Is This The Real World? Is This Just Fantasy?

October 1, 2017 at 7:01 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Being in my new role is borderline surreal, and if it is don’t pinch me.  It’s given me this immense feeling of fulfillment and yet a desire to achieve more.  If you vision a dad and his son riding in a truck down a country road, doing what fathers and sons do, talking about things one day to come.  The dad looks at his son, tells him one day he’ll be a grown man and when the day comes to find a job that makes him happy.  The conversation is much the same as the years pass and the boy becomes a young man. Through it all the son watches his parents hold down multiple jobs to provide for the family, he hears the parent’s frustration and watches them endure to make sure their kids have lives better than their own.  Through the full time jobs, the moonlighting, and the third income the parents somehow created time to hold; through the time they took the kids to bitty ball, summer camps, the factory on strike;  through beginning their own business, and then selling it, to entering real estate and flipping of houses the son holds the phrase. Now on his drives to work the son hears the words his dad once told him so long ago as he passes the Croatan Forest, and drives over the waterways.  A smile spreads.  The goal he worked toward for the past ten years arrived as opportunity presented itself.  For the first time waking up to go to work doesn’t seem to feel like work.  He’s found the secret so many search for.  To enjoy what you do.  He’s also smart enough to know that this is the beginning, not the end.  To maintain this, he’ll need to invest more time and resources to ensure this new role develops into something greater.

With that mentioned . . . Dear readers, I present some of the Vantaztic Learning Experiences

 

Let’s peek in with 5th grade as these students are learning about properties of matter.  Their unit began by studying something all around us, water.  Students travelled through the water cycle transforming from the three states (solids, liquids, and gases) in a dice game created by Project WET.  Some found themselves flowing from rivers to being absorbed by plants or animals, then perhaps travelling into groundwater or becoming a glacier.  Many found they became trapped between the cloud and ocean stations while others might have been lucky to escape to a lake.  Students tallied their travels, analyzed the data, and shared individual results.  Then we collectively shared all results and wouldn’t you know the data was common amongst all four 5th grade classes with the dominate group being liquid.

After introducing the states of matter and these physical changes, we focused on the changes that occur chemically.  First the scientists listed properties of the penny including detailed illustrations.  Students removed the coverings of oxidized pennies using an acid base (vinegar) and an abrasive (salt) and then recorded the changes observed and jotting down properties of the penny after the experiment.  Following this students created carbon dioxide (a gas) by combining baking soda and vinegar.  They trapped the CO2 in a container and used syringes to measure the amount of gas produced.  Then students hypothesized how much more/less gas would be produced by changing one of the variables, meaning the amount of baking soda or the amount of vinegar.  Let the retesting begin.

As a follow-up to CO2 theme, the kids conducted hypotheses  on which type of soda would produce the greatest amount of CO2 release.  They compared soda to diet soda, lemon-lime, to diet lemon-lime, cherry to it’s diet counterpart, and Dr. P vs diet Dr.  In this activity students dropped a roll of Mentos into each 2 liter of pop.  Once the nucleation (bubbling experience) occurred, students poured the remaining soda from the 2 liter bottles into graduated cylinders to measure and record how many mL where blow out.  Results varied because one variable that was tricky for some was getting all the Mentos in the 2 Liter.  Some spilled, some got stuck in the paper made funnel, and some kids were jumpy.  Regardless all Mentos were placed in the container to make it as fair as a test as possible, but classes did receive different results (as expected in most experiments).

Below are 4th graders exploring traits.  Each tool represents a bird’s beak and on the surrounding tables are types of food that match a certain style or trait of beak.  The 4th graders researched hummingbird and woodpecker beaks to build up on their content knowledge, then made predictions as to which tool would be best suited to “eat” that given food source.  Tools (beaks): strainers, droplets, tongs, chopsticks, tweezers, scoop cup, nut crackers, scissors.  What would you use to suck nectar from a flower (graduated cylinder)?  If tearing meat from a bone (playdough off of a tube), would tweezers, scissors, or tongs be the best trait to have?  What style of beak would you need to peck at insects in tree limbs?

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4th graders also explored estuaries and how important these are to our community in terms of cleaning the ecosystem as well as in commercial fishing.  A snacking card game provided by the NC Coastal Reserve is always a hit.  Have a healthy estuary?  Add fish crackers to your estuary.  Draw a polluted card?  Eat the fish.

