Design Challenge: Earthquake Proof Buildings

A week or so ago I saw this tweet:

Since we had been studying slow changes and fast changes in Science for a while anyway, it made perfect sense to try it out!  And unfortunately, there had also just been some major earthquakes in both Japan and Ecuador that same weekend, so the idea of creating earthquake proof buildings was a real life one to solve.  And yeah, it would be fun. 🙂

We began by reading a pretty great Seymour Simon book on earthquakes to gain more information, and answer any questions that might come up about how they work.  Knowing exactly what happens helps us build stronger buildings that would withstand the tremors.

Screenshot 2016-05-01 21.37.27

We talked and discussed and made predictions and inferences.  Then we got with our partners and planned–most on paper and some with some help from their iPad.

Then we got busy building.  The 1st building part was actually spread over two days (an afternoon and then the next morning) because we ran out of time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We used this design cycle protocol to help us know what to do, and wrote down the timing so we could keep on track.

IMG_5810-min

Some even tried out their prototype on the earthquake machine before the “real” deal.  They got some ideas about redesign or shoring up their foundations.

Caught some groups in their planning stages:

We took videos of our trials, and many kiddos voiced their ideas for redesign in their recordings.  We all did some writing/thinking about it, but I’ll share those in another post, since after I add our videos, this piece will already take you 7 hours to read it!  Thanks for hanging in there–it’s worth it, I promise!!

Charlie, Evan and Joshua


Ella Marie and Emily


Millie, Amelia, Ja’Mia and Tyrin


Makayla and Ava


Amber, Sara and Thomas


Peyton, Baron and Landen

Mystery Skype–For Real!

You might remember that last year we prepared for a Mystery Skype by Skyping with Ms. Turken’s class INSIDE of our school.  We were ready and had a plan, but then our Skype that we had scheduled fell through.  Somehow we didn’t get another on the books until this year.  So a week or so ago we did a Mystery NUMBER Skype with Ms. Bartin’s class at Keysor–the next step above someone in our school is in our school district. hee hee

Then, when I tweeted about how much fun we’d had, I asked for any takers on another Mystery Skype.  We quickly got a bite from Mrs. LaRose’s 2nd graders!  We quickly put a day and time on the schedule and I got busy getting my class ready for the big time.

Since a few years ago when I did this with 5th graders, I have made some new “friends” on Twitter and knew that they would be the right ones to go to for help.  Paul Solarz, 5th grade teacher extraordinaire and author of Learn Like a Pirate has some GREAT Mystery Skype resources, and I used many of them to get us prepared for our conversation.

It started with determining our jobs.  While Mr. Solarz has 5th graders and does most of his Mystery Skype work online, we were still able to use many of their listed jobs, modified a little to fit our needs.

TIWF2997

While I think that Mr. Solarz assigns jobs, we had a meeting before we got started and I explained each job, then we decided who should do each one.  If more than the allotted number wanted a specific job, kiddos had to find a way to decide who should do it (many of them played rock-paper-scissors to get to a decision).  In the end, we agreed that the right people were in the right jobs, based on their strengths and personalities.

I was excited (as were they) and even though I had done this many times before, I really didn’t know what to expect because I hadn’t done it with this format in any other session previously.  Because we were ready a little early (ok, I did that on purpose), we were able to practice.  We were able to run through the whole deal twice, with me pretending to be the other class and them trying out their assigned jobs (thanks, Mr. Solarz for that idea–it was SUPER helpful!).  First I was in Illinois (Chicago, actually) and then I was in Florida (ok, fine–Orlando).  If you know me at all, you could probably guess those would have been my choices.  Ok, fine, they probably had a little head start on that, too.  Anyway…

While we were working, I was surprised with how busy everyone was, how well they worked together and how quiet but bustling the room was!  We were even able to host a few teachers who wanted to see what this whole Mystery Skype thing was about without any real trouble.  Thanks for Ja’Mia and Landen for submitting the pictures for this post, and for Khalani for taking the video.

Check out our archives from our first-ever REAL Mystery Skype!

