Some Reflections....and You Might Cry

Subtitle: Never Quit

Hello Friends!
Merry Christmas to you! I hope this post finds you ready for Christmas break and spending time with your family.

It is rather unusual for me to find moments to sit and watch television, but in the last few days I have caught bits of several shows that left me reflecting on many things. It is also unusual for me to write a blog post that does not contain funny moments...just warning you....

Derrick Coleman
Do you know who this is? He's an NFL player- on the Seattle Sea Hawks team.
And he's deaf.
I watched a little special about him and was totally amazed by his attitude and words of wisdom about his life. Get this, when he was a kid there were bullies that would beat him up and take his hearing aids.

 You can watch a little of his story right {HERE}
You should watch it. It's pretty inspiring to think that a deaf man can play football.

Willie Burton
I saw this video right after the one about Mr. Coleman. This is the story of Willie Burton, a young man with cerebral palsy that decided to try wrestling in high school. The video is right {HERE}. It's about 13 minutes, but I promise it's worth the time. There's a scene near the end when Willie wrestles in his last match and then all his teammates kneel with him in a very large hug. You will cry. 

Amelia Dickerson
Have you read about her? She runs marathons.
She's blind.
You can watch a video about her and read her story right {HERE}.
At the end of the story another blind runner says this, "I just get brave and do it. I never quit."

This resonates with me. When I had a regular classroom this quote was painted on the wall above my door:
“Never quit. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.”    ~Paul Bear Bryant

I also have a charm I wear sometimes that is engraved with these words: "Never Quit."

Which brings me to reason for this post.
It is so easy to let these busy days of the Christmas season get the best of us. With our students, our family, our own children, our pets, ourselves....It's just easy to be a little grouchy and tired and out of sorts.
Especially with the little people entrusted to our classrooms, let's never quit on them. Today I watched an eight year old cry. She was making an ornament to take home and had cut the paper the wrong way. The ornament was not working. I took the paper from her, re-cut some it, and strung it together for her. It took all of 2 minutes to help this precious child.

Give out some extra hugs, find a surge of extra patience, and get through the next few days with some memories these kids will have forever. 

 Merry Christmas everyone!

Bulletin Boards and Tennis Ball Towers!

This is going to be a very random post with just some quick, but fabulous updates!

First up... my latest bulletin board.
There was this little board last week:

If you missed the step-by-step on that board click {HERE}
and I mentioned on that post that I had a second board to do...just look at this deliciousness:

 How awesome is that! That space is 7 feet in length so the butterfly by itself is about 4 feet wide. I drew one side free-hand and then folded it and cut it out so the sides would somewhat match. The inside is all drawn by hand (while looking at a butterfly photo). I outlined it all in sharpie and then the black is all a black  marker. The color is colored chalk that is smeared with tissue. The title I wrote by looking at it printed on paper. You might recognize that font! I wrote it in pencil and then went over it with a black paintbrush and craft paint.

Ok, y'all, my third graders are studying about the rock cycle in their classrooms. I decided to have them make a 3-D model of the rock cycle......

I am still trying to decide if I like this activity or not. You look at these photos and help me!
The group in the above photo spent time making water animals  and gave little thought to the rock cycle.

This group above placed stones in the water to represent sediment and their river connects to the ocean water. They used greenery around the river.

The group above had elaborate use of beads- no wonder I ran out of red and orange beads. Also, when they explained the cycle to me they used the beads and simulated lava flowing and rain falling.

The one above it not 3-D. They made it all flat and then held the tray up so I could take the photo.

Pipe cleaner river.

Love the green grass and the water!

All in all, I like this concept, but definitely need to rethink the materials available. I made a list of all the supplies they could use (which was about 20 things) and they chose what they wanted.
The success for me was what happened when the models were finished. Each group had to use their model and explain the rock cycle. This was really cool! The explanations were interesting, but the use of their models was priceless. 
My problem with the activity is:
1. Too many supplies.
2. Too much waste of supplies.
3. Too messy. I am not a fan of all the tape showing in the models.