Third grade is honed in on the solar system.  These astronomers are developing an understanding of how gravity and inertia (something that can rest will rest; something that can move will continue to move) keep our planet in orbit as well as the other planets and moons.  The demonstration below was an easy one for the to comprehend.  They understood that gravity holds us on earth and if I poured the cup of water the water would spill out.  We tested that and their conceptualization was true.  So then, if I use gravity and inertia together I can keep the water in the cup while turning it upside down.  They were hesitant, so we had to take the experiment  outdoors to attempt.  Check the picks of the kids swinging the cup in circles, keeping the water intact thanks to the combo.

Our current project is converting the distances from kilometers to meters and centimeters of each planet from the sum.  Students are in process of measuring these distances with tape and meter wheels and cutting string to serve as a model distance.  We will then convert the planet sizes into metric for the circumference of planet models to attach to the string.

Second grade is deep into operating weather tools.  We’re calibrating anemometers, and reading thermometers.  They’re creating hypotheses on which would hold the temperature of water the longest (foam or plastic) and keeping track of their data, then interpreting the results.

First grade is tracking the movement of shadows throughout the day to recognize patterns and movement of objects throughout the day.  Check out our friends modeling with flashlights and tracing the shadow patterns made.

And my kindergarten friends (no pics yet) are improving their coding skills using directional terms as turn, forward, stop, etc.  They helped Mr. V get from point A to Point B using these terms with a number set.  I did get a bit dizzy when the direction was turn and I kept turning in place, or if they said go forward and I’d walk across the room.  We’re working on adding the number of steps and turns, so perhaps next time when we add arrows, numbers and directional word cards it will get us where we need to be.  Footage will be taken next time.  So much good to come.

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I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

September 22, 2017 at 2:25 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

 

A bit behind with updates in the lab.  The pvc pipe will hold plastic bags which will be used for campus clean ups.  We’ll separate the litter, then tally what we’ve found using CMAST’s beach sweep data sheets.  From there the information the kids collect will be sent to our friends at CMAST for them to add to their study on marine debris.  Our school will be a data point for the debris collection as well as upcoming weather tracking.  That lovely pesticide cabinet is our storage unit for chemicals, which at the elementary level consist of materials such as baking soda, vinegar, borax, veggie oil, salt, etc.  My good friend and proprietor of ENC Creations made some support cleats for the cabinet to rest upon and secure from above with lag bolts.  The back of the cabinet was then secured to the wall with ten masonry screws.  AND . . .  finally those beautiful cabinets came in.  Look at all of that storage.  Teacher’s dream.  A purchase order is in the works to purchase the wall mounted projector.  This will project onto our dry erase board and has touchscreen capabilities without the screen.  The next project is to add more storage rails under the cabinets, and install a few more pieces of pegboard.  Once that is complete, it will be time to build the L-bench and order materials for the recording studio.

Someone call the A-Team.

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch- Changes

August 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , , )

For anyone that bought a start-up home thinking, “This could be a nice place with a few changes and upgrades”, but then two days into pulling the carpet up to see those original hardwoods they hoped for they’re faced with stained laminate from twenty years prior, .  . . well this post is for you.  I’ve been there too for in my elementary to high school years my parents would buy a home once a summer to fix and rent or sell, and then I faced this once again after returning home from college graduation to rent a home (built in 1912) from my folks.

“I’m just going to repaint the living room.  Well I need to tear the existing forty seven layers of wallpaper first.  Suppose I should remove this drop ceiling to open up the room.  Looks like the plaster is coming off with the wall paper.  Should probably take off the original crown molding to sand and repaint.  So I need to hang drywall now and stamp the ceiling.”

You see, one thing leads to the next.  It is easier to build than work around and that in essence is the renovation process to the STEAM lab.  Not that I didn’t take that into consideration.  I knew there would be those days of “What was I thinking?” and “Seriously!”, but you roll with the punches and punishment.

So what have been some of the obstacles?  Knowing the depth of the cinder block.  If electrical lines where run through or behind them.  Where the lines were.  Cutting out steel pegboard to expose the outlets.  Finding potable and gray water lines as not to sink into them while running hanging rails.  Climbing ladders and hanging in contorted positions while on them is a skill I think I can sell as a new crossfit method.

So what has been accomplished?

The bathrooms are no more.  The toilets were officially taken out last week, and these past four days have been committed to turning one of those into a storage closet.  The rails are hung with six inch spacing between them.  You never know what you’ll use/keep as a teacher and the railing allows for shelves to unsnap and move up or down accordingly.  Suppose you can never have enough space to store items.  Here is the evolution of this room.

Added rails to each pop-out column dividing the walls, assists in utilizing a “take it” basket set-up.  Again, the vertical track has multiple slots to adjust where and how close to snap the baskets.  I spent today (8/15/17) filling these up with makerspace materials, puzzles and shells, math manipulatives, and robotics.  There is more to hang, but that will come after the cabinet install.

