Bee-Bot Collaborative Dance

Coding fun!

 Awhile back I (well, the place where I work) was able to purchase 3 Bee-Bot “Hives.” A hive is 6 Bee-bots, a charger plate and a yellow backpack to carry everything around. Once I had them I quickly put together a class for Pre-K – 2 teachers. The first class met about a month ago and our next class met last night.

Along with the teachers sharing out what their students have been up to (they are so excited!!!) and me sharing a few more resources on our class “Bee-Bot” wiki page, I asked them to try out a collaborative Bee-Bot activity I thought up. Now to be fair I don’t know if others have thought of this before and done this already – so I don’t want to take undue credit. I was thinking about how to make what you do already with Bee-Bots have an even stronger collaborative bent when I came up with this:

Pair 2 pairs of students and their shared Bee-Bots and have them work together to choreograph a “dance.” Start on opposite sides of a table or facing each other on the floor. Start out having the Bee-Bots approach each other until they are face to face. Next keep adding to your program so the Bee-Bots go around each other, back and forth etc. They can keep adding commands to make their dance longer and more intricate.

Here is a video of one of the teachers “coding” her Bee-Bot with the program she and her partner designed:
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Here is a clip of their Bee-Bot dance:
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And here is a dance choreographed by another pair of teachers:
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I’m looking forward to seeing their students taking on this challenge in the weeks ahead.

Learning is messy!

2017 Math & Science Institute – for teachers

In New Orleans ... and it's FREE!

Earlier this year I agreed to lead two grant funded STEM professional development courses for teachers sponsored by Metairie Park Country Day School, June 7th, 8th and 9th, 2017. The courses will be held at Tulane University in New Orleans as part of the 2017 Math & Science Institute. AND NOTE THIS – You just have to get there – tuition is FREE! (note the flyer to the right for more information). Note: private school teachers have to pay $149 per course.

Each course is about 6 hours long spread over the 3 days (2 hours per day, per course). Here’s a page with all the course descriptions.

I’ll be teaching 2 courses: “Powerful, Connected, Collaborative and Global STEM Learning” and “STEM: Hands-on, Minds-on, Creativity-on”

From the online course description:

STEM: Hands-On, Minds-On, Creativity-On is a six-hour course designed to help teachers integrate powerful STEM learning with a focus on engaging, hands-on engineering lessons. Participants will not only experience the lessons firsthand, but also how to collect and analyze the rich data the lessons produce. Strong connections to science, language arts, technology, art, the Next Generation Science Standards and three dimensional learning will be included. Most lesson activities utilize easily obtained materials.

Powerful, Connected, Collaborative, Global, STEM Learning is a six-hour course designed to allow you to see how the power of STEM inquiry projects are leveraged when students are connected and collaborate globally.

There are several Common Core State Standards that require students to utilize technology to collaborate starting in elementary school. This course will provide hands-on engineering lessons and phenomena – coupled with free or cheap collaborative online tools that promote sharing and analyzing data, explanations, global awareness and much more. Participants and their students will learn to collaborate and share through powerful writing, oral language, photography, math, art and other media. Online safety and ethics will be featured.

Check out the 2017 Math & Science Institute home page to see all the courses being offered.

Hope to see you there!

Learning is messy!

NSUAVCSI Classroom Re-Visit

Dilworth STEM Academy

I’ve written about Mike Ismari’s class before (here and here). He received a grant last summer to buy several models of drones and flight simulators to use with students.
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ABOVE: Mike’s drones finally arrived and are stored on shelves his students are building.

Since he had little to no experience with drones he signed up for our institute. His plan was to learn the safety, ethics, programming and operation of UAV’s and then when his drones arrived he’d be ready to go. But, one thing after another delayed his purchase, so he kept checking out NSUAVCSI drones … finally his have arrived along with iPads to operate them. He stopped by my office yesterday to return some Phantom 3’s he’d checked out and told me I had to come by again and check out what his students were up to.

10 students were flying Parrot Air Cargo Minidrones using Tynker to program them. Mike rotates his students through these different activities. Students were paired up – a student that had experience programming the drones with an inexperienced student. The experienced student talked and prodded the new student through the steps to program the drone “around the mountain” -portrayed by a chair on a table. The goal is to take off, fly around the mountain making specific maneuvers meant to keep a front pointing camera (which these don’t have – only down-looking) pointed at the mountain and eventually land back on the spot where it launched. I shot some video of 2 students doing just that.

In this first video (less than a minute long) they are troubleshooting their most recent flight: IMG_7219

Now they run the program with the changes they just made (about 20 seconds)
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Some students were learning and practicing computer programming on the NCLab program our grant provided:IMG_7218

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Others were practicing with RealFlight flight simulators (not pictured).

