Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Full STEAM Ahead: Incorporating Art with STEM at Highfalls Elementary

At the core of STEM education is design thinking and problem solving.  STEM refers to science, technology, engineering, and math, but what about the arts?  Highfalls Elementary’s new art teacher, Brianna Scott is putting the STEAM in STEM and proving that STEM can be embedded in all classrooms-even art.

In Ms. Scott’s classes, middle school students are publishing their artwork and artist statements on her class Weebly, they are using Google CS First to learn how computer science and art work together, and they are even coding snowflakes to create digital Christmas cards!  

Art students programming Mona Lisa using Google CS First and Scratch
Ms.  Scott explains, “I think it’s important to integrate technology into my art lessons in order to promote 21st century skills. I love to teach technology, life, and career skills as they relate to art. Technology grows at a rapid rate and I like to do my part to prepare my students to be successful adults. I also want them to see that art is not just about drawing, painting, or sculpture. Artists can be animators, web designers, graphic designers, filmmakers, photographers, video game designers, and so much more.  My ultimate goal is to provide my students with the experiences and discover interests that may end up shaping their future careers.”
So what’s next for the art students at Highfalls Elementary? Ms. Scott hopes to acquire a 3D printer or 3D pens that students can work with. She is also interested in teaching Photoshop skills and stop motion animation. Artbots and claymation are also in the works for this year.

When it comes to embedding STEAM in her art curriculum, Ms. Scott says, "The possibilities are endless".

You can check out the Highfalls 6-8 student art portfolios by visiting

Ms. Scott showcases student artwork on her class Twitter account daily.  Follow @Highfalls_Art to see all of the great things happening in this class!  

Data Science Discovered

Researchers from Brown University are working to design lessons, which infuse coding into mainstream curriculum.  Over the past two years I have been making it my priority to find ways to incorporate coding and computer science in such a way, ensuring teachers do not have to stray from their content.  With regard to these coding lessons and other computer science lessons, I have been asked to offer suggestions so that coding experiences in the classroom may continue to be relevant and enhance students' problem solving and critical thinking skills.  

Mrs. Henry, a 6th grade language Arts Teacher at West Pine Middle School, was excited for her students to experiment with this data science lesson.  This lesson will eventually lead to her students writing an argumentative essay, choosing their own created topics pertaining to the following positions:  

1.  Data science is an excellent career to pursue.
2.  Data science should not be portrayed as "the best job in America."

Mrs. Henry and I worked together to transform the standards to reach the students more effectively and incorporate the aspect of coding.  

Lesson Essential Questions:


1.  To give students an overview of data science and explain why it has been labeled as the "Trendiest New Career."

2.  To share the 5 questions data scientists ask themselves.

3.  To allow students to participate in an activity where they move around the room posting examples of data science topics underneath the corresponding data science questions.

4.  To show students how to code an actual data set using the Pyret Programming Language.  The data contained in this Google Sheet contained their current ELA Vocabulary Words.


One of the most interesting aspects about data science, which caused much student interest was the fact that data scientists help credit card companies code algorithms, which detect fraud.

For example:  Do you ever wonder why you get a text, email, or maybe even a call when you charge over a certain amount?  Or maybe you are traveling and try to purchase a few things in another state, but your card becomes deactivated.  

This is a result of a data scientist programming a computer system to think:  Is this weird?

Data scientists also thumb through data manually to find trends, patterns, and/or discrepancies. Sometimes data scientists are known as: "Data Miners."  

You must enjoy math, looking at data, and coding to become a successful data scientist, and as an added bonus, the pay is pretty wonderful!  

The lesson started with a KWL Chart:

"List one thing you learned today."  Was the "Ticket out the door."

Student examples:


Click HERE to watch some lesson highlights!


Any grown-ups out there interested in learning more about data science?  These videos are fascinating and offer excellent information:

Students!  You are welcome to watch too.  :)

As Always...  Happy Coding!

Monday, December 12, 2016

With just a few days left, we are excitedly making the final preparations for our first annual [?] FTC Winter Warriors event. Union Pines High School will host all seven Moore County sponsored teams: UPHS (2), PHS (2), NMHS, WPMS, and NCMS. This sort of “live action” tests will prove incredibly helpful for our kids to get the feedback they need to improve their bots and programs. Our kids and coaches have been working hard for months and I’m glad we can give them this opportunity to test their designs, engineering choices and programming skills in a fun way before they try to qualify for “states” in January.


What is FTC?
First Tech Challenge robots are by far the most customizable and challenging bots in the MCS robotics k-12 family. Teams start with only a box of metal, wires and cell phones to construct what they hope will be a highly functioning bot. They have to analyze the year’s challenge, collaborate on a strategy for scoring, then design and build to that plan. Building well is hard but that isn’t enough though for FTC success, students then have to build an multiple computer programs that allows the robot to be controlled by hand as well as programs that the robot runs autonomously.

This event is also a great example of the generosity of the Moore County community and beyond. The robots and competition floors were all made possible through the gifts of the Public Education Foundation and Microsoft Inc. I have to also thank the Digital Integration team of MCS who all volunteered their time and talents to plan and staff the event as well as our terrific hosts at UPHS.

You should come!
The Winter Warriors are taking over the Auxiliary Gym at Union Pines High School Thursday. 1981 Union Church Road in Cameron. The first of 14 rounds begins at 11 AM and our champions will be crowned around 3PM. Come see what it’s all about and encourage the kids to win it all. Park in the grassy field and you can sign-in at the Gym entrance.

Can't be there? Follow the event on

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Teacher Feature: Julie Willis- Making Science and Social Studies come alive!

Teacher Feature: Julie Willis- Making Science and Social Studies come alive!!

