The Planetarium Came to US!

I’ve posted before about the amazing things we’re able to do because of the many great people and resources we have in our district, and here’s another example of those resources at work. 🙂

Mr. Bartin brought the KSD Planetarium to our school!  First grade classes each scheduled a time with him to visit and it was set up in our library!  We walked in and really had a hard time containing ourselves (which is a little bad since it was a library. LOL).

We took a minute to chat with us and connect to what we’d already been learning about the sun, moon and stars, and then explained the guidelines for how to act inside the dome.

Then we headed inside. 🙂

While inside, Mr. Bartin was able to show us lots of things about sunrise, moonrise and set, how the stars seem to move, what constellations look like–and we even went back in time!! (Ask your kiddo about this one!!).  It was dark in there, and so it was kind of a useless task, but I did try to capture something so you could see what we did.  Here’s a picture and a video (which pretty much just looks like a black screen but you’ll get the idea–you can definitely HEAR the excitement. 🙂 ).

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Outdoor Adventures: PLTW Design Challenge!

Hopefully you’ve read about how we’re learning about light and sound and how great PLTW is going in our classroom.  (If not, feel free to check it out before you go on with this post–LOL).  On Friday we got to the point where we were ready for the design challenge.

We had learned about the design process earlier on in the unit, and also were then reminded of the problem from the story about Angelina, Mylo and Suzi.

Since we had learned and explored about light and sound already, we were ready to answer that question from the end of our book:

If you were Angelina, Mylo and Suzi, how would you help them communicate over a distance to get help?

Luckily for us, we have a fabulous woods and Naturescape in our backyard in which to actually try out this challenge!  We will do that on Monday, but first we had to figure out how to answer the question.  We got into groups and had a limited list of supplies (which we happened to be carrying in our backpack):

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Kiddos had time to design and build their devices and then will test their creations in the woods on Monday.

Callahan and Lucas figured out how to make their device reach higher and shared their thinking:

We also had an unexpected problem-solving situation come up after I talked with my first grade teacher-friend, Ms. Turken.  I asked her how the challenge went with her class, and she told me they had these issues:

  • It was day time, and bright outside, so the light part of the devices didn’t really work
  • It was during recess and so the “outside sounds” made it hard to hear the sound coming from the lost kiddos and their devices.  Also, since our woods are right next to a neighborhood, lawnmowers also made it hard to hear.
  • There were too many groups–her class had 7 groups to “lose” and then “find”
  • Only 2 adults were available during the time of their challenge

We decided to take on this problem and see if we could figure out how to use this knowledge (and their struggles!) to make the challenge work the best for us when we took our turn to try it out.  We headed out to the woods to have a chat, because I figured it might be easier to think about it in the actual setting.

We gathered on the stage (built by the amazing Riggs Construction!) and talked about our options.  I was excited to hear how kiddos were thinking through the problems I presented, thinking about how we could address them with what we know.  We had many great suggestions:

  • Allie thought that we should be sure to focus on the sound part of our devices instead of just the light parts.  She said their group had made sure to put both light and sound on their device. 🙂
  • Many kiddos took the number of groups problem, and thought of ways we could fix it–split our class in half, send one group then another then another to find the “lost” ones, and so one.
  • We noticed that the time of day we were outside (which was later than when Ms. Turken’s class was outside) was not so loud.  There were no kids at recess, no one was mowing and all we heard was the wind in the trees.
  • Aadish suggested that everyone’s groups all go out into the woods to get “lost” at the same time.  We could then try to use our devices to communicate with others, and as we saw each other, groups would join together to look for others.  He suggested that the person who knew the woods the best could be the leader of each group.
  • Keira asked, “But what if everyone wants to be the leader?”
  • Aadish and the class agreed that maybe we could do the challenge more than once, giving more than one kiddo a turn to be in charge.
  • We even thought that we could do our evaluation and redesign right there in the woods before our next try to see if we could make our devices communicate even better.

