Blog Archives

Student-Created Drone Challenge

Drone Cone

Our 5th graders recently completed a project using educational drones.  The learning experience integrated technology, creative writing, critical thinking, and mathematics (among other important skills).  Students worked with one of our technology teachers, Mr. Adam Hinnenkamp, to create original drone challenge courses.  You can read about the #EduDroneChallenge project and how your students can participate HERE.

The video below features one group’s project.  Kids created an original theme (Medusa’s Lair) and integrated learning targets into their challenge.  I’m so proud of our students and continue to be inspired by the collaborative learning experiences our teachers are providing. Sometimes students are so immersed in their work that they express genuine disappointment when they have to go home or outside for recess. They don’t want to stop what they’re working on in school.  You gotta love it!

*Note: If you’re receiving this blog post via e-mail you need to go to https://adjustingcourse.wordpress.com/ to view the 1 minute YouTube video posted above.  The video documents the drone challenge our students created. 

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What’s Your One Book?

We teamed up with the kids from Cantiague Elementary in New York and Byram Intermediate School in New Jersey to share our favorite books.  Our kids created their collaborative podcast to inspire the most awesome summer of reading EVER.  They packed nearly 30 book recommendations into this action-packed five minute podcast.  Checkout what K-8 students are reading across the country!

We hope you will share what you plan to read this summer too.  You can start by answering the same question our students responded to, “What’s your one book?”  Post a picture of your book to the hashtag #StuConnect on Twitter.  Let’s celebrate with our students and join them in their reading awesomeness!

3Leaders Mug Shot

*Special thanks to my friends Mr. John Fritzky and Dr. Tony Sinanis who helped amplify student voice and create this cross-state podcast.  

True Learner Empowerment

Drone 3D

We recently had a couple remote controls from our educational drones drop to the ground resulting in broken joysticks.  Accidents happen and we completely understand this, but thanks to our amazing staff and students this is not the end of the story.

An elementary student was empowered to help engineer a new joystick using our school’s 3D printer.  She worked with Mr. Hinnenkamp to create a tiny joystick sleeve that fit over the broken drone remote controls using a design program called Tinkercad.  Everything works as good as new now, and our students had the opportunity to experience authentic innovation and learner empowerment.

This is precisely why we feel it is critical to put students in the center of their learning (even if it means things get messy or broken every once in a while).  Kids have the capacity to innovate, engineer, think critically, and solve a myriad of real problems; they don’t require worksheets to do so!  All students deserve the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology in a safe and supportive learning environment.  If the first time students have the opportunity to innovate and invent using real-world tools is high school or college, then we will have failed them.

This is more than a story about drones or a 3D printer.  I took the opportunity to speak with the student that helped repair her drone remote control.  The pride she exuded when she explained to me how she had fixed something that was accidentally broken was unmistakable.  There was a humble confidence that I had not seen before.  As we finished chatting I asked her how this experience made her feel and her response literally choked me up…I nearly cried.  Suffice it to say, the opportunity she was given to fix her drone remote meant the world to her.  And THAT means the world to me.

Thank you, teachers.  Thank you for truly empowering our students.  I honestly LOVE how our entire team empowers students and supports our kids in learning skills they will need to thrive today and excel tomorrow.

Drone Controls

Words in Action

IMG_3016

Our school district is celebrating National Volunteer Week in a big way!  Wayzata Public Schools created a series of Facebook posts highlighting volunteers across the district.

At Greenwood Elementary we couldn’t select just one volunteer to honor, so we invited all our amazing volunteers to be part of a school picture.  It was really fun to see how many people were able to stop by school on short notice for the photograph.  The inspiring volunteers in the picture actually represent the hundreds and hundreds of parents that make a difference in our school.

We asked some of our volunteers to share what volunteering means to them.  A few of the quotes brought tears to my eyes because I see the words in action every day at our school.

