Friday, November 21, 2014

What do you get when you combine 5th grade, Robots, and the Thinkery?

Answer:  A unique awesome learning experience for all!

I'm so thankful for our partnership with the Thinkery for many reasons, but a big one is the collaboration for our Robotics unit.  They helped me develop curriculum around Lego Mindstorm Robotics, helped supply more kits, and were hands on help during the class.  These 5th graders have been introduced to Mindstorm before so this is more of an advanced class. Their project was to work with a partner to design their robot to look like an animal of their choosing (even make believe ones!).  They could decorate it as they liked once they built the robot.  They then built a habitat that was appropriate for that animal.  They were super creative with this part of the project!  Their programming challenge was to make their robot move and interact with the habitat as it should in the real world.  Some examples of this were:  a dolphin who's tail actually moved; a dog that fetched a ball; a monkey that moved around trees; and a unicorn that went into its castle.  I love giving the students broad topics like this and seeing what they come up with to make it awesome.  I know I say this for a lot of things, but this is possibly my favorite part of teaching.  
I could not have pulled a project of this magnitude off without the help of the Thinkery staff.  They are such a valued partner in education!

Here are some pictures of the process:

All of their hard work was rewarded with a showcase and a party (complete with photo booth)!  Their Pre-K buddies came by to see it all as well.  Here are some pictures from that fun day.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

1st grade as Chemical Engineers!

Our 1st graders are learning what it means to be Chemical Engineers as they discover the perfect process for making Play Doh.  For this unit we use the Engineering is Elementary curriculum that was generously provided for us through a grant from State Farm.  The students go through the Engineering Design Process (Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve) as they work to find the perfect process to create play doh.  For the Ask phase, they start with collecting some research.  They conduct a survey to figure out what the most popular colors of play doh are among their classmates.  

Here are some pictures of that process:

Next step is to test the play dough materials.  We are experimenting with water, flour, and salt to find the way that these materials interact with each other.  The students learn what observations are when conducting an experiment and what the properties of different types of matter are.  It is exciting to watch children this young learn these higher level scientific terms!

After all of this experimenting, they learned how the different materials work together.  It's time to figure out how to make the best play dough.  We made some "mistake" play dough that was sticky and grainy.  The students worked together to figure out what went wrong.  They also came up with a new plan for making the perfect play dough.  They then worked on coming up with their own unique brand name that they would use for their play dough.  They designed their labels for their dough and were ready for the big day of making the product!  Here are some photos of that day:
Flour, salt, warm water, and measure cups for 44 kids

Mixing the water and salt first is important!

We added color and then the flour to finish it off

Mixing in the flour was really fun!

The finished project!

Frozen Doh - another finished project!

We are all so proud of our play dough products!