WHEW!  WOW!  I was tired after all that smart thinking and was super impressed with how they were considering ways to make our experience the best it could be.  I know we’re ALL excited to see how it goes when we’re actually in the woods tomorrow!  Stay tuned and we’ll tell you all about it!

Outdoor Adventures!: Light and Sound

Today was a half-day at our school (because of teacher professional development in the afternoon), and so first grade took advantage of an awkward schedule to have an outdoor adventure!  We have been outside with Rm. 202 friends before, but today were had ALL OF FIRST GRADE outside in the Robinson Naturescape learning and exploring together!

The teachers planned a STEM day focused on our current PLTW unit on Light and Sound, adding in the component of the AMAZING outdoor spaces we have in the back of our school.  We took out a tub with a variety of tools, like binoculars, magnifying glasses, color tiles, flashlights, mirrors and spectroscopes.  Kiddos had the job of exploring outside and discovering something new about light.  Eventually we will have to represent that learning (using iPads, drawing or building tools), but for now we were just out and about and having fun with wondering!!

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As you watch the slideshow with your kiddo (if you’re a parent!), ask them these things:

  1. What was your favorite part of being outside today?
  2. What was your favorite tool to use as a scientist?  How did you use it?
  3. What did you find outside while you were exploring?
  4. What did you learn about light?
  5. What do you still wonder?

We came in and as a quick way to debrief, I had kiddos share what they were thinking about after their adventure.  While you can tell that they were thinking of many things other than light (like dead animals–we found a DEAD RACCOON back there today!!), it was obvious that kiddos were thinking and having fun, and that they  LOVE BEING OUTSIDE!  I think at least half of my kiddos asked me when we’re going out again. 🙂  I’m excited to see how we can use this chart of great ideas in other parts of our learning soon, like for reading and writing ideas, topics for math and even further thingsto study for STEM or Genius Hour (which we’ll get to later on this year!).

fullsizerender-minWhat a great day we had! 🙂

PLTW: Light and Sound

We are super lucky to have loads of new resources for science this year from Project Lead the Way, courtesy of a grant from the Kirkwood School District Foundation.   It means we are able to add in so much more hands-on learning, and focus more deeply on engineering, design and coding in STEM this year, which is GREAT!!

Our first STEM unit this year is light and sound and we have been doing some really fun things already.

Before we even got into the unit, we did some things to expose kiddos to the big ideas, and to get them interested.  One of those was to invite a Kirkwood Scientist, Mr. Bartin, to our classroom. Ok, well really Ms. Turken invited him to Rm. 203 and we tagged along, but he was here to share some interesting ideas about sounds with first grade.

Then we had some time to explore in non-fiction books from the library that we explored with a partner.  Kiddos were responsible to read a light book and a sound book (or one that had both topics together) and then create a representation of something they learned or something that was important from their reading out of play-doh (and somehow I don’t any pictures of their creations!  Boo.  Believe me–they were great. 🙂 ).

Then once the unit started, it was with a story to help set the stage.  This one is about three friends who have a problem: they get lost in the woods while on a walk with their class. 😦

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As we work through the rest of the unit, we will learn and explore with light and sound and eventually be presented with a design challenge much like our friends in the story.

We began with some exploring with some everyday objects (that someone might have in their backpack on a hike!):

We are keeping track of our learning in a Launch Log and will be able to go back and review it throughout the unit.  We’ve just begun light explorations and will even spend the whole morning tomorrow outside as scientists with common objects like flashlights, magnifying glasses, and more!  Can’t wait to share what we learn!

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.

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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.

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

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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

Forces that Shape the Earth: Slow and Fast Changes

I shared some building challenges we had done a couple of weeks ago, where we solidified our understanding of both bodies of water and landforms.   We still had some thinking to do, as well as demonstrating that we understood the difference between slow changes and fast changes that happen on Earth.  Besides using things like Legos, big blocks, pattern blocks, and other things to build with, we often incorporate art into our science and social studies work and represent ideas with pictures.  This was one of those times.  It was a mural/collage project, much like these that have happened in 5th grade (with both regular units as well as with test preparation).

