Full STEAM Ahead

June 10, 2017 at 6:57 pm (MATH, News, Science)

Full STEAM Ahead

Thank You Lowes

The idea behind project Full STEAM Ahead is to renovate an existing classroom into a full functioning lab encompassing areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM). The STEAM lab will serve as a hub for all elementary grade levels offering students an opportunity to create, explore through hands-on experiences, and develop critical thinking skills. The lab will be a meeting point for science clubs (robotics, environmental stewards, marine biologists, and horticulturalists). This lab will provide professional development for staff allowing homeroom teachers, specialized educators, and the STEAM facilitator to blend teaching styles and correlate on the development of lessons and activities related to the elementary curriculum-standards, as well as create cross-curricular strands allowing grade levels to intermingle on similar topics and provide a greater depth of learning. The STEAM lab will provide educators the opportunity to co-teach and students alternative methods to learn from one another. One of the STEAM lab’s objectives will fulfill multiple facets of learning. This being that all students have access to various forms of technology in which they can voice their findings and discoveries on social media platforms, learn to code and operate robotics, track and record data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program, while also being able to explore by means of interactive digital labs, and supplementing as a resource for research. Another objective is for our students to increase their understanding in science and mathematics and become proficient learners in these areas. Overall the goal of this renovation project is to have each student increase their appetite for one of the many fields science has to offer, and peak those interests by supplying these young inquisitive minds with an environment that engages and stimulates.


The vision of this renovation will host a recording studio for students to express themselves artistically by way of digital medium.  Students will have the ability to podcast, create digital content such as videos, or design augmented reality aurasmas. A dark room will be constructed for vermiculture study. An interactive whiteboard and projector will be allow for students to research while simultaneously manipulate digital labs.  Storage will be added to house robotics, manipulatives for math activities, along with science equipment.  Pegboard walls and removable crates will be wall mounted to aid in the utilization of maximum space for storing equipment and tools.  A chemical storage cabinet will be wall mounted to keep non consumable materials safely secure and out of reach when not in use.  A recessed wall mounted pull down eye rinse will be included as an added safety measure.  A display section will be created to bear experiments and projects, as well as hold ecosystems such as terrariums and aquariums (salt and fresh water) for observation.  A magnetic wall will be installed for exploratory learners, and a track will be fixed to the ceiling operating a moon model as it travels on the orbital path.  The ceiling tiles will each be painted to match the periodic table along with examples of how each element is used as a human resource.  PVC pipe will be mounted and run along the lab for students to explore auditory senses and manipulate sound energy.  For shelving of science related books, we will have a builtin tree shaped bookcase.  To maintain debris awareness, an acrylic container will be fixed to a wall.


June 7th, 2017 Lowe’s Home Improvement (Cape Carteret Branch) presented the $50, 852.21 grant to begin renovation of our classroom into a functional STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) lab.  News footage is below.

WNCT Channel 9

Carteret Time News Article

June 13th, 2017 Lowe’s Volunteers come to prime and paint the classroom Sonic Blue.  The before . . .

The during . . .

Lowe’s volunteers Liz and Lisa primed the walls covering the once purple, eggshell white, and dark blue cinder blocks.  I scraped liquid nail that once held the bulletin board (which will be moved to the opposite side of the classroom)  and removed the bathroom railings and dispensers (these were sent back to Central Office HQ).  Also on this day our friend Al Sirkin from ENC Creations (ENC-Creations via instagram and twitter) stopped in to measure the section where the magnetic wall will hang.  The plans for the magnetic wall will be to bend the metal around corner of the wall to the storage room (see pic of Lisa priming blue wall below), paint it black, punch out spots for the door stop and air control box, and cut terms; magnetic, attract, repel, iron, ore, and +, – symbols at the top of the wall.  There will also be a rubber edge run along the side of the metal to prevent kiddos from cutting themselves.  Lowe’s  customized a tree bookcase which is in the first stages of development.



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Fractions: Comparing Unlike Denominators

December 12, 2015 at 9:00 am (MATH) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Crickets.  That’s the sound you would’ve heard if blogs could make noise.  Been a while since any real substance has been posted I know.  

Well, after spending Fridays bulking up on fraction knowledge, the unit came at last (last week actually).  We are now full tilt in the fraction realm: concentrating on their sizes, what it means to be a fraction, and how we can use mathematical tools to compare them?