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Then there is pegboard run along the bottom of two of the dry erase boards.  I suppose another frustration is the shopping, because some things are not as they appear in the spec sections.  The pegboard was advertised as 32″w x 96″h and 32″w x 48″h.  I needed two of each, but when the delivery came all pieces were 32″ x 16″.  It worked out, but I was hoping for larger pieces to make cutting around the electrical outlets easier, while also avoiding placing screws so close to them.  C’est la vie.

The ceiling tiles are looking outstanding and I’m placing them in order based on the periodic table, with a few exceptions due to restraints on length of the room and/or working around light fixtures and HVAC.  I thought spinning them in different directions would be a fun twist for the squirrels that will be occupying this lab.

So, what is left?  Much.  The cabinets mentioned earlier will be placed on either side of the windows and three foot depth counter with shelves and space for terrariums and aquariums will run under the windows.  I have 10″ diameter pvc pipe coupled with two 45 degree elbows that will hold repurposed grocery sacks for campus clean-ups/trash data tracking.  This will be mounted near the exit door.  I have enough pvc left over to create a debris container for the outdoor science shelter, same as what you would see on the beach to collect fishing line.  The orbiting moon model will for sure be a time consuming project.  We will be using curtain railing, like that from a hospital/hospice room.  The issue is the railing cannot be hung from the tiles, but must go up into the ceiling joists.  The moon’s orbit isn’t a perfect circular pattern, but more of an oblong egg.  But, a few weekends into the school year and I should have a solid layout for the path.  The recording studio will be the coup de gras (grace), the hanging of the door will be the most difficult part and one I will need assistance from maintenance.  Yet, hanging the foam sound diffusers and building a bench will not be a difficult task to manage.  If you have thoughts on bedding and/or upholstery for the bench, please comment below.  It will be an L style to host multiple students or just one to lounge while recording their audio/video projects.

First things last.  Let’s get the counter/cabinets installed to house items and clean up a bit.  I have more than 20 stem project boxes that were delivered to the room and need to find a place for them.  This is a good problem to have.  Also, other teachers are invading the school and everyone wants to drop off their “science” stuff.  So like prior mention, you can never have enough storage.

 

What else?  Well . . . I won’t go into too grave detail, but will leave you with two words.  Touch tank.

David, hit it.

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Erosion Engineering

January 29, 2017 at 9:00 am (News, Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Alright stop!   Collaborate and listen.  The Little V’s are back with a brand new invention.  Vantaztic Learning has some mad skills on the mic, but even I can’t touch the brilliance that came from these young problem-solvers.  Your mind will be blown back to the 90’s to when we thought this track was solid,

Image result for vanilla ice 90s

as you listen to these clever devils collaborate.  See the thought process unfold for yourself as the scientists explain how their prototypes will slow beach erosion.

Makerspaces Engineering Erosion Project

Some background info for our readers:  The kids spent a day to design a blueprint of how their idea would look and created a write up of how it works.

Makerspaces Engineering

Day two (this day) was focused on creation of their sketch.  Next week they will test their project to see if it does in fact work, and if for some reason not, back to the drawing board.  For our fourth event day, we’ve invited a couple of professionals from our local community with background knowledge and first hand experience in beach renourishment to visit and listen to the students as they present their ideas, discuss the successes and drawbacks of the pretesting, and share their improvements.  Suppose we’ll have to wait to add more until testing and discussion take place, so for now . . . hit the hi-hat.  Word to your mother.

Makerspaces Engineering
Makerspaces Engineering

 

Makerspaces Engineering

We’re back and ready to share what worked and what needed modifications.  Our guest shall be here at the end of the month.  Enjoy, we’ll back after this paid programming announcement.

Erosion Wave Model

 

Engineering a Way to Slow Erosion
Wave Erosion Testing

2/23/17 Mr. Rudolph, “Rudi”, stopped in to listen to the young minds share their ideas and models to prevent beach erosion.  Mr. Rudi works for the Carteret County Shoreline Protection in Emerald Isle, NC.  He shared how to combat the erosion issue with the method Carteret County uses, dredging sand onto the beaches.  Fun Fact:  Sand is classified as sand if it is between 1/16-2 mm in size, any larger and it is mud, and then gravel.  Fun Fact:  An average of 1 million cubic yards are pumped onto the beach for a given project.  Fun Fact:  If sand is the erosion problem, then the solution is sand, putting it back to where it belongs.  The kids were engaged and developed terrific questions such as, “Would my hurt the environment?”, “How much sand is used to dredge back onto the beach?”, “How do you know when too much erosion is happening?”, and “What is your favorite part of your job?”.  Super way to end the week.  We are definitely spoiled to have so many resources at our fingertips.

