Saturday, July 28, 2018

Thoughts on Failure and Perseverance

Every summer we go to Lake Almanor, three moms and four boys. It is the only time these boys see each other during the year. Today as I was standing in the lake I watched the boys figure out how to all stand on the tube/float. I observed the many failed attempts where all would end up in the water only to get back on and try again. 

My educator eyes are always fascinated by the process folks use to solve a problem or problems. These boys were fighting the laws of physics by actively challenging them. While observing I noticed that the boys never stopped to discuss and plan, they just started climbing back on and figuring out what had to be done so that in the end they would all be standing. I heard so much discussion and problem solving as they were in the process of standing. They were focused, thinking critically and never was there a moment or thought of giving up until they had succeeded. Each failed attempt taught them how not to do it and allowed them to try something new.

There were too many failed attempts to count with only one eventual success and then it was on to the next challenge of the day... Lunch!

They boys were having a wonderful time and each time they failed they laughed and were rewarded by a soaking. Think how different this would have gone down if the moms had told them to do this without getting wet (or failing). One little thing can change the entire scenario and if we had done that the boys would have not even tried. Their willingness to attempt and be creative in their solution would be sacrificed. No action rather than failure.

I often have Yoda's quote posted in my classroom "There is no try, do or do not." I think that if students set their goals to "doing" then they can still have many "trials and failures" which is a part of the "doing" process. But if we add parameters that lead to choosing not to "do" we are robbing our students of the very process we want to encourage.

How do we prove to students that we truly want them to learn from failed attempts in our content area courses? Now this gets me thinking about grading and a whole other can of worms... 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Picture Book Design Thinking Maker Activities

This summer I am the design thinking enrichment teacher for our Summer Bridge program.  Because literacy is a focus, I decided to base my maker/design thinking projects on picture books.  I work with each grade level for one hour a week and the fifth through eighth grade students see me twice a week.  Here is a list of the books I chose and the activities that go with them.  I'll also include my slide deck from my EdTechTeam K2CanToo conference presentation.  I bought materials for all activities at Dollar Tree #$TreeMakers. If you click on the image of the book it will take you to an Amazon link.

The Dot:
Image result for the dot book images   CLICK HERE for Amazon Link
For this activity I read the dot to the students and have them create their dot.  They can draw, use maker materials, or create an online dot using Google Draw or other tools.  The design thinking part of the activity introduces empathy to the students.  So in creating their dots, they have to introduce themselves to the "audience" and help the audience empathize with them as a person and a learner.

Empathy for Vashti and her fear of drawing

A Frog Thing:
Image result for a frog thing  CLICK HERE for Amazon Link
I love this book for so many reasons but one of the main ones is that it was one of my son's favorite books for me to read aloud to him.  The story is about Frank who is a frog that wants to fly.  His parents tell him he can do anything and when he tells them he wants to fly, they backtrack and tell him they meant he could do any "frog thing".  This book is a great segue into discussing with students that as humans we have invented things that enable us to break out of only being able to do "human things"
For this maker challenge the students have to create a way for Frank to fly.  I bought plastic frogs a dollar tree for the students to use to design a flying apparatus that will fly Frank across the room. The students have to research flight and come up with a way for Frank to fly.

Empathy for Frank and his desire to fly.

If I Built a Car:
Image result for if i built a car CLICK HERE for Amazon Link
After reading this book to the kiddos, they are tasked with building a balloon car using paper plates, straws, skewers, cups, and tape.  I allow the students to use Chromebooks to look up and figure out how to build a balloon car.  Step two is to have them add motors to their cars.

The Three Little Pigs an Architecture Tale:
Image result for the three little pigs an architectural tale  CLICK HERE for Amazon Link
For this design challenge the students have to build a house with the provided materials that is wind proof (hair dryer test) and earthquake proof (shake the desk test). The students may use a variety of materials such as straws, pipe cleaners, tape, craft sticks, paper plates, whatever stuff I grab at Dollar Tree.

Empathy for the three pigs and their need to be safe from the big bad wolf.

Image result for dogzilla  CLICK HERE for Amazon Link
For this design challenge, the students need to build a catapult that will shoot food outside of Mouseopolis and save the giant barbecue from Dogzilla who wants to eat everything.  For this challenge the students can use spoons, rubber bands, craft sticks, and any other maker materials I have around.

Empathy for the mice in Mouseopolis who are fearful of Dogzilla.

Now and Ben:
Image result for Now and Ben  CLICK HERE for Amazon Link
For this challenge the students create squishy circuits using play dough, batteries, wires, electrical tape, and LED lights.  I get materials from amazon for this challenge.  The students also explore electricity by making name tags that light up with LED lights and 3 volt batteries.  Finally, the students use vibration motors from dollar tree electric toothbrushes and make scribble bots.  They make the bot out of pieces of pool noodles and decorate them with feathers, stickers, pipe cleaners all from Dollar Tree.

I love that I use these books and challenges for students grades K - 8. Each grade level tackles the challenge differently and it is amazing to watch them make and create and figure it out.

Here is my K2CanToo presentation:

Here is a link to some photos from our Summer Bridge design challenges: CLICK HERE