Let’s start with what we know about fractions (for 4th grade concerns).  For one all fractions can, should, & must be divided equally or what us high fashion fractitioners know as equivalent groups.  Fractions should also be congruent (same shape, same size).  It’s all about that mythical creature known as fair.

It wouldn’t be fair to compare apples to oranges, this years class to last years class, Superman to the Justice League, or Larry Bird’s jumper to Steph Curry’s (Bird wins).

Who likes short shorts? #80's

Who likes short shorts? #80’s

If I told you that when I was a kid I’d come home and complete half of my homework, while at the same time my sister completed half of her homework, and yet I’d claim I had more work than she did, would you believe me?  What if I told you she was four years younger than I was and that she only had a spelling assignment each night, while I had spelling, math, and reading assignments to complete.  What then?  Is half still equal to half?  You want to talk about fair?  When one kid has ten spelling words and finishes five then gets to roam the neighborhood, while the other has a list of 24 words for spelling (not to mention the other subject matter to decipher), where is the justice?  I implore you ladies and gentlemen.  Where is the fair?  Can we compare these two halves to be equal?  Absolutely not, but an argument I did not win against my mother.  In order to compare these fractions we must think of how they can be rearranged prior to analyzing if one fraction is larger than another.  Therefore we must break, split, divide, group, etc into equivalent parts.    And here is where we get to the tools.

Carpenters need a nail gun to frame a stick built house.  Pete Rose needed a bat to beat Cobb’s all time hitting streak.  Number lines are one of the tools we need in order to compare and explain how greater one fraction is than another.

After we create our line, I instruct the kids to then find halfway – no matter if we are working with odd or even fractions.  You can always find half or the center mark.  For now, we’re concentrating on whole numbers 0-1 (but will get beyond one whole in time) and fractions halves-16th’s (sometimes beyond this as well).  So after locating the center and marking it as one half, we treat the number line as a teeter totter, going back and forth writing fractions until reaching the middle.  

For example, if working with 6ths we begin at each end with 0/6 (zero) as our beginning mark and then 6/6 (one whole) as the end.  So far we have one fraction on each side of the one half (halfway) mark, making it “fair”.  Making it equal.  Since we have an equal number we can ask ourselves, “What is half of 6?”  You betcha = 3.  Therefore 3/6 is the same as one half.  Now we can continue the method going back and forth among the center mark with 1/6, then to the other side of half to mark 5/6.  Now back to the left side of half to make 2/6, and finally skipping back to the right side of half to mark  4/6.  Voila!  We have number line divided into sixths.

Confused?  How do you think an eight year old feels after being exposed to this the first time?  How do you think I feel after explaining this concept?  But wait shoppers there’s more.

We have only made our tool, not yet comparing fractions.  Let’s stick with sixths.  If I want to know if 4/6 is <, >, or = to 1/2, then I can mark 4/6 on my number line I so heavily invested time in and see that it is past the halfway mark.  Now with practice some kids will be able to explain that 4/6 is > than 1/2 since half of six = three (3/6), therefore 4/6 is more because 4 is more than 3.  Yet not all kids can compute 1/2 multiplied by three on the numerator and denominator equates to 3/6.  Some of us need visuals to conceptualize this.  I can see from our model that 4/6 is indeed > than 1/2 (3/6) by  1/6 of a jump.

Note:  The model below was found via Google search and not my fav.  I would have marked zero as 0/6 and 0, as well as 1/2 and 3/6.  Until I get a tablet with a functioning camera we’re stuck with the interweb’s pics.   I digress.


Last lesson, you’re doing great focusing on the task at hand.  Gold CUB Paw.  Let’s throw in an odd number, thirds.  The kids would find 0/3 and one whole (3/3) to mark on their number line.  To locate 1/3 we’d stop and do something most public education has abolished and deemed as unlawful.  Thinking.  Think and ask yourself, “How does 3/3 and 6/6 relate?”  

Double the top, double the bottom.  Repeat: 1/3 doubled on the top =2, doubled the bottom = 6.  Same for 2/3.  Double 2 = 4, 3 again = 6.  Place these fractions in the same spot because we’ve found equivalent fractions folks.  Now if you’d start making a number line with thirds, it’s just as easy.  Find your center mark and teeter totter on each side, keeping an equal amount of fractions.  0/3 to left, 3/3 to the right.  1/3 to the left of half, 2/3 to the right of half.  I can look and explain to you 2/3 is > than 1/2 because it is past half way on the number line.