Screenshot 2016-04-04 20.25.02

Screenshot 2016-04-04 20.30.07

After we were finished, we sat down to debrief and it was great how excited they all still were–I had them turn and talk so everyone could get all their thoughts out, then they shared some with me.  Here is a little of what kiddos said, some positive and some things we might change:

I liked holding up the “Good job” sign, it made me feel great to see everyone focusing, learning and doing the right thing! -Sara

I thought it was fun and I really wanted to do a good job to help out our class! -Thomas

I liked that I helped find Vermont! -Amber

I didn’t like walking around the whole time. -Landen

I liked my job because I got to remind people. -Ella Marie

I thought it was tricky trying to find a question.  -Emily

I liked it when Nate and Charlie asked about the time zone. -Lawrence

I like that my behavior was good.  I got a “good job” card and I really wanted to do my very best for our class! -Jacob

I liked being a greeter.  I was good at that job because I am friendly. -Joshua

I liked learning things that I didn’t know about our state. -Ava

I liked learning about maps. -Evan

We also debriefed on jobs.  The consensus was that there were too many researchers, and that we needed to add a couple of new ones: Tweeters and Closers.  Mrs. Sisul, our principal, texted me during our session and asked that I make sure to Tweet since she couldn’t make it and I could not believe that I hadn’t even thought about it!  We will definitely find some friends to do that next time, as well as choose two friendly kiddos to close the call and say thanks and good bye.  🙂

IMG_1085

One more thing…it’s very long and it’s kind of shaky–it’s our first time, after all–but I think it gives a great example of all the hustle, bustle and hard work that was happening during our Mystery Skype.  We’d love to hear what you think, especially if you notice anything or have any questions.

A Little Further Into the Woods

Since we’ve begun our Little Red Riding Hood culture study, some exciting things have happened!  Let me tell you about what’s going on!

Alongside the LRRH books that we shared was another book, full of all sorts of organizers, charts, and a map.  This would be where we’d record our thinking and learning throughout the study.

Screenshot 2016-02-07 15.22.10LRRH_culture

As we read a book, kiddos would fill in a chart that marked certain features of each story, which we would later use to compare stories and use the information to learn more about each culture represented.

Additionally, we kept track of where our countries are in the world, by adding a star on the map for every one we read.  Later on, we added a US map to our book (which I don’t have a picture of yet) as we learned about regions.

IMG_0392-min

As we read different versions, we also compared how certain books were alike and different…

IMG_0395

…as well as finding other things that we needed to add into our book (note to Mrs. Bearden to make sure to put this in there next year!):

IMG_0393

Once we got the background of the stories, talked about characters, compared and contrasted and decided on our favorites, we were ready for the really fun part–researching more about the cultures from our books.

Each kiddo chose their top 3, then randomly came and declared which culture group they wanted to be in.  I wanted it to be about the country/region/culture, not the people in the group, so this part was all done first, then I shared their groupings.  Each group has 3 people, which is kind of ideal.  I could hardly get the directions out before they were ready to get going (kind of like with our spelling investigations this week–they were eager!).  I had found books for each group to start their research, but groups had to go book shopping to find the right ones.  Once they had books, they were busy digging in, collecting information about land (not culture, but related to the geography focus), language, holidays, food, games, religion, school, music, art and then a topic of their choice.

After our initial book search, kiddos were allowed to use website that I had found, as well as World Book Online and Kid Info Bits, which we have subscriptions to from our library.

Screenshot 2016-02-07 17.09.06

We even had an opportunity to learn about German culture from someone in Germany! I sent out a request on Twitter for friends from our countries/regions of choice, but was unable to work out any Skyping situations.  Then I remembered that Mrs. Appelbaum’s daughter is studying German in GERMANY and that she might be available to help us out!  She was more than willing and so we worked out a FaceTime call for last Thursday afternoon.  Those girls were so excited (and so was I!)!

We are just about done with research and are excited to start writing–we’re going to take all of our information and make books to share with other Robinson kiddos!  Stay tuned for updates on that part of our work!