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!
On February 14th, my Tech Tip Tuesday was all about Office Mix. I was so inspired from the STAT Conference that I had to share this tech tool with my staff. I had overwhelming interest at this Tech Tip Tuesday due to the previous engagement my staff had with Office Mix through my Twitter chat presentation. Office Mix is quite the buzz around the “The Lane”! It has now become a great way for our teachers to flip lessons and/or use it for reteach moments. Teachers also appreciate the accountability piece through checking the analytics. The following are some ways we are using Office Mix at Church Lane Elementary.
"Students listened to me notice and note/think aloud about two pieces of text in order to determine how problem and solution leads to theme. Then, they watched two short video clips (one from Land Before Time and another from Rudy) to analyze how the problems and solutions in each video clip showed the theme of friendship in different ways. They were using the digital sticky notes to monitor the videos so they could perform their written response as their assessment."
– Mr. Miller, 4th grade
“I have used Office Mix as a flipped learning tool for my accelerated learners as well as an instruction and reteach tool for all learners. I first used Office Mix by embedding video clips, adding anchor charts, and including guided questions for students to use when they were not meeting with the teacher in small group. After seeing the impact on my students, I decided to use Office Mix a little differently by embedding all students’ “menu of activities” and including organizers, links, and videos differentiated for each groups’ needs. Once they met in small group, they continued working through their menu by completing the activities either listed on or embedded in the power point. The students love the accountability of following the PowerPointt without the teacher’s help, and I love the accountability of the students being able to answer their own questions, especially the “what I am I supposed to do” question because it is all laid out for them.”
–Ms. Mueller, 5th grade
“I used Office Mix with PowerPoint to make a lesson on finding and using text evidence to support the moral in a fable. My class had practiced this skill the previous day. In Office Mix, I recorded my slides or used my document camera to record a video of myself explaining directions while pointing to the text that students would be working with. With the slides that I recorded, I went over our objective, expectations, and the activity. Throughout the various slides, I would tell my students to pause and do something in real life and then come back to the Mix when they had completed the task. By doing the lesson this way, I was able to pull a small group of students who I noticed the day before had a good bit of difficulty with the objective of the lesson. We did the same lesson that I had put into Office Mix, but with me scaffolding everything a bit more. My students who I knew were ready to tackle the task more independently, but still with a little teacher help, were able to navigate through the Office Mix with a partner. The ability to record my voice and the documents my students would need and adding in pauses for students to complete chunks of work, was very successful. I effectively had a whole group lesson going while meeting the needs of each of my unique learners. Office Mix is an exciting tool that I plan to use for many more lessons and many different skills!”
–Mrs. Wurzbacher, 2nd grade
“It can be difficult to plan and execute effective instruction when you have a classroom with such diverse needs. Officemix has allowed me to meet the needs of all of my learners. I have used Officemix as a flipped learning tool during my math workshops. Officemix has allowed me to deliver content to my accelerated group who I do not get to meet with right away. Through Officemix I have used screen recording to show my accelerated group different tech tools and websites to access during a lesson. Slide recording has also allowed me to record how to solve problems by using the inking tool. It also allowed me to upload videos to further my student’s understanding of a topic or skill. Overall, Officemix has given me a pathway to accelerate or modify instruction for my students through a flipped learning experience."
–Ms. Listman, 3rd grade
"As the STAT teacher, I get the chance to assist teachers in a lot of their lesson/activity creating. It has been a great help taking some of the time and stress off the teacher’s shoulders. I have used Office Mix to record stories and create direction slides for teachers to use with their class. Teachers can easily take these slides and import them into their presentation or place the link onto the lesson tiles. Students also get a kick out of hearing my voice!"
–Ms. Whorton, STAT teacher
Throughout the second unit of Social Studies the 5th graders learned about the events leading up to and during the American Revolution. Throughout the lessons students were engaged and motivated by the opportunity to role play, discuss and write about what they were learning. In light of the mannequin challenge trend we decided to create a Revolution Mannequin Challenge. Groups of 5th graders designed props, created sceneries, and directed their classmates to pose and represent the event they were assigned. Each group also wrote a narration to accompany their mannequin challenge scene. The final product will be a complete retelling of the Revolution. Here is what students had to say about this project:
In my classroom, it is uncommon for me to be teaching one kind of learner. I work with many different grade levels and students of varying abilities. You see, I am a special education teacher. There are only two of us in my building. Each year I have a different set of kids and am learning a different curriculum. At times when these students are all in a classroom at once, it is difficult to find new ways to keep them engaged in our lessons. With the devices, I can make a whole group lesson for them to follow on their own active inspire lesson. They enjoy having the control in their hands. I also utilize the devices as a way to work with each of my students in a one on one setting.