I can compare 2/6 and 2/3  as well.  Now we’re looking at unlike denominators, fancy speak for “the bottom number of a fraction isn’t the same”.  Highfaultin talk I tell you what.  I can see that 2/6 is < than 2/3 because 2/6 is before the number line and 2/3 is past it.  I could also explain that 2/3 is 2 jumps or more specific 2/6 jumps past 2/6 (aka 1/3 simplified).  The explaining why and by how much is the main focus when comparing the fractions.  Yes you can cross multiply/butterfly method but it will not give the student the ability to compare by how much one fraction is greater than another.  That’s not to say we do not use it, but we use it to compare as a back up.  They third method is changing fractions into common denominators which is also covered with creating the number line.  But for now, I think I’ve thrown enough heaters, and it’s time to bring in the lefty = class dismissed.

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Hands-On Experiences

October 10, 2015 at 9:00 am (MATH, Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The rain may have kept us out of school, but it did help us segue into our next topic . . .  erosion.  We’ve found another smash hit article via KidBiz to explore this topic, and we’re building our vocabulary on this subject with the help of Discovery Education as well.  Next week tends to be messy as we will be eroding the classroom.  Before I get ahead of myself, as I often tend to do, let’s pump the brakes and give our faithful viewers insight on the latest our young minds have to offer.

It was a short week indeed, but still action packed.  The crew partnered once more to reflect on the cause and effect relationship between human kind and ecosystems.  Excellent discussion and I do hope you’ll follow our Aurasma channel (see earlier posts on how to follow or check the progress folder cover) to see and hear the reports these kids created.

What better way to bring the week to a close than to rip through another Fraction Friday with food.  Theses mathematicians grouped M&M’s by color, created number lines for each color given, labeled the position, and then came up with facts based on their data.  For instance, 8/12 of M&M’s are blue.  Looking at the number line I can tell that 8/12 is greater the 6/12 (1/2) by 2/12 or 1/6.  They also decomposed fractions: I can take my blue M&M’s of 8/12 and break them into groups to create equations, 8/12 = 2/12 +4/12 + 2/12.  I know that 8/12 is closer to one whole 12/12 because it is only 4 jumps from it on a number line.  Once they had a number line created with a matching fact, then it was time to put that color to real use, scarf it down.

Hover over the pics to see captions, click on them to get a closer look.  We will be back with more.  Stay tuned.

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Math Tips

September 17, 2015 at 8:15 am (MATH) (, , , , , , , )

Here are some topics we’ve been crushing in math:

  • Numbers in expanded form.  So what does this look like/mean?  Stretch out a number, look at the multiple ways a number can be represented.
    • 268,549 = 200,000+60,000+8,000+500+40+9 = (2 x 100,000)+(6 x 10,000)+(8 x 1,000)+(5 x 100)+(4 x 10)+(9 x 1) = 26 ten thousands + 85 hundreds + 49 ones


  • ID digits and their place value.  What’s the difference? Value = worth, while digits = the numeral in a given spot.
    • 34,701:  The digit in the ten thousands place is the numeral 4 and is worth 4,000 ones, 40 hundreds, 400 tens, or 4 thousands.
    • (25,391;   659,447;   999,581) Which five digit is worth the least?  The 5 in 999,581 is only worth 5 hundreds.


  • Using number lines to round number to a given place value, but more importantly explaining why that given number is rounded to the nearest ten/hundred/etc.
    • 45,327 rounded to the nearest thousand =45,000.  How do we know this to be true?
    • Concentrate on rounding the thousands place, block out all else for now and focus on the thousands place and the place value directly behind it (hundreds).
    • This creates the number 53 (hundreds).  What do I know?  I know 53 is between 50 and 60.
      • So, I can create a number line from 50 to 60 (which represents 5,000 to 6,000)
        • Then find/mark 53 on this number line.
          • By looking at my visual, I can explain that 53 (hundreds) is closer to 50 (hundreds) by three whole jumps compared to 60 (hundreds) which is seven whole jumps away.
            • My ten thousands digit remains the same (4), I place the 50 hundreds (5,000) behind it and voila 45,000.


Many steps in these processes.  Now you know what your child is up against, and this is just review from third grade.  AND as I interject again, they are crushing these skills.  Hope this will help you help them once these type of problems begin to make their way home.


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