Great “messy” things happening! More photos and videos on the link below:

Flickr Album from the visit

Learning is messy!

NSUAVCSI Classroom Visit SMS

Although classroom visits are not actually required by the Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute (NSUAVCSI) “College and Career Ready” grant I wrote last summer, I believe visits and mentoring are a vital pieces of quality professional development. I’ve done about 4 visits so far and plan to do many more. Back in December (Yes I’m late getting this posted – Urgh!) I visited Carrie Mieras’s class at Sparks Middle School. They were experiencing using the Parrot Spider Minidrones for the first time although they had used another type of drone that only allows controlling via a joystick controller, so this would be their first attempt at writing a program to fly.

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They worked in pairs and “3’s” to assemble the wheels that allow these drones to roll on the ground ceiling or walls, but also perform as blade guards. While one partner was assembling, the other was setting up either Tickle or Tynker on their iPads or iPhone to write their block program that would tell the drone what to do.

Block programming is a great first step to learn programming because it can be used successfully by even young children. Even though students are not writing actual lines of code, the process of block programming includes many of the thinking and problem solving skills required to program in languages like Python.

It was interesting to watch students struggle some to write their first program, but also to identify which of the 8 or 9 Parrots that showed up on their iPads was theirs. Several times students would choose the wrong one and when they started their program someone else’s Parrot would spring to life and begin it’s journey. That led to a quick lesson on how to tell which is which and then they were off!

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You can see the block program on this student’s iPhone (he was using Tickle, (Tynker doesn’t work on iPhones) to tell his Parrot Spider Minidrone what to do.

 

 

 

By the time everyone had had a chance to get things off the ground a bit the period was over (“Whaaaaat!!??”) and it was time to put stuff away.

It was definitely a bit of a “messy” experience for the students, so I loved it. They weren’t taught everything … they had to figure things out on their own, but they were now ready to be more productive the next day!

Learning is messy!

 

 

 

Underwater and Aerial Vehicles – Pyramid Lake Edition

It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake...

Above: Panorama of Pyramid Lake including the Tufa formations “Stone Mother” and the Pyramid that gives the lake it’s name. Note the people on the beach between the formations for a scale of size.

Between a busy work and holiday schedule, and a bout of aggressive bronchitis, I’m late with some posts – this is one of them … and it’s an experience worth sharing! First I want to thank the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe for giving us special permission to visit this special and sacred part of the Pyramid Lake shore to “test drive” our OpenROV 2.8’s and fly Phantom 3 Professional aerial robots as well.

Back in October we were supposed to put the underwater robots the teachers had painstakingly assembled into the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe to further test them and learn piloting skills. However, that day got “weathered out” by rain and high winds. The next time we could schedule a meet-up was December 3rd. It was a crisp and glorious day at Pyramid Lake. We met at the turn-off from the highway to the dirt road that leads out to the spot in the photo above. Besides the teachers having this opportunity, Trevor Galvin a math teacher at Pyramid Lake Middle and High School is part of our class and he brought along some current and past students and a few others’ students showed up as well.

Here’s how a local TV report explained the day:

The OpenROV’s have a built-in camera and the water was much clearer than we expected: 

 

 

 

Algae covered tufa formations and lake bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the bright sunlight the computer screens were hard to see, so when one of the students reported that he could see something floating in the water straight ahead we told him to take pictures  so we could see it later. Turns out it was a large sacred Cui-ui fish:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And next another student piloted 2.8 caught a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the meantime Kirk Ellern was flying the Phantom 3 Professional drones the teachers had been trained in (and so were teachers and students) with the goal of photo/video archiving the experience and the area in aerial video. Kirk produced this video of the day, but more to come:


I’ll be posting more about classroom visits I’m making with the teachers in the grant from their classrooms.

Here’s a link to a Flickr album from the day.

Learning is messy!

Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute

I shared on Twitter not long ago, “The good news is I got a grant! The bad news is I got a grant!” There is too much truth in that dichotomy, but in spite of all the extra work and rules and policies and bids and other “red tape” to be dealt with to purchase the supplies and organize the classes … this is an awesome opportunity for all concerned.

The grant requirements demanded a focus on middle and high school teachers and students, computer programing, and a STEM learning emphasis. You’ll note by the name of the grant (see the title of this post) that the grant department folks that helped in editing, implored me to mention as many aspects of the program as possible in the title.

