STEM Code & Go Robot Mice

I recently was able to purchase 6 sets of Code & Go STEM Mice for my makerspace!  I was so delighted to use these new great teaching tools:  https://www.walmart.com/ip/Learning-Resources-Robot-Mouse-STEM-Activity-Set/49606265

One class period, I used them with a 5th grade class. They used the challenge cards that came with the sets and set up challenges. They were able to enter the code into the mouse and get the mouse through a maze to get to his piece of cheese.  Success!  They enjoyed it and were very engaged during the process. I also think they learned a thing or two about beginning to code.  Here’s a link to a video I posted on twitter to show what 5th grade did with the mice:  https://twitter.com/amyfavinger/status/861658361288429568

Later, on another day, I had the idea to use them with a 2nd grade class. We used the Code & Go Mice to review subtraction facts. I wrote subtraction problems on post-it notes and attached them to the board.  I had the answers to the subtraction problems on separate post-it notes. Students picked a post-it note, solved the subtraction problem, and then coded the mouse to get to the answer. It was a new spin on fact practice and the students were so engaged. They loved solving the problems and working in groups to get the coding mouse to the right answer.

I can’t wait to use these mice in another way!  The options are endless. So many uses!

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Twenty One Elephants Bridge Challenge

I introduced the idea of a “Bridge Challenge” my first grade classes.  I started off the lesson reading the book, “Twenty One Elephants” by Phil Bildner.  The story is based on a true story about the Brooklyn Bridge and how when it was built, people were reluctant to cross the bridge. Eventually the circus “puts on a show” and walks across 21 elephants.  The bridge held the weight of the 21 elephants and people of Brooklyn eventually became less skeptical and began crossing the bridge.

After reading the book, the first graders received the challenge to make a bridge that could hold “21 elephants”.  They were given 21 plastic bears (didn’t have elephants on hand), paper cups, and popsicle sticks.  They began brainstorming and building and came up with some great bridges.

Later, they were able to “shop the makerspace” to look for other materials to change and improve their bridges.   They loved it!  And were very engaged during the activity.

We ended the class with a gallery walk of the different types of bridges.  I also read another story about the same topic by a different author.  “Twenty One Elephants And Still Standing” by April Jones Prince. It was great to be able to make an ELA connection to this maker activity.

Marble Run Challenge- Grade 2

A few days after I had my first graders come in a create a maze out of drinking straws. I thought, let me change this a bit for my second grade classes. I turned the challenge into a marble run–more of a “pin-ball themed” one– and a few different supplies. Very similar lesson, but a new twist!

Grade Level:  2nd grade

Essential Question:  How many different ways can I solve a problem?

Lesson Objective:  Students will use tools and materials in order to collaboratively design, build, and improve a marble run.  Students will work collaboratively to complete this task.

Class period:  45 minutes

 

  1. Introduction to lesson:  The students will be told about their makerspace challenge:

Your challenge:  You will work with a partner or small group to create a marble run.  This will be a great game to play on a rainy day, or during the next indoor recess.

 

Your materials: 

  • 1 cardboard box
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hot glue (teacher will help with this)

 

Directions:

  1. Discuss your ideas with your group.
  2. Draw your ideas and make a plan. (use planning sheet)
  3. Label your drawing, list materials you will use
  4. Show plan to teacher for approval
  5. Create your marble run.
  6. Test your maze with a marble!
  7. Make changes, as needed.
  8. Share with the class.

 

 

  1. Make a plan. Students will use the attached “planning sheet” to plan their ideas with their group.  They will draw, write, and label their ideas.  They will also make a list of materials needed for their plan. They will use this plan as a prototype to help them get started.

 

 

 

  1. Explore/Make: Students will spend the majority of the lesson creating, testing, and modifying their straw marble mazes.

 

  1. Reflection: At the end of the lesson, students will refer to their plans from the beginning of the class. Students will reflect and share how their plan and thought process changed and evolved as they completed the maker challenge.

 

  1. Share: Students will share their straw maze creations with the class. They will test the maze out and show their classmates. They will share their new knowledge with the class.

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  1. Extension: Students can use upcoming indoor recess lessons to make updates, changes, improvements to their mazes. They can also use this time to play with their mazes and swap mazes with others.

 

 

Drinking Straw Marble Maze

Here’s a lesson I planned with my first grade students:

Makerspace Lesson: Drinking Straw Maze

Grade Level:  1st grade

Essential Question:  How many different ways can I solve a problem?

Lesson Objective:  Students will use tools and materials in order to collaboratively design, build, and improve a marble maze.  Students will work collaboratively to complete this task.

