October 2017 Updates

After many weeks of testing, our year is finally up and running in the GT classroom for 1st-5th grade GT students.  Here are a few of the things that have been going on (click on thumbnails to enlarge pics):

First grade began GT this week by learning about the creative thinking tool called “S.C.A.M.P.E.R.”  They used “Substitute” to make scarecrows out of material different than hay.

2nd Grade has been learning about using their “Thinking Hats” to make decisions.  They also just began studying animal structures, and have been enjoying some math problem-solving with “Splat.”

3rd grade worked on solving a very difficult papercraft challenge and learned about growth mindset.

4th and 5th Graders have been working on using Design Thinking to create miniature golf courses for Howdy Night next week.  5th grade has also been piloting a program called, Curiosity Club, from the UK.

5th Grade Demonstrates Their Games to a Guest

On Thursday, Ms. Amy Lane came to visit our 5th grade class.  She is a liaison for the North East Educational Foundation, which awarded us a grant last year.  We have used some of the money from the grant to purchase supplies for our Cardboard Challenge, and Ms. Lane wanted to see the activity in action.  She got to see students creating and playing the games, and interviewed a few of the students.  We also got a couple of our 2nd grade Maker Club participants to show her their projects.  Ms. Lane will be reporting back to the Foundation to let them know how we are making good use of their donation!

We attempted to do some research on some charities to donate our money to.  Our laptops did not cooperate, so not as much research as I would have liked got done.  However, we got a general picture of several animal-related charities that operate in Texas, and the students finally voted on the Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.  So, they will be the recipient of all money raised from our Cardboard Arcade.

4th Grade Develops Criteria for Cardboard Box Projects

The 4th grade GT students worked on their Cardboard Box Challenge ideas for quite awhile yesterday.  Most of the students were able to finish their games and test the other ones out.  We talked about the importance of TMI – Think, Make, Improve.  I asked them to think of 2 Stars and a Wish for each project.  This means to come up with two things they like and 1 thing that could make each project better.  We also came up with a list of 4 criteria that we will be using to judge the projects next week: Durability, Challenge Level, Imagination, and Attractiveness. For the challenge level, our goal is for the game to be in that narrow window of perfect difficulty that is not too easy and not impossible.  After giving the projects a test run, all of the students came away with ideas for revisions that they would like to make next week, which is their last week to work on the challenge!

3rd Grade Makes Magnificent Things!

In 3rd grade GT this week, we read the book, The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires.  It’s all about a girl who has a great idea for a project but it doesn’t turn out the way she planned at first.  She tries hard, but ends up getting very frustrated.  After taking a walk, she returns to the project with renewed energy and completes it.

The book ties in very well with the student Cardboard Challenge projects.  As they progress, they often find that what they envisioned isn’t quite what they are able to make.  But they are learning to adjust and change course if they need to!

The projects are almost complete.  We did some test runs this week, then talked about the improvements they would like to make.  Next week will be their final chance to make the games the best that they can be!

2nd Grade Turns Problems into Opportunities

Last week, the 2nd graders made beautiful watercolor pictures.  After they left, I deliberately sabotaged the pictures by splashing lemon juice on them.  The juice left strangely shaped blotches on the masterpieces – definitely not what the students intended.

I used this lesson to teach students how to make the best out of plans gone awry. They used their creativity to think about how the ugly blotches could be transformed into pictures.  I absolutely love the results!  You can see their new creations below.  After completing this activity, I read the book, Beautiful Oops, to the students.  We discussed the potential that we can find in disappointing results or mistakes.

We also worked more on their Cardboard Challenge projects.  Many are close to completion.  Next class will be the last opportunity the students have to work on their projects before we vote on which ones will go to Main Event on October 15th.  Speaking of voting, the students voted on which type of charity they would like for the money raised to go to, and the majority selected animals.  A couple of more classes still need to give their feedback before we make our final selection.

Hidden Forest Maker Club

This year, we started the Hidden Forest Maker Club open to students in 2nd-4th grades. The sponsors are Ms. Kirkwood, Mrs. Richardson, and Mrs. Eichholz. We meet with the 24 members every Thursday after school in the portables.  The empty classroom next to Mrs. Eichholz is slowly being transformed into a Maker Studio – which the GT students named B.O.S.S. HQ (Building of Super Stuff Headquarters) last year.

The first project for Maker Club has been to work on the Global Cardboard Challenge. The students are making arcade games out of cardboard using supplies that we purchased with a grant from the North East Education Foundation and cardboard that has been donated from parents and staff members.  We will be taking a select number of the games to the Party Room at Main Event on October 15th where the community will be invited to donate $1 to play the games from 5-9 PM.  There will also be $20 wristbands sold for access to the other activities at Main Event.  All of the money we raise (we will receive $5 from each wristband sold) will go to a charity that is being selected by the students.

To see the inspiration for the Global Cardboard Challenge, check out the Caine’s Arcade Video embedded below.  And, enjoy the pictures that we have taken so far of students in the process of making!

