Skills USA

On February 9th, students from Harrison Elementary School participated in their first year in the SkillsUSA competition. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers, and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.  

In its inaugural year, Harrison’s Chapter sent 12 students to Delta College to participate in a variety of skills, such as “Team Engineering,” “Pin Design,” “Mobile Robotics,” and “Job Skill Demonstration.  These skills required some to work in groups to complete a task, or independently to present a skill that the student has prepared for judges.

Besides students having to participate in events, students are required to dress for success.  Many students traded in their loose jeans and oversized hoodies for black slacks, tie, and a red SkillsUSA blazer.

Overall, the day was a success for Harrison as all students from their chapter qualified for the state championships in Ontario CA from April 25th – 28th.

STEM With Magnitude.io

Picture of students watching balloon launch

Mr. McCarty’s class says goodbye to the high altitude balloon!

What fun it has been working this year with our SUSD partners at Magnitude.io. This company has three different STEM opportunities that your kids can learn with, including; ExoLab, CanSats, and High Altitude Balloon (HAB) Launch. Each of these activities had our classroom using their reading, mathematics, writing, engineering, and scientific skills to explore the world around us.

For the past two years my classes have participated in the ExoLab program. This includes a customizable electronic growth chamber where students can grow various seeds and plants. The chamber has many sensors in it that track live amounts of Oxygen, CO2, Humidity, and more. Did I mention that astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are participating in the same growth chamber experiment?! How cool is that!

With the CanSats (Can-sized Satellites) have multiple sensors, once linked with a battery, can provide real-time data that students can use for live experiments. My students have collaborated and selected eight different projects to focus on during this coming spring. Magnitude.io provided our classroom with eight individual CanSats. These soda-sized cylinders will be used to; create a weather tracking station, track students course during their mile rune in PE class, and determine if plants grow differently when surrounded by varied levels of CO2 and/or Oxygen. These experiments and accessibility to live data, changes our classrooms for the better. It changes our classrooms ‘for NGSS’. These are student driven activities and projects that are helping my students to start thinking globally, as well as locally. What project will your imagination lead?

Picture of the instrument box.

This box contains the instruments that were carried by the high altitude balloon.

Finally, one of the most exciting activities we have participated in this year, has been the High Altitude Balloon Launch that we completed on February 22nd. In preparation for this project, my students researched the layers of the atmosphere, and then presented some of their findings to other students at our school. This program contained multiple projects, such as; experiments, engineering and design applications, data analysis, and more. Our experiments included sending up a raw egg to space, to see if the pressures, temperature, and increase radiation in the atmosphere would cook or freeze the egg. The kids also sent up a batch of various plant seeds, that we intend to plant in our classroom’s hydroponic garden. We will now plant both seeds from Earth and seeds from space and determine if leaving the various layers of our atmosphere would alter the seeds or cause them to grow with any mutations, or not at all! On the final day of launch we had students from all grade levels attend our event out on the school field. Even our friends over at Commodore made the trek over to our school to watch the balloon launch. Come through any time!!

A picture of young students watching the launch.

Younger students from Hoover and Stockton Skills came out to watch the launch!

 

A picture just before launch.

This was the scene just seconds before launch.

Ted Tagami (Mr. Ted) and Tony So (Mr. Tony) head up the team from Magnitude.io that is working with SUSD teachers. It is because of their efforts that my students have been exposed to opportunities they might not have known existed. They have been so helpful and supportive of our students and we continue to be amazed by the programs they offer. I encourage any teacher looking for some unique ways to bring real-world STEM into their classrooms, to look for these programs in the future.

And special thanks to Justin Swenson from SUSD for the great photos, and a website he made for our event that can be found here

 

Future Engineers

Project Lead the Way logo.

By Peter Gallegos and Veronica Torres

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth grade students at Harrison School in Stockton, CA  are off to a running start for their engineering future. Students in Mrs. Merriam’s PLTW Design and Modeling class learn by quickly understanding the importance of an engineering notebook to document and capture their ideas.

Image of students showing their work.

Students working early in the design process.

Students are introduced to the design process in order to help solve problems and understand how their ideas can influence the creativity process of their group and others.

Image of a team of students

Students work in groups and follow the design process from idea to prototype.

One important aspect of this class is students’ discovery of engineering and how the items that are invented within this process can help the populace as a whole. For example, the creation of a prosthetic device and a toy that will help a student with cerebral palsy gives students a greater appreciation of what a special needs student endures on a daily basis.

The academic language that students use during this process would seem unbelievable for students this age.  One can see groups working hard together to solve their design process challenges and coming up with solutions to attain a final product.  This process forces the students to “think outside of the box.” Higher order thinking abounds in this class.

Image of student working.

Students use industry standard 3D modeling software, such as Sketchup Pro and Geogebra

Merriam’s students use industry standard 3D modeling software, such as Sketchup Pro and Geogebra, to create a virtual image of their designs and produce a portfolio to showcase their creative solutions.

When students show proficiency in the modeling software, and are able to complete the design process from paper to virtual image, they will have the opportunity to print their final product using the school’s 3D printer.

Coding for Kindergarteners? Absolutely!

