The Roman Empire is falling again and again in Ms. McGuire’s 6th grade World Cultures classes. Working in the Lighthouse Makerspace room, Students are designing and creating their own board games that capture the crucial components of the decline and fall of the empire. Students must include political, economic and social factors along with environmental factors such as geography and weather. Feather boas, strips of plastic, and are being re-purposed and refashioned into Uno and Pokémon Gladiator cards. An excited student explained, that “In our Pokémon game the goal is to get everyone else’s cards. We are learning that good weapons and shields, and lots of practice made the armies strong. When the Romans didn’t have any of those things any more, that’s when the empire started to fall.”
The Lighthouse initiatives at Pikesville High School have played an integral part in successfully implementing the Project Lead the Way Engineering Design and Development Capstone Course. The students work in groups of four to research a real-world, current problem and develop a testable solution to the problem over the course of the year; the engineering design process is closely followed every step of the way. In prior lessons, each student generated three-to-four concept sketches that presented a proposed solution to their group’s problem. At beginning of this lesson, each group had already narrowed their proposed solutions down to three-to-four. Throughout the course of this lesson, students rotated to each group to provide feedback in order to aid in determining a final solution to the proposed project. The students left physical post-it notes on the designs while they rotated, as well as comments on each group’s online virtual engineering notebook. With the use of the physical post-it notes and the devices to access virtual notebooks, students were able to provide each other with comments, questions, and other various forms of feedback. The students were heavily engaged in this lesson and were forced to think outside-of-the-box in order provide meaningful feedback to their classmates. Although this lesson could be implemented without the use of the device, the opportunity for students to provide feedback to online engineering journals was more engaging for students and provided the opportunity for digital documentation.
Carter is a sixth grader at Ridgely Middle School in Timonium. Carter enjoys the fruits of the STAT initiative in BCPS; Voice Thread is just one benefit of STAT. Recently in Carter’s Spanish class, Mrs. Lutwyche, his teacher, assigned an engaging task. Students were asked to create a radio advertisement for a children’s camp. This curricular assessment measured students’ ability to plan, practice, and produce a spoken presentation in Spanish.
Carter recorded himself speaking Spanish to promote the children’s camp. This audio narrated the coordinating slides with graphics and text.
The success criteria for the assessment included “camp activities, benefits, age of children served, location, and purpose,” Carter explained. He chose to invent a sports camp. He added, “The camp includes activities such as football, soccer, and volleyball. [It boasts] an increase in cardiovascular endurance for all participants." The location he selected for the camp is his previous elementary school, with facilities to accommodate the activities both inside and outside. The age range of participants for his camp is five to twelve.
Carter explained that this recording is one section of a four-part unit assessment which took approximately three class periods to complete and is to be done independently. Mrs. Lutwyche is commended for attempting the spoken and written parts using this multi-media application with her students. Mrs. Lutwyche says, “With Voice Thread, students gain independence, privacy, and choice. A student can record and preview numerous times before submitting a saved document as evidence.” Because it is her first attempt with Voice Thread, she admits there is a small learning curve, as exists when experimenting with anything new; however, she adds that benefits are definitely worthwhile."
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math all come together at Rodgers Forge Elementary every day, but on Tuesday, March 21st these five areas of the curriculum were specially showcased in the school’s third annual STEAM Night. This well-attended event was an evening of fun and excitement for students, parents, and teachers alike. Activities included pendulum and catapult painting, coding, origami, and even a cool paper flashlight making activity provided by the Digital Harbor Foundation. Student volunteers working the event exhibited their musical talents through a coffeehouse setting, answered questions about their STEM Fair projects, displayed their art bots, and shared their SafeRacer vehicles. Special thanks goes to HotSpots and the Education Foundation for funding a $3,000 enrichment grant that allowed us to purchase materials for our school makerspace as well as for the event. The school was able to purchase LittleBits and 3Doodler Pens for student use. The STEAM Night committee at Rodgers Forge will reflect on the successes of the night, as they begin planning even more exciting events to include next year!
Submitted by Ori Rattner
Grade 12 Student, Pikesville High School
In AP computer science, our teacher, Mr. Taylor, puts our assignments up on BCPS One on a word doc. We can access from anywhere, complete anytime. In this class, we use a program called Eclipse. Eclipse is a text editor program that identifies errors in programs so that they can be de-bugged. All this is done in Java- the computer language. In this course, we learn the different aspects of coding using java. We start off basic and then learn more tools and so we can start doing more complex stuff. We wrote our programs to complete a task which we will revisit later in the year in order to improve upon them. I particularly liked an assignment which had allowed a user to enter mail package dimensions and then the computer program would determine whether it was too big to ship or not. I am excited to take this assignment to the next level by using real dimensions and testing it out. Having the device makes this work so much easier because we can be working on this at own pace since the device is always with us.
