labs that emphasize THINKING processes, getting kids to ask good questions and finding ways to answer them.

I am also using the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) to reframe how I teach. For example; for years, I have used the traditional "hands-on lab" of pipe cleaners to teach mitosis and cell division. With the new standards the focus is not on rote memorization of the phase names. Check out HS standard HS-LS1-4.

HS-LS1-4.Use a model to illustrate the role of cellular division (mitosis) and differentiation in producing and maintaining complex organisms. [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific gene control mechanisms or rote memorization of the steps of mitosis.]
At first I was broken hearted..I love teaching the phases of the cell cycle. But in reality, does every kid need to know the WORDS, Prophase, Metaphase, Anaphase etc... to be successful in life? No. So I rewrote the lab to focus more on problem-solving...and took an engineering slant to it. I just had a group of middle and high school boys complete the lab, it went extremely well. And the bonus? The following weeks, they still had retained all the "big picture" ideas from the lab.

[Free download available at the end of this post.] 

Setting up the Engineering Cell Division Lab


I set out a variety of materials including: (But really, just gather up as much junk as you want, the kids will be creative in how they use them.)

  • twine
  • pipe cleaners 
  • playdough
  • craft pom-poms
  • clothes pins
  • beads, pennies
  • other stuff


The way the NGSS has made me rethink the way I teach is to use models more, and to really drive home the Cross-Cutting concepts. Before developing a model, I have students brainstorm both structural and functional barriers that a cell has to overcome.  Here is how I word it in the lab: 


1.     What are the major structural and functional barriers a cell must overcome? Then brainstorm some ways the cell might overcome the barrier.
a.     Structural barriers refer to the cell parts
b.     Functional barriers refer to the ability of the cell to work and do its job

I have them work on this chart as they brainstorm barriers and then solutions. Don't be too hung up on the solutions column just yet. Sometimes the students need to "play" with the materials to determine what has to happen in order for a cell to divide.  I've included a few students may come up with. 


Structural
Functional
Description of Barrier
(Design problem)
Possible Solutions

 X

 There must be enough genetic material for 2 cells

 At some point the DNA must double...Can cell be "working" when this is going on? 
 X

 The genetic material is protected inside the nuclear membrane. How does it get out? 

 Nuclear membrane must pinch off (or dissolve). 
 X


 Size issue: If a cell divides; cutting itself into 2; and the next generation does the same, the cells will get smaller and smaller.

 At some point, the cell must grow before it divides. 

 X

 Organelles must also be divided. (Does it matter how many mitochondria each cell gets?) 









Then, once students have addressed the engineering challenges a cell faces in order to replicate, I have a section in the lab called....

Play Time


I wished I would have learned earlier about the power of play, even with middle and high school students. Unfortunately, school has squeezed out much of the natural curiosity that students have, but if you allow (sometimes force) them to be creative, they will...and they'll enjoy it!   



Friday, October 11, 2013

Spirit of Innovation Challenge: Abstracts Due October 24


For me, it is hard to not be passionate about the mission of the Conrad Foundation. We host the Spirit of Innovation Challenge - a legacy program honoring Apollo Astronaut and third man to walk on the moon, Pete Conrad. Not a lot of people know, that while Pete experienced great success as an adult, he had a really difficult time in school because he had dyslexia at a time when learning disorders were not widely understood. Luckily, Pete had a  teacher who saw something special in him and helped get him focused on engineering and math, which at the time did not require a lot of reading. This teacher gave Pete his moon shot – and that’s what we try to do for students worldwide through the Spirit of Innovation Challenge.

One of my favorite parts of the program is that we strive to create relevance for what students are learning in the classroom. We believe it is vital that students understand that the application of what they learn can equate to products and services that can benefit humanity. 

As part of the Spirit of Innovation Challenge, we ask parents and teachers, just like Darci, the STEM Mom, to give their students the chance to make a difference by combining STEM and with innovation and entrepreneurship.  We want them to think beyond the classroom and put their ideas in motion. It is amazing the amount of ingenuity students have when someone gives them an opportunity to “Get Their Genius On”.



At the Conrad Foundation, we try to foster education as diplomacy. We have expanded the program to reach all 50 states and 72 countries. As part of the Spirit of Innovation Challenge, students learn how to work collaboratively, think like an innovator and develop skills that will stay with them for the rest of their life.


Our theme this year is “You are the solution. Design things that matter.”  I believe, when given the opportunity, young people prove time and again they are capable of so much compassion, creativity and the ability to solve problems. One of my favorite examples is from a team in Florida that developed a water filtration system that is now in place in a clinic in Nigeria. A team of five created a product that is helping a population of 500,000. Every day in our online community, I see the ideas presented by these young adults and I am amazed by their thoughtful and unique approach to problem solving. I hope you will be, too.

