Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Can't Bottle Creativity

Recently looked around #OurSTEAMCafe. Noticed all the empty containers from bottled water that I use for coffee in the morning. A large pile was accumulating in the corner. I decided to hang a note, "Bottles are for makerspace not trash." Then I challenged 2 third grade classes to consider what could they possibly upcycle a bottle into if given the opportunity. Their inspired ideas included: pet bowls, dog houses, bird houses, robots, race cars, planters, and other ingenious suggestions. I look forward to finding a time to let students come to #OurSTEAMCafe and armed with craft supplies, transform the ever growing collection of half gallon bottles into masterpieces.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Room Takes Shape

School began this week. Between some work this summer and some work this week the space is beginning to come together again. As always more work to be done. But I look forward to having a place where students and staff can come work on projects and explorations. Today's share is a small slideshow of some of the areas that are underway. Two areas still need to be completed. But I need a little assistance from our custodial crew.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Gearing Up for the Year Ahead

In my mind I have this idea for #OurSTEAMCafe. I hope students will explore documentation more this year. As I learn about who invented/modified the modern light bulb Edison or Tesla, I begin to realize how important documentation of ideas can really be. As I listened to friends at #DENSI2016 who kindly remind us to share/write up ideas and spread the word, I am reminded how this should apply to my own work and ideas.

So here are some of my ideas and plans for the 2016 - 2017 school year. Last year, I became more aware of some of the gorgeous creations that people generate that fall under the genre of Steampunk. I love the concept of merging the vintage and classic with new-age and futuristic technologies. Many of the items of tomorrow have not yet been dreamed of at this time. Perhaps some of my students will be some of those dreamers who invent our future technologies.

So in my head #OurSTEAMCafe will be decorated with woods, brass, copper, leather, industrial pipes, clocks and gears. The phrase "Gear Up for the Year Ahead" comes to mind. I can see all of the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math concepts that can intertwine with this. The boxes and bags currently "collecting" in my apartment will hopefully help to bring this design decor concept into fruition.

Now that most of our students and staff have an understanding of the STEAM concept, I feel I can move away from a room focused on stations for these concepts. The idea is that they should be combined in a transdisciplinary method anyway.

My new plan (which I hope will be brought to light) is to have the following areas:

  • Documentation Area (A section with light cubes for photography or student work, black velvet to display items, camera, ipads, mini-greenscreen areas, document camera and the like.
  • Devices Area (Of course a large portion of #OurSTEAMCafe is a way to lockup resources for security purposes when not being utilized. Naturally I prefer when my items are out being used by classes. Hope to make it more clear what items are available to loan to classes)
  • Discovery Area (An area for exploration. Hop on a computer to learn more about a topic of interest. Participate in a Discovery Education Virtual Field Trip. Explore offerings from Discovery Education Streaming to enhance understandings)
  • Design Area (A collection of materials and resources so that students and teachers can create. Art supplies, cardboard, Legos, K'nex, and more to build and create with to bring ideas to light)
  • Drawing Board Area (All good ideas need to be flushed out and reworked and revisited. I hope to provide a collection of wipeboards and clipboards for students and teachers to use to collaborate and draft plans)
  • Discussion Area (Hope to also provide a comfortable area where teachers and/or students can come sit and reflect on their ideas. Seek assistance. Review ideas and discuss with peers)
Now as always these ideas are very clear in my head. Just hope I can also make them clear in the real world in #OurSTEAMCafe. In a few more days as I beginning redecorating I intend to be more concious about taking before and after photos. I'd love to hear about the plans and ideas that are circulating in your head. Please share. Remember document your work...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

NASA S'cool Project

A kindergarten class joined me to track the weather as part of a wonderful project with NASA. Yes, I said a kindergarten class. When it comes to technology integration it is all about the teacher and their flexibility. The Kindergarten teacher that paired with me, would ask the students to remind her when it was the correct time (Math). We had a 15 minute window of a specific time to record data for NASA. The teacher and class took a sky photo (in the same location) or I did from #OurSTEAMCafe. We recorded the date, time, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure of the day. Yes, I invested in two sets of digital weather instruments for #OurSTEAMCafe. This data was then submitted to NASA. Those involved in the S'Cool Project at NASA would compare our real-world observed ground data, to the satelittes measured data. Some days the data was well aligned. Others not so much. I'm sure the class had some interesting discussions regarding this. Here is the overview PDF of our collected data that we created. Hope to resume this amazing project again in the Fall.

March - Beautiful Butterflies

During the month of March, #OurSTEAMCafe was invaded by butterflies. The Science area had gorgeous DVDS, posters, books, and a toy model of the butterfly life cycle. The Technology area had access to online videos, informational websites, LittleBits projects and interactive life cycle sites all for exploring. The Engineering area had some block challenges to create butterflies (also involving math as butterflies have symmetry). The Arts area had several projects available as well as materials to create original works. Using coffee filters and markers we also explored the chomotography in markers (making interesting butterflies) [also involving Science]. Ah the beauty of STEAM Education. It all inter-relates. And of course the math area had butterfly measurements and manipulates to work with to continue learning.

