Over the last summer, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Scratch Conference at MIT. It was absolutely amazing to see all these educators coming together from literally all around the world for one thing: coding with Scratch. Before I attended the conference, I was a complete novice to the coding system. I coded before using similar tools, by arranging blocks to achieve a simple end goal, but this was a whole other world for me. At first I was overwhelmed, because Scratch forces its users to think a different way, and it challenges the user to be more thoughtful and creative during their coding project at hand.
Throughout the conference, there were various sessions to choose from and join, depending on your interests. The first session I joined was one dedicated to learning how to animate your name with scratch. This is presumably one of the easiest projects you can work on with Scratch, and I felt comfortable enough to tackle it. The presenter was fantastic, and within a few minutes asked us to break into small groups and code a name, word, or short phrase. Coincidentally, the two women I joined were also new to Scratch, so we had some work ahead of us. But the next hour or so was fun! We ended up animating “#ScratchMIT2018” and it was interesting to learn the ins and outs through our trial and error technique. We then did a gallery walk around the room to see what the other groups coded. At the end of the session, I felt empowered and energized to learn and explore more, and already had ideas to take back home to my own students in the fall!
I used this session to guide my own students. I introduced Scratch to them, I had them create their own accounts, and then introduced their first coding project on this platform. They dove right into coding their own names, and I was so pleased with their creativity and eagerness. Once they got their feet wet, and grew comfortable with this new coding tool, I had the students push themselves further and create something of their own imagination. I told them they could code ANYTHING as long as they pushed themselves and put forth their best efforts. And, I was pleasantly surprised by just how far they were able to go with Scratch in such a short time. On just their second projects ever, students were able to code simple games and interactive messages. It was fun to see what they came up with on an individual basis, and they seemed to really enjoy it as well.
I took this entire experience as a life lesson, both as an educator and in my personal life; don’t ever be afraid to dive into something new. I remind my students of this every day. Especially when they’re coding with Scratch!
Back in the summer, when I was mapping out my curriculum for my library media center classes this school year, I really wanted STEAM to be the foundation of everything we do. For those of you not in the know with this trending educational acronym, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (and was formerly known as STEM). The first big project that I did with my fourth, fifth, and sixth graders was Designing Your Own Dream Playground. Students had to first sketch out a blueprint for their designs and placement of their playgrounds. Then, they needed to build a small model of their designs using recyclable materials (see left photo above). The entire process was fun and I was rather impressed with the finished products. The sky was the limit in terms of their imaginations, and many of my students pushed themselves to create amazing playgrounds.
I also implemented Free Time Activities this year. Because most of my curriculum relies heavily on project-based learning, my students work at their own pace. And, as anyone who’s ever worked with children knows, kids work at various speeds and abilities. I wanted my students to be productive from the minute they walk into the library media center, to the minute they walk out. So, Free Time Activities seemed like the perfect solution! I created a chart in the corner of my room that colorfully displayed the various tasks that a student could choose from once they’ve completed their required assignments and/or work for that day. These activities range from blogging and reading to building with Legos and K’nex. Additionally, I implemented a makerspace area to help make many of these tasks available. It is simply a shelving unit filled with any item that could possibly help create, such as yarn, pipe cleaners, tape, markers, and paper tubes. Certain Free Time Activities are also supported by “challenge cards.” For example, the Lego station and K’nex kit come with baskets filled with cards with a number of challenges written on them; and the makerspace area has a basket of STEAM challenges. The students have really enjoyed having the right to choose and navigate how they want to explore and learn (see right photos above).
So far I’ve loved the changes I’ve implemented this year, and I can’t wait to see how it evolves with time. I recommend giving it a try in your own classrooms and seeing how you can make room for activities like these. Take that risk! I’m sure you’ll be amazed with the wonderful results!
When I heard about the Global Cardboard Challenge, I absolutely had to get my school involved! I felt that this activity would be a wonderful way to get my feet wet with my classes in the makerspace ocean. The idea is simple but the possibilities are endless–students take recyclable materials (mainly cardboard) and build something from their imagination. It was a low-cost event that was easy to plan and execute.
I decided to make this a pre-holiday-break event, and about a month before, I began to reach out to the entire school community with a simple flyer and urged students and staff alike to donate cardboard, plastic bottles, egg cartons, tape, glue, etc. The materials came streaming in and it was amazing to see just how much accumulated in the library media center in the weeks before the Cardboard Challenge. Everyone from my third graders all the way up to my sixth graders are enjoying sketching out their designs and slowly bringing their creations to life. As one fifth grade student put it: “The library class is so much fun! I have never done anything like this before!” It is amazing seeing my students tap into their imagination and take ownership of the lesson and their learning. Watching them testing out different techniques and discussing plans while building is absolutely wonderful.
I have never taken on such a massive makerspace activity, but this will certainly not be the last time! I urge all of my fellow educators to try this and other makerspace events out. Let your students take the reins in their own education; you will not be disappointed.
Anyone who knows even a modicum of New York City history knows that the great city has gone through a lot in its day. Everything from fires and arrests, to deaths and gangsters, is all in this wonderful city’s past.
And now, people can place the past right next to the present in a beautiful photography series done by Marc A. Hermann. It is a eye-opening juxtaposition of the chaotic occurrences throughout history placed next to the present-day, peaceful scenes. The way Hermann blends these two images into one is extraordinary and it really brings another viewpoint through which the public can understand history.
It’s definitely worth a look-through because, if not anything else, it is a mesmerizing angle into the city.