I invite you to participate in this year’s challenge. There is still time for students to get their abstracts completed before the Oct. 24 deadline. I recommend you start with a creative brainstorm, then have the students answer the four abstract questions about the team’s product or service and submit. It may be the best experience they will have as a high school student and it’s free!

Learn more at www.ConradAwards.org.

Alexandria


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Flanagan Pipeline; Engineering Activity

Last Year Wind Turbines...This Year Oil Pipeline: STEMmom.org

Last year we had wind turbines being constructed near us (rural Illinois) and this year we have an oil pipeline going in! So, as you can only imagine.... I view this as a wonderful learning activity! Its lab time! Last year we did a several labs; including Building Wind Turbines, and Power testing Wind Turbines.  And now we have the Flanagan South Pipeline going in a mile from our home. 

Before I share the multi-day engineering challenge I am doing with my middle school/high school students, I wanted to first share a few photos showing what's going on around here. 

We first noticed the survey equipment marking the path of the pipeline. (No photos of this.) It wasn't long before the crops were coming out making way for the oil pipeline construction crews.  


Flanagan South Pipeline Surface Preparation in Illinois: STEMmom.org


Then we noticed the construction to provide access from the road to the right of way sections. Here in Illinois is it cutting through corn and bean fields and an angle. Which may not seem like a strange thing to you, but here in the midwest, our roads all go North/South and East/West! 

Road access to pipeline right of way STEMmom.org

Map of Flanagan South Pipeline through IL, MO, KS, and OK: STEMmom.org

The construction crews worked carefully to separate the top soil from the subsoil. See the difference in color? 

Separation of Top and Sub Soil for Oil Pipeline: STEMmom.org

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pipecleaner Numbers to Teach Number Bonds

Numbers, math, adding, subtracting to solve....but what's the purpose? I have bad childhood memories learning my addition facts...using flashcards...ugh. So when thinking about my own kids, I wondered what other methods of teaching early math were out there. And what I found was Singapore Math. And the reason I like it so much is that it focuses on conceptual concepts and making sure students attach meaning to numbers. 

In addition to our Singapore textbook and workbook, I also bought "Building Number Sense: Games & Activities to Practice Combinations to 10" by Catherine Jones Kuhns.  And this resource has really helped me understand the importance of my son understanding how the numbers up to 10 combine together. It is this basis that all math is based on. At first glance it all seemed so simple, and overkill to focus on these skills so long. But what I'm finding is the more ways we talk about these numbers the less my son has to think about the numbers, and he just "knows." That's what I want! 

Pipe Cleaner and Beads to practice number bonds to 10  from STEMmom.org

While there are TONS of great activities in this book, my favorite by far is called Number Bracelets. The idea is to focus on a single number and have students explore all the number combinations that can add up to that number. 

How to Make Pipe Cleaner Numbers


So for example, if eight is your focus number, you make a pipe cleaner circle with 8 beads on it, and then label it with the number. Then you can have conversations with kids about all the possible combinations the beads can make. The simplicity is that the total (eight) doesn't change; yet several number combinations can be used to add up to the number.  It takes kids a while to get it, and this manipulative is a great way to SEE it. 

I made two, one for me and one for my son. If you are working with a full class, I suggest making one for each child. And to make life easier, construct all the "eights" with the same color pipe cleaner and beads. That way at a glance you can be sure everyone has the right number! 

See How it Works with an Example of "Eight"   


Below is my green and purple "eight" pipe cleaner. You can see that by pulling the beads apart you can show:

0 + 8 = 8
1 + 7 =  8
2 + 6 = 8
3 + 5 = 8

Flip the pipe cleaner to face the other direction, and it also shows:

5 + 3 = 8
6 + 2 = 8
7 + 1 = 8
8 + 0 = 8

And if you want to get more advanced, you can see what three numbers to add up to your focus numbers.  Or what four numbers...such as;

2 + 2 + 3 + 1 = 8


PipeCleaner and Beads to teach addition; Sample number eight from STEMmom.org

The first few times I used the pipe cleaner numbers with my son, we just talked about them, manipulating the beads to the right and left, and getting the concept down, that the total number doesn't change. 

Now I use number bond graphics and equations so the sounds of the numbers are also being seen as symbols. 

Bubble Number Bonds graphic: STEMmom.org


Here is the cover of Kuhns' book! I highly recommend it. I'll share more activities from it in the future.  

Building Number Sense: learning combinations to 10  STEMmom.org

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Engineering Spy Challenge: Guest Post

I'm bringing to you a guest post from blogger Kelly from Learning Things on the Fly. Don't forget to "like" her on Facebook.  Although she has two girls and I have two boys, I admire her passion to make engineering fun for all kids, but especially girls. I've asked her to introduce her Engineering challenge in hopes that you'll join our family in working these activities into your kids lives over the next few months. We'll be doing one every other Friday! Now, without further ado...

