Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Scratch Unit for 4th Graders

Grade: 4
May-June Math Exploration Units
Project Name: Scratch Programming
Resources: ScratchEd

The setting: twenty-one 4th graders moving through a Scratch Curriculum that can be found on the ScratchEd community site for educators. There are an increasing amount of resources and ideas for using Scratch in the elementary grades including Wes Fryer's Scratch materials.

The backdrop: Last December we use the Scratch online activity to make holiday cards for the Hour of Code. Middle school students came and helped 4th graders with this introduction to Scratch and coding. In late May of this year I worked with the 4th grade team to develop explorations in math instruction; twenty-one fourth graders worked with me on Scratch for two or three days a week.

What it sounded like: The most common thing heard in the classroom each day was, "How'd you do that?". The spirit of communication, collaboration and creative exploration vibrated throughout the room.

What it looked like: Adapting the curriculum, I created folders of handouts for students to follow. The lessons and handouts are in this slideshow:

These photos and videos were captured with my cell phone as I was working with students so they are of limited quality, but they portray the activity and learning.
We started with the tutorial on the Scratch website as a review for everyone. Then they were charged with the task of "making something surprising" happen and share it.
Scratch learning is designed to support collaboration and students often worked in teams. With parent permission they were able to join the Scratch online community, upload their projects and view the structure of posted projects.
By the fourth class students were becoming experts at "debugging" scripts and moving on to making mazes, games and stories. At the end of each class students volunteered to share their projects and explain their learning.

This series of classes stands out for me as one of the most enjoyable, stimulating teaching experiences I've had. The students were engaged, sharing their learning and making progress from one day to the next. 

This quote from Howard Gardner was one of my inspirations for this Scratch activity:
High time for an example. We turn here to Scratch, a wonderful application created over the past two decades by Mitch Resnick, a valued colleague at MIT, and his colleagues. Building on Seymour Papert’s pioneering work with LOGO— a prototypical example of constructivist education— Scratch is a simple programming language accessible even to youngsters who have just reached school age. By piecing together forms that resemble pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, users of Scratch can create their own messages, be these stories, works of art, games, musical compositions, dances, or animated cartoons— indeed, just about any form in any kind of format. Moreover, users of Scratch can and do post their creations. Others around the world can visit these creations, react to them, build on them, and perhaps even re-create them in their own favored symbolic system. The genius of Scratch is twofold. First of all, it opens up a plethora of modes of expression, so that nearly every child can find an approach that is congenial with his or her own goals, strengths, and imaginations. Second, educational ends and priorities are not dictated from on high; rather, they can and do emerge from the child’s own explorations of the Scratch universe. In that sense, Scratch brings pleasure and comfort to those who believe in the constructivist view of knowledge. Not only are users building their own forms of meaning and constructing knowledge that they personally value, but they are epitomizing the claim of cognitivists that one learns by taking the initiative, making one’s own often instructive mistakes along the way, and then, on the basis of feedback from self and others, altering course and moving ahead. Howard, Gardner; Katie Davis (2013-10-22). The App Generation (p. 182). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Student UnConference

Grades: 9-12
Student Senate Members
Project Name: Student UnConference
On Thursday, April 17, the Student Senate at Yarmouth High School sponsored an UnConference.

The idea came from thinking about wanting to do TED Talks, but not wanting to limit audience size. They wanted the entire high school to be able to participate. And it had to be completely student run.

  • Students would sign up for sessions (since this was the first time they tried it, they thought it might be helpful to get an idea of what students were interested in)
  • Each advisory group had to have a minimum of one pitch for a session. 
  • The person or persons who pitched the session are the facilitators.
  • The facilitator comes up with 2 guiding questions and one other source for the discussion and submits them ahead of time.
  • A teacher should be present in the room that the session was taking place.
  • Teachers can participate in the discussion if they want to.
  • Every student has to participate, even if they have open campus.
  • At the beginning of the UnConference period, all students go to advisor period. Advisors hand out the schedules (students do not know what session they are in until they get there). 
Here are the sessions that were proposed. Because there were so many good ones, the Senate decided to run 2 sessions. It was probably a lot more work, but they were happy they did it.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Global Awareness Project in 2nd Grade

Grade: 2
Teachers: Laura Wetmore and Cathy Wolinsky
Subjects: Reading, Writing, Social Studies
Project Name: FlatConnections - Building Bridges to Tomorrow in Grades K-2
Resources: FlatConnections Project

Once again we have a classroom participating in a global project communicating and collaborating with students across the U.S. and in some international settings. This year Laura Wetmore is participating with her class and they are posting to the project wiki. All classrooms are posting a multimedia greeting (called a "handshake") and a View from Our Window project. The project schools are divided into three working groups to collaborate on a topic, this year the topics will be Sharing Stories and Celebrations. Teachers are communicating via. email as well as a project "ning" and students are using Google Earth to "travel" to the various locations. This is an example of a project that meets the new Global Awareness theme of the updated Social Studies Framework.

This is a map of the schools in the project.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lego WeDo Exploration

Grades: 3
Teachers: Grade 3 Team, Cathy Wolinsky
Subjects: Science, Math
Project Name: Lego WeDo
Resources: Yarmouth Education Foundation funding for materials and kits

Third graders are exploring the Lego Education materials called "Lego WeDo"during a set of class periods. The Computer Lab provides an open setting for students to work in pairs to select one of twelve projects. Working together they follow the directions to put together the blocks to make the project. Then they connect it to a computer so that the motor or sensor can follow a program students made using the Lego WeDo software.

This video shows the students working on their projects.

Monday, March 10, 2014

MLTI Screen Saver Winning Artists

Grades: 11-12
Teachers: Holly Houston
Subject: Art
Project Name: MLTI Screen Savers
Resources: MLTI Screen Saver Contest

Twenty-two student artists will have an audience of more than 70,000 students and teachers for their artwork this fall. The 22 artists from across Maine have won the honor of having their artwork displayed on the Maine Learning Technology Initiative devices for the 2014-15 school year.

The selected images will be displayed as a screensaver on MLTI Devices with a screen screen saver setting. For MLTI devices without a screensaver setting, the images will be made available as a download, allowing students/teachers to download the images and use them as a background on their device.

More than 250 Maine students submitted images to be considered and an independent panel of three judges selected the 22 pieces using a rubric. The artwork challenge is an annual opportunity that has attracted entries from more than 1,200 students, grades K-12, during its six-year history. The students whose artwork was selected are also invited to attend the 2014 MLTI Student Conference free of charge.

The selected students from Yarmouth are listed below. Their artwork is available for viewing at

Elana Bolles, Yarmouth High School, Grade 11, Holograms
Fiona Clarke, Yarmouth High School, Grade 11, Street in Rome
Kyaira Grondin, Frank Harrison Middle School, Grade 7, Silent Moment
Gaelon Kolczynski, Yarmouth High School, Grade 11, Tree
Alex Trippe, Yarmouth High School, Grade 12, Quilted Beetle

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Student Art Portfolios at YHS

Grades: 10-12
Teachers: Holly Houston
Subject: Art
Project Name: Art Fundamentals Student Portfolios
Resources: Student Portfolios

Each Art Fundamentals student creates a portfolio of work created during the semester. Over time and after taking different art classes, students can collect quite a few portfolios of work, demonstrating their skills in organization, thinking and writing about work, and growth over time.  These are skills valued not only in the art world, but in virtually every job imaginable. When looking, please know these are works in progress.