Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Every school needs a Lori Paulus

There are lots of people who make a school a special place. From board members to bus drivers, many people influence the lives of our Moore County Schools students. But there are few who have the positive impact that Lori Paulus has at Cameron Elementary School. At first glance, she may appear to be a typical media center specialist with books in hand and a list of Reading Counts stats closeby but there is so much more to Mrs. Paulus than what meets the eye. You will be hard pressed to find a more caring, supportive, dedicated, hard-working and passionate employee in our district who only has the absolute best in mind for our students. She pushes our students to achieve more than they could ever imagine. I love coming to work at Cameron and meeting with Lori because she always has these amazing ideas that she gets so excited about and you can tell that she can’t wait to roll them out to the students. Another thing that I love about Lori is her eagerness to incorporate technology into her lessons. Her relentless drive to find ways to use iPads, Chromebooks, and even robots with her classes motivates me to be a better DIF. Don’t get me wrong, Lori knows the importance of having her students complete assignments by getting out a dictionary or using a non-fiction book to research a topic. But she is constantly looking for ways to enhance instruction through the use of digital learning.

One project that I am really anxious to help her with is a lesson where we are going to incorporate our new Spheros! Since we are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month we are going to take a look at three folk tales. Two are Mexican and the other is Cuban. We will use the Spheros to work on our sequencing skills while we retell the stories. The students will recreate the different scenes from the story then they will code the Spheros to retell the important details as it goes through the sequence of events. Follow us on Twitter for pictures from our lesson!

I always enjoy picking the brain of teachers who I look up to, so that I can hopefully take something back from them and add it to my toolbox. Take a look at what Mrs. Paulus shared with me when I sat down to interview her and hopefully you’ll be able to take something from this phenomenal librarian:

Question: How long have you worked at Cameron/Moore County?
Answer: This my 15th year. Before that I was not in school system. I ran a used book store, worked with the Peace Corps in Thailand, but I spent most of my time teaching environmental education classes in New York. Almost 50 different types of classes.

Q: How would you describe your teaching style?
A: I think because there are so many awesome books I very rarely teach the same lesson every year. I’m always trying something different. I try to use fresh material for the kids, and for me as well. I don’t like to repeat things.

Q: What motivates you to use technology in your lessons?
A: We really had a mandate in our curriculum to integrate technology. It really has eved and flowed with different teachers. I think for kids technology is so motivating. The engagement and differentiation is crucial for our students. But technology could also engage them in a topic that they may not be interested in before. I think if you show a variety of things to kids it expands their repertoire and hopefully it will set them up for classes in the future. I like it for organization too. Things like Google Drive are so great for students to organize and keep their materials from year to year. Finding different ways for students to express themselves. It’s also good for independence.

Q: What is one of your most memorable lessons that included some kind of digital learning?
A: The thing that I really enjoy is our One Book One School program. We’ve done a blog in years past for students to have an ongoing discussion on the books. I loved that the parents were involved in it also. Parents who had trouble reading had access to the videos we made. And kids who didn’t have a parent reading with them could watch the videos at home. We would have the traditional reading experience for students but technology allowed us to expand on reaching more of our population by giving them an alternative way to interact with the book. It could also be extended by responding to the blog. It was a great encouragement for those kids.

Q: You’re an inspiration to many people, including myself, what inspires you?
A: I listen to National Public Radio a lot. They have new ideas in art and music. They will highlight authors as well as technology. They have a lot of ideas that we could use in our classroom.  I also check social media daily, like Twitter. Authors tweet a lot. Facebook and Pinterest also give me lots of ideas.

Q: What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
A: The special part for me and my job is that everybody is my patron. It’s not just students, it’s staff. I get to work with every student. I love to work with staff as they come in. I love to work with big groups or small groups. I like working with people. I like connecting people with resources that connect with them.

Mrs. Paulus is, without a doubt, the heart and soul of Cameron Elementary School. She is an absolute pleasure to work with and the students at Cameron are very lucky to have her as their media center specialist.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Growing Engineers in MCS - Starting Year Two!

New school year = new engineering challenges in Moore County!

After a short summer break, we welcomed our students back into our buildings this month to start the new school year.  As kids have come back, it's been exciting to see that their knowledge and motivation around engineering and problem solving have not been sapped in any way over the break- in fact, we're starting to see some momentum from last year carry into this year!

Ms. Robledo (DIF extraordinaire at HFE, CES, and RES) reported that while doing the 1st engineering project of the year with a group of 1st graders at Highfalls Elementary, she asked "What is an engineer?" to which students replied enthusiastically with "someone who solves problems!"  When asking what they needed to do before they created their first prototype, cries of "make a blueprint" and "make your plan!" ringed out.....  Just think of where these little engineers can go from here!

On the older spectrum, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting a 6th grade class already this year, as the DIF team is now taking our engineering thread into the middle grades this school year.  The first class I was able to visit was Ms. Willis's class at Southern Middle School.  She worked with DIF Beth Alderson on the "Whatever floats your boat" engineering project that focuses on the core concepts of density (always a tricky one for 6th graders).

Students were given free roam to plan around and choose various materials to create a boat that would hold as much mass as possible.  Each material (such as styrofoam, cork, cardboard, aluminum foil, etc.) was given a pricetag and students had $1,000 to spend.  After planning and building their first prototypes, they placed them into a container filled with water.  They measured displacement of water as well as the amount of mass their boat held before sinking.  Next, they tried their boat in a container of saltwater to record this same data.

From there, they were able to go back and re-engineer/improve their boat designs in order to hold more mass.

Students did a GREAT job in thinking through this task.  A really cool part of the lesson, though, was when Ms. Alderson asked the students how many of them did engineering last year as 5th graders- almost every hand went up!  It was clear that the students were comfortable with the engineering process and taking some risks of failure along the way.  Very cool!

As a DIF team, we are excited to be a part of this revolution of critical thinking and problem across Moore County Schools.  We look forward to sharing more stories through this blog and also don't forget to follow us on Twitter at @MCSDigital.

-Steve J

Monday, September 11, 2017

Take your students anywhere with Virtual Field Trips

Lets face it. There just isn't the money to do fun field trips anymore, and even more than that there is only so many times that you can take your students to the local zoo or aquarium before it gets monotonous. 

Well let me introduce you to Virtual Field Trips!!!! 

Virtual Field Trips are a free resource put on by museums, archives, and companies around the world with the expressed purpose of linking your objectives with their missions. There are virtual field trips for all ages, grades, and subjects. Some even provide lesson plans for you to collaborate with your students and the museum employees. 

This year I was able to facilitate quite a few vitual field trips in my schools. I took 4th graders to Washington State to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West to leaarn about animal adaptations from both our region and regions around the country. 

I got to take Mr. Baker's 8th grade class to New Orleans to visit the National World War II museum and got to focus on Dr. Seuss cartoons and primary sources since that is what his student's were struggling with.
Virtual field trips offer an oppurtunity for students to hear the information from someone other than you. Let's face it, after a while we can get a little repetetive. Why not let your students travel the worl and learn from someone new!!!

If you are wondering what is out there here is the link to Microsoft's Skype in the Classroom program, where you can search already designed field trips by grade, age or student, or even subject. 

Wondering how to get started?  Ask your friendly neighborhood DIF!!! 

Virtual Field Trips are a fun way to take your students to new places to discover new information. Let me know if you need some help finding the perfect field trip for your students!!!

Beth Alderson
Southern Middle School/ Aberdeen Elementary School