Class period:  45 minutes

 

1. Introduction to lesson:  The students will be told about their makerspace challenge:

Your challenge:  You will work with a partner or small group to create a marble maze.  This will be a great game to play on a rainy day, or during the next indoor recess.

 

Your materials: 

  • 1 cardboard box
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Hot glue (teacher will help with this)

 

Directions:

  1. Discuss your ideas with your group.
  2. Draw your ideas and make a plan. (use planning sheet)
  3. Label your drawing, list materials you will use
  4. Show plan to teacher for approval
  5. Create your marble maze.
  6. Test your maze with a marble!
  7. Make changes, as needed.
  8. Share with the class.

 

 

  1. Make a plan. Students will use the planning sheet to plan their ideas with their group.  They will draw, write, and label their ideas.  They will also make a list of materials needed for their plan. They will use this plan as a prototype to help them get started. (They will also be shown some various pictures of student work for ideas.)

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  1. Explore/Make: Students will spend the majority of the lesson creating, testing, and modifying their straw marble mazes.

 

  1. Reflection: At the end of the lesson, students will refer to their plans from the beginning of the class. Students will reflect and share how their plan and thought process changed and evolved as they completed the maker challenge.

 

  1. Share: Students will share their straw maze creations with the class. They will test the maze out and show their classmates. They will share their new knowledge with the class.

 

  1. Extension: Students can use upcoming indoor recess lessons to make updates, changes, improvements to their mazes. They can also use this time to play with their mazes and swap mazes with others.

 

Can you catch that LEPRECHAUN?

St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Friday this year. A perfect day for a Leprechaun-themed Engineering Challenge. I proposed this question to my 5th graders today: “Can you design and create a trap that can catch and hold a leprechaun?”  They were excited and up to the challenge.

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I began the lesson by reading the book, “How to Catch a Leprechaun” by Adam Wallace.  In the book, a leprechaun tells children that he can’t be caught and hasn’t been for 200 years!  Could they be the brilliant child that will design the perfect trap?

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The students broke into groups of 2 to 4 students. They began brainstorming.  They drew and labeled their plans. After teacher approval, they got to work. I provided many recyclable materials for student use. They used everything from milk jugs, to toilet paper rolls, to pom-poms. As usual, they surprised me with their creativity. Many incorporated the use of a pulley system. Some groups even made small steps for leprechauns to climb!  There were trap doors, fake gold coins, sticky traps. They really used their imaginations!

After cleaning up the disaster of a classroom (but that’s part of the fun), we reflected on our new learning. Here are some of the questions that the students answered within their groups:

  1. Were you successful in this challenge? Why or why not?
  2. What was the most difficult part about this challenge? What did you do to get through it?
  3. What went well? What was your best idea?
  4. Did your leprechaun trap work? Did it work the way you wanted it to?
  5. What did you learn about teamwork and engineering during this maker challenge?
  6. Did you like it? Anything you would do differently

After some reflection, we shared our traps!  The kids were so proud of their work and it was fun to see all of their creative problem solving.

 

We didn’t get to this, but here’s some follow up questions and ways to extend this lesson:

  1. What is the science behind this maker challenge?
  2. What data could you record from this challenge?

Happy Making! And, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Genius Hour- Social Movement- Grade 5

For this week’s Genius Hour, we gave the students some topics as starting points. We tried to guide them with some topics from a recent unit in school, so they could come up with their own research questions. Many stuck with Social Movement topics:  Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, and Immigration.

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Some came up with their own. And, some went in a different direction and researched what they were passionate about.  We had everything from Suffragettes, to Penguins, to the Gulf War, and many topics in between. But you know what?  They were interested, engaged, and truly passionate about learning something new.

They spent the majority of the class period doing research and recording their new knowledge.   They only just got started on their “hands-on” part of the research, but the beginning stages are looking great!

Creating movement with LEGO

Being at a new school, we were lucky to have funding for many new things. One of these wonderful things are our LEGO kits. These kits are from LEGO Education and they are fantastic.

I had the opportunity to have my 5th graders take a class period recently to explore with the kits that are powered by batteries. They were given the instructions, “Create something that will improve something in today’s world”. They also needed to explain how it would make things better.

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They were so engaged and worked very well together. There were great discussions, some arguments, frustrations, and in the end they all came up with something. Most groups were able to make something that moved, using the batteries. Some students followed the directions that came with the kits. Many chose to make something on their own. Some did a combination of the two.

The batteries powered wheels, gears, propellers, cranes, and many other things. They all agreed it was both enjoyable and frustrating. They also most all agreed that even though it was hard, they wanted to do it again!  They liked the challenge. I assured them that they next time they work with these LEGO kits, it will be a little more familiar and they will hopefully have a new perspective.

I know the 5th graders can’t wait to come back and I can’t wait to see what they create!

