Tag Archives: development

Full #STEAM Ahead!


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!


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Makerspaces in Action: Cardboard Challenge

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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.

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Classics for Toddlers: Yay or Nay?


 Any child who was read to as a baby has most likely come across “board books,” which are the thick, cardboard-paged books that are durable enough in the hands of a toddler who is teething.  We all know board books; they are usually very basic in content–focusing on shapes or colors–a subject matter that is understood by its very, very young readers.

But that is all changing.  Publishers are now creating board books that feature classics of literature, such as Moby Dick and Sense and Sensibility.  The first question that would probably come to mind is:  “why is this being done?”  or “how can a toddler benefit from a canonical piece of literature?”  Well, the argument is that babies most definitely will not comprehend the struggle between fisherman and whale, but they will process the ship and the ocean’s waves.  The entire mental process behind this idea is rather similar to the idea of playing classical music to your children (or even while pregnant).  As the baby’s mind is shaping and forming, exposing them to these great pieces of work can further along their growth and development.

From my own personal stance, I am not quite sure if these classic literature board books will do anything to support that argument, but I still don’t have anything personally against them.  However, some people may strongly take offense to turning wonderfully written, iconic pieces of literature (that have lasted through years and years) into board books that will most likely be physically chewed and sucked on by babies.

It begs the question: what would Herman Melville and Jane Austen have to say about this?

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