Our first step was to jot down what we remembered about slow and fast changes we’d already learned about.  We made this chart together:

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We brainstormed what we knew about the difference between slow/fast, as well as examples of each, and the causes for these effects on the land: wind, water and ice.  Their directions were then to create a representation (2D with paper and other art supplies) that everyone could recognize and explain when they looked at the poster.  No words (except for the two parts of EROSION and WEATHERING since these were important vocabulary terms) were allowed.

While kiddos worked, they went through the design cycle as they planned, created, tested (by sharing their representation with another group or two to see if others could recognize the concept they were trying to display), redesigned and then shared by putting their creation on our poster.  This mural did a couple of things for Rm. 202 learners–helped them solidify understanding of concepts, demonstrate that understanding, as well as remind them of that learning as they connect the picture to the idea in their heads.  I plan on using the images on this poster as a part of our assessment at the end of the unit (I just haven’t fleshed out exactly what that will look like yet…still in the design phases!).

Here are the images on our mural.  Can you tell what each of them represent?

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Each one up close.  Half are slow changes and half are fast changes.  Oh, and there is one image that we thought was an example of both:

I was really impressed with the diligence portrayed while they worked on this project.  There were a couple of pairs who had to go through 2 or 3 versions of their creation before they figured out one that made sense to someone but themselves.  There was lots of cooperation and suggestion that happened during our work session, too, as kiddos bounced ideas off each other, shared supplies and asked other pairs for help.  Another example of an engaging, motivating and focused way to practice science without pencil/paper or just reading about it.  Way to go, Rm. 202 scientists!

If you want, leave us a comment about what you think our pictures are images of.  We’d love to share our learning with you.  What questions do you have?  We’re becoming experts on these ideas of forces that shape the land! 🙂

Design Challenge: Landforms

Last week we tried a challenge in Science where kiddos had to create a representation of a body of water.  Since then, I’ve heard multiple times “When are we doing this again?”  Then, when my friend, Mona, asked me if I was planning on doing the same thing with landforms I knew we just had to!

I didn’t want to make the situation exactly the same, however, so I thought of ways I could change the parameters to up the level of the challenge.  Last time, students chose their own group, as well as the materials they used to build.  It was great that somehow everyone chose something different and there was no arguing about who used what.  That doesn’t happen a lot in our room, but I was super glad it didn’t come up here.  So this time I again let them choose who they worked with (which because of numbers was groups or 2 or 3), but there as more chance in both their landform AND their building material.  I wrote the choices on index cards (very high tech, I know) and put them in two cans.  Each group chose one from each container.

I was impressed with how easily kiddos accepted both of the cards without complaining.  Again, not much of that happens with Rm. 202 friends, but I was pleased with how quickly they got to work planning their next moves.  After about 3-4 minutes, most were ready.  There was only one pair who did fuss a teeny bit about how they’d be done really fast and how their cards were not a challenge.  We talked about how that meant that they needed to figure a way to challenge themselves, ask themselves “What could we do differently than we had originally planned?”

Much like last time, they had 25 minutes to work on their representations and then we’d do a gallery walk to see if we could guess what everyone had created.  They were to work for the entire time and had to use their assigned medium, but other than that there weren’t too many rules.

Ok, here’s your chance to see if you can figure out our landform creations, and then I’ll give you the answers.

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What do you think? Did you guess them?  Here are the answers:

  1. plains
  2. hills
  3. valley
  4. barrier islands
  5. canyon
  6. plateau
  7. mountains

We love how building challenges work for learners in Rm. 202, and we want to know how they work for you.  Any stories to tell us?  What suggestions do you have for future design challenges we could try?