This Week in the Classroom I’m going to explore a variety of design challenges that I use in my classroom. I designed each of these projects to prompt students to explore the engineering design process, learn basic scientific concepts, such as forces and loads on structures, learn executive functioning and soft skills, and develop presentation skills in a variety of media. These projects are designed to be super flexible in practice. I can extend these projects, compress the time, develop thematic elements. None of these projects use expensive materials or electronics. Some of these project briefs I use nearly every year, in nearly every course. They are simply that good.
This Week in the Shop, I build a library book nook for my school. My school librarian came to me with her coffee bar theme for a renovated library and she wanted a circular book nook to take advantage of a certain space in the library. This book nook had to incorporate a column and reclaimed table top, be made under budget (roughly $500), have a professional look, design and materials. I looked at her requirements, looked at the space and said…yeah….I can do that. Follow along as I show you how! Installing a Laminate Countertop My toughest challenge was … Continue reading This Week in the Shop: The Library Book Nook
My semi-regular column This Week in the Classroom is back! I have accepted a position in a small, mostly rural school district just outside of Northern Virginia. It’s great to be in the classroom again, bringing project-based learning to new audiences.
I am teaching middle schoolers, all levels. Middle school is a great age to teach, despite some of the unique challenges the students pose. Students can really make connections, find passions and dive deep into a project. They are about as creative as they ever will be and watching a kid’s creative power light up is just something cool. Middle school is also a fraught time for many young people, making the classroom a place of great promise and great worry.
Here’s my current greatest hits list of web tools, software platforms and services I like to use in my Tech Ed/Maker Classroom.
The camera obscura is a old, old project which illuminates the nature of light. Students can discover some major scientific principles: light travels in straight lines, transparent surfaces allow light to travel through while translucent surfaces let some light through, the principles behind photography, scale, proportion and a whole host of other things.
Essentially, a camera obscura is a black box with a very small hole piercing one wall. This hole allows a small amount of light to enter the box.
Now here’s where it gets funky. We need to know two rules about light to understand what happens next. First, light travels in a straight line. Second, light reflects off all objects – it’s the reflected light which our eyes process into visual images. So what happens if light is made to travel through a extremely small space?
As a teacher of mostly teenage boys, I can say my kids want to see three things: something on fire, something crashing, or something flying (and then crashing). I love teaching middle-school science because I get to teach motion, which sets things crashing and stuff flying. As written by Jim Steinman and sung by Mr. Loaf, two out of three ain’t bad. So how do I go from standards to a project idea to a curriculum unit?
Personally, I take a five step approach:
Pick a project,
Choose an excellent essential question,
Find cross-curriculum opportunities,
Generate weekly Maker labs.
After the jump, I’ll expand on each of these points and share some of my curriculum planning tools. Come on in and see how the engine of a classroom might work.
As my students have become more competent with tools in the past few years (and cripes, does it feel weird to say years…) I’ve gotten the chance to think: what would be really cool to do next? What would be just flat out awesome? Here’s my answer: wood & lino prints designed by the student, for the students work. My summer crew churned out about 30 different wood projects and many pieces deserved something special. In the third week, I took the plunge and bought $80 worth of tools. We spent the next few weeks cutting as many designs as we could and experimenting … Continue reading This Week in the Classroom: Block Printing & Stamps
…if we only let it. I’m lucky. Most of the time, my school walks this walk and talks this talk. I hope your’s does too. Connecticut superintendents propose a radically different approach to education | Dangerously Irrelevant How do you transform factory era school systems so that they better serve the needs of an information age society? You don’t do it by being timid. Unlike most school reformers floating ‘tweak-the-status-quo’ proposals these days (let’s test kids more! let’s get rid of a few teachers! let’s make school longer! let’s lecture better!), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) decided … Continue reading What a School Could Be…