The choice of underwater and aerial vehicles was an easy one … Nevada has been designated one of 5 states where regulations about drones have been eased to encourage research, testing and innovation in drone use (the fact that Nevada contains huge expanses of open land and 4 seasons of weather may have helped). In addition, with the emphasis on encouraging students to study computer programming … and the fact that these vehicles can be programmed … using drones in class to motivate students to engage in both seemed like a perfect match.

CgDx3-2UAAMh6Et24 teachers, 2 middle school and 2 high school teachers from each of the 6 school districts I serve will be chosen to participate. We will start by doing 2 days of computer programming and 3D modeling utilizing the ncLab online course guided by its developers (a local startup company). Just enough to get teachers started in programming, but also to acquaint them with the online course since it will be available for them and all their students for the next year. I felt that if teachers had even some experience with programming and the online course they would be more likely to use it with their students. Students will have access to the course at school, but also at home or anywhere they can get online, so they can go as far as they like.

Each teacher will receive a Parrot Minidrone Rolling Spider – the kind you control with your phone or pad device, and a waterproof (to 10 meters) and drop proof (from 1.5 meters) digital camera to archive their learning in the institute and student learning in their classrooms. ParrotMiniDrone

Next, teachers will spend 3 days learning about aerial vehicles from Kirk Ellern (a former high school physics teacher) at AboveNV – a local startup. They’ll fly their “Parrots” and learn how to program them (after the institute they’ll have 4 sets of 10 Parrots they can check out for use in their classrooms). After that introduction to aerial vehicles we’ll move on to Phantom 3 Advanced drones. Here we will put the programming we learned (and note what we want to learn more about) in the ncLab course to work. Four sets of three Phantom 3 drones will be available for checkout by participating teachers forphantom3-drone-300x200 use in their classrooms.

The next 5 days of class will be spent partially assembling and utilizing OpenROV 2.8 underwater vehicles. “Maker skills” will be emphasized as teachers will be taught soldering, wiring, gluing and more to prepare the vehicles for use.  6 OpenROV 2.8’s will be available for checkout by participating teachers. The 2.8’s are operated using a laptop and tether and are capable of depths up to 100 meters. They come with a camera – video/photos and sound can be recorded on the connected laptop … there’s even room for small payloads for doing research – another opportunity to use those computer programming skills as well. Alex Forrest from the Tahoe Environmental Research Center and the University of California, Davis, will lead this portion of the class. Alex has done research in Lake Tahoe utilizing those big “torpedo sized” vehicles you’ve probably seen on the news. He is just back from 3 years in Tasmania.

OpenROV 2.8 Underwater Vehicles

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Throughout the school year the course instructors, all specialists in their fields, will be available to consult teachers, visit classrooms and provide follow-up instruction – to me this is a key component of the grant.

Field trip buses will be paid for so participating teachers can take their classes to a water source (lake, pond, wetland, river/stream pool) to operate and do research with the OpenROV’s.

The institute should start up in August and the initial classes will be done by October. I’ll post updates here. I’ll also set up YouTube/Flickr/Wiki and other accounts to archive our progress.

Learning is messy!

NASA Pathway to Space – Drone Edition

Rockets and High Altitude Ballooning Yet To Come

PathwaystoSpace2015_Inservice_pdf I announced the NASA Pathway to Space class for teachers about a month ago:

“Starting next week a team of educators (including me) will be providing a class for local teachers of grades 3rd – 12th which will include hands-on training in building and flying drones, rockets, planes and designing payloads which we will then launch on a high altitude balloon to somewhere between 65,000 to 100,000 feet.”

I mentioned at the time how, along with the training, teachers would receive a drone (UAV) and build and keep another as part of the class. The first 4 classes focused on drones. Not just building and flying them, but on the laws and ethics that teachers and students must take into account in using them.

Below: Kirk Ellern from “AboveNV” explains some of the rules and laws around drone or UAV use. DSCF0289

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Above: Participants getting the hang of flying their new drones (cost just less than $50 including remote). 

Learning to fly the little drones is actually more difficult than the larger ones which is why Kirk Ellern and Rob Dunbar from AboveNV suggested using them. “If you can control one of these little fairly indestructible guys, piloting the larger ones is relatively easy.”
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Next, each participant built a “chuck” plane from a kit – so named because you throw or “chuck” it to make it airborne. However, these planes are designed to have a motor, remote control and more added to them if one wishes to do so.

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Teachers building their planes, YouTube videos demonstrate each step of the building process.
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Above: A first flight

So they’d be ready to fly larger drones they were given time with flight simulator software.
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We designed this class so that we meet on 2 to 3 Tuesday evenings to learn about and build drones, rockets, balloon payloads and then on a Saturday to fly what we’ve learned about and built. We were ready now for our “Drone Saturday” – so we met on a soccer field at a local high school and thanks to “AboveNV” and friends bringing multiple drones of all sizes we learned about and flew drones for hours. This included flying some while wearing goggles that see through a camera on the drone, so you are flying the drone like you are onboard.