Much of my role and time is used to work with the students on their individual goals. To do this I use the device as a center in my classroom. I can either use games (relating to our whole group lesson) or individualize some Wixie or ActivInspire for the students to complete on their own (or in a group) while I rotate working with students individually on a reteach or goal work.
In the beginning of the year, the students need time to get used to doing certain technological things independently. At the end of last year I really saw the students’ confidence rise in completing their independent work independently.
Many of the students I serve have OT and/or weaknesses in their writing ability. Having the device at their fingertips in the classroom environment has gained them access to so much more.
When I think about where my students will be in the future, I think that they will be able to use typing and technology to compensate for some of their other weaknesses. If and when they can learn to type, this will be an amazing way for them to contribute to our real world. I do practice with them focusing on staying in their “home base” with their fingers. They slowly exercise those fingers in order to type certain letters in isolation. I know the more the feel more comfortable with it, it will get easier for them. With the typing program and programs such as word Q (word prediction software), it really makes learning accessible to more kinds of learners that we service. I only hope to learn more with this technology as it is changing every day. I know how the kids feel when they have to learn something new. I try and remember that as I learn each day.
Allowing for student choices in the classroom environment requires students to make purposeful choices regarding their education and learning. Recently in the media center, a fifth grade student asked if she could sit with her friend to complete an assignment. When I asked her why she would be successful making the change, another classmate told her, “You’d better not…you’re going to just play around if you sit by her. Truth card.”
Both girls are part of Halstead Academy’s Girls with Pearls group. The mentoring group, led by Halstead’s school counselor, Ms. Michele Coleman, is growing female leaders among the fifth grade classes. Janiya, one of the group’s members, explained that the girls are learning to be accountable for their actions toward others. They want to act as though “Michelle Obama was in the room with them.” One way that they’re doing this is with truth cards, index cards given out during meetings to honestly share how the girls are dealing with peer conflicts, drama, and other issues that pop up in school. Upon hearing the news, Ms. Coleman commented, “We are always proud to hear of how our Girls with Pearls young ladies are taking steps to hold their peers accountable for their actions and behaviors within the school setting. Seeing them transfer and apply the learned skills and lessons from our club meetings to real life situations, lets us know that they are internalizing the content in a way that is meaningful to them.”
Being able to make positive choices is a vital part of creating a student-centered environment. It was a winning moment to hear the girls transferring the lessons learned in Girls with Pearls to the media center.
Who would have ever thought that technology could play a role in PE? Certainly not I, since I’ve been doing this for so long without them. But I tried to keep an open mind and decided to give it a shot to enhance the learning that takes place in my classroom. One of the first ways I included the devices in class was when we had the heart adventure course set up and at the brain station one of the activities was to watch a BrainPop video and do the games associated with the heart and circulatory system. The students enjoyed learning through a different medium and were able to show concepts that are hard to teach. The Kahoot program is another great way to include technology in PE since they are easy to create and the students love using them to review facts and test their knowledge.
One of the best experiences with the devices in PE was when we had the movement education equipment, which is a variety of climbing apparatuses that can be arranged so many different ways. Students in the 5th grade were assigned to work in small groups to collaborate and create a new way to set up the equipment. Students used drawing apps on their devices to complete the design and then I used their ideas to recreate the course the following week. The students were extremely engaged in the fact that they were helping to create the next week’s work. Although we do not use the devices often in class, I do try to make those times count and still keep the students moving as much as possible.