These were third graders. I taught this grade for 18 years- I should have known!  I will re-work this project with revised supplies and constraints! 

Fourth Grade
Tennis Ball Tower Time 
My students love to build towers. We
have tried so many versions. 
This week I tried one with tennis balls!

Kids had a small amount of supplies- with the task rules to build a tower that would support a tennis ball. The ball had to be 10 cm off the table.
The BIG rule: Use ALL the supplies!
Wow, did that throw a monkey wrench in the designing. They came up with some really clever ways to use supplies as decor. Here's a few towers:

The group in the above photo found a way to use the string to help hold the structure up. Most groups just draped the string around the final tower.
This challenge was very challenging. Over and over again I had groups that started over and started over. When it was all finished we had some great discussions about perseverance. We were very proud of solving this challenge!

We loved this activity!
Basically, we love any STEM Challenge!

Thanks for stopping by!


How to Create an Amazing Science Bulletin Board

Subtitle: How to Spend a Lot of Hours Working on Something That Might Turn Out Cute

Yeah, I know, it sounds funny.

But, you've made bulletin boards, right?!

Sometimes they are inspirational! This one was so colorful and bright we left it in the hallway for a very long time.


Five for Friday- the Bridge Version!

Happy Friday and happy because next week is short!!

Don't forget to  join Kacey at Doodlebugs for Five for Friday!

So this is all about of our favorite activities in the lab!
STEM - This post is all about bridges we have built in the STEM Lab! So many different versions and all super fun (and full of learning)!

 First bridge we tried...

Okay, I know kids love making bridges. It's a challenge I have used with my science club years and years ago and then again in the STEM lab one year ago. For some reason, any time we build something and then test it by adding weights, kids go nuts. It's a competition thing, I think. They especially love it when they get to 100 pennies, because that is ONE DOLLAR! (They race across the lab to tell their friends- like one dollar is just so much....)

Anyway, the first bridge we tried last year was a platform bridge.

STEM Bridge: This is a platform bridge that uses only one materials! It's a lot more challenging than it looks. Kids will be intrigued at designing one that will hold the most weight!

This was super easy, one supply, and had unexpected results. The platform bridges held a lot of weight! The main thing we had to determine, however, is whether or not this is a bridge. I had kids do the research and here is what they found: 
Granted, it's not the Golden Gate Bridge, but it is a platform that appears to be solid on the bottom and still works as a bridge. We also thought decks and floating boat docks might be considered platform bridges.
You can see more details about Index Card Bridges {HERE}!

 Next Bridge!
We loved , loved this one. Well, who wouldn't? Two supplies, easy prep, and it took some brain power to determine how to connect all that and still have a structure to connect the two banks (tissue boxes). Then we placed a bowl on top and counted pennies into it. Total fun!

STEM Bridge- This bridge is made of two main materials. It must span a gap and hold weight. The real dilemma is in how to make those building materials less flimsy!
More details about Marshmallow Bridges, {HERE}!

Next Bridge!
Now this one had more supplies, but was still easy prep. The biggest dilemma was how to connect straws together. You might notice that the bridge in the photo has toothpicks stabbed through the straws- not the best of ideas. I did this bridge experience with  5th graders. 

STEM Bridge- Another great design challenge with building a bridge that will hold weight. The main materials are straws and toothpicks. The challenge is in how to use those materials together to span a gap!
Details about this bridge made of Toothpicks and Straws can be found {HERE}

Next up, the best ever, most amazing bridge!
This is one of best bridge building experiences. I created a homework video and put it on my classroom website! My fifth graders had to watch this and come to class prepared with ideas about building a suspension bridge.
I will have to tell you that I have not seen such excitement over anything we have done (even pancakes)!
STEM Bridge! Let's build a suspension bridge using craft sticks and glue! Can you add string to make it resemble a rel suspension bridge?

