Need an idea? Go for a run!

If you need ideas then my advice is go for a run. I have been saying this for ages now as every time I go running I seem to be able to clear my thoughts and focus on some really important aspects of life. Today my focus was on work, as it often is, and came up with lots of great ideas, including:

  • Make a Scratch movie with the Scratch girls to show in assembly. This could be something like ‘5 reasons you should join Scratch Club next term!’
  • Interview 5 Scratch girls and film their responses, then edit them into an iMovie
  • Include Sphero in the Scratch club
  • Change the name to Code Club, incorporate not just Sphero but Makey Makey and WeDo when it arrives
  • Use other coding resources such as Hour of Code, Scratch Jr and Grok Learning
  • Make my own Scratch project to show in assembly, such as how to time travel into the future. Show the girls that Mr Scadding is also a Scratcher and loves to code and be creative
  • Use more Scratch in my teaching, especially in junior school to tempt more girls to attend Code Club
  • Change Code Club to Wednesday to avoid that crazy Friday feeling

Just a few things to get started on thanks to my run around Killara today. I also did some equations in my head regarding the speed of light, light seconds, light minutes and light years. All that and keeping myself fit at the same time.

So, the next time you need to be creative and come up with some great ideas, grab your running shoes and go for a run.

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Lego WeDo 2.0 Teacher Training Workshop

On Monday 14 March I attended a workshop for the brand new Lego WeDo 2.0 STEM kit. I was involved with arranging this event to be held at my school, Ravenswood, in Gordon. I attended with a year 3 teacher from school. The event was arranged with Modern Teaching Aids and Lego Global Master Trainer Rob Widger led the workshop.

During the workshop we were introduced to the kit, the curriculum included with it, how to build and code kits using the software.

This kit is billed as being a hands-on, innovative and creative way to meet certain science standards in a fun and engaging way. This kit is a step down in terms of ability to the Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot that we use with year 6 students.

After unpacking a few items from the kit we were challenged to build a table fan to help keep Rob (from Dorking, Surrey) cool in the heat, and humidity, of the day! I got nice and hot helping the guys set up, the humidity really was a killer! We made our fan incorporating the motor and the battery hub to provide the power. We then had to Bluetooth the hub to a computer or tablet so the code could be downloaded to it. I could not connect the hub to my school laptop so ended up borrowing an iPad from Sandra, from Lego. The iPad worked fine. I hope the kits will work with the laptops at school! I need to try this asap. So we coded the fan and made it spin.

We also got to construct small Lego ducks during the first part of the day, proof that Lego was fun, creative and you don’t need a lot of it to make something interesting.

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We then delved into the lessons included with the core software. There are lots of science based lessons that aim to teach core science concepts through making, coding and doing. We did the Pull and Push lesson and constructed, with help from the built in guide, a machine that could move and pull something at the same time. Our model worked fine and we coded it to pull some more Lego. Other groups managed to set up a tug-o-war with two machines to see which was the strongest.

 

After our lunch break we delved into another lesson, Predator or Prey. In this lesson we had to team up with another group and decide who would make the predator and who would make the prey animal. There were a few rules to make the challenge more interesting. In the end we went with a predator and built a crocodile with wheels. Other groups designed some awesome looking creatures, that moved in some weird and wonderful ways. This task highlighted the creativity of WeDo and with just a few basic motors and sensors you could add more complexity to the design, along with the code element of course.

After packing away the WeDo kits we got to experience the Lego Story Teller kit. This is themed Lego that students use to tell stories on a series of small panels to represent a beginning, middle and end to a story. We were shown the educational and behavioural benefits of the kit in a nice Lego video and then we had to construct our own story with a few ideas to guide us and make our Lego sets to help tell the story. Our story was a bit out there, as you can probably tell from this pic.

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It was fun for a few minutes and a good resource for small children, but just some regular Lego would do the job really.

Overall, we were impressed with the WeDo kits and these would make a great addition to years 2-4 in the junior school.

Thanks for a great day Lego and MTA!

Amazing Skype lesson with Andrea Boyd – ESA

On Wednesday 16 March I arranged for the whole of year 5 to Skype with European Space Agency engineer Andrea Boyd. The Skype meeting was to compliment the unit I was leading about space, Mars and the Curiosity rover. Thanks to Jackie Slaviero I made contact with Andrea and we arranged the chat in just a couple of days.