Grade 1 Celebrates Dr. Seuss in the Maker Lab…Thing 1 and Thing 2 Style

I saw the first graders on the day before Dr. Seuss’s birthday. I thought to myself, it’s time for a Wacky Wednesday, Dr. Seuss style.  We started the lesson by reading a favorite, “The Cat in the Hat”. Then, the kids became Thing 1 or Thing 2.

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They made headbands by accordion folding or rolling paper around a pencil. They glued their blue “hair” strips to sentence strips and we turned them into hats!  They made their “Thing 1” or “Thing 2”, or even “Thing 100” signs and taped them to their shirts.

Last they used their new costumes to help them write a short story. They responded to the writing prompt:  “What would you do if Thing 1 or Thing 2 came to your house?”

The stories were cute and they loved the fun activity. Sometimes short and sweet is best!

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Making a “MakerConnection”to Gr 2 Health Curriculum

Two second grade teachers and I sat down to co-plan an upcoming health lesson. The unit that they have just begun in Health is all about personal health—keeping healthy, preventing germs, making good choices, etc. We chose to take a lesson about germs and the importance of washing hands and make it a little more hands-on, so we could bring it to the Maker Lab!

We started the lesson talking about as a kid how it seems like a “pain” to have to wash hands all the time. They all agreed that washing hands is sometimes a pain. We continued the discussion about the importance of it and how it prevents sicknesses from spreading.  The discussion continued for a few minutes.  Next, I had the students go to a sink and wet their hands.  Then they went to a paper plate full of glitter and dipped their hands in the glitter. The glitter represented the germs from sneezing or coughing. While each student dipped their hands in the glitter germs. The other students were to try to keep their hands in the air and “not spread the germs”. But, guess what??!  Just as I thought would happen, the glitter was everywhere and a good visual for the students. They were so surprised how quickly the glitter spread.  (Here’s a link to some resources I found to get this idea:  https://www.columbus.gov/uploadedfiles/Public_Health/Content_Editors/Resources_For/Educators/Teaching%20young%20children%20handwashing.pdf)

The next part of the lesson, I split the class into three groups. One group went to wash hands at the sink with soap and water. Another group used only water, while the last group just wiped their hands on their pants.  This was another great visual and many great discussions started.  The children were so amazed what a difference the soap made!

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After everyone had a chance to wash with soap and water, we gathered together and chatted about our observations. Then, the students washed a short video clip, called “The Sneeze”. This was another great example of how quickly germs spread and students were again surprised.  (I am hoping that they will want to wash their hands even more after today’s activities) Here’s the youtube link to the video clip:

 

Then, I had the students go back to their seats to design their own germ. They sketched a germ and named it.  I created a writing component to the “maker” part of the lesson. The students came up with 3 sentences with 3 details about what their germ could do. After their planning of the germ, they used some “maker materials” to make their germ come to life!

I think this lesson went really well. They got a lot out of it and made some real-world connections. Using glitter as germs was definitely “eye-opening” for these students. Now, I just need a vacuum!  This lab is covered in glitter!

First Grade in the Maker Lab: Another ELA hands-on connection

First grade classes have been reading non-fiction texts about animals during their English/Language Arts block.  They have talked about what makes animals unique and also how animals work together in team.  As an extension activity in the maker lab, today students came and participated in stations where they could extend their learning about animals in a hands-on way.  They were given the opportunity to work alone, in partners, or in groups. Students rotated through the stations and were very engaged.

Here’s what I had at each station:

Station 1:  devices- Students used the site “Pebble Go”. They were able to choose an animal to read a non-fiction article about on the site.  They used their earphones to listen and could go onto watch a video about the animal, too.

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Station 2:  unique- I had the word “Unique” cut out of paper. (We started the lesson with a review of what unique meant and what they remembered from previous lessons in class about what makes different animals–and people–unique). The students colored the word in a “unique” way, glued the word to a sentence strip and listed synonyms for the word unique. Some words the students came up with were:  one of a kind, different, and special.

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Station 3:  drawing unique animals-  I gathered non-fiction animal fact books, “how to draw animal” books, and some small animal figurines.  At this station students picked a unique animal to draw. Some followed the directions in the drawing books, some tried to trace one of the plastic figurines, and some chose to draw on their own.

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Station 4:  making a unique animal-  I gathered some “maker materials”, such as clay, beads, scrap paper, yarn, paper clips, toothpicks, cotton balls, and packing peanuts.  The students used the materials to make a model of a unique animal that was special to them.

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Station 5:  mask station- I had a lot of the same “maker materials” at this station as well. I gave the students paper plates and they made masks using the supplies.  They came up with some great and very unique animals.