Saturday, May 10, 2014

Engineering.. Saving Humpty Dumpty

This was another inspiration by Deanna Jump.  I have recently been hired to teach Kindergarten at a STEM school.  I love learning and getting new ideas on my quest to be the best teacher I can be… But engineering?  In Kindergarten?  How on earth do I do that?  Well, it turns out, the same way I do everything, thematically as part of a unit.

This past week we've been working on the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty".  We recited, sang it, read a mini book about it, illustrated it and acted it out.  Now it was time to save Humpty from his dangerous wall sitting tendencies.

I talked with the class about how we keep ourselves save during activities where we might fall.  We came up with helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, band aids..

I told the kids it was their job to design a safety suit for Humpty Dumpty. I put them in 6 groups of 2 or 3.  I gave them the following materials:  A large sheet of paper, a length of adding machine tape, a paper towel, 3 pipe cleaners, a small padded envelope, a length of masking tape and an egg.  (I used supplies I had on hand.)  They could use scissors but nothing else.  I showed them how to tear the masking tape in pieces if desired.  If they ran out of materials they had to make do.

I learned:
Have extra eggs.  The kids may break their eggs in the design process but I didn't want learning to stop there so I gave the groups another egg.
Kids are pretty adaptable.  When they are told they have limited supplies they make do.
Make sure the egg breakage happens outside, in a place where it can end up on the bottom of shoes, and tracked in public spaces.
Keep a scissors and a garbage can handy after the fall off the wall.

Each group had to explain their design and how it works before dropping it off the wall. (Off the top of a high play structure works well too).

As a follow up each group talked about any design changes they would make if they could do it again.
And we may because I have a number of eggs who survived the fall.  Way to save Humpty!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

3-D pond diorama

I confess, I have a hard time letting go of containers.  I can't seem to send any of those lidded copy paper boxes to the recycling.  Only recently have I been able to stop collecting all manner of plastic food containers because my city  now recycles them.  I don't want to live in clutter.  My latest conundrum has been what to do with the containers birthday cake and cupcakes come in.  I was able to let go of most of them but I held onto one particularly cool one that I promised myself I would recycle at the end of the year if I haven't found a use for it.

Finally, it came to me.  I can use it to create an enclosed habitat diorama for the pond.
I have been working on creating a pond unit for most of the school year culminating in a field trip to study a nearby pond.

I wanted my students to create something they could identify with that would be a lasting reminder of this unit of study.

As a class we glued sand to the bottom and a small stick from the playground for a log.  We taped shredded green paper to the corners and then each student decided on a pond creature to add.  Each student painted a small stone and added paper legs, tails and heads.  We displayed our work prominently in the classroom and referred to it anytime we collected new learnings about the pond.

If you are a container person like I am I hope this give you a new way to think about containers.

The frog glyph and my thoughts on glyphs.

 I have never gotten into glyphs.  I never understood their purpose and they always seemed too complicated and needing too much class time without much learning.
I had an "aha" moment this past weekend listening to Deanna Jump speak at the Minnesota Kindergarten conference.
Mrs. Jump explained that the purpose of glyphs is to create data in a picture form but not to stop there.  Use the data created to make graphs and charts and then interpret the data.
She also stressed that Kindergarten glyph should only have 3 elements.  Any more than that is way too much information.
I was inspired.  I have been looking for ways to do more data analysis types of activities in my ongoing quest to teach math in more integrated and engaging ways.

As part of a recent unit of study on ponds I was able to create my first glyph!
We read several pond stories and all of them included frogs.  Frogs captured the imaginations of my young learners.

Here are the 3 questions in my glyph:
I think frogs are cool = a dark green frog outline
I think frogs are creepy= a light green frog outline

I have touched a frog = big wiggle eyes
I have not touched a frog= small wiggle eyes

I like Jump Frog Jump best = a long red tongue
I like In a Small, Small Pond best = a short red tongue

After creating the data we used graph paper and tally charts to collect the data and compare our numbers using greater than, less than and equal too terminology.

If you are like me and have never used glyphs before I hope you give it a try and see if they inspire you too!