Hi, my name is Kelly and Darci the STEMmom has been kind enough to let me share with you a little bit about what I’m doing this summer.  I was raised by a single dad and I have an older brother, so I was given every opportunity to build, tinker and play with electricity, magnets and blocks. I think the environment I grew up in gave me all the skills and confidence I needed to love and excel in math and science and a desire to be an engineer.  I have two little girls and I often see that they are drawn to pretend play, stories and books, dress up, and drawing. They love to be in other worlds. Our house is full of building toys and our girls love them, but they often need encouragement to get started and often use them to build little worlds that they can make stories about.

It is clear that girls and boys think and play differently. I love this article by ASCD about the learning differences of boys and girls (article). Girls are amazing at crossing both hemispheres of their brains, they are terrific listeners, they are often great with detail and can write well descriptively, and they have better verbal and emotive functioning. In general, boys love to move objects through space and have good spatial understanding. It would seem that girls aren’t geared for engineering, but it’s just that at a young age engineering isn’t put into terms or presented in ways that are appealing to the way they learn. So I made my girls a little ten week Spy Mission.  The Engineering Spy Girls program is really 10 open-ended engineering challenges that are caught up in a fantasy world to appeal to young girls (and boys). It’s taking the building that helps with spacial awareness, basic physics understanding and design that are often missing from girls play and putting it in this imaginary world where the girls are Spy Engineers helping these adorable Spy Puffs that they have created reach their goals. It’s meant to appeal to their love of small creatures, stories, secrets, pretend, and success.


Each week a new mission will be posted. These missions are project-based learning and building challenges that will get you to use your engineering brain and stretch your imagination. If you document your solution to the missions you will get compensated with more spy swag. As you complete missions you will receive new official documents celebrating your accomplishments and move you up on the Spy Challenge Ladder. After you complete your first challenge you will receive your missions book and your first badge, and after you finish your second mission you will receive an official Engineering Spy Girl ID (or an Engineering Spy ID for boys) that can be printed out at home. To officially complete a mission you need to send in a picture of your completed mission and some sort of documentation (to Kelly {at} learningthingsonthefly.com ). You can print out a labbook page here or just make a drawing of your solution to the problem in the mission. It is very important in engineering and the spy world to take notes of what works and what doesn’t so that you will be better prepared for future missions and problems. We hope that you enjoy solving the problems and that you have great adventures with your Spy Puff. Remember the Spy Girls motto – Engineering Spy Girls where the best spy gear is your brain.


My goal with this is for the children to feel like they were doing engineering and enjoy it. I want them to hear engineering from this point forward and think about how they solved problems, how they created things, and how they enjoyed building and creating.  I was also a middle school math teacher for a couple of years and I know for a fact kids will try harder and enjoy a class more if they think they are good at it. I for one am truly sick of girls saying they are not good at math and science… they can be. If they have early success in working with building and physics, they will be able to have success in these things later on at school. If you would like to join the squad check out the missions at http://www.learningthingsonthefly.com/engineering-spy-girls/main-engineering-spy-girls-page/ . ~ Thanks, Kelly

Kelly and I are hosting a blog hop so we can all see how others are doing with this wonderful Engineering Spy Girl Challenge (Boys welcome too!).  Its a blog hop, so you should not only be able to link up, but also include the linky on your site so people can "hop" from blog to blog! Let's have some crazy engineering fun! :)




Thursday, August 8, 2013

Children's Illustrator Curriculum

So, as the STEM Mom, I acknowledge my need for help in the arts! While I am a photographer and crafter, I'm not well versed in art appreciation. So I went out in search of help to include art into our homeschooling curriculum this year!  

I am so happy to have found an art curriculum that I think will be perfect for us this school year. The curriculum came from Jill @ Enchanted Homeschooling Mom and is titled, "Storybook Artist Unit Studies." She wrote the curriculum to accompany this wonderful book "Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art."


 

This book has illustrators of children's books talking directly to children about their lives, art studios, inspiration, and many include photos of themselves as children! It is a wonderful attempt at showing how art is a process, and how we all are artists at heart. 

Jill's curriculum organizes the book into a curriculum that will last the full school year and maybe even more! I plan on trying to do 2 lessons a week, which means we will study one illustrator for two weeks. Jill's lessons include discussion questions and links on the web to projects that line up with that artist's style. I absolutely can't wait to get started!

In June I attended a Handwriting Without Tears workshop as I struggled with teaching this skill for my son in kindergarten last year. I feel I have a better handle on it this year, and want to start the year using the wide double lines.  Handwriting Without Tears suggests that the double lines, removing the red dotted line can reduce confusion for new writers. Therefore, I modified the Illustrator Report that Jill designed for us to complete during each illustrator study.  I also added one prompt that reads, "Pick one illustration and describe what you see and how it makes you feel."   


Illustrator Report for Storybook Artist Unit Study; Using HWT wide double lines: STEMmom.org


Feel free to download my version of Jill's Illustrator Report that uses the wide double blue lines that work well for students who use Handwriting Without Tears.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...