Patti Harju’s Blog

Patti Harju is a STAR member of the Discovery Educator Network

Archive for June, 2014

Jun
30

Marshmallow Toothpick Towers – STEM

Posted by Patti Harju

I wanted to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)  activities into my classroom. I knew my limitations and if it was going to be too complicated, well it most likely wouldn’t happen! I realized that STEM activities do NOT need to be complicated and really the best part is that you provide the students with the tools and then step back and watch them go.

I chose to start with Tower building using Toothpicks and Marshmallows. I thought this would be a pretty easy activity, but was surprised at how hard it was. First the children needed to work in groups – some groups were beautiful, some had a few struggles.  The had difficulty figuring out how to use the marshmallows and toothpicks correctly. One group was spearing the marshmallows like a shish kabob. They needed to understand that the tower needs to go UP and stand on its own. The kids had a great time building that first day and I knew we needed to repeat this activity (more than once) to continue to learn.

Here are some pictures from our first day of Tower Building.

 

Before our second attempt,  we watchedThe Magic School Bus Under Construction (DE Streaming) and  I read aloud Iggy Peck Architect.  We talked about buScreen Shot 2014-06-30 at 2.03.51 PMilding structure, design, and shapes they noticed and what they might do differently this time. .They used their first tower as a guide and tried to build better and higher with interesting results. Final photos are posted below.

We followed this up with another tower building activity using index cards and masking tape. This time I worked with the 3rd grade teacher and we mixed up our classes. In that challenge the children were given specific directions. The tower must be at least 15 inches high and must support a small stuffed animal for 10 seconds. In the end only two groups had a successful tower, but they had a wonderful time building. The combining of the two grades was magical and it was great to see how the different personalities all worked together.

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Both of these tower building activities use easy to find, inexpensive supplies and can be ready at any time. I know I need to have more of these items around just to let the kids explore with. What if I made the supplies available and didn’t give them directions on what to build? What would they come up with ? In addition to exploring STEM activities I have been learning about the Maker Movement. It will be fun to see where the combination of these two ideas intersect and what that will look like in the classroom.

Jun
29

MACUL 2014

Posted by Patti Harju

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The MACUL conference (Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning) took place in March. This was my first year as a MACUL Board Member and it absolutely changed my MACUL conference experience for the better. It is amazing how much work by a great number of people goes into the planning of the conference. It is also amazing how well everyone did their part to make this one of our best conferences ever.

 

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One of my favorite parts of the conference is the Student Technology Showcase. Our first and second graders came to share how they are using technology in the classroom. The second graders shared some of the many ways they share using their Kidblog, including sharing their Discovery Education Boards. When Discovery’s own Dean Shareski, one of the featured speakers stopped by, my student had his iPad on his board and shared it with Dean (without any prompting from me as I was not around at the time!)

 

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The first graders shared how they used the iPad and the Puppet Pals App. On the 100th day of school the children all came dressed as if they were 100 years old. Their teacher took their picture and then had them write about what life at 100 might be like. They published their picture and story using the Puppet Pals App. George Couros, the keynote speaker for the following day also stopped by to see what the students were sharing. He loved the Puppet Pals stories and asked if he could use one in his Keynote the following morning!

 

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I was able to attend many of the sessions including Keynotes from Adam Bellow, George Couros, and Rushton Hurley. I learned from our Technology Using teacher of the year, Erin Klein and so many others.  One of the many great things about the MACUL and other conferences is that the learning doesn’t end with the conference. I have already been in contact via social media with some of the speakers and other attendees to continue the learning.

 

A new part of the conference experience for me were the Lightning Talks.The Lightning Talks were amazing! It is incredible how much is shared in such a short time and so well. Take the 5 min to listen to Trevor Muir in the talk below. It is truly amazing! After hearing Trevor Muir I was inspired and am looking to see if I have a Lightning Talk in me.