 

“I’m thankful for the many volunteer opportunities at Greenwood, both in the classroom and behind the scenes with PTA.  Volunteering is a fun way to stay connected to our school community and I think the time we give really makes a difference for the children at Greenwood.”

~Becky P.

“I so enjoy being a volunteer at Greenwood. As a former teacher, I am always happy to be back in a school setting and as a parent I am happy to help at school events as I know they are making the students’ experience better. I am always amazed at the wonderful support of parents and faculty and feel that Greenwood is truly a very special elementary school.”

~Deb B.

“Greenwood Elementary has become a second home to me. Serving in the PTA as a volunteer, Vice President and now as President has become very rewarding. I love having an impact on the education my children receive and the many other children at the school now and in coming years.  I realized that if I wanted to know what was going on I needed to get involved. A bit reluctant at first, but now I understand what volunteering means. We have the power to change lives in small and big ways. It’s truly amazing! I feel good about everything we do to help support our teachers and staff in making a better place for our children to be educated.”

~Jennifer V.

“If there is any small thing that I can do that can help make a young person enthusiastic about reading, interested in school, or excited about learning; how can I avoid staying involved?”

~James P.

“I’m a strong believer in the team approach of parents, teachers and staff working together for the educational success of our Greenwood students.   Volunteering is my way of giving back with the added benefit of showing my kids I care about their school and value their education.   I truly enjoy working with other parents, students and staff, whether in the classroom, serving on PTA committees or participating in school events. It’s great to be part of the Greenwood community!”

~Tracy B.

“I’m very blessed in my life and volunteer in a variety of ways as a means to give back to the community.  Volunteers at school allow kids to be able to participate in a whole host of activities that might not otherwise be available to them.”

~Linda G.

“Through volunteering at my children’s school I have gotten to know the wonderful staff and some terrific moms too! It’s very satisfying providing students and teachers with the positive parental interaction and support.  I like being part of the message to the larger community that Wayzata parents really do care and want the very best for our kids.  And working to organize and run the fundraising events is just plain fun while helping our schools cover costs of activities and supplies.  And, I hope it is setting a good example for my children.”

~Pam C.

“I love to volunteer at Greenwood because I truly believe the saying is true that it takes a village to raise a child.  School is more than just the place where academics are learned.  I like helping to be a part of a community where kids are given unique opportunities where they can grow and thrive as individuals.”

~Erin B.

“Volunteering at Greenwood is a great way to show our kids how much we value their education and that we consider school a worthwhile cause.”

~Michael H.

“I like to volunteer because it gives me the opportunity to share my talents, skills and experiences. I hope I can impact student lives in a positive way and invest in their future.  I believe it is very important for my children to see that I am giving of my time, so when they have the opportunity to volunteer, they will see the importance of volunteering and the cycle will continue!”

~Kari P.

“What I love the most about volunteering at Greenwood is the connection I make with the teachers and staff, the students and other parents. I love knowing that my contribution directly impacts the experience my children and others have at school.”

~Amy A.

Mobile MakerSpaces

Click picture to link to cart ordering options.

Click picture to link to cart ordering options.

This year we introduced Mobile MakerSpaces at our school.  A team of Greenwood teachers and I collaborated on the concept over the past year, and I earmarked some funding in our budget that we invested into the Mobile MakerSpace fleet and supplies.  Our goal was to create an ethos of innovation and design-thinking.  We wanted students to have the opportunity to create, build, tinker, fail, and think critically from any classroom or hallway in our school.  At our summer teacher workshops we embedded the “welcome back” content into a MakerSpace approach to demonstrate how learning and sharing through creative construction was possible.  Fast-forward to today…

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Student-led Professional Development using our Sphero Mobile MakerSpace cart.