5th Grade Gets Bigger and Better!

Our 5th grade GT class has 18 students this year, which is pretty big for a GT class.  I anticipated a huge mess when we started working on our Cardboard Challenge – and I was right – but I didn’t anticipate the fabulous synergy I encountered! Despite the large group of people, I heard no arguments and everyone seemed to be collaborating fantastically well.  I was really encouraged to hear their great ideas and see the amazing products starting to come together.

Like 3rd and 4th grades, the 5th graders also helped to narrow down what matters to them so we can figure out which charity will benefit from the proceeds of the Cardboard Challenge.  After getting feedback from all 3 grade levels, we have decided that the three most important topics are: families in need, animals that are abused, and pollution.  5th grade and the Hidden Forest Maker Club (who is also participating in the Cardboard Challenge) both voted for animals.  After I tally up 2nd-4th grade votes, we will see which one wins and research some charities related to that important concern.

4th Grade Creates Some Beautiful Mistakes

To reinforce the Growth Mindset, I asked the 4th graders to try to solve the following challenge: using only scissors, make a hole in a 3×5 index card that you could fit your head through.  It was fortunate that we had many index cards because there were lots of failed efforts!  No one quite solved it, but a few students got close.  The best part of the activity was that no one gave up, and everyone had a positive attitude.  If you are intrigued by this challenge, you will need to ask your child for the solution 🙂

When the students came back to our room from Specials, I had hung their mistakes from the ceiling.  These “failures” make our room colorful and fun – and remind us that it’s okay to make mistakes.  Sometimes, we can even turn our mistakes into something new and creative!  I showed them the book, Beautiful Oops, to give some more examples of mistakes turned into art.

Speaking of creativity, the students also began work on their cardboard challenge creations.  They were very excited, and made a beautiful mess of the classroom.  I’ve stopped asking students what they are trying to make because it’s easier to just watch their visions take form.  My main job is helping them to cut something out as they work.

Just like the 3rd graders, the 4th graders mind-mapped their passions and heartbreaks.  They had quite a few in common with 3rd grade, and it looks like many will agree on the charity that we finally decide on to receive the proceeds from the Cardboard Challenge.

3rd Grade Talks about Things That Break Their Hearts

In preparation for the Global Cardboard Challenge, the 3rd graders brainstormed their passions today.  Then they identified something that “breaks” their hearts about each one. We did this activity to help decide the charity that we are going to raise money for with our cardboard arcade on October 15th.  Here was their list:

Things That Break Our Heart – 3rd Grade

Nature – People cutting down trees in the Amazon Rainforest

Ocean – Pollution in the ocean

Recycling – Throwing away instead of recycling

Animals – Dying from pollution

Soccer – People getting injured

People – People being mean to others

Animals – People are cruel to animals

Gardens – Droughts

Recycling – Throwing away instead of recycling

Basketball – Too much fighting

Football – Head injuries

Soccer – People deliberately break rules that could injure others

Reading – Tragic novels

Fish – People taking fins off of big fish

Animals – Killing animals for skin

Soccer – People getting hurt

Bugs – People killing them

School – Things are sometimes too hard

Soccer – Too many injuries

Hiking – Injuries during hiking

After we looked at the list, we identified some of the major trends:

Sports-related injuries

Cruelty to animals


I will be doing this activity with 4th and 5th grade as well.  Hopefully we will see something that is important to many of the students and narrow down a charity that will be meaningful to them.

The students also presented their Powtoons and began work on their cardboard games.  It was a busy day!

Project Wrap-Up and New Beginnings

This is our final week of the Global Cardboard Challenge.  The students in 2nd-5th were able to share their projects with their classmates during recess this week (5th will do this tomorrow), and are now taking the projects home.  If your child has a super large project, please make arrangements for transporting it by next Friday.

I know that I keep gushing about the creativity that the students have shown during this process, but I must say one more time that they have really astounded me with their ideas!  I am so glad this was an overall success, and I can’t wait to do it again next year.  It was definitely a productive use of our time.  I posted some more pictures of projects on my professional blog last week because I really want to encourage others to participate next year as well.  Here is the link.

As we say good-bye to our cardboard creations, we are embarking on new journeys in GT.  One of them involves computer programming.  I am planning to weave a programming piece into all of the grade levels this year because I think it is such a valuable skill.  Today the 4th graders got an unexpected introduction to this when I learned of a brand new augmented reality app that allows the user to program a 3-d robot to perform certain movements.  One pair of students even got their robot to perform a ballet move!

I just wrote a post on my professional blog about the gender bias that is still very evident in fields like programming and engineering.  I am determined to work very hard this year on persuading the girls in my classes that boys are not the only ones who can develop skills in these areas, and that they might even find it interesting!  I hope parents will join me in making an effort to eliminate the stereotypes that are often attached to these subjects.

Using the iPad to program the Atlas robot