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We really lucked out in that there was not a puff of wind all morning which made it easy to fly all the different sizes and types of UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) we had available. Here’s a link to all the photos from our “Drone Saturday.”

Up next is rockets!

Learning is messy!

Flying In Circles

STEM

Last year at the NSTA STEM Forum in Minneapolis, we saw Art Ellis demonstrate this great flying inquiry lesson using inexpensive store bought balsa wood model planes … you know, the kind you may have had as a kid. Art gave us his blessing to share the lesson … so once we got the chance … well here it is!

We also used a plastic bucket from a hardware store (about $2.75), a wood block (about 4 x 4 inches – 1 to 2 inches thick – we actually used round ones we got as scrap), a washer about the size of a quarter, a few small paper clips and 1 OR 2 meters of thin string. 1 meter, if like us, we were flying in a narrow hallway, 2 meters if you have a larger space to fly in.

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We screwed the block of wood to the top of an overturned 5 gallon plastic bucket (photo below is of metal can we tried things out on) the quarter sized washer. Next we tied a loop in each end of the string and attached one of the paper clips to each end. (add about 15 centimeters to the length of the string to take into account making the loops on each end – try to get the length as close to exactly 1 or 2 meters as possible)

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Following the directions printed on the plane’s package assemble your plane.

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Then attach The other end of the string to the wing by taping the paper clip to the wing.

Then put about 125 winds on the rubber band, set it on the ground and the result is the video this post started with.

Because you know the length of the string you know the radius of the circle it flies. Therefore students can figure out length of flight. During flight the number of circles it completes can be counted and adjustments can be made (engineering) to the plane and how the rubber band is wound to achieve a longer flight. Using a stopwatch the amount of time the plane is airborne can be checked and again with adjustments a longer time airborne is the goal. 

In addition students can add components using tape and other materials attached to the wing and tail edges to experiment with how they can control the flight. 

Next you can purchase material to make your own higher strength rubber bands that can be wound many more times to add length and speed to flights.

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We’re just getting started with this inquiry activity … we presented it to teachers a few weeks back and they loved it. As we gain more experience I’ll pass along new learning possibilities.

Learning is messy!

As Promised …. Cantilevers With Students

STEM and STEAM

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In my last post, where I tried out including an art component to this powerful engineering problem with cantilevers on teachers, I explained that as soon as I could try it out with students I would get back about how it worked. Fortunately one of the teachers in that training volunteered his class.

The first challenge 5th grade students received today in Dan Scurlock’s class is seen to the right:

As always students are given as little explanation about how to build a cantilever as possible. I use one paint stick and one washer and show them how you can get more length off the end of the table with the washer on the end. That’s it … now it’s all up to them. Students worked in pairs. I lent a camera to each pair to archive their progress. Link to Flickr set of their photos.

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In addition they collected measurement data each time they added length to their span with a measuring tape … measurements in centimeters.
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They worked initially for about 20 minutes. There was lots of “messy learning” as students learned about the materials (washers and paint stir sticks). Crashes to the floor were followed by a mix of disappointment and excitement.

Untitled At the end of the first 20 minutes each pair was given a large “sticky note” to post the data from the longest span they had engineered. DSCF0182

 

 

 

 

 

We displayed these on the board and then after some discussion (I’m not sharing it all here for brevity, but the debrief is a powerful aspect) the students decided it would be a good idea to order the data from least to greatest. So we did:

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Next we did a “gallery walk” around the room so students could check out the designs others had come up with, and we had them point out design features that seemed to lead to longer spans.

Now that students had some experience with building spans, I had them take what they had learned and asked them to try to build even longer spans. They enthusiastically got back to work … a few adjusted spans that were still standing from the first experience, but most started over from scratch.

It was apparent right away that they had learned not just techniques, but confidence too.

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After an additional 20 minutes or so we collected their data on a different color sticky note, posted them and compared results:DSCF0520

When asked to compare the data, students noted how the shortest span from the second experience was almost as long as the longest from the first. The data is rich with analysis possibilities (that I won’t go into now, but may add later, especially if you bug me, 🙂 ) and I can share from doing this numerous times that 90cm is short of the longest spans students have accomplished (even K/1st graders will build longer spans given repeated experiences).