Carly Yeagle, seventh grader at Ridgely Middle School, recently completes an assignment in her science class worth bragging about. The project is the Living Environment Project. Students create presentations that detail the behavioral patterns and internal and external features of an organism, plant or animal. Carly selected the Toucan. “Mrs. Houchens gave our class a choice in how to present our information. I chose to create a pamphlet, but we could have chosen to create a poster or use any other approved format.” (Science teacher Mrs. Rounsaville-Houchens knows the rewards that come with allowing some student choice.) The project gets graded on criteria such as accuracy of information, images, and correctly-cited sources, both print and database sources. Carly explains that this assignment taught her a lot of things, including “to learn how systems, such as digestive, circulatory, respiratory, etc. help the organism carry out life functions.”
Mrs. Rounsaville-Houchens carefully plans this project to scaffold the information needed to fulfill the requirements. Students spend some time in the library to review the use of Destiny in order to search for print materials. Also, the library media specialist, Mrs. Cook, demonstrates the process of citing sources, using a user-friendly digital tool Easy Bib. Mrs. Cook also reviews the databases available to students in the BCPS One portal. Last, she shows students how to locate brochure templates in the most recent Microsoft applications.
“Our laptops add a lot of options for us when we have assignments like this.” Carly said. The device provides accessibility to a number of resources, something some students have never had. Research is conducted, sometimes, from the comfort of their own homes, allowing students to demonstrate knowledge in a variety of ways. Carly says, “I really like using OneDrive, too, because I can work on my assignments at school or at home, and it always saves my work, even if my device dies or I forget to click save.”
Having a role in education during this transformation of teaching and learning is exhilarating! Not only have educators adapted learner-centered strategies, but they have incorporated technology in their daily lessons, and students are largely benefitting from both.
Students in Mrs. Rounsaville-Houchens’ science class conducted research on a disease, condition, or disability. Milana Klopouh, a seventh grader at Ridgely Middle School, shares information about the process. “We are able to choose from a list of diseases, or Mrs. Houchens says she will approve something not on the list, if we have other ideas. Our group is researching Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, ALS. We are curious about it because of the several Ice Bucket Challenges online, but we really don’t know too much about it besides what we see in the videos that have gone viral.”
Milana explained that students are given a scenario about the need to raise public awareness on the topic. She shares that there is extensive criteria to provide in a PowerPoint or no-tech option. The criteria includes, “a description of the disease, causes, incubation period, communicability, signs and symptoms…,” she adds. The list goes on. Also, students are to identify affected body systems, the present state of research, and how the disease progressed through history. The impact on family adds a personal touch to the project, according to the student. In many cases, students went to neighbors or loved ones to get a personal perspective on the topic. “Someone in our group has a mom in nursing, and my parent is a pharmacist, so they were able to weigh in with some personal experiences,” Milana said.
The actual process included receiving instruction from the library media specialist around research and citations. Then, it is up to the students to gather information. Milana explained that students are expected to save notes on all the criteria, rather than dividing it up. “Mrs. Houchens said that all of us should research all of the criteria because we are reading different articles. She didn’t want us to miss anything. Microsoft 365 allows us to share our notes with each other, and it also allows multiple group members to edit our PowerPoint at the same time. It’s definitely better than facetiming on our phones.”
Mrs. Rounsaville-Houchens and her colleagues at Ridgely are making students 21st century-ready. Learning with critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity is making a difference for our students.
In effort, to prepare students for college and the workforce, Church Lane Elementary students participated in their first Church Lane Elementary College Tour. Fourth and Fifth grade teachers and their school counselor collaborated in effort to promote college readiness and a general understanding of the college experience. Through classroom guidance, students were introduced to and discussed the need for college and vocational training. With support from their classroom teachers, students in 8 classrooms worked hard and obtained information about a specific Maryland College. Each class created a display highlighting information about their specific Maryland College. Using the student created displays, students took a “College Tour”. Students read for information and completed a “scavenger hunt” to gain knowledge about college programs, tuition and extracurricular activities. All students upon tour completion received badges that said, “I am on the road to success”. Keeping with that theme, students then reflected and wrote on posters about what would STOP them on their road to success and what help them GO in the right direction. Prior to the College Tour, students had the opportunity to meet with 16 college students. In a panel discussion, 4th and 5th graders were able to ask questions to current college students and gain understanding about education and career options in their future. Students enjoyed the hands on and engaging opportunity to experience college using technology and discussion.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.