October 10

Balanced and Unbalanced FORCES

Our current science unit on Forces has us thinking about objects around us in many different ways. What is happening when I’m swinging on a swing? What makes a moving object slow down? What has to happen in order for a see-saw to have zero net force (be completely balanced)?

Forces that are equal in size but opposite in direction are called balanced forcesBalanced forces do not cause a change in the motion of objects. Forces that cause a change in motion of objects are called unbalanced forces.

Watch this video to learn more on this topic: Balanced and Unbalanced Forces




October 3

Unit 1 Math Review

As we prepare for our first math assessment in third grade I thought putting together a collection of Khan Academy tutorials might be helpful. Work on them at school or check it out tonight while you are studying. Khan Academy is an awesome resource as it has videos that you can watch, pause, restart and watch again to support your learning. I’m looking forward to exploring this site with you this year and can’t wait to hear what you all think of this valuable resource!

Place Value Videos and Practice

Number Patterns Videos and Practice

Rounding Videos and Practice

May 31

Book of The Month

At Heathcote School we have a special way of connecting through literature. Every month a chosen picture book is distributed to each classroom complete with a special message from the staff member who chose it. Books vary in theme, readability, genre, however they have one thing in common. A message that speaks to the reader that is worthy of sharing. This month’s book is Come With Me by Holly A McGhee and it was chosen by Mrs. Grossbach. Below is our response on a padlet.

Made with Padlet
April 12

Blogging & Social Media in the Elementary Classroom

My teaching philosophy has always involved a making component long before Makerspaces were mainstream. I believe in hands-on learning. Embodied cognition means to learn by doing; and similar to playing with fraction pieces to gain an understanding of fractions, children need to play with language in order to gain an understanding of what it means to be a better writer. Blogging allows for that type of tinkering with text while helping students to grow their writing muscles because blogs allow for editing, revising and multiple iterations over time.

Blogging & Social Media in The Elementary Classroom from ChristineBoyer10
April 12

Making With Less

I recently had the opportunity to present at a conference in Puerto Rico. The conference was focused on restructuring education in Puerto Rico to have a focus on Design Thinking and Project Based Learning. I was the elementary contingent of our team and I presented on MakerSpaces. This should have been very easy for me, having started the makerspace in my school and having presented on MakerSpaces at regional and national conferences.  Upon scrolling through some of my previous presentations, it became apparent that I’d have to make some changes. While I often talk a lot about the students projects ranging from hi-tech to lo-tech, I knew this presentation would have a singular focus on lo-tech to make the transition easier.

From my experience working with elementary students, I’ve learned that it’s not about the hi-tech gadgets at all. Large sums of money were spent on a 3D printer in the early days of our Makerspace. It was a shiny new toy, but didn’t have the lasting effect I had hoped for. The greatest creativity and innovation grows from working with familiar materials and having opportunities to work with readily accessible materials. Little kids can do great things with less.

In reviewing the top projects and interests in our makerspace over the past 5 years, my list of materials to start a Makerspace now looks like this:

  • Safety is first so kid sized goggles and work gloves. Our goggles were donated from Google Science.
  • Real tools: can be used and obtained through donations from parents & community-Hammers, screwdrivers of all sizes, pliers, wire cutters, nails, screws, hinges,  hand saws, and a drill.
  • Fabric and sewing needles
  • Wood: all kinds and all sizes  – think “Block of Wood Challenge: When Is a Block of Wood No Longer a Block of Wood?”
  • Sandpaper
  • Cardboard: lots of odd shapes, sturdy flat, cereal boxes, tubes of all sizes
  • Paint and brushes
  • Coin batteries and LED lights of all colors.
  • Copper tape for paper circuits
  • Chibitronics sticker LED lights
  • PVC pipe cut into various lengths with elbows, t-connectors and end caps for marshmallow shooters and building large structures
  • Duct tape of every color and pattern you can find
  • Batteries of all sizes 
  • Small motors
  • Insulated wire and wire strippers
  • Electrical Tape
  • A plethora of art supplies: paper, scissors, markers, felt, pipe cleaners, glue,
  • Rummage through old science supplies for magnets, magnifying glasses, beakers, interesting loose parts for game making, etc.

Things we’ve collected over time have also been popular for game making. Old board games, discarded electronic toys, random game pieces, cards, marbles, plastic bottle tops, etc. Electronics that are no longer being used are often donated and they are the best for UNMAKING. We use the Thinking Routine from Harvard’s Project Zero titled Parts, Purposes and Complexities.

Lego Robotics was worth the investment (and a few kits go a long way as kids can share them). The Robotics are great because once kids master the instruction booklet, they can hack the projects and start to create from their imaginations.

