Evidence that student writing (about chapatis and chickens) isn’t going obsolete

One of my passions is to help students become better writers. Many teachers will tell you that students are not writing enough. Anecdotally we know that information consumption (coupled with information overload) compounds the problem. Research supports this. Forty percent of college students who took the ACT writing test, lacked college ready skills.

As a computer and tech teacher, I am pleasantly surprised when students ask for scratch paper before they login. It’s not ‘old school’ to jot down ideas; to organize information before it gets into a brochure or PowerPoint. One of my lessons for 5th grade at the end of the school year involves teaching them how to write a radio script, and record it! A script, of course, isn’t like an essay. It gives a student an opportunity to adopt tone of voice that comes naturally. To speak from the heart. To talk about odd, personal, funny things that connect with the listener. Like a letter, I suppose. “Who writes those?” You ask! You’d be surprised how many Thank You letters are queued up to print next week. That’s my evidence, and I’m sticking to it! 

On that note, here’s some inspiring  student writing. One of the college application essays featured in the New York Times last week. Eric Muthondu, who’s entering Harvard, talks about his Kenyan grandmother.

“When I return, the chapatis are neatly stacked on one another, golden-brown disks of sweet bread that are the completion of every Kenyan meal.”

Or this piece of writing by Jeffrey C. Yu, a second generation Chinese American.

“Not all sons of doctors raise baby ducks and chickens in their kitchen. But I do. My dad taught me.”

These essays are worth a read, if only to recognize that good student writing exists –in certain places one has to dig to find. Here’s another place: Write The World. A global community for student writers I have been in touch with, and have covered in a previous post. By some coincidence, this month, Write The World has a Food Writing contest for students. First prize for a 6,000-10,000-word essay is $100.

More chapatis and chicken, please!

 

Prepping the launchpad – STEAM Night is today!

It’s as if the stars were lined up for this. The launchpads were being prepped in the space industry –and in education.

The race toward ‘Space Tourism’ which has been on for some time, hit a milestone, Sunday. Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, (which I’ve followed for some time now) launched a successful test flight yesterday, using dummy astronauts. Humans will soon follow.

Back here in Arizona, today is STEAM Night at Salt River Elementary School. The highlight of which will be  our ‘3-2-1 Lift-Off’ challenge

Can’t wait to see what kind of rocket entries we receive.

Bring out the rockets – It’s S.T.E.A.M. Night!

This will be our 7th annual STEM (or S.T.E.A.M.) event, and it seems like a perfect year to focus on rockets.

Paper, air-propelled rockets, slingshot rockets, and even those that soar nearly 300 feet. Students have already begun designing and building their entries for the competition. Rubber bands create great kinetic energy!

We will have several related S.T.E.A.M. activities:

The Date:  30th April, 2018
Place:       Salt River Elementary
Time:         5 – 7 pm

 

 

 

Still publishing Newsletters? We do!

I’ve often said I still read newsletters. From the quirky Trader Joes’ black-and-white ‘Fearless Flyer,‘ to those that come in the mail, often unsolicited. A good friend, a realtor, publishes and mails us an information-filled newsletter that is a delight to read each month. And there are many more – we just don’t give them enough credit in an everything’s-on-Facebook kind of era.

What’s your favorite newsletter? Does it still get printed or has it turned digital? I’m curious.

The case for newsletters has been debated ad nauseam. Most tend to get into the print vs email debate. But I don’t think it’s an either/or. It could be both. Sure, the reading habit is on life-support in some places. But we’re not going to pull the plug.

And so in school, some of us continue this tradition as a way to communicate with parents and the community as to what goes on in our classes in Music, Art, Library and Media Center, PE, and Computers & Tech. Here’s our latest Specials Newsletter – the March 2018 issue.

Spotlight on Social Media Awareness, Coding for Digital Learning Days

Next week, we kick off a week of coding, and also a time to talk about the good, the bad and ugly about social media.

Coding is something that could be exciting for every age group – from simple problem-solving skills, to what-if scenarios. Students will log-into places such as Code.org, Khan Academy, Scratch, and Blockly.  I like how Scratch is positioned as a way to “Create stories, games, and animations.”

Two speakers will kick off the week:

Mel Adamaitis – Synapse Studios
“Why Coding Matters”

Dr. Stephanie Schull – Matter Mission
“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Social Media.”

 

While we are at it, here are some good resources:

 

Plans afoot for Space Day 2017

Just announced plans for Space Day at Salt River Elementary – our 6th year!

  • This year’s focus is on the Moon, rockery and spacesuits.
  • The student competition is to design a future spacesuit 
  • Each class in every grade level will experience one facet of space science
  • When: Oct. 26th, 2017    Time: 8:30 am – 3:00 pm

As the event grows bigger each year, my thanks to those who will be supporting it:

  • Orbital ATK, Arizona
  • Jet Propulsion Lab, California
  • Autonomous Collective Systems Lab, at ASU
  • SpaceTRex, University of Arizona
  • Challenger Space Center, Arizona

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

Space science is a fascinating field, and gives us who focus on STEM an ability to widen the lens. Consider some of the recent developments

 

The call to teach, as seen through a different lens

Today is the last day for two of my team members at Salt River Elementary. Wes Filhart has been our PE teacher for 9 years. Suzanne Decker leaves after a 14-year run. There is so much I have learned from them over the years.

It’s not fun when your core members leave. They sure motivated me with their passion for their job, and their infectious sense of humor. Which is a great way to set up this video that Mrs. Decker, titled The Five Phases of Teaching’.

On a different note, below is last year’s Spring music event, one of the many well-produced events Suzanne has been putting together. You can catch a glimpse of Wes, a musician in his own right in the clip (at 4:14 secs.)

Solar oven Chili Cook-off returns as school winds down

For the second year, I’m holding the Solar Oven Chili Cook-off.

Nothing like bringing the school year to a close at the computer & tech lab, than something that does not involve batteries, software or screens. I think we have all had enough of that!

So let’s chow down and enjoy some class recipes!

  • Three 5th grade classes and three 6th grades will bring their own recipes and compete.
  • Next Tuesday’s temps should reach 105 degrees. The oven usually gets to 275 – 300 degrees, even without reflectors.
  • I’m bringing a Sri Lankan killer chili for those who dare!

Though this is the second annual Chili Cookoff, this is the third year of incorporating a solar oven project into my STEM curriculum, thanks to Solavore. We use the Solavore Sport ovens. In the picture, extreme right is Solavore founder and CEO, Ann Patterson.