We used this data sheet to begin figuring out how much their cantilever span would cost if you set a price for materials (easily made grade level specific by changing the numbers used), but I wanted them to figure out what to do with the data themselves and we didn’t have time … and Dan was excited about the prospect of crunching that data later when they had time to really go deep with it. NOTE: This photo doesn’t show the last line that asks for cost per centimeter.DSCF0058Lots and lots more to do … more investigations trying to make their spans longer …. other ways to analyze data … how to construct the most “cost effective” span and more. But not today.

The STEAM Challenge: And then I explained the word “aesthetics” and how often designs and products and architecture incorporate aesthetics to make them beautiful and even more functional. I used my iPhone and a box that pens came in as an example … “… the box and phone are about the same size, and the box shape takes no real extra, possibly expensive, design time and effort, but the rounded corners and thin profile and other aspects of the iPhone make it more visually appealing (“cooler”), easier to hold, easier to put in your pocket (etc.) ….”

“Now your challenge is to build a structure that is still a cantilever, but how long it reaches off the table is not as important as how “aesthetically pleasing” … how beautiful it is. I’ll even supply you with extra materials if you run out before your structure is finished.” (Note, as students “finished” their structures, one extra challenge I gave them was to see how far off the table they could really get it … and they had fun pushing the limits until it crashed to the floor. NOTE: students had been working now for over 90 minutes and it might have been best to stop here if not earlier – but I wasn’t going to be able to come back soon, and Dan really wanted them to have this experience. But when I was done explaining this investigation it re-energized the class … they were very enthusiastic about jumping back in. Here are some of the results:

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This group was super excited when they figured out theirs was transportable! 🙂 DSCF0514

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I just happen to be shooting a photo of this one when it collapsed!  Untitled

Imagine if students had more than 20 minutes and/or re-visted this experience on other days!

Check out more examples by following the link above to their Flickr set as well as this one and this one.

Before I left I explained that I would leave all the materials with them for a few weeks so they could continue their investigations. Cheers ensued. Dan said he would share more photos and feedback on what they did AND he suspected other teachers (some had even stuck their heads in to see what was going on) just might want to borrow them as well.

Learning is messy!

Exploring STEAM Education

Here's what happened - IT WAS AWESOME!

I announced in my previous post about my upcoming involvement in a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART and Math) day at the Nevada Museum of Art. I was trying out a new idea to integrate art into what before had been strictly a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) inquiry lesson utilizing cantilever spans (the lesson is explained here).

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The original lesson was built on the work of Ken Wesson who gave Lou Loftin (my frequent collaborator in PD delivery)  the original idea of using cantilever construction as an inquiry piece. He encouraged us to “go with it” and we have. We report back to Ken whenever we see him about how awesome the cantilever spans experience is. He usually just beams and encourages us to keep promoting it and innovating with it. Ken, by the way, is a great speaker, I’ve seen several of his keynotes and he brings the house down!

My idea to add the art component to the lesson was this: We started out following the original introductory lesson, pass out the materials and challenge the participants to build as long a span with those materials as possible (in groups of 2 to 3) … the difference was on this day that I only gave them 5 minutes to build. I mainly wanted to give them some experience with the materials and building a span AND to have them experience the STEM version even a tiny bit. We debriefed their experiences, I described the multiple ways to continue and leverage the lesson (which can go for days or weeks BTW) and then I changed the challenge … the focus:

“This time when you build your cantilever span your total focus is to be on the aesthetics of the span. It doesn’t matter how far out from the edge of the table it reaches, as long as it does, …make it beautiful, creative … GO!

I was pretty sure this was going to elicit some creative structures … I way under estimated … the designs, even in the limited time we had (15-20 minutes) were fantastic! Here are just a few examples:

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See what I mean?  There are just too many to post … but here is a link to all of them on Flickr.

I had four groups of educators cycle through the 50 minute lesson during the day. When I debriefed them each group spoke about how they loved the creativity aspect. We would always make time for a “gallery walk” during each session and many noted how they were so focused on what they were creating that they didn’t even notice what those all around them were doing until we did the walk. Many took photos and asked questions and conversations began about the process … unfortunately we always had to cut those conversations short. We did discuss the writing, math, research and other integrations and connections … including collaborating with classrooms anywhere in the world, that should happen along with the STEM or STEAM version of this or any lesson.

If you’ve already experienced cantilevers with your students I fervently suggest going back and having them experience this “art” connection variation. If you’ve never done it I suggest having your students build long spans for awhile (days or weeks) and then after they have experience with the materials try the aesthetics piece (but certainly do it any way you and they want … just a suggestion) I can’t wait to get into some classrooms and try this with students! Reminder: The cantilevers lesson is appropriate for ALL students Pre-K – 12. When I do get into classrooms I’ll report back! If you beat me to it, please share your experience!!

Learning is messy!