Our Mobile MakerSpace fleet is one of the many things our students LOVE about school!  Combined with the Genius Hour time that many teachers are doing…I sometimes catch myself wishing that I was an elementary student again!  Students are creating mini-golf courses using coding and Spheros. They are knitting, building, drawing, constructing, collaborating, and communicating their way through the school day.  Students have world-class opportunities and they are learning right alongside a dedicated team of teachers that continues to learn as well.  We even had a group of students lead professional development for some teachers and their principal (me). The student-ownership was AWESOME!

We’ve also had some classrooms start their own MakerSpaces and MakerSpace challenges to continue providing students opportunities to unleash their passions and creativity throughout the day.  During observations, I’ve observed firsthand how teachers are seamlessly integrating Mobile MakerSpaces into the student learning experience using clear learning targets and standards.  The creative materials and opportunities for student design-thinking have taken student engagement to levels I had not previously observed while students were completing worksheets.

Students have responded with a tenacity for learning.  One of our grade-levels schedules MakerSpace time 1st thing each morning, and our students can’t wait to get to school!  You do NOT need fancy supplies or expensive carts to create an ethos of innovation in your school.  (You can use everyday objects and miscellaneous supplies from home.)  However, I am including a list of our Mobile MakerSpace fleet supplies in case you’d like to bring any of the opportunities to your classroom or school.

Cart 1: MakerBot 3D Printer

Cart 2: LEGO

Cart 3: LEGO

Cart 4: K’Nex

Cart 5: CircuitScribe (Writeable Circuits)

Cart 6: Knitting Looms and Yarn

Cart 7: Sphero Robotic Droids

Cart 8: Modular Robotics Educator Pack

Cart 9: Edison Robotics (compatible with LEGO)

Cart 10: Bee-Bots & Makey-Makey Kits

Cart 11: Makedo Guided Kits & Creative Construction Bundles

Please feel free to view the videos below showing our students in action.  To see more of our students’ work, you can go to our school’s hashtag on Twitter #GWgreats.

Flipped School Board Meeting

Background Information: We believe that the most important voices in a school are those of its students; they are central to our mission.  The purpose for highlighting pedagogy via video is to amplify student voice when we are together in person.  We want the walls of the Wayzata City Hall to reverberate with authentic student sharing and stories about their learning experiences at Greenwood Elementary.

Providing content prior to a lesson or presentation is often referred to as “flipped” instruction.  We’re applying the same basic principles to maximize our face-to-face time and to facilitate deeper conversation at the School Board meeting.  Please watch our five minute video before April 13.

Focus: Meaningful Technology Integration

Learning Targets:

  • I can identify at least two approaches teachers are using to help students discover their unique talents.
  • I can evaluate how students are experiencing a “connected pedagogy” by articulating how technology is being used to transform learning in order to prepare students for their future.

School Board Presentation Agenda

Students will share two-three minute presentations with the support of their teachers. A copy of the PowerPoint we’ll be using is below.

  1. Sphero Robotic Droids featuring students taught by Carrie Lunetta & Joe McAuliff
  2. Mobile MakerSpace Carts featuring students taught by Ginny Adams
  3. Genius Hour featuring students taught by Joe Vrudny & Elle Zeman
  4. 3D Printing featuring students taught by Adam Hinnenkamp
  5. Drone Technology featuring students taught by Madeline Ray & Brad Gustafson
  6. EPIC Reading featuring students taught by Ashley Drill & Jamie Tewksbury
  7. Question & Answer Time facilitated by Greenwood students and staff

Additional Resources:

Passport to Passion

This is a guest blog post written by Greenwood Elementary School’s Music Specialist, Mr. Brian Westgard.  Our team of Specialists recently planned and organized an amazing experience for our students.  The entire evening was a HUGE celebration of student creativity. I asked Brian if he’d be willing to provide a snapshot of the “Passport to Passion” event and he graciously agreed. Mr. Westgard is newer to Twitter, and you can connect with him at @MrWestgard.