Mr. Park, 8th grade ELA teacher at Windsor Mill Middle School, opened the world of inquiry and technology to his students in the form of Genius Hour, a movement that provides students the opportunity to explore their interests and passions. Tech firm, Google, a leader in the movement, allows its employees to spend 20% of their time pursuing an idea that inspires them. More than half of their new products have been generated as a result of the practice. Gmail and Google news are just two examples of the fruits of Google’s Genius Hour. Google’s philosophy is simple: give people time to work on an idea that interests them, and productivity will go up. Mr. Park brought the philosophy into his classroom by providing students the time and structure to pursue a question they had. Students delved into issues about mental and emotional health and race relations. Park videotaped students presenting the ‘first draft’ of their presentations and sent them the link, pairing it with a rubric for self-assessment. Using their personal videos, students critiqued their performances and reworked their projects and presentations as needed. The Genius Hour projects have has taken on a life of their own; Windsor Mill students will use the research discovered by a student on anger as the text for an upcoming school-wide Socratic Seminar.
Teachers and students at Rodgers Forge Elementary have embraced their new MakerSpace in a number of different ways. One way in which this space is being used is by two student book clubs that meet weekly. The fourth and fifth grade student book club is being facilitated by Mrs. Karrie Cook, and the third grade student book club is being facilitated by Mrs. Katie Schmidt. Both groups previously voted on a book of their choice to read, and they use the materials in the MakerSpace each week to work on a meaningful project relating to these texts.
Fifth grader Colin Kenney is reading the award-winning novel The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, with several other students. “I really enjoy reading this book because of the format, how it’s written in really short sections. I also like how it’s connected to sports. In the MakerSpace we’ve been creating our own robots that we will program to do different tasks. This connects to the nonfiction text we read a few weeks ago in book club called Robots.” This activity also gave the students some practice investigating how things work, as they are about to begin a STEM activity connected to The Crossover. Others in the fourth and fifth grade book club are currently reading I Funny by James Patterson.
All third grade students in the club chose to read Patrick Skene Catling’s, The Chocolate Touch. As they read, they are working on creating models of their own version of Hershey Park’s “Chocolate World” ride, relating to a subject of their choice. For example, third grader Liam McAvinue is creating an “Anvil World” ride, where he will inform riders about how anvils are made and used, while Elaina Razon-Fernandez is creating “Cupcake World” to take riders through the process of how cupcakes are made.
Searching for ways to incorporate 21 century skills in her art classes, Pikesville Middle School Art Teacher, Ms. Lynam, engaged her 7th grade students in applying their artistic skills to a problem they could relate to in their own world: homeless animals. The students partnered with the Baltimore Humane Society in Reisterstown, MD to bring attention to the animals that were in need of adoption. After they researched images of animals on their Revolves, the students practiced sketching the animals. Wendy Goldband, the head of PR at the Baltimore Humane Society, came to the school and talked with the students about the facility and their animal adoption process during which time the students presented her with donated pet treats and toys. After her visit, students searched the Humane Society webpage, chose an animal they wanted to sketch, and then designed adoption posters. Their fabulous designs, made from the heart, were displayed on the Baltimore Humane Society’s website, Facebook page, sent out across Twitter, and hung in the facility. Students celebrated when they checked the website and saw that their animals were adopted. The unit concluded with the students creating thank you letters reflecting on their experience of giving back to their community.
Rodgers Forge Elementary unveiled its new “MakerSpace” at the start of the 2016-2017 school year. Students and teachers alike were incredibly excited to get in and make use of the new location in which students are encouraged to explore, problem-solve, collaborate, create, engineer and more…all while making real world connections!
The room is filled with a variety of materials for students to use as they explore concepts and/or create projects. Some examples include cardboard, foil, clay, rubber bands, littleBits®, soda bottles, milk jugs, old CDs, small craft supplies, pipe cleaners, and coffee filters just to name a few. Many of the items used in the MakerSpace are reusable, which ties in with our Green School initiative as well.
“I really like the MakerSpace because it gives you a chance to use your creativity,” explains fifth grader Amelia Bolin. “If you have an idea during class, you don’t have to just think about it anymore, you can actually go to the MakerSpace to build it!”
Megan Patton, resource teacher at Rodgers Forge Elementary, has been doing introductory sessions in the MakerSpace for various classes. "We have been having so much fun getting to know our new Makerspace,” Patton shares. “We read The Most Magnificent Thing and students were given mystery bags filled with random items that they used to create something new. As we move forward, we will be building and testing what we have built. Stay tuned for some fun fall activities in the Makerspace."
Budding scientists at Windsor Mill Middle School got down and dirty this spring in Josh Foorhogue’s 8th grade GT Science class. Foorhogue provided students with materials, a budget, and a lumpy mixture of gravel, water, dirt, and coffee grinds; their task was to develop a filtration system based on percolation and infiltration to improve water turbidity, so they could fully understand the engineering-design process. Students tested their designs in stages, tweaking and reworking their plans. On the Prototype-Test Day, each student team ran the sludgy mixture through their filtration system and recorded the time of filtration and the turbidity, and evaluated the prototype’s practicality and cost. Collected data was compared to determine the most effective system. A significant engineering and life-lesson takeaway from the process surprised the class: elaborate systems might work well, but they won’t fly in the real world if they break the budget.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.