Part of my role is help teachers integrate technology in their classrooms as well. Here it the resource I created to share with teachers. You mind find a resource or two that works for you as well: Click here. If you do find something useful, we would love to hear your story.

Friday, February 12, 2016

February - Conversation Hearts

Realize, I lost my digital voice for awhile. After attending #DENSI2016 and reconnecting with #DENFriends and #DENFamily, I have found my voice again. Hopefully you find something useful in what I have to say. I will be backfilling a few activities that weren't seen beyond our four walls last year. Hope you enjoy...

February - Conversation Hearts

A class joined me in #OurSTEAMCafe to explore conversation hearts on February, 12th. This was a multiuse meeting. We were demoing chromebooks and Google Classroom. Tapping into the upcoming holiday made this digital excursion engaging. Using several videos and images that I found on the Internet, we began looking at how Sweethearts are made. Here is the presentation that I shared with our students. Click here for the pdf.

We looked at the question, How many letters can you fit on a heart? Five letters on the top line. Four on the shorter line. The W is a longer letter, though, so if we use the W we do lines of four and three.,8599,2048687,00.html

After discovering the journey Sweethearts Candies go through before they reach our desks, we then created our own Sweetheart sayings. We discussed how new sayings are approved each year. We pretended to be drafting new slogans for the NECCO company. The students created wonderful ideas to share.

Lastly, I passed out a box of conversation hearts for each student. They were distributed a worksheet with two hearts. They created their own original number sentences. We placed each students number sentence under our Lumens Ladibug document camera for the class to see. The class tried to solve all the number sentences. Then students practiced writing in a Google Doc (reached through Google Classroom), by sharing their number sentences.

Then of course, as a small gift each student received a box of Sweethearts. These went home with students. This way parents could check allergy information or make a decision regarding consumption.

*Note: I hope to enhance this post soon with photos and other links. But those resources are not with me. This is why I enjoyed moving to the Google Cloud. Moving forward all resources will be easily reached with the power of the Internet.

Thursday, January 28, 2016


I have an idea for a project. I just saw this adorable Valentine's Day activity: It sparked an idea! Would anyone be willing to swap a say 12 inch piece of ribbon or yarn (could be either and any color you have)? I don't think the postage would be too much since it's light. Wouldn't this be a great way to demonstrate to our students the power of our connected threads aka a network / PLN / The DEN? If you are willing to send me one, I'll be glad to send you one in return. Anyone interested?

As I try to model good digital citizenship for my students, I won't include our mailing address here. But if you comment, tweet (@neene), or email me, I'll be glad to swap addresses with you. As we receive threads/strings/ribbons classes can utilize them in any creative way they wish. But please share out a photo or two or three. Let's use the hashtags #DENln, #ConnectTheThreads, and #OurSTEAMCafe.

*Update: In discussing this with members of my #DENln, we decided to create a Digital Sign up. This way interested teachers can sign up and share their mailing address safely. Your mailing information will not be shared unless you agree to receive threads. This will hopefully make the process of connecting easier. 

Feel free to sign up at:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Right Stuff

Recently, I purchased a littleBits keyboard module ( for enhancing our Art, Technology and Engineering components in #OurSTEAMCafe. Went to test the module. All that it did was make one single deep tone. It didn't matter which "key" on the keyboard you pressed. The tone was the same. This didn't seem logical. I looked at it again. I disconnected. I reconnected. Same thing. I altered the pitch. Different tone but still only one single tone emited.

Frustration level reached. I then reached for my computer and began searching compilations using the Keyboard module. My research lead me to this post:   "The keyboard doesn't generate it's own signal that you can adjust and hear on the speaker on its own, but instead puts out a steady voltage that affects the pitch of the sound wave generated by the oscillator."

Love professional learning through inquiry and research. So then a few days later, I was able to purchase a littleBits oscilator ( Interesting how much better things work when you have the right stuff. Here is a video I created of a correctly functioning littleBits keyboard circuit. I look forward to using this with students soon. All the discussions that are possible swirl in my head. Hope this helps someone else in the journey of simple computer science projects.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sketchnoting Local History

Invited a fourth grade class to #OurSTEAMCafe this past week. I introduced the idea of Sketchnoting. A quick visual note-taking process to our students. I shared a sample that I found on the internet. We analyzed what the student must have been experiencing to create the sketch note that they had. Conversations centered around image choice, word choice, lists vs no lists, etc. Then we took those ideas and applied them to reading a personal experience piece.

Last Spring, I discovered that not far from our school there use to be a trainstation. It is no more. A bagel store is now in its place. But how amazing to think back to a time gone by. Oh and did I mention this falls into our 4th grade social studies framework. So together we read a passage. Paused. Students took sketchnotes. We also learned that the metal from the rails was removed during the war when metal was at a premium. How fascinating!

The intended lesson had expected to have students then write their own piece discussing what they learned from the article. However, some classroom disruptions put us a bit behind schedule. Students did not have much time with the chromebooks. However, the nice thing about sketch notes is now the next time we return to this work, the visual notes will help students expand their thinking in written form. I look forward to working with this class again soon.