Edison Robots  are good for teaching our youngest students coding and are fairly inexpensive. Scratch is another way to teach coding and is web based and free.

Countless resources will also help your students find ways to make more with less: Design Squad Nation , The Exploratorium, Rube Goldberg Machines and Caine’s Arcade are our favorites.

It’s easy to get caught up with stocking the MakerSpace, but it’s important to always come back to the “why.” Why are we doing this? It’s for the children, so spend some time with them and ask them what they want to make. Provide inspiration and then be prepared to get out of their way.

February 16

Convergence of Character

This week we experienced a convergence of curriculum that was somewhat magical in my world. We’ve been reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park and throughout the book the class has been taking notes; either short reflections of their own or more recently sketchnoting (where they combine drawings/doodles with text to convey meaning). The main character’s name is Salva and our conversations often connected him to another character we read about earlier in the year, Kek from Home of The Brave by Katherine Applegate. From that the children were able to understand how HOPE kept Salva going; how family is a powerful force in one’s life and how gratitude might be something we don’t express enough.

We are also studying/designing water filters in our latest science unit so there’s a deeper understanding of the dangers of contaminated water among my 5th graders. This, I believe helped them develop empathy for the people we were reading about. Following Salva’s journey and having conversations around his transformation from a scared child to a strong leader had us concentrating on the character strength of perseverance. How did Salva’s uncle teach this to him? How did his uncle’s mantra (One step at a time) help him to survive? I asked my students to write a blog post on the following questions:

  • How might Salva’s philosophy help you in your life?
  • Why is perseverance so important?
  • How can you better develop the ability to persevere?

The posts are due today. I can’t wait to share them in class.

Another unexpected beautiful moment occurred when Dr. Qadir came in this week for his Expert Lecture. He didn’t know about the work we were doing in class, but his talk fit in perfectly. He talked to the children about his love of mountain climbing. He brought in some of his gear and showed breath taking photos of the places he’s travelled to and the mountains he’s climbed.  At the start of his talk he said, “The mountain taught me how to take one step at a time.” So many little heads turned and looked at me with surprise and recognition as if to say, “Him too?”

Sometimes it happens intentionally, when books we choose to read aloud have great connections to curriculum, and sometimes the planets align just right. Of course I knew there would be connections, I just never expected them to be so powerful. I was sad that the book ended, however the conversations have not. We are watching Salva Dut’s TEDx Talk today in class and my students are talking about their end of year capstone projects. Yesterday’s conversation started with, “do we have to just research something, or can we actually DO something?” Mic drop, screen fades to black…I’ll keep you posted.

March 16

March Maker Madness

A visit to the Westport Public Library’s Makerspace inspired Heathcote Elementary School’s current hit playlist of maker activities collectively called, March Maker Madness. While in the Westport Makerspace, the facilitator Margaret, showed off a magnificent hand sculpted beast that stands center stage in the spacious library atrium. This fierce dragon could easily pose for the front cover of a best selling fantasy novel with its fiery colors, dangerously sharp tail, and 3D printed pointy teeth. The twenty foot dragon goes by the name Bradbury and he was created by master sculptor and “maker-in-residence” Chris Crowe, along with dozens of local children as a part of an overnight Maker Madness event last year (that just happened to be in March).

Margaret recounted the event with great pride and while the idea of an all-nighter in Heathcote School may not have been the spark that lit the fire, the idea of making on a larger scale certainly struck a creative chord. The initial vision was to invite all teachers to take part in something hands-on along with their students; to connect students from all of our schools for a vertical making experience; to allow time for students to be the experts and finally, to start a faculty study group around design thinking. The timing was actually perfect upon looking at the calendar as March was bursting with related activities; Bash The Trash Assembly Program, NY Hall of Science Trip, The Cook Prize book evaluations, and of course our-soon-to-be-famous school wide event, HExpo 2017.

Several iterations later, March Maker Madness materialized to be something fantastic in it’s own right. Two organizations with close ties to Heathcote School, donated their time and conducted several high-energy, thought provoking workshops for our students. The Digital Arts Experience led design thinking challenges asking students to re-imagine their classrooms and let their imaginations run wild with ideating and prototyping, Curious-on-Hudson led vehicle inspired workshops that explored the power of wind and utilized found materials to design and build the ultimate derby car.  Our Middle School Robotics Club rotated students through stations to teach about building, sensors and coding. A most professional trio that left the groups wanting more!

This event may have been one teacher’s vision, however the success of it speaks volumes about the Heathcote Faculty. Signing up for a workshop was completely voluntary, yet all slots filled quickly. Twitter lit up with photos of students engaged and excited to learn. Teacher’s enjoyed the various presenters and encouraged additional conversations around designing and making. March Maker Madness has solidified Heathcote School’s place in the Maker Movement as an innovation leader.