By Maridee Stanley

America is short on computer programmers. Currently, tech companies are recruiting programmers from India, not by choice but by necessity. Don’t we want our own SUSD students to get these high paying tech jobs so we can finally break generational poverty? This can happen if we start our students coding early. How early? High school? Middle school? Intermediate grades? Kindergarten is not too soon. For the past 5 years, my kinders at Kennedy Elementary have successfully learned the basics of block programming and began to think of themselves as the programmers and tech entrepreneurs of the future. Students have fun and the parents love it! “But,” you ask, “ I’m not a programmer. How can I teach coding?” Don’t worry. Coding isn’t as hard as you think. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Trust me on this.code1

All the instructional work is done for us by Code.org, Tynker, PLTW, or Google, and the beginning lessons are designed for pre-readers. Why wouldn’t any teacher want to do this? You have several options to get your students started on coding. The best known is Code.org, developer of Hour of Code. If your school has Project Lead the Way you have the PLTW computer science module. Tynker has some free content here  or you can sign up for free teacher account for an easy K lesson here. Google will send teachers a free kit to be used with their online material, click here. Even if you supplement with other programs, Code.org is indispensable as it has the most resources and an easy-to-navigate website. From there you can watch videos (Course A for age 4-7 ), visit the educator section and create your account, peruse lesson plans, or print out offline material .

If you and your colleagues want an enjoyable Saturday, attend a Code.org Computer Science Fundamentals PD, learn some tricks and pick up some swag. Or, take the online PD .

Students working with robots.

Students work with blue-bots, robots that the kids can program!

If you don’t have time for all this, simply take your class straight to an Hour of Code classic, Angry Birds, and start coding! I recommend starting offline. I use Code.org’s “Move It” for PE and PLTW as a center activity. Ozobots are a popular way to teach the concept of programming. But my students’ favorite offline activity is the Bee-Bot, a small robot that is programmed with directional arrows on its back. Kinders doing Code.org offline coding for P.E. Tip: Don’t try this on a windy day. Using the directional cards that come with BeeBots and Blue-Bots, kindergarteners write a line of code. Using direction keys, students program BeeBots and Blue-Bots to spell CVC words or order numbers. Bee-Bot and BlueBot programming was a big hit at STEAM Night and Literacy Night at Kennedy. Even some parents got hooked!

Image of student and laptop.

“Look, Ma, I’m programming!”

After the offline warm-ups, students should do Code.org’s Course A followed by Angry Birds and Minecraft on Hour of Code. Some may progress on to Star Wars or Moana, although you may have to tell students the objective …get scrap metal in Star Was and fish in Moana. I don’t recommend Frozen for kinders as this requires knowledge of angles. Many kinders begin to have difficulty when they get to loops, but with patience, persistence and careful counting they can overcome difficulties. Remind students that “fail” means first attempt in learning something awesome.

Coding a Minecraft game is a good incentive to finish ST Math and is an alternative for students who have completed work early. If you have never coded, try some super simple kindergarten block coding on the following Google Doodle celebrating 50 years of children’s coding. https://www.google.com/doodles/celebrating-50-years-of-kids-coding And please, get your students coding. You might inspire the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

Titanoboa: Giant Snake From Earth’s Past

With all the hype right now with Megalodon Sharks (Meg), Prehistoric Dinosaurs (Jurassic Park), even the Predator films are dealing with evolution and (future) fossils. My kids this month took a step back as well. We took a step back in time, nearly 65 million years back!

This past summer I was lucky enough to receive a travel grant to attend a conference at the University of Florida Natural History Museum’s @iDigFossils Teacher Program. There we learned about incorporating fossils with our current 3D printers into the subject matter across all educational domains. We learned how to blend NGSS into CCSS, and include engineering, art, reading, and even PE into lessons about Earth from millions of years ago. We went panning for shark teeth, digging for miniature horse bones, and even got to touch the well-documented find-of-a-lifetime, Titanoboa vertebrae.

Image of 3D printed fossils

These students are working with the 3D fossils they printed.

Now, my 10-year-olds were more interested in what did it eat (full crocodiles), how did it catch its prey (asphyxiation), and how big was it really? To help answer that last question, we created our own PBL units that were published by the department. My class used the vertebrae template, the scanned image(s) of the fossilized bone found by UofF professors in Columbia, and worked in groups to design ‘the most efficient way to print them on our printers.’ Students worked in groups using computer assisted drafting (CAD) software, TinkerCad, to complete their tasks. They used math measurements to try and minimize supports (these are tree-like structures a 3D printer uses on overhangs, to keep the shape of the object you are printing). The problem with supports is that is wastes your printer filament (the plastic it prints with). So the kids finally managed to design a print that contained two bones on one printing plate, with minimized supports, and settings that allowed us to print twice a day, on each printer.

an image of students doing a compare and contrast activity with their printed fossils.

Students do a compare and contrast activity with their printed fossils.

The kids had fun working together towards a common goal. After about a week we had 45 vertebrae finally printed. We took some white yarn and our fossils and went out to the playground. I wanted the kids to really understand how long this snake was. We measured out 45 feet of yarn, and at about every 12 inches, a student tied their individual fossil onto the main string. It was quite the site to seek the shock, and terror, in some of their faces when they realized the size of this monster. We did a wiggle activity and the kids followed me around on the blacktop as we slithered back and forth as a snake playing follow the leader. Back in the classroom, we worked with units of distance and converted everything from millimeters, centimeters, inches, feet, and yards. We hit standards on standards and we weren’t trying too hard.

We finished up our Titanoboa Week with a ‘chat with a scientist’ interview with the awesome Ms. Jeanette Pirlo, representing Florida Museum Of Natural History, Vertebrate Paleontology Department! She gave kids a great glimpse into the fields of science and paleontology. We learned some new facts about Titanoboa, and she helped motivate some of my little girls to think about maybe one day going into a field of science and STEM. They are SO very excited to each be taking home their very own full sized Titanoboa 3D printed fossil!

a picture of students showing off their 3D printed fossils!

Students show off their 3D printed fossils!

Titanoboa might have been from Earth’s past, but with today’s technology, it is fueling the curiosity of kids from today. Check out the @FossilProject for plenty of 3D Printed fossils, lesson plans, and tips and tricks alike.

Cheers!