One of the best parts of being part of a group is learning from others.  

You know the saying, “Two brains are better than one.” Working in a group can lessen the individual workload and really help with creating more innovation.

Last Thursday I was blown away after talking with an inaugural Imagination Chapter leader. Dave Hartzell reached out to me since we are both in NC.  He was one of the 30 pilot leaders last year. Check out his bio

Wow.  Just wow. MrHartzell1 rocks. He started The 40 Book Project to get books into the hands of students at his school.  He also said that this year he will be leading a Wonder Lab at his school this year.  A full-time makerspace leader.  My brain was about to explode with possibilities.

He gave me some excellent advice throughout our thirty minute conversation.  I wrote some ideas down, but this is what I remember right now.

You don’t need fancy equipment to make stuff.
2) Use Google Hangout to connect the kids with people around the world
3) This Makedo Toolkit Starter set is great for cutting cardboard.
There was so, so much more that we talked about.  I’m just thrilled to know that he is just a message away.  That truly is the best thing about PLCs, Twitter, and now this Imagination Foundation community.  I have all this access to these brilliant people who are out there trying out these ideas.  Don’t go at it alone. Follow some like-minded people on Twitter, read a new professional book or blog, talto a colleague at your school…  The ideas came fast and hard as we were talking.  And I could never discount all of my awesome colleagues at my school and in my district.  I am forever grateful to my fellow tribespeople. You make me a better teacher.

Hour of Code

How We Got Here – Part 3

Last year was the first year our school participated in the Hour of Code.  All 1st-5th grade students learned simple basics of coding using the online program Blockly. Learning to code builds confidence and logical thinking skills in math, science, and technology. 

We started the lesson by watching a video that introduced the students to coding.  I am one who sometimes skips introductions and gets right into the meat of the lesson.  This video was well worth the time we spent watching it.  I loved how it exposed students to a wide variety of people who code. #global 🙂 It also explained how students would work with Blockly.
Most of the classes were given choices of which program to use.  The two most popular beginning units were Angry Birds and Frozen.  Some students advanced to other activities.  Several students went home and used the coding website and others asked to use it again during subsequent visits to the media center. 
We will definitely participate in the Hour of Code again in December! Hopefully by then we will have somlittleBits and Makey Makey in our makerspace.
More from our Wish List
Bee-Bot Robot Duo   (programmable robots for children ages 5 and up) $200
LEGO WeDO Robotics Kits   (build a LEGO robot and code it to move) $140
Sphero 2.0   (app-enabled robot ball) $100
Ozobot   (one of the world’s smallest programmable robots) $50
More SnapCircuit Sets
iPad Minis for coding and operating some of these sets

Our awesome assistant principal took some of us to a LEGO Symposium in May. That is where I first learned about the LEGO WeDo Robotics kits. It is so simple a first grader could build and program a robot.

One of our fantastic teachers won a grant from our district’s Educational Foundation and was able to purchase four kits and the software that goes along with it. (The software is a necessary component and she ordered a site license for $279.)
Learning to code and program will help students with the skills and concepts they’ll need as the scientists, engineers, and innovators of the future.
Coding Websites

Hour of Code
Tynker Hour of Code


How We Got Here – Part 2

Makerspaces have become really popular.   I first heard about them in media centers from my fellow media coordinators. Several attended sessions at local media conference sessions.

I have always tried to provide materials for our students.  Many children will simply desire a blank piece of paper. Makerspaces seemed to be that magnified by a thousand. My own children love to create, so this was an easy fit for me.

I have a great student who visits the media center often. I explained the concept and asked him if he thought it would be a good fit for our school. He, of course, loved the idea. We brainstormed some ideas of what materials we would need.  He even named our makerspace – Building Land.  He and his parents designed a great logo for our new makerspace and they had two large signs printed for us.

This wonderful family also donated materials for the makerspace.