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Engineering Ideas: Irrigation

January 23, 2016 at 9:00 am (News) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Meet a group of engineers applying logical reasoning, problem-solving, and mathematical concepts to create an irrigation system to make water flow three feet (without leaking) and disburse into two separate cups evenly.  Students were split into teams to devise an irrigation company name.  These company’s were given a $500,000 budget to use towards materials needed for construction, but before being allowed to purchase, they needed a blueprint design of the construction.  Each member created an illustration and the members of each team voted on which design to use based on budget and style.  After blueprints were approved by the inspector (yours truly), they were allowed to purchase the needed items, such as plastic tubing, cups (plastic & Styrofoam), duct tape, pvc, clay.  All of these items ranged in price by foot and inch from $2,000 – $25,000.  Each company was responsible for keeping up with the budget and making modifications to the blueprints prior to changing the construction.

Prior to beginning this project, we researched what irrigation was, how the Roman Aqueducts were constructed and worked, and focused on ethical procedures – which tied back to our previous knowledge from lessons on deforestation and the estuary/dragonfly pond activities.  With every good intention there usually is some negative impact or consequence.

Irrigation Construction

With that, company’s went to work figuring out how their constructions should be made, placed, and would work.  To keep the ethical point in mind, we added a stipulation.  Teams had three chances to make their irrigation system work without springing a leak.  However if a leak occurred, a company would have to shell out $50,000 for EPA violations.  The issue the people in Flint, Michigan are experiencing with water quality or lack their of would appreciate this.  If a company was successful after three attempts they went on to become a multi-million dollar sought after mogul.  If a company was unsuccessful due to leakage or blockage of water flow, then they most likely went out of business.  However, some unsuccessful company’s had ideas to merge to pool together budget and materials.

There were many purposes to this lesson.  The subcategories are:

  • Did the students work as a team?
  • Did everyone play a role?
  • Did their system work?

Students will self evaluate their experiences during this activity when we return.  Thank you to http://www.tryengineering.org for the lessons (some modifications were made).  Enjoy their creations.

CUB Irrigation
Irrigation 3
Irrigation 4
Irrigation 4

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Echolocation & Interpreting Data

January 9, 2016 at 2:06 pm (Science) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Thanks to the good folks at the Center for Marine Sciences & Technology (@CMAST) and The Science House (@THS_CMAST) for loaning their Vernier technology, allowing our young minds to  . . . a.) explore how bats and dolphins use echolocation, detecting distances of objects based on reflecting sound.  & b.) interpreting data waves results.

b

The Go!Motion devices were very simple to use, just a USB plugin into the back of the chromebook, and operated smoothly by downloading a free app known as Logger Lite.  Our first day we became familiar with operation of Go!Motion by placing a book or hand in front of the screen and then raising it away and/or towards quickly and/or slowly, the data is tracked as the motions are made.  The device serves as a bat while the object moving is the insect.  They were able to distinguish when a bat would determine if another object were near or far away by the rise or decline in the graph.

For the next act students took turns operating and standing in place to find the distances (marking points) of half a meter and 2 meters in which the kids had to interpret where they were standing and adjust position to the correct measurement.  These marking points served for the experiments of walking away from and toward Go!Motion.  A neat-o feature is the zoom in on the graph, allowing the kids to see if they ruffled their pant leg or twitched a finger while standing still.  It was a real eye opener to see the bounces in the waves according to the slightest movements.  The jumping up and down activity was a hit.  According to the wave data we might have some high fliers by the time they are in their teens.  Just throwing that out their for any college basketball or high jump recruiters that stumbled upon our blog. Cough, hint coach Painter #boilermakers.

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Solar Car Design

April 26, 2015 at 1:36 pm (School Supplies) (, , , , , , , , , , )

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Students spent the week reading about solar electric vehicles, how they work, how much/less energy they produce, and ideal times for them to function. They compared these to hybrids finding the similarities and differences between the two cars. We journaled vocab terms, illustrated them, and created context clue sentences for each. The kids were divided into teams to design a solar operated car. They had to determine which angle of sunlight would best power the car, which type of gears to use for speed, and then construct the vehicle. Rules: cars had to work, drive uphill 5 meters, and in a straight path.

Word of the week: photovoltaic cell = solar powered cell.

Here’s one clip of 4th grade engineers testing their car powered by a photovoltaic cell.

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