The girls were prepped pretty much the day before the chat and I led a lesson about Andrea, ESA, ISS and engineering. The girls were then asked to write down their questions for Andrea. I read all of the questions and highlighted the best ones, 5 from each class. These girls were then chosen to ask their question to Andrea during the chat. The stage was set.

The Skype did not go 100% smoothly. The morning of the Skype was wet, very wet, so classes got a bit wet walking from junior school to the middle school learning studio. A small inconvenience but not ideal.

ICT came to help set up the Skype and everything seemed to be working well. We had video and audio and the test call connected no problem.

The girls arrived and were seated, I milled around nervously waiting to get started. At 9am I made the call to Andrea and the call did not connect, it didn’t event ring. I tried again, still not luck. I had no idea why. Andrea had messaged us on Skype to say that she was ready, she was online, we were online, yet no connection, what was happening? I called ICT and left a message for help. In the meantime I chatted to the girls and we asked a couple of space questions to spark some debate. Then ICT showed up, fixed the problem and we were away, at last!

The call was amazing! Andrea was lovely and really engaged the girls from the first moments. She spoke about herself and what she does at ESA and EAC in Germany. The girls behaved perfectly and asked their questions with poise and confidence. There manners were excellent and and they thanked Andrea for her time with great enthusiasm.

Andrea answered all of the questions and we learnt so much. Some of the things I learnt:

  • Spacewalks are very dangerous
  • Space suits can fill with water due to a leak inside
  • Astronauts’ faces get squashed in space due to the pressure
  • Eyes also get squashed
  • The ISS doesn’t need fuel when it is in Earth’s orbit
  • The gravity of Earth is enough to keep the ISS moving at 27,000 km/hr
  • The ISS is constantly falling towards Earth, every so often small bursts are made to push the ISS back up to around 400 km above Earth’s surface
  • Astronauts sleep floating around in the ISS
  • Astronauts either spit out their toothpaste and saliva into a towel or tissue after brushing their teeth or they swallow it
  • Astronaut training involves lots of swimming
  • Learning Russian and Chinese will help you be selected to become an astronaut
  • Teamwork and communication skills are also very important for future astronauts
  • Andrea would like to go to space for a weekend and then come home

We all learnt so much!

I loved this Skype lesson and will definitely be looking to do one again soon.

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Pi Day 2016 – Planet Pi (JPL/NASA)

This year I celebrated Pi Day 2 days late on March 16 due to attending PD on March 14. I found a great lesson idea on the JPL/NASA website called Planet Pi, see link below:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/infographics/infographic.view.php?id=11011

This is an awesome lesson that teaches students about Pi, why it is important, how NASA scientists and engineers use Pi in their STEM jobs and then a fun challenge where students have to use Pi to work out certain properties of Planet Pi.

I adapted the JPL lesson for my year 5 class, including changing the circumference of Planet Pi to 314 miles. I provided all of the formulae to the class to work out the following:

  • Diameter
  • Radius
  • Area
  • Surface area
  • Volume

Myself and the class teacher guided students through the activity as they were not familiar with Pi, squaring and cubing numbers, surface area and volume. So this was quite a challenging lesson for most of the girls in the class.

I started by setting the scene, what Pi was, the history of Pi and its place in pop culture today. This included a YouTube clip to help the girls understand Pi:

A great clip with some cute kids talking about pie and Pi!

After discussing how JPL/NASA scientists use Pi we started the challenge. Some girls struggled to start with, especially in learning some of the formulae and how we applied them. I and the class teacher explained the concepts clearly using some models of planets in the classroom, which seemed to help. One girl picked it up immediately and actually solved all the equations with about 5 minutes, an absolute maths superstar!

We worked through equations together but the girls did all of the work and eventually we finished with a set of correct answers. We briefly moved onto the extension activity but did not have time to finish.

NASA have a bunch more Pi Day challenges but these look too hard for junior school girls. They can be found in the links below:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/activity/pi-in-the-sky

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/activity/pi-in-the-sky-2/

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/teach/activity/pi-in-the-sky-3/

Posters can be downloaded on this link:

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/nasapidaychallenge

I loved this lesson and would definitely do it again. Can’t wait for Pi Day 2017!