When it comes to testing there may not be as much emphasis on Science and Social Studies as there is Reading and Math, but you would never know that walking into Ms. Willis' 6th grade classroom at Southern Middle School.

If there is an idea to tie effective technology into a lesson, she has had it. Probably once a week she is in my office planning some other project that she wants to do with her class. I get questions like: "Can we do a maker space to make pyramids?", "Can we do an augmented reality periodic table?", "Can we 3D print instruments that the kids make?", "Can we use the green screen so some students can use Pokemon to explain states of matter?"; and we have managed to do all of the projects that she comes up with. That's the beauty of teachers like Ms. Willis. Not only is she excited about what is happening in class, but I'm excited, and most importantly her students' are excited.

Most days when you walk into her room the kids are out of their seat. Not in the undisciplined kind of way. But in the we are doing this really crazy experiment that requires me to walk around the room and collaborate with my friends kind of way. And it's not just about the technology, although that is technically what I'm there to support her with. It's just the excitement that she brings to her classroom that can be so infectious to everyone else.

Recently she approached me with an idea for the students to use a 3D creating website called Tinkercad in order for the students to build their own sound machines so that they could study sound waves and how they change based on the size and measurements of the sound making device. It started simply enough, but by the time we were done, they were creating some of the most interesting sound devices I have seen, and they were all so different. All of the minds in the room came up with so many different ideas that no 2 were alike. The project was beneficial in so many ways, including a great number of her students asking to create more 3D objects in the future to further their understanding of concepts. Isn't that what we want from our students? To WANT to do great things?

In my time on the Southern Middle School campus, I have witnessed some amazing learning opportunities for students. Things like augmented reality, computer coding, country fantasy leagues, maker spaces, and digital art projects. There are so many opportunities being offered to these amazing students and Ms. Willis is one of the teachers leading the way.

Go Dragons! Show Me Success!!

Beth Alderson
Digital Integration Facilitator
Southern Middle School/ Aberdeen Elementary School

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ready, Set, Robotics!

   Elementary students from around the county are excited to join this year's robotics clubs. Many schools have either started clubs or are in the final selection process. Robotics has become a booming activity in Moore County over the last three years. We are now in our third year of our elementary showcase, second a year of our middle and high school competitions, and first year of holding regional competitions. "It has been amazing to watch the growth and excitement of robotics over the past couple years", Mrs. Steingraber, a Sandhills Farm Life (SFL) 3rd grade teacher reports.

  At Sandhills Farm Life, the robotics program is well under way and the students couldn't be more excited. "We had to fill out applications, use our best handwriting, and really explain why we wanted to be in the club", says Aiden, a robotics club member.  According to Mrs. Elliott, another robotics coach at SFL, "there has been so much interest in robotics, we are doing two showcases! One showcase will take place at the school and the other will be for the county."
   The theme for this year's Moore County Elementary Showcase will be "American Cities". Students will be designing boards centered around an American city theme and will create challenges for robots to solve. The middle school competition will also be centered around the same theme; however, instead of creating boards, students will come prepared with advanced pre-written programs. We are eager to see how this year's showcase and competition unfolds, and more information will be coming soon about our regional showcase/competition. 

   Robotics has been an exciting way to interest students in the careers associated with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). As a county, we are now holding two STEM camps during the summer due to increased interest. The week long camps are filled with inventions, robotics, 3D printing, and entrepreneurs from our community. STEM careers and learning is the wave of the future and Moore County students want to be a part of it!

~Deanna Boesch

Friday, December 2, 2016

Travel the world (and beyond) with Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions

Wanna get away? That's the catchy slogan that Southwest airlines uses to advertise their low prices on airfare but I think this would make a nice jingle for virtual reality headsets too. You may have seen the commercials for companies like Samsung and Playstation who have brought virtual reality into the homes of consumers but now these headsets are popping up in classrooms across the country. It's basically comprised of three things, a cell phone that has the gyroscope feature to enable the virtual reality pictures, a headset to house the phone and a set of lenses that view the pictures (usually included with the headset).

You'll find a number of apps that are compatible with virtual reality but the one that I've found most helpful for teachers is Google Expeditions. This is the perfect app for teachers who are interested in taking their class on virtual field trips. There are over 400 locations to travel to within this app. There are many appealing features that this app offers for educators. First and foremost, it's free! But what I love about Google Expeditions is all of the information that is provided for teachers with each location. For each destination Google Expeditions provides:

  • Descriptive paragraphs that teachers can read to students to provide background information while they're immersed in their journey. 
  • Leveled questions to check your students for understanding
  • Focus Points that direct your students' attention to certain spots where Google provides you with more information to enhance your trip 

Another thing that I love about Google Expeditions is the teacher is the "Leader" of the expedition which puts them in complete control and the students are the "Followers". The teacher determines where we go on our expedition and they can also stop the expedition at any time through the use of a separate device, I used an iPad. There are locations that are waiting for you to explore that are directly aligned to the curriculum. We've traveled to a Native American fair to learn more about their culture and how they adapted to their environment. We're flying into space to examine the many features of our solar system next week. I'm really looking forward to that lesson! 

Here's what we purchased and the cost for each:

Teefan Headsets - $15.72 from Amazon   Samsung Galaxy S4 Smart Phones (Refurbished) - $120.00

Be sure to consult your IT department to ensure your district has the wireless capability of pairing the cell phones to other devices, such as an iPad. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Making WIZER Worksheets

Wizer allows you to produce great looking worksheets with embedded elements including YouTube video and formative assessments including matching, fill in the blanks, short answer and several more.
  • Wizer support single sign-on with Google
  • items with a definitive answer are graded automatically
  • Wizer supports “assign to students” > Google Classroom option
  • There are tons of lessons already created by your peers

Examples: (click the course below)