STEM Bridge! Let's build a suspension bridge using craft sticks and glue! Can you add string to make it resemble a rel suspension bridge?
The photos show two bridges in the beginning stages.
Here's a finished one!
STEM Bridge! Let's build a suspension bridge using craft sticks and glue! Can you add string to make it resemble a rel suspension bridge?
The Suspension Bridge details are {HERE}

Finally, do you think first graders can build bridges? YES, they can! I tried something with a group of littles that was just amazing.
First Grade STEM: Each child had ten counting cubes and four craft sticks. All I told them was, "Build a bridge." Check this blog post for more!
They used two materials and after watching a short video about engineers and talking about bridges they set out to build one!
You can try a post I wrote just about this experience right here:

Thanks for stopping by to read all about bridges.
You might also want to check my Pinterest board that is all about them!


FIVE for Friday~ FIVE Things I Have Learned This Year!

So, what is going on in the Lab!
Let's get caught up with all some of the things I have tried since school began!

FIRST, let me just say that I view teaching everyday as one big giant experiment. Sometimes things work and sometimes they don't. You cannot plan this stuff, people.
Well, I mean you can plan for class, but you absolutely cannot predict how it will go.

You know exactly what I mean.

No matter how much you plan something and try to think of everything possible to make your days go well, there is still that moment when a little child says (with some anxiety in her voice), "Mrs. Davis, I have to go to the bathroom right now"....and you realize the child is already peeing right on your feet. (That happened to me....)

So, despite all my thinking that this new year would go splendidly, I must confess, I have made some boo-boos! Let's review them, shall we!??
And why not make this a list of FIVE and
make it Five for Friday!
Clever, right?

Thanks Kacey for my weekly excuse to make a list of five things....

First Thing I Learned

Remember when I wrote about my Behavior Management Plan for this year?
There's the little graphs I created for each of my 15 classes. The plan was to start everyone off with ten tabs on the class graph and remove a tab whenever someone created some drama. At the end of the week the class with the most remaining would be the Class of the Week.
BIG Failure- epic.
The tabs would not stay on. I am inconsistent with having kids remove them as I am too busy for the small stuff....
so I gave that up.
I have misbehaving kids sign a log and that student has a consequence depending on the infraction. Too many log signings and I make a phone call to mom. I am still choosing a Class of the Week and the kids like that. I put the class names on the lab door and they do notice! The teachers notice, too! 

Second Thing I Learned

Don't cook pancakes for NINE classes.
I had this enormous Brain Pop.
I invented this amazing STEM Activity that involved experimenting with cooking pancakes.
I decided to make it a Fourth grade activity and then realized my fifth graders would miss out on this fabulousness.
So, I decided to let them also do the activity.
That meant NINE classes all mixing and stirring and cooking and eating and making a huge mess at the same time and it took three weeks to complete.......
Mind you, it was a super, best thing ever, kind of activity, but much too busy for that many classes at the same time!
I will repeat it next year for just one grade level!

Third Thing I Learned

Third Graders might not always think outside the box.
And when they do- it's a doozy.
Our STEM Challenge this week: Design a robot model and the robot must have a function, a purpose, a reason for being.
That robot in the photo is Galaxy Man.

His function? Glad you asked. All those shiny doodads and extensions are forms of weapons. His job is to save the Galaxy.
And I thought they would invent homework robots and lunch making robots- nope, we are saving the GALAXY.

 Fourth Thing I Learned

Kids do not know how to measure. I gave them measuring cups and showed them how to level off the cup with the edge of a knife. Here's what they did....

They did pretty well at this, but still spilled a ton of flour and baking powder!
Anyway, I spent about two weeks after that working on different forms of measurement. By far, the favorite activity was using a balance scale:

And, yes, that is a child with two broken arms. His team encouraged him to try the scale even though his casts went above the elbow and he could not bend his arms!

Fifth Thing I Learned

Platforms are fun. We have built two different versions of platforms so far and had a really fun time.
Mostly we have had to make sure we are building a platform and not Rapunzel's tower.

And, finally, building something using just basic and inexpensive supplies is the best thing of all....

Here's our Spoon Towers:

It's been a great start for this year.
Everyday is an experiment.
But I do have a science lab as my classroom!

How is your year going?
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