(Part of the inspiration for the logo was Minecraft.  We were fortunate to win a Bright Ideas grant to purchase Minecraft for our media center around the same time.)
A friend suggested SnapCircuits as a good material to add to our makerspace.  This has been my favorite addition.  
We also had a makerspace type of day as a reading reward. The students built with Duplo blocks, train sets, LEGO building blocks, Lincoln Logs, and marble mazes; they designed bracelets with loom bands, paracords, and beads; and they created with felt, paper, clay and yarn.  It was really messy, but I know the kids loved it!
Students have been able to use the makerspace as part of regularly scheduled media classes and during flexibly scheduled times. 
We hope to add lots more to our makerspace this year!


How We Got Here – Part 1

SciGirls is a wonderful organization that strives to get more girls interested in STEM.  I applied to have our school become a SciGirls Partner and it was an easy and meaningful partnership from there. Whitney Sprinkle from our local cooperative extension office did this with us. SciGirls came out and trained some of our teachers during a full day workshop.  Since then we have held mini sessions for our teachers after school.  I then presented at our school district’s Teaching and Learning Conference.

The effect has been more than seventy local educators who were introduced to strategies to help girls become more involved in STEM.  These strategies have been shown to help girls AND boys.

Our school had a noticeable increase in STEM activities after this training.

Thank you, SciGirls, for this great opportunity!

SciGirls Presentation Slideshow

SciGirls Presentation Website with STEAM Resources

SciGirls Connect for Educators
SciGirls for Kids Website
Whitney Sprinkle NC Coop in Dobson – 4-H 401-8025

My Boys

This story could not be told without the help of my sons.  Both of our boys are artistic and creative. Gabe has gone on to video games and doesn’t spend as much time making like he once did.  I will find him doing some digital art and graphic design, but I must admit, I miss those days he would draw for hours. Fortunately he has art every day in middle school so I still get to enjoy seeing some of his creations.

Kendall is nine and has been making, building, drawing, and whatever else you want to call it since he was a toddler.  His first love was probably building blocks.  He didn’t care much for Gabe’s hand me down set of Thomas the Tank Engine and the $500 or so worth of tracks and trains.  He loved blocks.  He loved Duplo and Trio before he started school.  He graduated to LEGO building blocks and can build just about anything. He is fascinated with stop motion videos and has made a few.

He loves to draw, too.  While Gabe was fascinated with superheroes, Kendall’s focus has been primarily on Mario and friends.  We cannot wait until Mario Maker comes out!

As a child my idea of a perfect birthday present was a pack of blank paper and a 64 pack of Crayola crayons.  So whenever my boys needed blank paper, Sharpie markers, paint, Sculpey clay, or anything else they needed/wanted in order to create, it was never a problem.  They have been quite resourceful as well.  I love it!

I applied to be a 2015 Imagination Chapter leader this past summer.  When I got the acceptance letter via email, I was in tears I was so excited.  Kendall was quite concerned, so I showed him a few of the videos from the Imagination Foundation.  He was thrilled as well!

He created his own cardboard arcade games over the next few days.  So far he has made Whack-a-Mole, skee ball, a crane machine, foosball with LEGO minifigures, and a hamster maze.

I could go on and on about Kendall and his creations, but perhaps that would best be saved for his own blog.

For now, I am thrilled that the boys are mine and that they have a love of making.  Lots of kids do and we are out to provide them with the resources they need.  Let’s go!

Hey there!

Well, I’m so glad we’re here.  I’m excited to share about Generation Imagination.  It’s a movement to help kids experience more play and creativity.

I’m thrilled to be a 2015 Imagination Chapter leader.  Do you remember hearing about Caine’s Arcade – the young boy in East LA who had created a cardboard arcade at his dad’s store?  The Imagination Foundation is the non-profit organization that came about after the explosive success of the video Caine’s Arcade.  The group had 30 pilot chapters all across the world in 2014.  They have added 100 more for 2015.

Franklin Elementary is one of those chapters!  This is a natural fit after last year’s involvement with SciGirls, the Hour of Code, and our new makerspace.

Come join us as we embark on this amazing journey!  We hope to be involved with littleBitsMakedoMakey Makey, and lots of other great groups. One of our first events will be the 2015 Global Cardboard Challenge in October.

Image: Imagination Foundation

For now, we’ll leave you with this great video that gives you a better idea about what this is all about! Thanks for stopping by!  Come back soon, ya hear?