Sunday, March 13, 2016

Properties of Matter: Grade 2

All classes in Denton Avenue are moving onto Module 2 in their PLTW modules.  But first, we celebrate Grade 2's final Module 1 Contest.  Their unit: Properties of Matter.  The students discovered that Angela, Milo, and Suzi were heading off to a soccer game.  Angela brought the ice pops but forgot the cooler.  Now the friends (with help from Grade 2 students) have to design a cooler that will keep the ice pops frozen.

After learning about changes in matter and insulators and conductors of heat, the children built their prototypes and held a grade wide contest to see whose ice pop would stay frozen the longest.  All of them had a great time showing off their designs.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Grade 5 Embraces Robotics

Guest Blogger: Rose LaMarca

The fifth grade students brought their imagination and personal life experiences to create robots which can be used in natural disaster areas. It was amazing watching the students work with the same exact tool kits and design distinctive blueprints for original designs. They worked as a team to bring these designs to life by building prototypes. They created original designs that were unique to the groups’ dynamics. The designs were based off of research on the different type of robots and their uses. 

 Another aspect of the unit was to design toys that would appeal to other students. They learned how to work with constraints and criteria. For example, the toy had the following constraints: must contain one moving part and completed within a 1 hour time limit. The designs exceeded the original expectation of the assignment. 

The students also created presentations to explain their thinking behind the design. The students’ conversations were rich with knowledge they had gathered during the study of robots. The culminating project was to design a field site and test the robot design to be able to remove hazards waste. 

The robotic unit gave students the opportunity to demonstrate high levels of knowledge through application. After the robots were completed, the reflective learning continued as the students looked at areas of difficulty with their designs.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Grade 4 - Energy: Collisions

Module 1 in PLTW is coming to a close.  Teachers around the school are running their final problems and the children are having a ball while learning how to plan for and design solutions to problems.  Fourth grade is no different.  After following Mylo, Angelina, and Suzi, from the PLTW story, through lessons on potential and kinetic energy, the children were ready to design safe bumper cars.  Their job: keep their "egg" passenger from breaking while their car was traveling down a ramp.

The teachers had to learn to build their own cars first, for a demonstration. Then the children plowed ahead.  Watching the first eggs crash without any safety mechanisms in place was exciting.  Especially if you draw faces on the eggs first! 

As the children planned a way to, as Sofia, from Mrs. Basini's class explained, "keep their egg secure," their designs became more and more elaborate.  Aashi added, "You had to put protection in the car so the impact of the crash doesn't hurt the egg."  One  very clever group used the plastic egg that came with the kit.  They opened the egg and inserted a magnet.  Then they added a magnet to the car and stuck the two magnets together.  The egg didn't move!  I wonder if soon we will be wearing magnetic pants while driving in our own cars. :)

This unit was magical for the children and the teachers.  As Mrs. Basini vocalized, "This was a journey of science self-discovery."  Well said, Mrs. Basini!

Watch our students in action below:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

PLTW Professional Development

The fifth grade teachers felt a bit overwhelmed and under prepared for the end of Module 1.  Their PLTW module is robotics and, by the end of the first module, the children were going to build a robot that is connected to a brain allowing it to move with a joystick. 

Using the Vex kits is quite a challenge since it has thousands of pieces that have to be put together in a very specific way for the robot to work.  So the teachers asked for some time to work together to learn how to use the VEX kit with the Autodesk Innovator App to build that robot.  

Last week we got the time.  With Lisa Parisi acting as classroom teacher and the teachers playing students, we had a challenging, exciting time building.   Once they got to the part where their robot moved around, the excitement was difficult to contain.

This extra PD session was very successful.  The teachers felt better prepared and went right back to work.  All the classrooms were buzzing with the noise of children working their way through the project.  And the teachers were excellent facilitators!  PLTW is alive and well at Denton Avenue!


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Kindergarten Embraces Project Lead the Way

As 2016 begins, Denton Avenue students and teachers are finishing up their first PLTW module. And as the classes reach the final project and problem, the teachers are excitedly sharing their pictures with each other.  The ideas are flowing, the conversations are vibrant, and the children are showing off their scientific expertise.  

In kindergarten, with Module 1: Structure and Function, the children followed Suzi, Angelina, and Mylo through the literary journey of Jack and the Beanstalk and The Three Little Pigs.  They were challenged to create beanstalks that would be structurally sound while serving the function of helping Jack climb high.  Then they were challenged to create homes out of bricks (styrofoam blocks), sticks (tongue depressors), or straw (toothpicks).  Their homes had to withstand the Big Bad Wolf (a powerful electric fan). 

What did they learn through all this?  As Susan Fabian explained, "The children learned how to work together.  And by watching each other, they learned to remodel their beanstalks.  They learned that the beanstalk needed a stronger base than just one pipe cleaner."  Her students learned about balance.  John and Hailey spoke about their beanstalk. "Our beanstalk had to be big to climb up to the clouds.  We needed two (pipe cleaners) to make it tight.  And one (pipe cleaner) wouldn't balance so it would fall over."

Milly Loman taught her students the spanish words for bricks, sticks, and straw, as well as the words for Structure and Function.  The children excitedly used these words to talk about the houses they were building. 

All of the kindergarten students had fun while learning. See what they accomplished.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.