Making time for making at Ottauquechee
STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics — gives students the opportunity to create. To make. Maybe to fail. To try again! And to make something that improves a condition, solves a problem, or makes the world a better place. But if your school currently doesn’t offer a STEAM time, it can be daunting to figure out where to begin. And that’s where we pick up our story of Ottauquechee School, in Quechee VT, where we used Design Thinking, a portable makerspace and one amazing library space to figure out how STEAM Time could work at this school.
Welcome to Ottauquechee STEAM Time.
Come for the math, stay for the slingshots!
Green Mountain 7th graders and HS physics students apply math and science to a real-world problem: hitting targets. They collaborate in multi-age teams to design and build projectile launchers. Then they calculate trajectories and calibrate their creations before taking aim.
Each spring the students take over the Green Mountain Union High School cafeteria to stage an epic competition: Battle Physics. The tournament is a test of their skills: designing, building, computing, and calibrating. The winning team will have to do all of these things well to hit the most targets.
The #everydaycourage of being seen
Take the iconic back-to-school prompt for students — what I did on my summer vacation — and give it a twist. Imagine how students might respond to the prompt What I think my teacher did on summer vacation.
A lot of us wish other folks knew how hard we work during summer: the workshops, the team planning time, the reflection, the resource-gathering. So a lot of us should share out all the work we’re doing.
Let’s look at four ways Vermont educators are sharing their practice.
Using technology to help build relationships
Remember when you were in middle school? How awkward did you feel, asking a teacher for help with everyone else watching?
Well #everydaycourage is a two-way street.
Laura Botte, 6th grade math educator at Edmunds Middle School, in Burlington VT, shared with us how she’s been using Google Docs to encourage her students to open up about what’s going on in their lives, and how that affects their ability to be present in the classroom. This is how you can use Google Docs so students talk to you.
Teaching news literacy in the social media age
We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the problem of fake news stories and how they might impact our impressions of the world. Imagine: if it’s hard for adults to spot fake news stories, then how hard is it for students?
Turns out: VERY HARD.
Let’s look at some resources for helping students determine when a source is truly credible or not.
Set boundaries, then let students drive the conversation
Negotiated curriculum is the idea that you can assemble a curriculum for your class by entering into negotiations with your students: you, as the teacher, have certain non-negotiables or standards you need students to meet, and students tell you what or how they want to learn. That’s a huge concept, and impossible to wrap your head around without seeing it in action.
Social studies educator Sam Nelson shares how he implemented negotiated curriculum in his classroom, beginning by tackling just. One. Unit.
Try Passage Presentations.
The end of every school year is tough. Teachers and administrators struggle to keep students in line, finish assessments, plan field trips, and tie up loose ends. But what’s really important? To provide closure, celebrate accomplishments, and allow students to reflect on how they’ve grown and developed. And including family in those celebrations is vital.
I had the pleasure of witnessing a particularly strong example of how well this can be implemented.
Organize research materials digitally and collaboratively
Tiffany Michael, from Crossett Brook Middle School in Waterbury, Vermont, describes how her use of Padlet evolved to eventually revolutionize the way that she teaches students to conduct research.
I love her story because it has something for everybody. In addition to practical and actionable advice for teachers who want to try to use Padlet, Michael also describes her journey in a way that is informative for coaches, tech integrationists, and administrators.
Ubiquitous learning at the Sycamore School
(Ed Note: Susan Hennessey recently traveled to Malibu, California to check out some innovative schools there and attend Deeper Learning 2016.)
While waiting at the Sycamore School in Malibu, California for our tour guide, my colleagues and I were entertained by a tree full of very talkative wild parrots.
I had never seen parrots in the wild and was intrigued enough to photograph them, search for their origins online, share my curiosity with my colleagues to see what information they might add, and create a quick digital story of this process using the Shadow Puppet app on my phone: all in the 15 minute wait time.
Ah, the power of ubiquitous learning and ready access to a world of knowledge at my fingertips.
Student-created virtual park tours
With access to online and tablet-based tools for digital curation and content creation, students can research the history, challenges and attractions of one of our nation’s 58 (!) National Parks. Under the rubric of planning a visit to them, students can answer an essential and timeless question: What features make National Parks special and worth saving?
It’s almost as good as being there. Especially if you’re trapped in snow and/or don’t have your driver’s license yet. Let’s roll!