Friday, August 25, 2017

Building Together

Today is still a summer break day. But today was also a preparing for September Day. Yesterday, I visited school for a little while. Worked on testing all the computers in one of our computer labs. Want to make sure everything is ready to go on the first day. Then I spent some time rearranging #OurSTEAMCafe for the new school year.

A few weeks back I had an idea for an activity for my teachers when we return to school. I hope to help them see that bringing creativity into their classrooms can be easy. I hope to let them see that activities can connect to the standards in simple ways. But I also hope to let them experience the joy that is exploring, collaborating, building, and more with a hands-on #makermovement activity.

Every year on the first day of school, I provide light refreshments in my room. It helps to encourage teachers to stop by, ask for any help they might need, share ideas that might be considering for the coming year, and pick up their SMARTBoard pens. Yesterday I printed labels in preparation for this gathering. The labels read, "Welcome to the new school year! On September 5th or 6th, please bring this envelope with you to #OurSTEAMCafe. Let's build a great year together. ~Mrs. Shields".

Color, size, shape, angles, & roles vary but we work well together.
Today these labels were adhered to self sealing envelopes from the dollar store. 80 envelopes have now been filled with 1 varying Lego block each. The envelopes are sealed. Each envelope will be randomly placed in a staff members mailbox before the opening of school. My idea is that staff should bring their envelope to #OurSTEAMCafe. There we will open them. There each teacher will have an opportunity to place it on a Lego base plate. Together we will build something. Do I know what we will build? No. Do I know how big it will be? No. This is that freedom of expression part one has to expect when working within the #makermovement.

Surrounding the table will be some extra part containers with more Legos. These will be labelled "Community Parts". A reminder that we can't do it all alone. To make something better we may need to reach out to vendors, parents, social groups, consultants, and digitally connected PLN members.

I hope to make some signs reminding us that our shapes, sizes, colors, angles, and roles all may be different. But we have one similarity. We all work well together. Additionally, I would like to print some photographs of samples of how other teachers have been using Legos with their students. This summer I invested in a few books about projects with Legos like storytelling and working with simple machines. These will help decorate the area and offer some idea sparks.

As we build together I will be photographing so that we can see how each group of staff that arrives adds something to the greater whole.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

Today gave new meaning to "Shields Up!" for us. Yes, we [my husband and I] spent the afternoon out in the backyard. Summertime is a great time to read and relax in the back yard. It is so important for teachers to recharge and refresh during our summer vacation. But part of me wished I was in school with kids. Thanks to friends that into Science I knew way in advance that the Solar Eclipse was expected. I knew to order solar shields that stated ISO 12312-2:2015. I knew that NASA was only recommending certain companies as legitimate manufacturers. I read that a good test for the glasses was to look at a light bulb. If you saw nothing, they were closer to right. If they worked like sunglasses they were wrong. Okay mine passed that test. But would they really let us see the sun and/or moon?

As we gathered in the backyard with IR thermometer, camera phones, and solar shields in hand we felt ready. I however, was not ready for the dexterity needed to place the solar shield over my phone, hold the phone, snap the picture ... all while looking at the ground. Why? Because I know I will need my eyesight more than I would need the photograph. I was not taking chances. When the glasses were not protecting my eyes, I was not looking at the beautiful bright ball of light in the sky. But while taking photographs in this manner, I did manage to capture this image (along with a bunch of grey shots where the solar shields weren't pressed firmly enough to my phone). The only digital editing that was done to this image was to crop the photo down a bit so that you can better see the tiny crescent of sun in the photo.

For the most part, watching the event LIVE through solar shields was better than trying to capture the moment. This was a great reminded that not everything needs to be digital. Perhaps there is beauty in the simplicity of enjoying the Science and nature at hand. I am grateful to be enjoying the moment at home, with my husband today. But as an educator part of me is wishing that I had students with me to explore the STEAM involved. Why did the infrared thermometer's display drop so very drastically? Would a pinhole box provided a better view? Would there have been something I could have done better to keep my glasses more flush with my phone's camera lens? I would have loved to listen to student questions and suggestions. But there will be another chance in April 2024.