Unpacking Passport to Passion
The “Passport to Passion” event was created to highlight the student talent and achievement taking place in the specialist subject areas of Music, Art, Physical Education, Technology, Spanish, Media, and Vision 21. In the weeks preceding the event, students spent time working with their specialist teachers to prepare material to showcase and share with family members, friends, and guests who were able to attend. The name “Passport to Passion” was derived from the process in which students shared their experiences with their guests throughout the evening. Upon arrival, students were issued a “passport” to use as a guide for the event. The passport was a folded piece of paper containing learning objectives for each subject area. While visiting a particular subject area, students were awarded a star sticker for their passport if they were able to explain the learning objective to their guests. As students and guests made the rounds throughout the evening, their goal was to successfully fill their passport with stars for each subject area.  

The event as a whole was beneficial to all parties involved. While students had a chance to showcase their hard work and achievement, teachers and staff members were in turn able to interact with parents and family members regarding curriculum and the learning process. For specialist teachers in particular this opportunity was incredibly valuable. Every experience as students and guests traveled from area to area was something new, as each subject area prepared and showcased material for the event in a different way. For example, the art department worked with students to feature artwork, sculptures, and other creations. Media and literacy teachers prepared a scavenger hunt throughout the media center for students and their guests. 

As the music specialist, I wanted to prepare students for the “Passport to Passion” event by utilizing technology to work with students on the concepts of steady beat, rhythm, and teamwork. This year, our technology department introduced Sphero (a spherical robot controlled by a mobile device) to aid students in the learning process. While collaborating with our technology specialist I became aware of Sphero’s ability to illuminate, and the ability to manipulate the color and timing of of the color change by tapping the mobile controlling device with a finger. In music lessons leading up to the event, I worked with 3rd and 4th grade students on their ability to change Sphero’s color with regard to musical beat and rhythm. I composed and recorded a song to go with the lesson (aptly titled “The Sphero Jam”), and assigned students a variety of beat and rhythm patterns to coincide with the musical nature of the song. Throughout the lessons I captured various video clips of students learning and working together in an effort to succeed. I then compiled the video clips and arranged them into a video presentation for students and guests to watch when they arrived for the music subject area portion of the “Passport to Passion” event. I also made available a handful of Sphero devices for students to demonstrate to guests how what they were seeing in the video was done. 

The link to the video is included above. Though I was involved primarily with the music subject area of the event, “Passport to Passion” led to a destination for all specialist areas of academic excellence for students, staff, and guests alike.  

Brian M. Westgard
Music Specialist – Greenwood Elementary School

EduDrone Challenge

Image Credit: Oberwelzdesign.com

Image Credit: OberwelzDesign.com

You might be surprised to learn that your school can purchase a drone for less than $50 dollars! If you’re interested in connecting with other schools that are cultivating critical thinking and creativity using these cutting-edge “quadcopters” this is the blog post for you! Welcome to the “EduDrone Challenge!”

Here’s how it works: Teams of students create a Challenge Course for their drone to maneuver through.  Each Challenge Course should feature 4-8 mini-challenges for drones to navigate. Students need to create detailed plans that are drawn to scale, and use precise mathematical terms so that schools across the country can replicate the same Challenge Course design.  (Please read the academic standards information below for explicit learning objectives.)

After a team of students has created their Challenge Course plans, they should select a creative theme and write a narrative that describes the Challenge Course in imaginative terms.  For example, students that incorporate a hula-hoop as one mini-challenge could describe the hoop as “a black hole that the Drone must jettison through in a distant galaxy.”  (Please read the Common Core writing standards below for explicit learning objectives.)

Directions:

  • Brainstorm objects for your Challenge Course (i.e. cones, hula-hoops, etc.).
  • Develop a detailed plan using graph paper or drawing paper. Click HERE to see a sample plan.
  • Be sure to include measurements and the appropriate mathematical terms.
  • Select a creative theme and write a narrative describing your team’s Challenge Course.
  • Practice navigating your Challenge Course and make adjustments to your detailed plan or narrative as needed.
  • Share your classroom or team’s detailed plan and written narrative with other schools. Use the #EduDroneChallenge hashtag on Twitter.
  • Try to recreate Challenge Courses from other schools using the detailed plans they create and share.

