Tuesday, March 25, 2014

STEM Training

Why is it when some people hear "STEM" they moan and groan or run away in fear?!?! Today, I attended the first day of a two-day STEM training held at my district office. I have to say that the training we had today was among the best I have ever experienced in my 10 years of teaching. First of all, it was almost all hands-on and conducted in the same manner one would expect teachers to use STEM with their students. It was also full of authentic, real-world reasons that it is crucial we integrate STEM in our schools. To make this training even more "21st Century Skills"-oriented, we collaborated via video teleconference with teachers in Korea and mainland Japan.

As an educator, sometimes I cringe at the thought of having to do group work during training. Today, my group was fabulous! Our first task was to build the tallest tower we could using only 15 sheets of printer paper. My group got to work quickly and created a tower that was 61 inches tall! Since we were given no time to really plan the first time, we did the activity again with time set aside for brainstorming ideas and planning, and we managed to get our tower to be an inch taller :) Below is a picture of the first tower:


Our other activities were awesome too! The second was creating a "pyramid" of plastic cups without using our hands. The only tool we had was 4 strings tied to a rubber band. That was an amazing lesson is communicating and using teamwork! Our first try, we were the first team to complete our pyramid. We had the opportunity to perfect our technique, but I think we were overthinking things, and it took us a bit longer. 

The final activity was creating a lunar landing module. We designed something great, but then we realized we were designing the module based on the Earth's properties, and not thinking about the moon. So, our awesome design with flaps designed to create wind-resistance would have done little to help our little module on the moon. It was a great way to show that sometimes, it is REALLY important to develop background knowledge before jumping in. 

I am so excited to go back tomorrow and learn more about the Engineering Design Process and all of the neat materials and activities we will get to use from Engineering is Elementary! I truly wish I could just teach every lesson the way we were learning today. I noticed integration of not only the STEM subjects, but several others as well!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February = Lots of Fun in First Grade!

Wow! I never realized how much fun I missed out on as a 4th grade and 7th grade teacher! Last week we celebrated our 100th day of school and Valentine's Day. This week, the students are excitedly researching U.S. Presidents in honor of President's Day. Next week, we kick off our celebration of Dr.  Suess with Literacy Night. All of these things seem to be much bigger deals to my little 6- and 7-year olds. While I would sneak in some fun with my older students, February meant that our Terra Nova testing was right around the corner, and I think that put a damper on some events. So, I am trying to enjoy every last minute of pure JOY that I get to see in my students' eyes on these wild and crazy days!

I don't have a camera in my classroom this year, and I keep forgetting to grab my phone or camera when we are doing awesome stuff. I promise we have had some educational and fun days :) For the 100th day, we enjoyed a healthy snack thanks to an idea from Pinterest. Students had a baby carrot (for the 1 in the hundreds place) and two slices of cucumber (for our 0 tens and 0 ones). I have never seen children so excited to eat veggies! They loved it! We also spent time building structures out of 100 plastic cups, decorating silly hats with 100 stamps, pictures, words, etc., writing about what we would do with $100, and making art out of the digits of 100 (another awesome Pinterest find).

On Valentine's Day, we tried to keep it mellow. I introduced some fun Valentine's Day math centers in the morning. My wonderful student teacher led a fun art and writing activity. Students created "pop art" hearts, and we used those as the covers of our Valentine's Day cards. Students practiced their letter writing skills inside the card. Then, we enjoyed some treats and passed out Valentines in the afternoon.

I am excited to see how anxious the students are to do research to learn about new things. The President research activity has been a favorite! I will share pictures of these once they are finished. I am sure I will have a lot of great stories to share over the coming weeks.