We will be posting plans and video that our students create in the coming weeks and look forward to connecting with other schools.

Academic Standards Information:

  1. I can understand fractions in real-world situations by creating a detailed plan for a drone Challenge Course using fractions/percentages, and successfully building the Challenge Course. (Math: Number/Operation 3.1.3.1)
  2. I can draw a representation of a three dimensional figure, and create an authentic drone Challenge Course that utilizes the same measurements and points represented by my drawing.  Each mini-challenge in my Challenge Course represents one vertex or point in the 3D object. (Math: Geometry & Measurement 5.3.1.1)
  3. I can write a narrative to develop a real or imagined experience using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. (Writing: Common Core College & Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Writing)
  4. I can use technology resources for problem solving, self-directed learning, and extended learning activities. (ISTE Nets & WPS Technology Standards 5, 6)
  5. I can reflect on and adapt to the ever-changing nature of technology and understand how and why technology works. (WPS Technology Standards C & D)

Additional Resources:

Watch this TED Talk to see the science of drones!

Our school started by purchasing a Parrot AR Drone for about $300, but we are also investing in durable mini-drones for much less.

Connect with @GWtechWPS or @GustafsonBrad with questions!

It Started with a Teacher

Recently, I was walking down a hallway in our school and stumbled upon an amazing turn of events…and it all started with a teacher.

As I was traversing the hallways I noticed two students collaborating on a podcast using their iPads.  I stopped to chat and learned that their project was part of a classroom presentation for Genius Hour.  Their teacher, Ms. Elle Zeman, empowered them to explore their passions, and on this day their passion was exploring an algorithm to solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than one minute!

I walked away from our hallway conversation impressed with our students, and even more impressed that our staff consistently put kids in positions to research, create, and communicate new information using cutting edge tools.  It just so happens that this particular teacher also tweeted out a picture of her students’ Genius Hour presentation that same morning. The tweet was shared to our school hashtag #GWgreats and retweeted.

What happened next was pretty incredible.  John Fritzky, an educator in New Jersey, contacted our school and asked if our students could teach students from his school how to solve a Rubik’s Cube using the same algorithm.  After working out the logistics and scheduling a Google Hangout (GHO video conference) our elementary students were presenting to students at Byram Intermediate School in New Jersey.

Many of our students marveled at the notion that somebody else truly valued their work and learning.  Even students who were not presenting shared in the excitement.

If you are an educator that is not using Social Media yet, I encourage you to reflect upon the opportunities that abound in this digitally connected age.  Never underestimate the power of an authentic audience.  Our students are counting on us to provide them authentic opportunities to practice 21st century skills in a safe environment accompanied by scaffolding from discerning adults.

This is a story about a teacher that amplified her students’ voices.  She shared their learning on Twitter, and the resulting connections contributed to an experience her class won’t soon forget.  Check-out the one minute video clip below to see our students in action.

Good Things come in Small Packages

Red cube

It might not look like much, but it is ours. We printed the small red cube on our school’s 3D printer, but that’s really not the important part. What’s important is what’s inside. The cube contains part of our school’s story. You can access it by scanning the QR code inside the cube or by simply watching the video below.

The most amazing thing is that our school’s story will soon become part of a larger narrative. Schools around the planet have the opportunity to print their own 3D cubes and send them to a central location for display. The collaborative work of art will feature cubes of different shapes and sizes from kids all over the world. We hope you’ll consider joining us on this epic adventure. Click HERE for more information on the #ThatsMyCube project.

Our cube may be small, but our students’ voices are not…and their stories matter. Good things come in small packages!
That's my cube

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